The National Museum of Nepal (Rashtriya Sangrahalaya) is a popular attraction of the capital city of Kathmandu. About a century old, the museum stands as a tourist destination and historical symbol for Nepal. Being the largest museum of the country of Nepal, it plays an important role in nationwide archaeological works and development of museums. For the residents of Kathmandu, the monument serves to relive the battles fought on the grounds of Nepal. The main attractions are collection of historical artworks (sculpture and paintings) and a historical display of weapons used in the wars in the 18-19th century.
The museum has separate galleries dedicated to statues, paintings, murals, coins and weapons. It has three buildings — Juddha Jayatia Kala Shala, Buddha Art Gallery and the main building which consists of natural historical section (collection of species of animals, butterflies and plants), cultural section and philatelic section.The National Museum is under the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation. The museum has practical application in portraying and understanding the past and present traditions of the people of Nepal.
The National Museum of Nepal was established in 1928 by General Bhimsen Thapa using an old building built in 1819 A.D. The museum then known as Chhauni Silkhana, literally meaning "arsenal museum", was originally used to display firearms and weapons used in the war history of Nepal. It was opened to the public in February 1939 by the Prime Minister of Nepal Juddha Shamsher Jung Bahadur Rana.
He allowed Nepalese to visit the museum charging very little and raised a building for an art museum and named it after himself Juddha Jatiya Kalashala. Until then only foreign scholars/dignitaries and invitees or guests of the Rana Prime Minister occasionally could have a glimpse of the collection. The Art Gallery was opened in 1943 A.D. Chhauni Silkhana was renamed as Rashtriya Sangrahalaya (literally "National Museum of Nepal") in 1967 during the rule of His Majesty the King Mahendra.
The National Museum of Nepal is in the city of Kathmandu at a short distance form the Swayambhunath stupa. The classical building of the museum is on the Western side of the river Vishnu against a hilly background. Entering the museum, on the left is the Art Gallery displaying statues, wood carvings and paintings. The building straight ahead is the Buddhist Art Gallery displaying Buddhist art objects while the building on the right is the Museum of Natural History.
The Art Gallery exhibits metal works, wood and stone carvings. Prominent among the stone images is the one of Licchavi King Jayavarma of the 2nd century. This large statue found in Handigaon stands majestically after being restored by an Italian project. Four stolen sculptures — the head of the 12th century Veenadharini Saraswati from Pharping’s Kamalpokhari; the 9th century Buddha from Bhinchhe Bahal, Patan; the 14th century Surya from Panauti’s Triveni Ghat and the 10th century Garudasana Vishnu from Hyumat Tole, Kathmandu — received from a Los Angeles based art-collector, have remained artifacts of great interest. These objects are kept in the stone work section of the gallery.
Buddhist Art Gallery
The Buddhist Art Gallery stores Buddhist paintings, sculptures and ritualistic objects. To provide a glimpse of the Buddhist art of the kingdom of Nepal, this gallery has been divided into three sections: the Terai, Kathmandu Valley and northern Himalayan sections. The Terai section is adorned with photographs of Lord Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini. Chaityas (stupas), statues of Buddha and Bodhisatvas cast in bronze comprise the Kathmandu valley section.
The northern Himalayan section reflects the influence of Tibetan Buddhism, which apparently developed many rites and rituals. Therefore ritualistic objects like phurpa (magical dart used especially for the ritual slaying of human effigy of foes) and dorje (represents thunder bolt) are found in this section. Thangka paintings made on cotton canvas or silk, Tibetan amulets and religious objects, also adorn the gallery. Appealing images of Manjushri (the deity of wisdom), yantra of the 19th century (showing chakras of the body), Dipankara Buddha are other important parts of the Buddhist collection.