Salar Jung Museum
The Salar Jung Museum building
|Established||16 December 1951|
|Location||Dar-ul-Shifa, Hyderabad, Telangana, India|
|Key holdings||Veiled Rebecca|
|Collection size||1.1 million objects|
|Owner||Government of India|
It has a collection of sculptures, paintings, carvings, textiles, manuscripts, ceramics, metallic artifacts, carpets, clocks, and furniture from Japan, China, Burma, Nepal, India, Persia, Egypt, Europe, and North America. It is one of the largest museums in the world.
A nobleman of the Salar Jung family of Hyderabad, Nawab Mir Yousuf Ali Khan, Salar Jung III (1889–1949) served as Prime Minister of Hyderabad during the Nizam's rule. He spent a substantial amount of his income, over a period thirty-five years, collecting artifacts from all across the world.
After the Nawab died in 1949, the collections were left behind in his ancestral palace Diwan Devdi. The collection was formerly exhibited there as a private museum, named Salar Jung Museum, which was inaugurated by Jawaharlal Nehru on 16 December 1951.
Old timers believe that the present collection constitutes only half of the original art wealth collected by the Nawab. His employees siphoned off part of it, since the Nawab depended upon his staff to keep a vigil.
In 1968, the museum shifted to its present location at Dar-ul-Shifa, and is administered by a Board of Trustees with the Governor of Telangana as ex officio chairperson under the Salar Jung Museum Act of 1961. Some more art pieces were lost or stolen during the shifting of the museum from Diwan Devdi to the present site.
In 2006, a fire broke out in an auditorium in the museum premises. However, it was quickly extinguished and none of the artifacts were damaged. After the incident, fire safety facilities were upgraded.
The museum also has a collection of modern Indian artworks from the Bengal school. Works by Raja Ravi Varma, Abdur Rahman Chughtai, M.F. Hussain, K.K. Hebbar, Rabindranath Tagore, Abanidranath Tagore and Nandalal Bose are displayed.
One of the most significant possessions of the museum is the sculpture of Veiled Rebecca by Italian sculptor Giovanni Maria Benzoni. It is one of four copies made by the sculptor. The other three are in various museums of the US.
The furniture collection includes pieces from the time of King Louis XIV and Napoleon. Salar Jung III collected about 43,000 artifacts and 50,000 books and manuscripts out of which only few are displayed in today's museum.
The museum has a famous Quran collection, from around the world in different fonts and designs, called the Quran Written with Gold and Silver. There are many more collections of religious books, as well as Arabic Quran.
A variety and array of clocks greet the visitor in the clock room. There are ancient sundials in the form of obelisks to huge and modern clocks of the twentieth century. Others in the range vary from miniature clocks which need a magnifying glass to imbibe their beauty and complexity to stately grandfather clocks from as far away as France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Britain including the musical clock Salar Jung bought from Cook and Kelvey of England. Every hour, a timekeeper emerges from the upper deck of the clock to strike a gong as many times as it is the hours of the day. The clock is an antique.
The Salar Jung Museum possesses a good number of clocks collected from different European countries such as France, England, Switzerland, Germany, Holland etc. The variety includes the Bird cage clocks, Bracket clocks, Grandfather clocks, Skeleton clocks, etc. The museum is also having some good examples of the clocks of the contemporary period of Louis XV, Louis XVI, and Napoleon 1st of France. The most important clock which attracts the greatest number of visitors everyday is however, a British Bracket clock. It has got a mechanical device by which a miniature toy figure comes out of an enclosure and strikes the gong and then returns to the enclosure at each hour.
The Indian Parliament has declared the museum an Institution of National Importance.
The museum building, semicircular in shape with 38 galleries, spread on two floors, displays only a part of the original collection. The ground floor has 20 galleries and the first floor has 18 galleries. The exhibits on different subjects are displayed in separate galleries. Each gallery is huge and has many artifacts on display including ones dating back to the 4th century. There are plans for a new Islamic Gallery, where Islamic artifacts and manuscripts of the Qur'an will be displayed.
Apart from the galleries, there is a reference Library, reading room, publication and education section, chemical conservation lab, sales counter, cafeteria etc. Guides are available at fixed timings free of charge.
Mayur Pankhi in Ivory
Nandi 12th century CE
Eka-Mukha Linga 4th or 5th century CE
The Veiled Rebecca: melody in marble
A view of Salar Jung Museum along with Musi River
- [Book name: Footprint India By Roma Bradnock,ISBN 978-1-906098-05-6, p-1033]
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