Museums play a vital role in re-energizing or uplifting the lost traditions, methods and historical events and products. That’s why now we get to see museums made on almost anything that belongs to past and has some significance. With the changing times and in this fast-paced world, museums help us to regain an insight into our past and help to learn dozens of things. India is a multi-cultured, multi-traditional and a mega bank of historical places. I love visiting museums and that too which are unique and weird like the Toilet Museum and Rail Museum to name a few. This quest made me visit the Charkha Museum located in the heart of Delhi.
If you have ever seen Indian Flag closely, you will see a Wheel with 24 lines. That is the Ashoka Chakra which replaced the spinning wheel in the pre-independence versions of the Indian Flag. You can see the two images of the flag below. The Left Flag introduced in 1931 has a Charkha Spinning Wheel) in between. And the right flag has an Ashoka Chakra (taken from the Famous Pillar built the Great Emperor Ashok) introduced in 1947 which is the year of Independence of India.
‘Charkha’ is an Indian name given to the ‘Spinning Wheel’ which is a machine used to spin thread or yarn from natural and synthetic fibres. The yarn and threads are then used to make Khadi which is an Indian clothing material and very popular in making traditional looking clothes. One can see the picture of a charkha in many stamp posts of India as well. This goes to show its significance in India especially the rural parts and of an age gone by.
Now let’s talk about the Charkha Museum. This little museum is located in Connaught place atop the domed park. It was made by the New Delhi Municipal Corporation and inaugurated on 21st May 2017. It remains invisible due to its location and only a part of it is visible from the road next to it due to its location. And the best way to spot the Museum is by seeing a large 26 ft steel charkha made in the outer area of the museum. The museum is built above the basement market called Palika Bazaar.
‘Charkha’ is a symbol of Swaraj (Self Rule), Peace, Non-Violence and Self-Reliance. It is a proud tribute to the Charkha’s historic importance in India. Charkha is also referred to as the symbol of freedom of India. The National father of the nation MK Gandhi used this spinning wheel to weave threads and hence it became more popular as a symbol of India’s freedom.
The purpose of the Charkha Museum is to boost the importance of the Khadi industry in the country and economically empower the lives of the artisans associated with it. The museum has been built very neatly, the same way in which a charkha maks threads and yarn. The museum is beautiful and very well maintained unlike few other museums in the city.
Inside the Charkha Museum
All the artefacts and specimens of the various types of charkha are kept in the front wall. The way the interiors have been designed, it gives you a feel of a traditional old village market where weavers are sitting in their balconies with the spinning wheels and selling stuff. There are 14 vintage charkhas kept in the gallery which have been donated by some of the best artisans from different states of India.
Some of the charkhas on display in the museum dating back to 1912 are namely – Bardoli Charkha, Bamboo Charkha, Pankhuri Charkha, Kissan Charkha, Banjoo Charkha, Two Takua Bardoli Charkha, Peti Charkha, Gujarati Charkha, Bangeshwari Charkha, Punjabi Charkha and One Spindle Charkha. One can also see pics of charkhas and some models from the first ancient civilization of Mohenjodaro and Harrapa to the Buddhist age till the modern times. All of this gives the museum a rich ethnical heritage look.
Before entering the air-conditioned room of the museum one has to remove shoes outside which I think is very nice to keep the place clean. And it actually looks very clean and tidy from all sides.
There are 12 arches made on the wall with shelves where one can see the little replicas and photos telling the various facts, information and photos of people using the Charkha (Spinning Wheel). I got to learn so much valuable information and about the importance of Charkha.
The entire museum has been given a village look. You can see lanterns hanging from above, bamboo fencing balcony, wooden pillars, mudded wall, silver and grey coloured walls and golden designer paint all perfectly matching to the vibe of the place and where charkhas should be kept. More to it, the ceiling has a blue sky and white clouds printed to give a feel of outdoors. The colours and design of the interior of the museum are very subtle and soft so as not to make you feel like you are in a closed building. Like I said before, a balcony or a charkha market selling threads and yarns and displaying the charkhas to the visitors. The only thing seemed to be missing were the dummy artisans.
A demo of a working modernized weaving machine is being kept in the middle of the museum room so as to get a feel of running it. And believe me, it is not as easy as it looks. It was difficult to get to know how to operate it and weave the threads. One can just fold the legs and sit down and start operating the machine. It is a complex one and one might get confused as to which part is connected to which other. But, it was fun trying my hands on it.
There is a section of a wall, where I got to know about the 9 step complete process of converting cotton to khadi.
Here is the process for if you are interested in it:- Cotton Buds ⇒ Ginning & Bow Carding ⇒ Rowling Wrapping ⇒ Bobbin Winding ⇒ Spinning ⇒ Drawing ⇒ Drafting ⇒ Weaving ⇒ Khadi Fabric.
There are some items kept on the shelves of the museum like cotton, bud threads, a tri coloured muffler and a 3 famous monkeys of Gandhiji.
Outside the Charkha Museum
There is a lawn outside the museum which has the greenest grass in Connaught Place area. The reason being that it is well maintained and not crowded like other places. There are tiny fountains outside that a provide a background music for such a pretty place and tries to balance the noise of honking and people shouting. Furthermore, there are mushroom shaped lights on the boundary of the lawn and that makes a very beautiful pathway. Trust me it is the most whitish and pure shining mushrooms I have ever seen. Couldn’t stop myself from clicking them.
While standing in the garden you can see the Khadi India Shopping Emporium where you can shop lots of traditional clothes and products made from Khadi. The Museum overlooks a part of the Connaught Place market.
There is a big Charkha placed outside the museum in its premises (as I mentioned before) as a symbol to mark its location and tell people that “I am here. Come visit me once.” Sadly, very few people come here as it is not that glamorous and interesting for many like the market around. It lies amidst a place which is visited by thousands daily but still receives less footfall, is made in an open place but still hidden from your eyes, easy to find but not if someone is not interested.
Visitors can buy artefacts from the reception or the ticket counter of the Heritage Charkha Museum. Also, there is ‘kutir’ or a working area where the actual working wheels are kept. This workplace is called ‘Ganga Ben Kutir’ and is dedicate to the women called by the name ‘Ganga Ben’ who introduced the spinning wheel to Gandhiji in 1919 and told about the way of its working and its importance. This all revived the use Charkha in India and gave it a new face in the Indian Economy and Weaving industry.
In this place, many women inmates come daily to weave cotton threads and other artefacts and objects as a souvenir for the visitors to buy. One can get these souvenirs for free with the ticket. The ladies who work in this small mill get paid so that they can support their families. What a great cause and support for these women. Isn’t it?
And before leaving the Charkha Museum you can get yourself clicked with the 3 cute monkeys of Gandhiji as a sweet memory.
Timings of Charkha Museum: Monday to Sunday (10 AM to 9 PM)
Entry Ticket: Rs. 20 per person
Location: Connaught Place (Delhi) – Above Palika Bazaar, Opposite Madame Tussauds Museum
For more information, you may visit the Museum’s Official Website.
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