Decorative Art in the National Museum

The Bangladesh National Museum in Dhaka is a place worth visiting just to get an idea of the rich artistic heritage of Bengal. Established in 1913 as the Dhaka Museum, when Bangladesh was also a part of British India, the museum has expanded its departments to make education a thrust. It has been at its present location since 1983. Divided into five departments for easy categorizing the museum’s Department of Ethnography and Decorative Art has a vast collection of artifacts made in Bangladesh.

The large textile section has beautiful saris made of the fabled Dhaka muslin. The cloth in Dhaka was woven so close and of such fine handspun yarn that an entire sari of six yards could be passed through a wedding ring! Other delicately embroidered clothes also of fine muslin cloth exhibited in the Bangladesh National Museum includes men’s formal wear and clothes of the Nawabs known as achkan. Kantha is traditional embroidery of Bangladesh which is not only used on quilts but also on silk saris.

The department also has a display of river boats of Bangladesh and iron weaponry including swords, war drums and cannons. Pottery with exquisite stylized hand paintings and ceramic ware also has a good representation in the museum. A delightful collection of musical instruments that are so much a part of the daily life of the people attracts a lot of attention.

The museum devotes a lot of space to ethnic tribal artifacts of the various tribes of the region. It is a good opportunity to admire the clothes and ornaments worn by various tribes which are often how the tribes are distinguished. The craftsmen of Bangladesh are renowned in the subcontinent for their delicate craftsmanship in silver and gold. Ladies will love the display of traditional ornaments worn by women. Some very beautiful gold and silver filigree models of palaces handcrafted in the early 20th century are worth seeing.

Dolls, metal figurines, wood carvings and a variety of quaint household articles of yore find pride of place in the museum.