Museums of Kullu Himachal Pradesh

Nov 6, 2021 | Travel

If you are in Kullu, you are perhaps there for the snow, or nature or trekking, or the weather. If you are religious, or interested in architecture, the temples of Naggar and Manali may interest you. But the Himachali civilization has a long history. Kullu is said to be the home of Goddess Hidimba, the demon-consort of Bhima. There are bits and pieces of history and art that call for preservation, curation, and display. The museums of Himachal Pradesh are therefore an integral part of exploring this part of the Himalayan culture.

We recently spent some time at Naggar in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh. The clear skies, crisp weather, juicy apples, and the most beautiful view of the Himalayan ranges motivated us to do more. We are museum people and don’t let go of visiting any opportunity of visiting a museum in Delhi. During our stay at Naggar, we, therefore, took the opportunity of visiting the museums of Kullu in this area.

Roerich Museum in Naggar Kullu

Roerich Museum naggar kullu

We had read about Roerich Museum and saw photographs of Devika Rani sitting on a bench in the backdrop of the mountains. This was on the print way before the internet. That image, the enigmatic Devika Rani, and the gorgeous building behind her remained etched in memory. It was therefore almost a dream come true when we came to know that the Roerich Museum was in Naggar.

To give a brief background, Nicolas Roerich, a multi-faceted personality from Russia made Naggar his home. He was a painter par-excellence amongst many other hats he wore. His son artist Svetoslav Roerich married the legendary actor Devika Rani, the first lady of Indian cinema in 1930-1940. All their artwork, personal art collections, pieces of Kullu art and craft are now displayed at the Nicholas Roerich Art Gallery and the Urusvati Himalayan Folk & Art Museum in Naggar.

Nicholas Roerich Art Gallery

Nicolas Roerich had been moved by Indian philosophy and was deeply attracted to the Himalayas. He, therefore, settled down in the solitary Naggar and made India his home. After his demise, his son Svetoslav Roerich decided to establish The Nicholas Roerich Art Gallery. In the year 1962, Nicolas Roerich’s home was converted into an art gallery.

The art gallery houses beautiful paintings of Nicolas. His works are a riot of colors that sometimes look a little childish. But then, the Himalayan surroundings have had a big influence on Roerich’s paintings. Himalayan peaks are a common subject in the paintings. Therefore, if you look deeply, then you identify the philosophy in his art. It expresses a certain joie-de-vivre that is so inherent to nature in this part of the Himalayas. The colors of the forests, the apple orchards, the bright wildflowers, the morning sky, the dusk, so on and so forth, have lent a psychedelic impact to his works.

The gallery also displays sketches by Nicolas Roerich’s wife Helena. The sketches that have browned delightfully over time are subtle and simple. Yet these display the musings of an authoritative skill in the art. Helena Roerich had developed an interest in eastern religions. She was a renowned philosopher in the twentieth century and took great interest in the works of Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore. No wonder, many of her artworks exude the calmness of a philosopher.

Roerichs’ living quarters have been maintained on the upper floor of this house. Some of these rooms are open to visitors as well.

Urusvati Himalayan Folk & Art Museum

Urusvati Himalayan Folk & Art Museum

Urusvati, a Sanskrit word means Light of the Morning Sun. Helena Roerich had established the Institute of Himalayan Studies and called it Urusvati. The goal was to study Asian regions and their influence on world culture.

After the demise of Helena Roerich, this was transformed into the Urusvati Himalayan Folk & Art Museum. The displays here include Himachali woodwork on old temple door frames that have been collected and displayed here, intriguingly carved gravestones that are placed in the lawns and many local handicrafts.

brass plate mahishasur mardini Roerich museum kullu

Brass plate depicting Durga Mahishasur Mardini at the Roerich Museum Kullu

As we have mentioned in many posts earlier, Himachal Pradesh is a treasure trove of extremely skilled handicrafts and handloom. The museum displayed some pieces such as a brass repousse God faces, vessels, and temple horns; deftly embroidered Chamba rumaal; Himachali caps and Himachali shawls and pattus, the local wrap like a toga.

In fact, the wraps have now been modified to make stoles and shawls. We saw this process first hand during our visit to Bhuttico.

