Dr. Susanta Kumar Ghosh

Jawaharlal Nehru State Museum
District Museum at Pasighat
Archaeological Site Museum at Malinithan


   The Directorate of Research (Culture, Archaeology, Linguistic, Museum and Archives), under the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Government of Arunachal Pradesh is one of the oldest Departments (1951). It has been working for the preservation and promotion of so called unexplored rich cultural heritage of the state through research and publication of books (more than 111 books so far published), setting up District Museums and Research offices in every Districts beside the state Museum State Archives at Itanagar. This department is conducting excavation and exploration, preservation and promotion of historical and archaeological sites, beside ancient temples (World War II Cemetery, Stillwell Road, Itafort, Malinithan temple, Bhismaknagar palaces and fort, Vijaynagar stupa, Naksaparbat- early rich village life, Tawang Monastery, Parasuram Kund – a holy and pilgrim center), and is also setting up archaeological Museum and sites Museums. These have been acting as a source of information and inspiration for the tourist, scholars, students, schools etc. in their respective disciplines


   The Museum movement in Arunachal Pradesh, (earlier known as Northeast Frontier Agency, NEFA) started in the year 1956 with the establishment of a central Museum attached to the Directorate Headquarters at Shillong. The Research Department of the State was established under the guidance and supervision of Dr. Verrier Elwin, as Advisor for Tribal Affairs and with encouragement of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Since then the people started experiencing various development programs. In course of time many cultural traditions got diluted or on the wane. The new generation observed such rituals in ‘modern ways’. Thus need to set up a museum was felt. It was intended that Museums would preserve and project the rich traditions of the indigenous people of the state and create atmosphere to cultural unity among various ethnic groups.

   From nineteen hundred sixty onwards six museums at the District Headquarters viz. Khonsa, Tezu, Along, Pasighat, Ziro and Bomdila were established. Subsequently four more museums at District Headquarters viz. Canglang, Daporijo, Seppa and Tawang were established. These Museums are basically ethnographic Museums. The State Museum was named as ‘Jawaharlal Nehru State Museum’. It was established in Itanagar. In addition to ten districts museums in Arunachal Pradesh, one archeological museum at Itanagar and one archeological site Museum at Malinithan, were set up. At present the State Museum has collections of more than ten thousand items of art and crafts, most of which are rare and of immense historic importance.

Jawaharlal Nehru State Museum:

   On 1st January, 1990, this museum at Itanagar was inaugurated by Sri R D Pradhan, the then Governer of Arunachal Pradesh, the foundation stone of which was laid by Sri R Venkataraman, the then President of India on 3rd Feb 1988. The State Museum was set up by shifting and renaming the Central Museum located at Shillong to commemorate the birth centenary of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1989) the fist Prime Minister of India.

   The location of the Museum is just 5 minutes walking distance from Ziro Point Tinali bus stoppage of National Highway (Mahatma Gandhi Road), Itanagar, the new capital of Arunachal Pradesh and it is situated near the Buddhist temple ‘Gompa’ in picturesque natural canvas. It is about 30 kms distance by road from the check post of Assam-Arunachal border.

   The present building constructed on a small foothill with two floors. Beside the galleries the building has a library, laboratory and a mini auditorium. In the ground floor of Museum exhibits 27 miniature dioramas depicting the lifestyle of the life style of the indigenous tribes of the State. Fifteen (15) numbers of display map reflecting a wide range of subjects like administrative growth, distribution of tribes, textile designs, musical instruments, dances, festivals and different historical sites of the State. Moreover, some items of Buddhist culture and other social cultural aspects of indigenous people are scientifically displayed.

   The first floor of the museum has seven sections, viz. Textile, Archaeology, Woodcarving, and Weapons on war and chase, Basketry, Ornaments and Household goods of the people. More than one thousand art objects are on display on functional basis in the Museum. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama inaugurated a new section on scroll painting "THANKA" on 16th December 2003. Besides these a considerable number of materials from tribal and folk culture of the other states of northeastern region have enriched the collections.


   The Buddhist tribes like the Sherdukpens and Monpas and also to some extent the Khowa, Aka and Miji groups, the Membas, Khambas, the Khamtis and Singhos, are expert in making beautiful masks. They also periodically stage pantomimes and mask dances. Making of beautiful carpets, painted wooden vessels and silver articles is the specialist of the Monpas. The Khamtis are expert in wooden curving.

