Situated on the outskirts of Delhi, a village called Mangar would hardly seem like a location for a jewellery museum. But then, that is what hidden and buried treasures are all about – secret locations. I was introduced to the Village Jewel Museum and Eco-lodge, a gem of a place courtesy Lalit Mangar, where I spend a wonderful mid-week staycation. About a 20-minute drive from the Gurgaon-Faridabad highway, the Lalit Mangar is already becoming a beacon for this sleepy village.
A part of the activities of the Kalakar Trust, this museum was created by Sterre Sharma, artist and trustee of the Trust to promote and preserve Indian art and its valued, and yet ignored artists. Sterre’s interactive 6-metre-long water colour painting on the life of Katputli Colony slum will have you hooked.
The idea was to build a permanent venue for display of tribal artefacts. The jewellery on display is from across the length and breadth of the country – from Ladakhi turquoise necklaces to temple jewellery from the South; silver jewellery from the deserts of Rajasthan to headhunter necklaces from the eastern states of India and is made of glass, bone, brass, enamel, silver and other metals.
The displays focus on jewellery that people of all socio-economic strata in villages and tribal areas use to adorn themselves. These culture-laden pieces, that include prayer beads, amulets, hair accessories and lots more, have been collected over a period of 35 years by Sterre, who keeps adding new pieces from time to time. The idea is not just to house little-known local pieces such as Hanuman ji ki Mandaliya, bichue, Jondhali Haar and several others, but also to educate visitors about the local names, meaning and significance behind each piece.
Not just jewellery, one can also experience village life at the eco-lodge, situated on the first floor of the typical village haveli whose ground floor serves as the Jewel Museum. Running on 80 per cent solar energy, and charging nominal prices and traditional setting, it gives opportunity for artists to participate in exchange programmes and workshops such as conch shell blowing, folk dance, dhol drumming, puppet-making and yoga courses. A booking needs to be made at least one week in advance for reservation in case one wants to participate in the workshops.
A visit to the museum is not just enlightening, educating and enriching, but also a glimpse into the rich heritage of India.
Text and images by Aarti Kapur Singh