Reaching Dharmasthala just as the temple gates closed for the afternoon break was a tad disappointing. Given the fact that it was a long weekend, the highways were crowded and it was a rather tiring drive. Hoards of pilgrims were already queuing up to obtain a darshan of Lord Manjunatha in the evening session at this popular Shri Kshetra.
Deciding to return at the opening time, I wandered around a bit and a short walk from the temple complex led me to a road where I could see an old but well-maintained aircraft.
This was enough motivation for me to take the path ahead and as I moved closer to the aircraft, I could see the board with the words ‘Manjusha car museum’ outside a totally unassuming black gate on the opposite side. My initial disappointment quickly turned to excitement for I knew I had found a way to engage myself fruitfully till the gates of the temple opened.
Founded by Dr D Veerendra Heggade, the collection of automobiles at the museum is in stark contrast to the unpretentious entrance of the place. The museum is a treasure house of classic and vintage vehicles that include chariots, carts, motorbikes and about 50 cars. The vehicles have been restored, preserved and maintained impeccably, giving visitors and automobile lovers a totally wonderful experience. The collection of carts and chariots is amazing and exclusive. They include the veteran open, wooden hand-drawn carts to the English style covered chariots that are replete with leather cushioned seats and old world lamps. Neatly displayed in a group, this part of the collection is surely a treat for antique and history lovers.
The collection of cars includes several all-time favourites like the Renault, Rolls-Royce, Cadillac and Ford.
There are also elusive models like the Pontiac, Morris and Austin. Display of rare vehicles like the pre-1920 Fordson Tractor and the 1924 Rolls Royce from England make this place popular with automobile aficionados.
The 1936 Adler from Germany with its rare four-cylinder 10 horse power engine and the 1931 Fiat from Italy are among the several beauties in this priceless collection. Austin and Mercedes-Benz cars that date back to the 1920s and 1930s provide visitors the opportunity to ‘travel’ back in time while visualising these mini cars that symbolised luxurious living during the yesteryears.
There are several vehicles that not only boast of famous owners but also are of historical and political significance. Many cars that have been donated to the museum were once the personal possessions of famous Maharajas and spiritual leaders. There is a 1943 model Ford Jeep, which is believed to have been used in the Second World War. With a 14 horse power engine, this olive green beauty has all the equipment that befits a battle vehicle.
The 1930 Morris Oxford was an erstwhile taxi that was used by devotees to reach Dharmastala. The icing on the cake here is the 1929 model Studebaker that was used by none other than Gandhiji when he toured Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. There is also a certificate presented by the Father of the Nation to the chauffeur of this car. A four-cylinder 1926 ambulance vehicle from the US is another unique vehicle on display.
The collection spans continents and all cars are housed carefully within enclosures with informative boards displaying the salient details of each piece. Maintenance is a continuous activity which is meticulously undertaken to preserve the antique as well as functional value of the vehicles. The cars are also sent on vintage rallies and each one of these master pieces are passionately preserved for the future generations to witness. Apart from cars, there is also a limited collection of rare motorcycles from the days of yore.
All forms of photography is strictly prohibited within the museum and touching of the exhibits is also not allowed. The museum is open from 8.30 am to 1 pm and 2 pm to 7 pm.