Shillong, Oct 18 (IANS) President Pranab Mukherjee will visit the Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Cultures, among Asia's largest such museums, in this Meghalaya capital Monday.
A seven-floor museum encompasses the seven states of the northeast and Sikkim.
The cultures of the indigenous people of India's northeastern states, including Sikkim, are showcased in 17 galleries, with 56,000 square feet floor space and 15,154 square feet of display wall space.
"The president is visiting the museum, but I cannot make any comment as of now, as it is a purely a personal visit," Joseph Puthenpurackal, a Catholic priest and director of the museum, told IANS.
However, official sources said that the president wanted to visit the museum after having learnt of the unique display of indigenous cultures.
Several dignitaries, including former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and union ministers have visited the museum in the past.
"I have travelled and been to museums in different parts of the world, but I have never visited such a detailed and spectacular collection of tribal art and culture. I am truly impressed and I offer my compliments to all those who have worked to set up this museum," Congress President Sonia Gandhi had written in the museum's visitors' book.
Apart from showcasing the rich culture of the indigenous people of the northeastern states, the museum also has a gallery named "Our Neighbours" which aims at showcasing the cultures of the five neighbouring countries of India's northeastern states -- China, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
On the top floor of the museum, a 76-metre skywalk provides visitors a 360 degree view of Shillong, the Meghalaya capital city.
"The museum rises in the Shillong's skyline like a flame with a message that if cultures are understood well, they can light up and brighten our efforts to build a peaceful, developed and progressive society," Puthenpurackal said.
He said the main door of the museum contains carvings that symbolise the rich traditions of the northeast.
"Over the door is a Khasi (a tribal group in Meghalaya) shield and a pair of Khasi swords representing the undaunted spirit of the tribal warriors. The floor space is 56,000 square feet, and each room is built in hexagonal shape (shaped like a beehive) with the purpose of being able to use the maximum space. Besides, the hexagonal shape is best suited to an earthquake-prone area such as this," the museum's director explained.
There are 17 galleries, which one ascends to through a spiral staircase, and there is an alcove gallery at the entrance. Each alcove is a welcome corner, and in each of the 22 alcoves, colourfully dressed representatives welcome visitors and make them feel at home.
At the end of the alcove gallery is a beautiful painting of a multicultural dance around a fire. Close by, charts depict the language families of the world, of Asia, of India and the northeast.
The museum was inaugurated by Congress president Sonia Gandhi March 5, 2010.
The museum houses a vast collection of rare photographs dating back 60 years, showing life over the years in tribal villages in the northeast. Puthenpurackal said the museum will soon add a gallery that depicts the culture and tradition of 300 tribes and sub-tribes of the northeast.
Students and researchers will find a vast reserve of material to use here, as the fourth floor of the museum houses a library with books dealing exclusively with the northeast.