The excavated materials on display date back to forty thousand years to second century A.D. and have been collected from three excavations conducted by the Birla Archaeological & Cultural Research Institute (BACRI).
The excavations at Hasmathpet, a suburb of Secunderabad, unearthed a Megalithic burial site dated to the second century B.C. The exhibits display/showcase pottery, stone axes & iron implements etc., found during the excavation. The excavations at Veerapuram (Kurnool Dt. A.P) an extensive archaeological site excavated by BACRI during 1978 to 81 revealed a sequence of cultures from early Neolithic period to the early historic period i.e. 1800 BC to 400 AD. Several household & common use items / material of Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Megalithic & Early Historic periods are found during the excavations along with a group of temples with brick layers intact. The visible style difference between the Neolithic-Chalcolithic cultures in types of pottery & extended burial pots etc. is also on display. One such burial container with the remnants of a child’s skeleton has been preserved & displayed in the gallery. The exhibits from the megalithic culture zone include black & red ware pottery, terracotta ear studs, pendants, beads etc. The early historic culture exhibits comprise different punch marked coins from the Ikshvaku dynasty through Satavahana & Maharatha dynasties.
Different types of pottery, beads & bangles of different material, mullars, rubbers, querns & earthenware jars are also on display. BACRI has published a comprehensive report on the excavations of Veerapuram in 1991. Vaddamanu (Guntur Dt. A.P.) is another early historic site excavated by BACRI, the finds are on display in the museum. The remnants of a Jain stupa, first of its kind in South India were found here. They include railing pieces of the stupa, inscribed pottery, terracotta, stucco & stone figures etc. A portion of the railing is reconstructed & is on display in the gallery.
The stone sculptures gallery, for ease of access is segregated into Buddhist, Jain & Hindu sections. They display sculptures ranging from Second Century AD to the Fifteenth Century AD. The collection includes Stupa sculptures, pillars, figures of Buddha, Mahavira, 24 Tirthankaras, Ganesa, Mahishamardini, Saptamatrukas, Kumara, Dasavatara Vishnu, Brahma, Bhairava, etc. to name a few. Praise worthy sculptures from the dynasties of Chalukya, Kakatiya & Vijayanagar are showcased at the exhibit. The wood carvings gallery displays the unique wooden ratha of south India apart from panels consisting of the deity figures like Vishnu, Brahma, Nataraja etc. Apart from exquisitely carved artistic household doors the other exhibits of this gallery include the dhwaja stambha plates, temple doors & panels with exquisite minute carvings & decorations. The bronze collection of the museum includes Buddhist & Hindu deities. Figures worth special mention include the Chola Bronzes of Siva & Parvati. The collection comprises the beautiful figures of Vishnu, Shiva, Siva Nataraja, Kumara with consorts, Bhairava, Kodanda Rama, Yab-yum, Avalokitesvara etc.
The gallery of Miniature Paintings, Illustrated Manuscripts & Ganjifas display select material. The miniature paintings belong to different schools of late medieval India like Rajasthani, Deccani, Pahadi etc. A good collection of typical Tanjore Paintings are also on display in the gallery. Ganjifa cards (playing cards) are circular or rectangular & traditionally hand-painted by artisans. These medieval period playing cards of India are unique & the museum has on display the Dashavatara Ganjifa & the Mughal ganjifas. The illustrated manuscripts on display include late medieval collection of Hindu & Mughal writings on religious & social themes. Pieces written in Persian, Sanskrit, Urdu & Gurmukhi languages, are on display, the noted ones are Aine-Akbari, Ramayana, Bhagavata & a manuscript on different varieties of horses & their qualities. A wide collection of illustrated & unillustrated palm leaf manuscripts in different languages like Sanskrit, Telugu, Kannada, Tamil etc. are on display. The subject matter varies from astrology, puranas, bhagavatas, household accounts, astronomy, mathematics, medicine etc. Ancient locks, weights & measures, & folk art figures add depth to the museum display. The templeware of Hindu temples like bells, panchapatras, vinjamaras, chains, different types of aratis, kavachas, masks, oil cans etc give a good account of different materials used on different occasions & in routine in temples. The arms & armory collection of the Museum is fascinating. A wide range of swords, daggers, katars, decorated shields, procession armory, canon balls, guns & pistols are on display.
A unique katar with a first aid kit having different objects like claspers, forceps etc. is in the collection on display. The Nirmala Birla Art Gallery is next to Archaeological Galleries & displays varied Art objects collected & contributed by Mrs. Nirmala Birla, Chairperson of BACRI, & other members of Birla Family over a period of time. The art objects on display at the Nirmala Birla Art Gallery include porcelain, glass, Plaster of Paris, jade, crystal, Sterling Silver, Mother of Pearl, wood carvings & ivory items. The porcelain collection ranges from dolls, vases, wall plates, art objects etc. Numerous Royal Doulton (Europe) figures are unique in this gallery. Vases of Chinese & Japanese figures, wall plates etc are also particularly appreciated. The collection also includes the Lladro of Spain, Vier Tasca of Italy, Denmark & Russian make items. A number of Limited Edition Figures are also on display.
The glass collection of the gallery has a varied range from scent bottles to huge vases, mirror boxes, flower pots, jars of different makes & styles including Venetian, European, German & other cultures. Limited Edition art objects of precious & semi precious stones & minerals like crystal, jade, verdite, quartz are also on the display. They come from world famous manufacturers like Daum, Baccarat, Swarovski etc. The collection ranges from birds, animals, vases, table top figures etc. Murano glass figures in different colors are the special attraction of the glass gallery. Ivory paintings, figures & carvings comprise the centre piece exhibits in the Nirmala Birla Art Gallery. Some of the pieces on display range from tiny hair clips to the larger than life carved elephant tusk Ivory Jewel boxes, tusks with religious themes, lamp shades, models, figures of divinities, walking sticks and decorative heads. A huge African elephant tusk, & Indian elephant tusks carved with Ramayana & Krishnayana themes are foremost. This gallery also displays a number of Ivory Paintings done by late Iqbal Hussain, the famous artist of Hyderabad.
Sterling Silver figures of Hindu divinities like Krishna, Lakshmi & Ganesh made in Italy form the prime collection of the gallery. Other items of the gallery include jeweled & woolen carpets, wall hangings, figures made out of mother of pearl etc. These are only a few items of interest on display & one must visit the museum personally to experience the moment & travel back into the past to relive our rich cultural heritage.