Each Indian region has its own unique art, culture and craftsmanship. Though it’s impossible to see all of this vast country in one trip, you can get a taste of India’s diverse arts and crafts at these spots in the capital city, Delhi, including Dilli Haat, an outdoor market selling regional crafts, and a museum dedicated to the Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib.
A walk around this iconic open-air market – think stalls overflowing with colourful wares, traditional art, spice boxes, furniture and knick-knacks from across India – is an experience in itself. Built in 1994 and located near the INA Market on Sri Aurobindo Marg, the market is also a must-visit for the regional delicacies it offers – from the sweets of Bengal, to dumplings from the Northeast, and thalis (platters) from Uttarakhand. This is a one-stop shop at which to sample cuisine from every Indian state. Spread over six acres (2,428 square meters), the 62 craft stalls here are rotated every 15 days between craftspeople who come from all over India. Don’t forget to admire the pashmina shawls from Kashmir and the traditional wicker furniture from Assam.
This is one of the best traditional markets in India – spread over three blocks right next to Connaught Place, bang in the center of the Indian capital. See the best of Indian craftsmanship at the state-run emporiums here. Look out for Kashmir’s famous pashminas and paper-mache coasters at the Kashmir emporium, bronze lamps at the Tamil Nadu emporium, miniature art at the Rajasthan emporium and exquisite silks at the Karnataka emporium. Prices can be steep, especially when it comes to traditional art and paintings, but there are always affordable miniatures that you can pick up as souvenirs.
The National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) is a treasure house of Indian paintings through the ages. The gallery houses one of the most significant collections of modern and contemporary art in the country, showcasing 17,000 works, including miniatures, life-size paintings and sculptures. The NGMA opened its doors in 1954 and is located in Jaipur House, a majestic butterfly-shaped building built in 1936. The collection includes works by masters like Raja Ravi Varma and Abanindranath Tagore, as well as modernists like Amrita Sher-Gil and Rabindranath Tagore. It also showcases important contemporary art. The collection includes art from various Indian regions and art centres including Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Baroda and Santiniketan in West Bengal.
The National Crafts Museum showcases crafts from all across the country. It also hosts artisan exhibitions, where artists demonstrate how their products are made. Walk around to admire India’s traditional village arts such as murals, terracotta sculpture, metalwork and textiles. There is also an exquisite collection of sarees and fabric here. This museum has a Crafts Demonstration Program, where visitors can see 50 craft makers at work every month from different parts of India. Apart from the permanent galleries, the museum also has two temporary galleries for limited-time exhibitions, as well as four open-air theatres where visitors can watch cultural performances from different parts of India.
Housed inside the Ghalib Academy, this museum is a tribute to arguably the greatest Urdu poet, Mirza Ghalib, who also wrote in Persian. This museum is a must-visit for a glimpse into the life and works of the poet, whose couplets and poems are an intrinsic part of Indian heritage, culture and language. Ghalib’s works seem deceptively simple, but have been considered by many experts to be untranslatable. The Ghalib Museum showcases artifacts from Ghalib’s time; there are pictorial representations of the poet, his house and food habits. The museum also showcases coins and seals that date back to the Mughal period, as well as postage stamps, specimens of Ghalib’s handwriting and his poetry in calligraphy. Other artworks based on Ghalib’s poetry are also displayed in the museum.
Spread across eight acres, Sanskriti Kendra is a crash course in India’s traditional arts and crafts. The centre is a green oasis with sprawling lawns, lotus ponds, birds and butterflies that provides a respite from the Indian capital. It is most known for housing three very distinctive museums – the Museums of Everyday Art, Indian Terracotta and Textiles. The cultural centre also houses a Ceramic Centre – the only one of its kind in India – that offers residencies, classes and interactive workshops for ceramicists, an enamel centre to promote the art and craft of metal enamelling, and a block printing unit where expert block printers from Rajasthan demonstrate the traditional hand-block printing technique of the state.