Before visiting Shillong, I had never heard of this unique cultural museum of Northeast India, popularly known as Don Bosco Museum.
A typical image of Shillong in my mind has always been of a place with gorgeous waterfalls, cloud-laden hills and abundant greenery. True to the expectations, it epitomizes nature’s best.
But, did you know this part of India also boasts of a rich heritage of native tribal cultures? Don Bosco Museum in Shillong offers opportunities to peep into diverse cultures and traditions of all the North Eastern states under one roof.
It is acclaimed as Asia’s largest museum of indigenous cultures. This museum is spread over 56,000 sq km floor space and more than 15,000 sq km of display wall space.
It was inaugurated and opened for the general public in 2010. You will need roughly 2-3 hours to explore the museum fully.
Don Bosco Museum has won accolades from TripAdvisor for featuring in the list of top 10 museums in India and the top 25 museums in Asia. It is part of Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Cultures (DBCIC).
This museum is like an institution with its own publications, newsletter and research section. Continue reading this post to find out, what is so unique about this museum?
A Quick glance Through
- Unique Things About The Museum
- How To Get There
- Nearby Places To Visit
Unique Things About The Museum
The museum building displays an imposing architecture in the shape of a honeycomb (hexagon). It consists of seven storeys where each floor represents one of the seven sister states of the Northeast.
Owing to its impressive design, Don Bosco Museum is referred to as the architectural pride of Shillong. From the topmost level of the museum, you can get a fascinating view of the hexagonal structure.
Well Laid Out Galleries
Rising tall in Shillong’s skyline, Don Bosco Museum comprises seventeen galleries displaying a marvellous collection of artifacts, sculptures and paintings. Each of the galleries offers a glimpse into the historical and cultural heritage of the region.
The entry door of the museum is adorned with beautiful carvings that symbolize cultural diversity of the Northeast. There are a Khasi shield and a pair of swords over the door that stands for the great valour and courage of the tribal warriors.
1. Alcoves Gallery
Right at the entrance of the museum is Alcoves gallery. This is the first gallery you will come across once you get in. Each of the alcoves signifies something special.
Alcove 1 represents the sacred forest-grove of Mawphlang while alcove 2 represents traditional weaving. And, there are 22 such alcoves. From each alcove, representatives in colourful attires welcome visitors to the museum.
2. Agriculture Gallery
This part of the museum is dedicated to agricultural techniques of the region.
A walk-through of the Agriculture gallery provides a glimpse into the various methods of agriculture that are followed in the Northeast, such as plough cultivation, wet-rice cultivation.
3. Art Gallery
The Art Gallery features an excellent collection of rare paintings and artifacts from different parts of the North Eastern region.
Figurines and decorative items made of wood and metals showcase the creative side of the native tribal cultures.
4. Basketry Gallery
This gallery exhibits the basketry making skills of different tribes. There are many baskets on display which are nicely woven from bamboo.
Almost all the communities in the region are engaged in making baskets. From crop containers to baggage, it is used for many purposes.
5. Costumes & Ornaments Gallery
As the name suggests, Costumes & Ornaments gallery gives a fantastic overview of the unique traditional attires and jewellery from across the Northeast.
Clothing and ornaments are attached to their distinct cultural and social identity.
6. Fishing and Hunting Gallery
In this gallery, you can see a wonderful collection of fishing and hunting tools that were traditionally used by tribal groups of the region.
Fishing activities still form a major means of livelihood for many communities. A name board kept beside each artifact contains information about the item and the community, who makes use of it.
7. Housing Pattern Gallery
A wide array of traditional huts are on display in the Housing Pattern Gallery. From tree houses to the bamboo houses with poles at the base, the unique styles are driven by the topography of the region.
8. Introductory and Pre-history Gallery
This gallery combines two themes. Besides providing insights into the demographic structure of the Northeast, it also demonstrates different stages of human evolution.
9. Land and Peoples Gallery
A stroll through this gallery gives an excellent overview of people and topographical aspects of the region. The people diversity of the region is depicted through a vast assemblage of bust sculptures and life-size figures.
10. Mission and Culture Gallery
The Mission and Culture Gallery exhibits the cultural diversity of Northeast India. It is divided into four sections to depict the traditions and mythological beliefs of different communities.
11. Language Gallery
With more than 200 languages and a plethora of dialects, Northeast India boasts of tremendous linguistic diversity.
There are charts to illustrate languages spoken in different parts of Northeast and broadly across India as well as Asia.
12. Musical Instruments Gallery
This gallery is a storehouse of traditional musical instruments that are played on many occasions by the tribes of the region.
From social ceremonies to religious gatherings, dance and music are an indispensable part of Northeast’s tribal culture.
13. Photo Gallery
As I stepped in this gallery, I came across a beautiful collage of pictures illustrating tribal societies of the past. Some photos are even black and white.
This part of Don Bosco Museum provides a glimpse of the North Eastern villages of olden times.
14. Our Neighbour’s Gallery
The neighbouring countries that share a boundary with the North Eastern region of India find a place in this gallery.
Life-size statues of representatives from Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh and other neighbouring countries are placed here.
15. Religion and Cultures Gallery
The main theme of this gallery is unity and harmony. A series of wall mounted plaques beautifully convey this message.
16. Traditional Technology Gallery
A showcase of fine craftsmanship of tribal communities, Traditional Technology Gallery exhibits techniques and tools used in different crafts.
You can see displays of activities, like leather making, blacksmithing, weaving, pottery making and wood carving.
17. Weapons Gallery
This part of the museum is about types of weapons used by different communities in Northeast. Tribes used weapons as warfare tools as well as for protecting themselves from the fierce wild animals.
Skywalk At The Top
Apart from the well laid out galleries, a skywalk on the top floor of the museum is an added attraction. It provides a panoramic view of Shillong city to the visitors.
After a brief rainfall, it had become bright and sunny when I visited the skywalk. So the surrounding environs appeared even more beautiful from the top.
How To Get There
Don Bosco Museum is nearly 3.5 km from Police Bazar, the center point of Shillong city. By cab, it takes about 15 minutes to reach there from Police Bazar.
Shillong Airport, located some 30 km away from the city, is the nearest airport. It has flights to and from Kolkata only. The major airport to Shillong is in Guwahati that is well-linked with other parts of India.
Guwahati Airport is approximately 120 km away which is a 3-hour drive to Shillong city. The nearest railway station is also located in Guwahati.
Don Bosco Museum Timings
The museum is open from Monday to Saturday and remains closed on all Sundays. It’s usual opening hours are from 9 am to 5:30 pm. However in winters (December to January), it closes at 4:30 pm.
Nearby Places To Visit
Where should you be heading to, next? Shillong is a treasure house of natural beauty. There are plenty of fascinating spots to explore, like Ward’s Lake and Elephant Falls.
Check this post to know more about Shillong’s famous attractions: 12 Most Enchanting Tourist Places in Shillong.
Over To You Now…
Have you visited this incredible museum in Shillong? Tell us in the comment section below.
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