In late 1983, a fourth-standard student from Ludhiana wrote to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi seeking to know in which school Mrs Gandhi had studied. The reason: she also wanted to be Prime Minister one day.
Despite her busy schedule, Mrs Gandhi responded to Deepkiran, a pupil of Sacred Heart Convent School within a fortnight. “To get to the top of any ladder, you have to climb rung by rung. This means sincerity, hard work and service. Personally, I would say that it is important not to ask things for yourself but to think about what you can do for others and for your country. I hope you like your school.”
The correspondence, reflecting the tender side of the Prime Minister known for her no-nonsense image, is on display at Delhi’s Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya, a new museum housed inside the sprawling Teen Murti Bhawan, showcasing various facets of India’s 14 Prime Ministers, each of whom has contributed to the progress of the nation in the past 75 years.
They came from different social backgrounds but left their distinguished mark behind as the world’s largest democracy grew in strength through trials and tribulations. “A walk through the museum is a story of democracy,” notes Gauri Krishnan, the museum’s Chief Curator.
Nehru’s legacy
Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya has two distinct portions — the old heritage building showcasing the legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru, the challenges that had befallen the young democracy as the colonial rulers left and the making of the Constitution — the heart and soul of the Republic.
The Constitution gallery is full of interesting nuggets of information like how calligrapher Prem Behari Narain Raizada left his signature on every page of the handwritten first copy. A digital version of the Constitution in 22 Indian languages is available on a touch table. There is a gallery on Constitutional amendments, updated till the Right to Education and GST laws.
Nehru’s bedroom, study room, book collections and Indira’s bedroom have been kept as it is with old furniture and old-world charms.
Nehru’s relations with world leaders, his role in the independence struggle, his famous tryst-with-destiny speech and Babu Rajendra Prasad’s letter requesting Nehru to desist from having the independence day on August 15 are on display. There is also a gallery on the 1962 India-China war, which India lost. Also on display are gifts that Prime Ministers received from foreign countries.
Post-Nehru story
The post-Nehru story is housed in the new building where a levitating Lion Capital greets visitors at the entrance and a walkway with 1,200 synchronised lights creating a waving national flag leads to the engaging ‘Anubhuti Zone’, the Wall of Unity and the galleries of other Prime Ministers — from Lal Bahadur Shastri to Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The building’s outer face is the museum’s logo — the Dharm Chakra upheld by numerous arms.
The display includes a portrait of Shastri made from crystal beads using a 3D pixel image rendered by hanging the beads in such a way that from one unique point the likeness of the face emerges. India’s sweetest war victory in 1971 and the birth of Bangladesh are part of the Indira Gandhi gallery. 
The emotional appeal of a Vajpayee (or any other PM) speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort is also available for a visitor to experience. There are digital flipbooks (two from the Manmohan Singh era — on the Lokpal bill and the Boxing Day tsunami).
A special section on the Emergency is a reminder of the period when democracy was suppressed. Among other things, this section houses the jail diaries of Jai Prakash Narain. There is a gallery to remember the contribution of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
“A content review committee looked at all the Prime Ministers with a great deal of detachment. Every Prime Minister’s early life, political activities and major policy initiatives were highlighted,” said A Surya Prakash, vice chairman of the Executive Committee of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library and a former chairperson of Prasar Bharati.
The showstopper, undoubtedly, is the Anubhuti section with features like ‘Selfie with the PM’, ‘Stroll with the PM’, a signed letter from any of the Prime Ministers and a virtual reality helicopter ride that gives a tour of major infrastructure projects like the Dhola-Sadiya bridge in Assam, the Atal tunnel under Rohtang pass, the world’s tallest railway bridge over Chenab that would link Kashmir with the rest of the country and the Dholera smart city in Gujarat.
The Rs 306-crore museum, inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this year, will have several new additions in the coming months.
This includes a gallery on Prime Minister Modi, a Sound-and-Light show which would be operational by the winter and a souvenir shop.
After 100,000 visitors in the last six months, the authorities plan to promote it as the capital’s new tourist destination. And tourists won’t be disappointed.
Museum Hours:
Mar to Oct: 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM
Nov to Feb: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
(Closed on Mondays and Gazetted Holidays)
Audio Guide: Valid Govt ID deposit is compulsory for the issue of an audio guide.
Ticket price: Rs 90 for adults and Rs 45 for children (5-12 years)
Separate tickets for the Anubhuti Section and the Light and Sound show
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