Tribal Museum
Tribal Museum

An incredible exhibit of the vast cultural and traditional customs of notably seven tribal communities indigenous to Madhya Pradesh and its neighboring states in India, the museum showcases multidimensional displays of art, architecture, lifestyle, and rituals of the tribal communities. The structure that spans across seven acres of land largely reflects and responds not only to the micro-climatic prospects of the region but is also well informed of its aesthetic caliber.

Case Study of Tribal Museum

  • Project: Tribal Museum
  • Location: Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh
  • Area: 7 acres
  • Year of completion: 2013
  • Building typology: Cultural
  • Architect: Kamath Design Studio

About Tribal Museum

The bespoke museum is one of its kind and narrates stories of tribal heritage through life-size models and colorful installations of their dwellings, rituals, artifacts, and ornaments in each of its gallery spaces. Furthermore, musical performances, plays, and cultural dances in the auditorium and amphitheater provide an immersive experience into the lifestyle of such ethnological groups.


The structure identifies its vernacular style of architecture through natural materials like mud, stone, bamboo, clay, wood, iron, straw, leaves, dry twigs. As a result, the museum comprises six galleries, a center for expression, exhibition and library space, seminar hall, auditorium, and amphitheater.

Each of the six galleries features a myriad of exhibits and art installations showing the lifestyle of seven tribes in and around Madhya Pradesh – Gond, Kol, Bhil, Korku, Bharia, Baiga, Saharia.

In addition, tribal customaries are based on mythical views. It also exemplifies stories of worship and sacrifice, the significance of signs and symbols, spiritual energy, invisible power, supernatural yet practical philosophies. Also, these manifest in the aesthetics of the museum and shapes into art forms.

Tribal Museum: Amalgamation of tradition, art, architecture
(left)Entrance gates with mythical signs (right)Inaugural lamp

The entrance gate to the museum is created and decorated with mythical signs by the Gond tribe that symbolizes the continuity of life of tribal communities. A lamp is lit in places of worship. The iron smelting community, Agariyas, makes these lamps called Hirnauti, which has deer head-shaped lamps with snakes coiling around.

Tribal communities worship elements of nature and have figures and patterns demonstrating value for their surroundings and geographical environment. Each element may not hold a significant purpose but portrays the communities’ belief in nature and God.

Also, Read: Institute of Indology: Incorporating Indian Traditional Elements in Modernism

(right)Granary made of clay, husk, bamboo, and cow dung.

 Cultural Diversity (Gallery One)

It features the geographical importance of the state and its multi-dimensional culture through a contoured map of Madhya Pradesh right in the middle of the gallery. Also, it displays the topography containing mountains, plateaus, forests, and the holy, divine lifeline of the state, the river Narmada. Amidst the map, is a Banyan tree (the state’s tree and emblem) whose branches reach up to the double-height space of the gallery with its roots touching the floor. However, a staircase leads to a ramp above through which one can get a holistic view of the map representation.

Also, the upper walls of the gallery exhibit symbols of tribal communities from around the world and the walls down depict elements showing the life and culture of the tribes from the state and its bordering states.

Tribal Museum: Amalgamation of tradition, art, architecture
(left)House of Gond Tribe (right)House of Korku Tribe

Tribal Life (Gallery Two)

This gallery is a representation of the dwellings of five tribes – Gond, Korku, Bhil, Baiga, and Saharia creating a perfect neighborhood. Also, the tribal communities use natural materials that are locally available to build their houses, being mindful of the regional temperature. Moreover, the museum has attempted to create architectural replicas with the same materials as used in the tribal homes along with recreating a similar ambiance of the surrounding landscape.

(left)Bamboo installation (right)Importance of music and dance according to a mythical story of the Bhil tribe

Tribal Aesthetics (Gallery Three) of Tribal Museum

This gallery comprehends the aesthetics of the community and reveals their artistic perception even towards the most ordinary things. However, their rituals and practices symbolically represent and impart a clearer understanding of art.

Tribal Museum: Amalgamation of tradition, art, architecture
(left)Octagonal wedding pavilion (right) Wedding Pillar – symbolizes miraculous powers of the earth.

Marriage rituals are engraved on trees, while death is represented in the form of terracotta images. Also, a large bamboo installation was created based on a mythical story of reincarnation and is believed to be used for special occasions. Which displays varieties of bamboo products of daily use.

(left)Ceremonial ring given to the bride at a wedding (right) Terracotta house for spirits to reside.

A double-storeyed octagonal wedding pavilion has its pillars carved by their respective tribes and is veiled by four trees. The lower portion displays traditions and customs that take place during the wedding. The first floor depicts activities of seasonal events and festivals. A larger-than-life ceremonial bangle represents motifs of standing crops, well, and trees as a symbol of fertility and life cycle that presents to the bride. 

Also, Read: National Museum Delhi – Largest Museum of India

Tribal Museum: Amalgamation of tradition, art, architecture
some spaces of the museum

Tribal Spiritual World (Gallery Four)

Tribal communities view the spiritual realm in an abstract configuration. They do not worship deities in concrete form or build shrines and temples. However, the divine presence of Gods characterizes by stones, sticks, pillars, mounds, tridents, earthen lamps, terracotta offerings. In addition, this gallery represents the good and evil spirits that reside in nature. However, the visitors have portrayed the expression of faith in spiritualism, as perceived by the tribal community. Souls of ancestors, wandering spirits, spooks, and ghosts, believe to protect and cure the inhabitants of all sorts of harm and trouble.

(left)Singh Dyodhi – Entrance gate of the temple of Bastar (right) The Dussehra chariot

Chhattisgarh State (Gallery Five) of Tribal Museum

Chhattisgarh, once a part of M.P, now stands as an independent state. Gallery five dedicated to the spiritual aspects of the tribal culture of Bastar in Chhattisgarh. A replica of a huge gateway to the temple of Bastar is recreated with an emblem on top. And also lion motifs on both sides of the upper portion, representing them guarding of the city. Dussehra festival is celebrated in full grandeur and lasts for about 75 days. Also, the Dussehra chariot installs in the central portion of the gallery. Apart from these, the gallery features few other elements of the Chhattisgarh tribal communities.

Tribal Museum: Amalgamation of tradition, art, architecture
Gallery of tribal games

Rakku (Gallery six)

Various kinds of tribal games and sports activities are in this gallery. Children use wood, stones, bamboo pieces to make sporting equipment. Materials like iron, clay, and terracotta use to demonstrate various games and figures. Also, these games are a way for children to educate themselves on the importance of nature. It also improves their physical fitness and teaches them activities like fishing, hunting, singing, and dancing in the process.

Galleries have pitch roofs over steel trusses and painted and decorated by tribal communities based on their various styles. The site was a rocky stratum and was filled with soil during construction. However, vegetation within the site was re-plant with shrubs that were indigenous to Madhya Pradesh. A natural contour in the site used to create the centrally placed amphitheater. And all gardens and terraces use rainwater for irrigation.

Tribal communities utilize natural resources to build their community. And treat their land and its assets with the utmost respect while striking a balance between the built and unbuilt environment. The architecture of the museum sees this as a model while creating a contemporary structure keeping the tribal aesthetics and sustainability facets in mind.



Also, Read: The Etihad Museum, Dubai-UAE

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