Incidentally, the Roerich Museum and the premises are currently maintained by a trust formed between the Government of Himachal Pradesh and the Government of Russia.

*Note: The museums are open from 9 am to 5 pm on all days except Monday. They have an hour-long lunch break at about 1 pm when the museum remains closed.

Museum of Himachal Culture & Folk Art, Manali

Museum of Himachal Culture & Folk Art Manali

Naggar and Manali are about 25 km apart. If you have been to Manali, you would have been to the Hidimba Temple. Almost opposite to the Hidimba Temple is the Museum of Himachal Culture & Folk Art. It is a small but interesting collection of elements from the Himachali way of life. These include old photographs, utensils and stoves, ornaments, statues, brassware and so on. We loved the surrounding palace replicas that had a pride of place in the museum. Also, an ancient stone water turbine gave goosebumps. There was also a section dedicated to Himachali weaves and textiles.

While most of the items were meticulously labelled, there was an audio guide that could be availed as well. This museum is run by the Government of Himachal Pradesh.

Naggar Castle Museum

There is a small museum in the basement of Naggar Castle. It has some replicas and statues depicting the Himachali way of life. However, the displays are not clean and dark. There are some stone carvings as well. The stone carvings, heaven knows why have all been painted black! The Naggar Castle, now a heritage hotel, is run by the Government of Himachal Pradesh. The museum is therefore a classic situation of government apathy!

A few closing words on Museums of Kullu


There is a certain lightness about the museums of Kullu. The displays are eclectic and they never weigh heavy on the mind. Hence, notwithstanding that you are into history or not, the museum could be interesting for you. Also, Roerich Museums in Naggar have a host of cool displays like laboratories of yore, modes of transport in Himachal those days and vintage photographs of Indian leaders here. This is a must-visit and worth a little detour if you are in Manali.

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  1. Afreen Ansari

    Woww the museum and the details about the same is quite informative. I wasn’t aware of when I visited Kullu

    • Delhifundos

      That is the reason why we put up this post. Many are not aware of these gems.

  2. Ambica Gulati

    I would like to see the museums. The culture of preservation has to be strong to keep our roots alive. Kudos to the people who are doing this.

    • Monidipa Dutta

      I visited Kullu Manali last year and had visited all the museums and roerich was my favourite because I discovered that I never give up. I am.not fit to step that many steps but yes I did.. all the museums in kullu and manali are wonderful.

      • Delhifundos

        Roerich does involve many steps!

    • Delhifundos

      We agree totally.

  3. Manisha Garg

    I like visiting museums to know the culture and historical details of a place. I would love to visit these, saving the post for reference.

    • Delhifundos

      Let us know if you visit.

  4. Judy

    I have been to Naggar Castlee museum but found it to be average. I will certainly plan to visit Urusvati Himalayan Folk & Art Museum whenever I am in HP.

    • Delhifundos

      Naggar Castle Museum we agree can do with improvement.

    • Pamela Mukherjee

      Roerich art gallery is one of my fav places to visit. Incredible location and amazing place. I even loved the small Cafe where mouth watering brownies are served.

      • Delhifundos

        Agree, there are many small cafes and bakeries that serve soul-food!

  5. Rahul Prabhakar

    I have never been to Naggar but based on your recommendation, I have bookmarked Nicholas Roerich Art Gallery and the Urusvati Himalayan Folk & Art Museum. What wonderful offbeat destinations to visit!

    • Delhifundos

      You must!

  6. Jenifer

    I don’t like to visit museums much but it’s a good post for this who love.

    • Delhifundos

      Yes, we know some people who are not into museums.

  7. Raksha

    I was not aware that there were so many museums in Kullu. I love visiting museums, if I had known I would have visited a few when I was in Kullu. Thanks, I am making a note for my next time.

    • Delhifundos

      It was a revelation for us as well. We seek out museums.

      • Raksha

        Thanks for this list. I am really intrigued and curious to go visit these museums for my next travel which is around Kullu.

        • Delhifundos

          Look forward to knowing if you liked it.

  8. Docdivatraveller

    Visiting museums while on a day trip is my favorite activity. And when it’s on the hills, more pleasure!

    • Delhifundos

      You bet!

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