In an attempt to create greater awareness about India’s rich, multi-layered history, French journalist Francois Gautier has set up the Shivaji Museum of Indian History in Pune.
As children, we studied the pre-colonial history of India in Class 4, memorised a few details and promptly forgot them as we approached adulthood. Stories of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s administration prowess or Tipu Sultan’s bravery failed to enthrall our adult minds and instead, stayed trapped in our textbooks.
A lot of this is due to the fact that there’s no exclusive establishment in India that focuses purely on Indian history, no place to revisit our childhood lessons and relearn them as adults.
French journalist, Francois Gautier aims to change that. An author of several books on Indian history, Gautier has always had a special connection to this country. “The history of this country has always fascinated me,” he says. “There’s a lot of truth hidden here. Unfortunately, most of the world media only manages to see the poverty and the problems faced by the country. But if you dig deeper, there’s a lot of knowledge to learn from India’s legacy.”
Travelling from Paris at the age of 19, Gautier reached New Delhi in 1971. He travelled across the country before finding himself in the establishment of Auroville in Pondicherry, where he currently resides with his wife, Namrata Gautier.
He became fascinated with the cultural and historical lessons the country had to offer. He covered the conflict in Kashmir, from the ground, for many years for the French political newspaper, Le Figaro. The lessons he learnt about the nature of conflict and the unwavering kindness of people, reinforced his determination to give back to this country.
This led Gautier to establish the Museum of Indian History in Pune. Dedicated to Shivaji Maharaj, the museum aims to showcase the rich history of the country.
“Chhatrapati Shivaji’s life is fascinating. He was not just a great fighter, but was also one of the most able administrators in Indian history. Current leaders can take a leaf out of his book. Through our exhibits on his life, we are trying to highlight portions of his life that are not common knowledge, but are things that people should know about. It is an important part of Indian education on history,” explains Gautier.
Located a few kilometers away from the Pune airport, close to Lohgaon, the Museum is nestled amongst plush greenery.
There are seven exhibit rooms in the museum, each depicting a different aspect of Indian history.
The grandest exhibit room unravels the history of Shivaji Maharaja in varied detail. The history of Kashmir and that of Ahilyabai occupy a room each. One room depicts the history of Buddhism in India while another highlights the Mughal era and its effect on the existing kingdoms of the time. An exhibit on the Portuguese inquisition and their consequent rule is soon to be established.
He does not charge an entry fee for the museum currently and welcomes one and all.
He plans on creating a mini-library in the museum, adorned with a collection of selective books on Indian history, for visitors’ perusal. He is also in the process of setting up an Audio-Visual room to showcase documentaries and films for visitors.
But establishing the first private museum in India is no easy task.
Finding funding for a concept such as this has been an arduous quest. Gautier turned to his well-wishers and Milaap to crowdfund the project. Currently, his campaign is halfway through its funding goal. Gautier is hoping that more people understand the importance of educating themselves about the true history of India and come together to help him finish this project.
“I have spoken to many officials in the Indian government and I am confident we will get the museum registered soon. I am eager for people to visit the museum and educate themselves on the true and rich history of India and the lessons it has to offer,” adds Gautier.
You can help Francois Gautier complete setting up the Shivaji Maharaj Museum of Indian History by contributing to his campaign here
About author: Shruti Sunderraman is a Milaap Lend and Open Fellow in Mumbai. She assesses the impact of Milaap’s crowdfunded campaigns, works with Milaap’s partners and brings inspiring stories of change, hope, and resilience.
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