Rupayan Sansthan was established in 1960 by founder director the late Komal Kothari (renowned ethnomusicologist and folklorist) and his friend Padma Shree Vijaydan Detha (folk story teller and a writer) with the simple idea of collecting folk tales and folk songs to bring out the richness of the Rajasthani language, which is the mother tongue of more than 40 million people of Rajasthan.
Since its inception, Rupayan Sansthan has expanded its scope from merely research and archiving, to educating Rajasthanis on traditional livelihoods and cultures and working with traditional performing arts communities on development issues. It was found that the problem of language covered the whole ways of life of people and their goal became larger than collecting tales and songs. The institute further expanded its archival and research work in many fields like folk musical instruments, forms of folk ballads, folk epics of long lays, folk gods and goddesses, rural food, nomads and pastoral ways of life, ethnographic and finally got involved in looking into the ethno-mind what are the traditional ways in which one generation passes its knowledge and skills to the next generation where the practice is to "learn but not to teach" in any structured way.
"Arna-Jharna" The Desert Museum: The Desert Museum of Rajasthan is an attempt to re-imagine what a museum could be. Instead of being enclosed in a box, it celebrates the open spaces of the desert, including its flora and fauna, as part of a larger holistic exploration of the museum as a place of learning. Envisioned by the late Komal Kothari' leading folklorists and oral historians, the Arna-Jharna Museum can be described as a process of interactive learning experiences linked to traditional knowledge systems. The museum promotes indigenous knowledge in Rajasthan and combines research on material culture, alternative curatorial models for grassroots cultural practices; and the cultural dimensions of development, whereby 'culture' is not merely instrumentalized or objectified, but viewed as an integral part of what it means to be human. Rupayan Sansthan runs the Arna-Jharna ("forest-spring") museum, which is meant to embody two principals, to be regarded as a laboratory of the ordinary, a testing ground of all those basic structures of life that facilitate the art of survival in the desert. The museum celebrates the fact that the "folk" is contemporary. The so-called 'traditional communities' holding on to skills and modes of knowledge from earlier times are also part of a dynamic, changing present.
In order to test its principles in a rigorous and organic way, the Arna-Jharna Museum devotes the first three years of its existence to a single object: the broom. It is not the panoramic display of hundreds of brooms the far corners of Rajasthan that is the priority here.They are currently running an exhibit on how the local broom is an important object in the local culture. Instead of ethnic spectacle, the focus is on the interrelationships of the broom to a wide variety of contexts:
- The natural resources
- Local modes of broom making
- The lives of broom-makers from marginalized caste groups
- The myths, beliefs and symbols surrounding the broom
- The economy of the broom