A minuscule lane, one among the many in the bustling, momentous city of Pune in Maharashtra, is home to Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum, a rare anthology of Indian artefacts that echo myriad tales of a nostalgic legacy within the archways and corridors of the majestic 'Puneri Wada'.
Every corner of the Museum bears testimony to an astounding individual passion for art collection: art that is not detached from reality but an integral part of the day-to-day life of India's millions, art that highlights the characteristic Indian obsession of carving motifs out of the mundane of seeking innovation in tradition.
Dr. D. G. Kelkar, founder of the Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum was a man driven by an inner calling. His life mission was to gather the best of Indian folk art and craftsmanship, only to bequeath it to the world at large. Today, as we marvel at the man’s dedication, and applaud his herculean effort, we are invariably mesmerized by the magnitude and magnanimity of his superlative effort. He was a family man, wedded to customary commitments and responsibilities. Yet, he chose to be a nomadic, travelling across the country to singularly amass over 19,000 artefacts in a span of 60 years, an apt tribute to the loving memory of his young son "Raja" who met a tragic untimely death.
Needless to say, this eternal voyage that has made the Museum one of the richest in folk art worldwide nearly drove his family to ruins at times, an endeavour that could only flourish on the kind support of family, friends and acquaintances. Fortunately, this he received and gratefully acknowledged. Risking his own stability to pursue his chosen goal, he inspired scores of committed souls to share his dream.
This offbeat venture won the participation of elder brother the Late Dr. B. G. Kelkar, wife the Late Smt. Kamlabai Kelkar, only daughter Smt. Rekha Hari Ranade and son-in-law Late Dr. H. G. Ranade besides an army of well wishers and followers. No wonder, Dr. Kelkar's invaluable contribution to Indian heritage has been honoured by the Government of India and various other prestigious institutions and individuals worldwide. He has also been showered by generous acknowledgments from the national and international Media alike. In a final selfless gesture, Dr. D.G. Kelkar donated his personal collection to the State Government of Maharashtra in 1975, in the firm belief that such a dream could only be fulfilled by the State’s proactive involvement and financial support.
The existing state of affairs, however, leaves a lot to be desired. Spread over 3 storeys and divided into forty two sections, the Museum currently displays only about 2,500 exhibits owing to the paucity of space and funds. The bulk of Dr. Kelkar’s collection, over 85 percent of the timeless treasure, still remains unseen – and therefore, unsung. To make matters worse, the Museum is prey to the usual nemesis of city life: traffic congestion, pollution and the ravages of time on priceless treasures among others. The diverse collection needs state of the art adequate maintenance facilities. It has been accepted for long that the existing facilities need total up-gradation.
Parallel to this acknowledgement of the fact runs the aspiration of a vision. It was late Dr. Kelkar’s dream to transform the Museum into a world-class complex offering best-of-breed cultural, educational, research and recreational facilities under one roof in the historic city of Pune.
It’s indeed heartening that this dream has been conceived in the form of the proposed "Museum City" by the Board of Management of the Museum headed by the Hon’ble Chief Secretary to the State Govt. of Maharashtra and well represented by other Senior Government officials and the heirs of Late Dr. Kelkar with other Board members.
The Board of Management aspires to transform this Museum into a Grand National Monument through the application of latest display techniques and appropriate measures for its comprehensive upkeep. This national treasure needs to be nurtured if it is to remain a part of our national wealth.
Apart from both the Central and the State Governments, couple of Corporate Organizations are quite likely to show keen interest in furthering the cause of this glorious institution.
The project is very much likely to win the support of the Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India, the Dept. of Culture, State Govt. of Maharashtra, Pune Municipal Corporation. Many renowned Museums, NRIs, Cultural Foundations and Several Philanthropic organizations from the world over are likely to show keen interest in the proposed project. The Board of Management of the Museum is quite keen to associate with several sponsors and donors and work out specific schemes aimed at mutual benefit.
This ambitious project has been conceived to create a complex of international standard to house the entire Kelkar collection, other exhibits, research and storage facilities and the Raja Dinkar Kelkar Institute of Museology and Fine Arts. The Museum will fulfil its role as an educator and guardian of the timeless treasures within its fold. The Mastani Mahal - a recreation of 18th Century Mansion will be the showpiece of the collection with audio-visual displays of Maratha grandeur. This facility will be the permanent abode of Dr. Kelkar's lifetime obsession, a thriving centre for the pursuit of artistic endeavours, a tribute to a lifelong achievement and a fitting example of collective responsibility and solidarity for a larger cause.
The proposed “Museum City” complex area would be five times the current exhibition space with carefully controlled settings, centralized air conditioning, latest display techniques and security and fire fighting systems. The administrative block will house the offices of the Director and the Curators, the custodians of this collection. Professionally managed it will also have the publication and the sales division. The modern auditorium will seat after 350 people in comfort, designed to accommodate symposia and conferences.
The Library will complement academic research in diverse fields of Archaeology, History, Anthropology Sociology and Literature. Microfilming, Multimedia Kiosks and Computer Touch Screens will make the establishment a welcome den for the scholarly temperament. The Exhibition Center and Art Gallery will offer a modern space for artists and craftsman to hold their exhibitions in an ambience conducive for greater interaction with the public.
The proposed “Museum City” complex will house a well-equipped Workshop, a Mini Amusement Park, Museum Shoppe, Multimedia Studio, Cultural Village, Student’s Hostel, Guest House, Laboratory and high tech communication facilities. This infrastructure will undoubtedly attract international tourists and much needed foreign exchange for the country. A detailed plan of action for "Museum City" is ready. Corporate Houses and Institutions will be approached to lend their expertise with a view to cutting costs but there is a need of swift action from all corners.