Birla Industrial & Technological Museum + Birla Planetarium
Again, Kolkata scores by having the first Industrial & Technological Museum in India and the second largest planetarium in the World. Sure enough I had to visit both places and I was not dissapointed. Even though it’s smaller than Science City, it has so many exhibits and so much condensed information that it’s impossible to see everything in just one day. Also, the food in the museums’ canteen was amazing.
Birla Industrial and & Technological Museum
First off, some advice if you’re going there:
- Get there as early as possible, because the museum opens at 10:00 AM and closes at 5:30 PM. The only way you can see all the shows in one day is if you come there and by the tickets around 10:30 AM.
- Don’t read this post, because it has so many pictures that when you’ll get there you’ll feel as if you been there before. Of course, to fully appreciate the exhibits in there, you still need to see and touch them, but the abundance of pictures in this post might spoil it for you, so stop reading now.
Seriously, I’ve been trying (unsuccessfully) to keep my posts shorter by adding more pictures, but it seems that it has been counter-productive as the number of pictures per post has increased dramatically. Even if a picture would be worth only 10 words, this post would have way over 9000.
If you get there early you have the choice of getting a ticket for every possible show and you’ll spend the whole day going from one auditorium to the other:
Unfortunately, most of the shows are either in Hindi or Bengali, but being determined to see every show they had to offer, I attended them all (I missed the very first show of the day the first time I went there).
Here, I’m going to cover only the shows that were either in English or worth seeing no matter what language.
Hosted in English. You are shown around a mock-up of a real coal mine, and told about the mining process and the types of equipment used. It’s an interesting tour even if you have no interest in mining whatsoever:
It featured 4 short animations about different animals living their natural habitat, just playing around, until humans came with their chain-saws and whatnot. The only thing that was a little bit annoying were the dots on the screen which had nothing to do with the animation except for ruining the 3D effect.
Yes, they used the words “fun” and “science” in one sentence. Hosted in Bengali or Hindi (depending on the audience), but even if you don’t understand anything, you will still learn about some problems and their fun solutions.
Hosted in Hindi, but has a lot of English in it, so the result is – Hinglish. You don’t need to understand much to appreciate the beauty and features of soap bubbles displayed in the show. Also, if you’re the only foreigner in the audience, you might get invited to the stage to help the host end the show.
Taramandal (Planetarium) Show
Hosted in Hindi, Bengali and English. Not quite like the real Birla Planetarium, because you have to go inside of a big “bathura“, but the program of the show is almost the same as in the real planetarium (check the bottom of this post) and only for a fraction of the price.
Extra: Engineering and Science Fair
One of the days when I was visiting the museum, an annual Science and Engineering fair was held. Unfortunately, not all the students presenting their ideas knew English, but the English-speaking ones had some clever inventions to show and were willing to talk about them with anyone who was interested. The main themes were sustainability, recycling, automation.
This gallery was a lot like the Dynamotion Hall in Science City, except it’s smaller and some of the exhibits were different. It had the same problem though – some of the exhibits were out-of-order.
This one was clearly for children below my age, but since I set out to see everything, I had to go through it.
Not the most popular gallery, but it has many things you don’t see every day. It was the first time I saw a real human brain in jar.
Mock-up Coal Mine
I listed it here, because it’s considered to be a part of the old building, but you cannot enter it without a guide so I’m not going to put more pictures of this gallery in this section.
A World in Darkness
This was the first time I ever heard of a museum gallery for the blind (and it’s a bit ironic that I’ve uploaded pictures of it). It had maps, exhibits about the weather and cloud formation, planets and so on. When you touch certain parts of an exhibit, you activate a voice telling you information about the region you currently placed your finger on. Some exhibits had a phone hook through which a voice would describe what is displayed.
Probably the best gallery in the museum. It has abundant information about laws of physics and famous physicists. It even had a shrine dedicated to Albert Einstein.
This section would probably be very appealing to car enthusiasts, as it has a display of old cars and engines as well interactive exhibits allowing you to see how the engines work internally.
This section is all about how humans utilized forces of nature for their own gain. Again, the models in this gallery were highly detailed.
The spinning DNA model was captivating, the information – intriguing and the Walk-trough Cell was awesome.
This section might seem boring to those who would think that it’s all about complicated calculations portrayed in a dull way, but actually this section has a lot of fascinating exhibits. The history of numbers, the geometry section and Brahma’s Discs were all fascinating. There was also a Math Hall where lectures happen, but it’s not something you can buy a ticket for.
This was a section to which I had no relation at all, but the detailed models are worth seeing.
A gallery with exhibits of the features of electricity and magnetism. Fairly interesting, but most of the exhibits were out-of-order.
I enjoyed this section a lot, because of how the history was written, the display of old technology used for displaying images and the studio where you could see how a “green screen” works.
Extra: The Canteen
This also deserves a mention, because the food there is cheap and delicious. After my first visit I was looking forward to eating there again and the second time the food was different in a way that it was even better than the first time.
I expected the planetarium to have a museum part as well, but you might want to know that people go there only to see the show. There are two scheduled shows in English every day. If you want to get tickets you should be by the entrance at least 30 min before the show.
The show is narrated live and lasts for 30 minutes. It depicts the rising and setting of the sun, the planets which are visible to the naked eye and some of the constellations. The size of the of dome and projector was grand, but you’re not allowed to take any pictures inside (the inside looks like this).
Also, you’re expected to leave soon after the show ends, so if you’re not quick, you will not get see all the exhibits that they have and read about famous astronomers in the small museum section at the back of the building.