Bhuri Singh Museum: Preserving the Cultural Heritage of Chamba


The Bhuri Singh Museum, located in the heart of Chamba Town, Himachal Pradesh, is an important institution dedicated to preserving the arts and cultural heritage of the Chamba region. Established in 1908, the museum holds a significant collection of artifacts and historical documents that provide insight into the rich tradition and history of the district.

Origins of the Museum

The museum was founded on 14th September 1908, during the reign of Raja Bhuri Singh, who ruled Chamba from 1904 to 1919. It was named after the ruler, who played a pivotal role in the establishment of the museum by donating family portraits and royal artifacts of archaeological importance.

The British Influence

During Raja Bhuri Singh's rule, the British presence in the Indian subcontinent was significant. This influence reached Chamba, leading to the division of the city into the Old Town and a newer area. Civic building construction was emphasized during this period, and the museum was built alongside other important government buildings. Initially, the building served as a treasure house for the Chamba ruling family, until Raja Bhuri Singh expressed a keen interest in the preservation of the arts.

Key Figures

The establishment of the Bhuri Singh Museum was facilitated by, Dr. J. Ph. Vogel the Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India at the time, a Dutch epigraphist and Sanskritist, worked closely with Raja Bhuri Singh to bring the museum to life. He became the first curator of the museum and was instrumental in assembling the initial collection, which primarily consisted of contributions from Raja Bhuri Singh.

Evolution of the Museum

The museum continued to grow, and in 1975, the original building was replaced with a concrete structure, which stands to this day. The artifacts and historical documents housed in the museum serve as a focal point for researchers and tourists, offering insight into the cultural heritage and history of the Chamba region. The Bhuri Singh Museum remains one of the oldest museums in India, a testament to its enduring legacy.

Galleries and Exhibits

Established as one of India's earliest museums, it houses over 8,500 artifacts encompassing archaeology, crafts, cultural anthropology, and the artistic traditions of Chamba.

Exploring the Galleries:

The museum offers a comprehensive exploration of Chamba's past through six distinct galleries:

  • Archaeological Gallery: This gallery houses stone statues and samples of temple art dating from the 2nd century BC to the 20th century, providing a glimpse into the region's artistic evolution.
  • Chamba Galleries: These galleries delve deeper into Chamba's history, showcasing a treasure trove of miniature paintings, weaponry used by royalty, gifts presented by foreign dignitaries, intricately painted walls and doors from the Rangmahal palace, and a captivating deodar statue of Lord Buddha, estimated to be a thousand years old.
  • Miniature Paintings Gallery: Renowned for its collection of miniature paintings, this gallery features works by various artists from the 17th to the 20th century, including the world-famous Chamba handkerchiefs.
  • Historical Documents Gallery: Located on the first floor, this gallery showcases historical documents written in various scripts on diverse materials like stone, metal, and paper. It houses significant pieces, including the Yugakar Burman's copper plate (950 AD) and the 1000-year-old Sarahan Pusti.
  • Everyday Objects Gallery: This gallery offers a fascinating look at everyday objects used by people in Chamba, from ancient times to the modern era.
  • Currency Gallery: Established in recent years, this gallery displays coins and currency used in the region, spanning from the Mauryan period to contemporary India.

The art objects on display are connected to the art, craft, and cultural history of the Chamba State, serving as an eloquent testimony to the life of the past and holding significant value in the assessment of art and culture of the region.

Architectural Features

The museum is located in a busy town area and consists of two building blocks and a community park across the road. The main building is three-storeyed and adjacent to it is a two-storeyed administrative block, library, and seminar hall space. Both buildings are made of monolithic concrete structures with stone cladding.

The museum is a tall structure with a series of clerestory windows in the facade and a sloping roof with metal sheeting. The entrance porch resembles a pediment structure of Greek style with Doric columns.

The museum has a total of three floors. The Ground Floor features an attractive display of Chamba Art, while the First Floor showcases ancient and medieval coins, Pahari Paintings, Epigraphic records, and objects related to cultural anthropology. The Second floor houses a gallery of Cultural anthropology and Numismatics.


In conclusion, the Bhuri Singh Museum stands as a testament to the rich cultural heritage of Chamba. From its humble origins as a treasure house to its evolution into a significant repository of historical artifacts, the museum continues to be a place of great importance, attracting visitors and researchers alike. As the oldest museum in the Chamba region, it continues to preserve and promote the arts and cultural heritage of this unique and historically rich area.

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