Situated in the Queen’s Garden area of Pune, the Tribal Cultural Museum looks like any other old multi storied government building (the museum is located on the premises of the Tribal Research and Training Institute). The building from outside does not give any hints to the visitor about the vast collection of the tribal treasures displayed inside the museum. The official timings of the museum are 10:30 AM to 5:30 PM and it remains closed on Sundays and all government holidays. A modest entrance fee of Rs 10 (free if you are a child and Rs 200 if you are a foreigner) takes you inside. The museum has been divided into multiple sections. One can see different artifacts and photographs along with their respective documentation about Maharashtrian tribes like Katkari, Madia, Mavchi, Pawara, Kokna, etc.
The first section of the museum displays the famous and intricate Bamboo Craft items from Nasik and Paper Mache animals from Jawhar. This section also documents the following interesting ritual from the Bhil tribes that reside in the mountain ranges of Satpuda mountain in northern Maharashtra:
“More than one wives system is followed in the Bhil tribe. At the time of marriage of Bhil, some specific amount has to be paid by the groom’s father to the bride’s father.”
Various photographs on display show the multiple facets of a tribal life; the tattooed face of a Madia tribal woman, tribal huts, paddy fields, tribal men playing their musical instruments, etc.
The entrance of the next section is guarded fiercely by a “Shinoli”, the figure of a bull on a wooden pillar, erected by the Madia tribe on their graves. A major part of the second section is dedicated to the musical instruments of the tribals. Most of the tribals make their own musical instruments from pumpkins, bamboo, wood, animal skin, clay pots, seeds, iron, etc. On display are such varied musical instruments such as a “Tibuli” (rhythm instrument made of goat skin), flutes, “Chikori”, “Ghangali”, “Tappa”, Bugle, “Pawari”. Also displayed in this section are kitchen and other tribal items starting from a noodle maker to utensils made from dried Gourd; various farming and hunting instruments to colorful necklaces for their Bulls. A display of Black Magic artifacts like whips, barbed wires and idols of black magic deities ends this section on a frightful note.
Immediately, however, the visitor will find himself in the colorful world of tribal arts and craft. While the black, brown and maroon Warli paintings displayed in this section show the earthen side of the tribals, the colorful and vibrant hues of the tribal masks show their more fun and colorful side. This section ends with an open air display of life size tribal painted huts and statues of tribals engaged in various domestic activities.
The last section has on display a large collection of tribal ornaments made of silver metal and colorful beads. The collection also displays metallic tobacco containers, Madia Combs (also known as Hichadi, which is personally carved and presented by a Madia boy to his girlfriend when he decides to marry her), bottle openers and various copper motifs. A small collection of metallic statues of tribal deities ends the tour of the museum.
The museum manager and caretaker are available throughout the tour for any questions the visitors might have. There are not many a visitors to this place on a saturday (most school tours are conducted during the week) which gives enough time to explore each section in detail without feeling rushed and admire the simple, colorful and self sustainable life of these tribes from Maharashtra.