   The Apatanis, Hill Miris, Adis and Nishings occupy the central part of Arunachal Pradesh. They are expert craftsmen and make beautiful articles using cane and bamboo which has earned wide acclaim. The shawals and jackets made by Apatanis, the galle (lower garment of the female) and shoulder bag made by the Adi and the coat and shawl by the Mishmi are symbols of the high weaving talents and artistic sense of these people.


   The ethnic groups living in the southeastern part of the territory are famous for their woodwork. The Wanchos, however, weave beautiful bags and loincloth out of goat’s hair, ivory, boar's tusks, beads of agates and othersemi precious stones as well as of brass and glass are .artistic specialty of the people.

   The State Museum also imparts educational services to the students of school, college and University. The visitors in a group are enlightened through gallery talk, screening of educational films and organizing workshop. Extension activities are regular feature of the State Museum.


District Museum at Pasighat:

   The District Museum was established in 1962 at Paighat, the headquarter and one of the oldest town of present East Siang District of Arunachal Pradesh. Initially called Cultural Centre and attached to a library, this Museum aim to preserve, promote and project the material culture of the people of this region. The Museum is around building with raised wooden floor and walls with CGI sheet roofing also popularly called as Elwin Design.

   The collections mainly, from the region and the district in particular, are based on wood works, basketry, textile, ornaments, weapons of war and chaise and other item of religious and. economic significance beside a rare and unique photographic documentation on socio-cultural and religious life of people.


Archaeological Site Museum at Malinithan:

   Malinithan is an archeological and historical at West Siang District. It is linked to the legend of Lord Krishna and his wife Rukmini and believed that on their way to Dwaraka from Bhishmaknagar, they were greeted here by Goddess Parbati appearing as Malini (Lady Gardener). Being satisfied with this gesture and hospitality Lord Krishna addressed Parbati as Malini and declared as she would worshiped here. Since then, this place became sacred as Malinithan (abode of Devi Malini). This place became a Shakti Pitha as the dismembered head of Sati is believed to have fallen here. The site has the ruins of a temple with sculptures of Hindu icons. The ruins of the temple are claimed to be of 10th century AD.

   To preserve the excavated stone/sculpture, carving and decorating human figures of the temple, a site museum was established in the year 2000 near the temple premises. Among the collections, the important stone sculpture and decorative figure are Surya, Kartikeya, ganesha, Indra, nandi Bull, Erotica, decorative jamba. Lintel with two lions with an auspicious poitcher (Mangal Ghat) in the centre etc.

   Now the people of the state are coming to the museum to see their traditional arts and crafts. After seeing the museum they feel proud and realise the importance of museum led to urge to preserve their unique cultural heritage for sustaining. As a result it has been noticed that tribal communities of Arunanchal Pradesh actively engage to establish museums in their respective areas and some communities have placed their demand to the government for construction museum in the name of their society. Some also placed their demand to the concerned authority to establish Eco-Museum or heritage site. Therefore, we need a closer look and strengthen their tradition by zealously safeguarding their heritage through establishment of many museums and to foster and revive the ethos of tribal life through various cultural programme and museum activities.

   Indeed, the museum being the hub of cultural heritage is the best friend of society fostering a sense of pride. Thus, setting up a museum always mark an era of extreme joy, hope and vision reconsolidating the genius and wisdom of forefathers heritage for posterity in the interest of future generation.


References :

ISSN: 2249 3433


The word tribe is variously used in literature to denote a community on the basis of homogeneity. Originally many autochthonous communities who were identified by similar culture, social organisation and governance, living away from the main stream life of a country, were mentioned as tribe by their colonial rulers and Western scholars. Many such communities have moved towards the mainstream lifestyle so that they may no longer be identified as secluded, underdeveloped people with queer customs. This has happened to all areas of the world where tribal communities live. Still, many tribal communities lead their lives in very primitive ways devoid of the techno-economic glamour of contemporary civilization. These communities are labeled as "Primitive Tribal Groups". Indian Government has identified such tribal groups to give special attention to their development, whereas in the Indian Constitution all the tribal groups are recognized as "scheduled tribes".


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