The Dinosaur Princess Aaliya Farhat Babi Balasinor sits down for a chat with Museum Culture Marketing to talk about the journey to creating the Dinosaur Museum at Rahioli, Balasinor, in Gujarat India.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your childhood?
I’m the daughter of the Late Nawab Saheb of Balasinor. I did my initial schooling from Sophia High School which was a convent run by the Irish nuns. Before being shipped off to a boarding school my mother had hired a tutor to teach me basic Mathematics and English so instead of learning D for dog I was learning D for dinosaurs such was my fascination for them.
At the age of 5 years or so I even knew the spelling of Brontosaurus and Diplodocus! Guess it was my life’s calling! Surprising thing is, in those years we were not that exposed to the dinosaurs as there was no internet or movies like Jurassic Park etc. The children of today are exposed a lot more to the fascinating world of dinosaurs!
I graduated in English literature and had little knowledge on the dinosaurs or prehistoric world. Words like Gondwanaland, Pangea, Sauropods etc. were alien to the world where I had learnt Romeo and Juliet, Merchant of Venice etc!
Today I’m fondly called Dr.Dinosaur or Princess Dinosaur by the media and tourists alike.
How did your interest in this field begin?
It all started when we had some tourists who wanted to visit the excavation site which was not at all a tourist site then. I accompanied them as they were staying at my Heritage Homestay at Balasinor and when they asked me questions related to the site I had no knowledge so I decided to educate myself on this. But it was easier said than done.
After a long and arduous struggle of 22 years today I can call myself an amateur palaeontologist with a 22 years of experience in the field. Driven by an instinct to protect is what made me get in to this as I wanted to protect this site from vandalism and leave it in a better condition for the future generations of palaeontologists.
Which was the first item in your personal collection?
The first item was a limb bone of a Theropod dinosaur probably of the Rajasauraus.
Theropod = any member of the suborder Theropoda, comprising carnivorous dinosaurs that had short forelimbs and walked or ran on their hind legs.
How did the idea of a museum come about?
Nearly all of the fossils found from our region are all over India in various museum under the Geological Survey of India and since this was considered to be the world’s 3rd largest excavation site and 2nd largest hatchery we thought it is imperative to have a facility here which could showcase these fascinating creatures in best way possible.
Of course we haven’t managed to get any of the fossils here to the museum due to various reasons but the museum itself is very good. In fact I have donated some fossils to the museum which are housed in a special gallery !
What can visitors expect at the museum?
Visitors will be enthralled the moment they step into the museum as we have everything from the time of the Earth’s inception to the extinction which wiped out most of the life on the earth 65 million years ago. Beautiful scaled down models of world dinosaurs, Indian dinosaurs and dinosaurs from Gujarat are displayed with their facts and information.
There are interactive kiosks and a gaming zone plus a 3D movie hall where a short film on the dinosaurs is shown. The museum has 10 galleries which showcases the earth from the time of its inception, world dinosaurs , Indian dinosaurs , dinosaurs of Gujarat , extinction gallery , fossils exhibits , gaming zone , 3D movie hall , cafeteria and a souvenirs shop .
How are you involved with the museum currently?
I’m a member of the government‘s committee which was formulated for the upkeep and management of the Dinosaur Fossil Park and Museum.
What is next for you?
The focus is on creating more protection for the fossil park and building more awareness.
Anything I did not ask but you feel is important …
The dinosaur museum at Rahioli, Balasinor is owned by TCGL – Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Limited and in my opinion it is one of its kinds in the country. It is a fascinating place to be where one can learn a lot about the wonderful creatures who lived much before us who were actually kings of our earth. Please come and visit and experience this wonder.