“Did you know that the Nizam was one of the richest man in India!? asks hubs. “He bankrolled the British during the WWII.”
“Yes, I have heard it from you, many many times.” says me🙄
“Do you know the man behind the very rich Nizam?” asks me😀
“There is a man?” asks hubs🤔
“The Nizam’s diwan !!” says me and we are off to see the museum housing the collectables acquired by the Diwans – Salar Jung was their title. The Nizams were the erstwhile rulers of Hyderabad and the Diwans served as the Prime Ministers to the Nizams.
The artefacts in the museum were collected by Mir Yousuf Ali Khan more famously called Salar Jung III. Of course history will tell you that it was his grandfather Mir Turab Ali Khan or Salar Jung I, who is credited with the reforms. Behind every rich Nizam, there is a clever Diwan!
41 rooms housing exhibits from all around the world and 3 hours to see it all – it is definitely a challenge; so we jump the order of exhibits and swoop down on the must see ones. Either that or we could just run past all the exhibits like these student groups👇.
On this day, there are lots of school buses with kids out on their “visit to museum” excursion and it reminded us of our school days. Teachers would scold us if we broke line or talked loudly. A visit to the museum meant no studies, road trip with classmates and a treat of snacks bought from outside. We remembered nor understood absolutely nothing of what we saw; and if you see the speed with which the train of kids move in and out of the exhibit rooms you will understand. No time to read anything, no explanations given. No wonder museums have got the tag of being “boring place”; if only the exhibits could speak – they could tell such magnificent tales and if only the people took time to understand.
The Salar Jung museum houses some exquisite pieces, centuries old and well preserved. The first and foremost, called the crown jewel of the museum is the exhibit titled “Veiled Rebecca” 👇
The photograph does no justice to this wonder in marble crafted by the Italian sculptor Giovanni Battista Benzoni and was procured by Salar Jung I when he travelled to Italy in 1876. Inspired by Rebecca in the Holy Bible Old Testament who was chosen to marry Issac – son of Sarah and Abraham “Issac was invited to her house to see her for selection and marriage. Rebecca was introduced to Isaac and betrothed. The shyness so natural to a woman overpowered her and she tried to hide her excitement by drawing the veil over her face. This modest act also in a way expressed her willingness to marry Issac.” reads the description provided in the room.
It is difficult to believe the veil is made of marble, the folds and ends of the veil are sculpted to perfection; you can stare at the statute for minutes drinking in the beauty. And then you notice a black spot on the right thigh of the statue – damage? you think sadly – but no, it is a part of the marble’s natural texture reassures the description put up in the room. And you feel happy about it – elated that you got a chance to see this breath-taking work of art.
Next is one of the popular attractions in the museum – The Musical Clock – people crowd to see the theatrics played out every hour. The clock contains a mechanism by which a small toy figure of a breaded man comes out and strikes the gong. The beauty is that the number of strikes correspond to the hour(s). People love it !!
Next you have to visit the Ivory Gallery and housed here are Ivory Chairs gifted to Tipu Sultan by Louis XVI of France; Tipu Sultan allied with the French against the British In India. So many exquisite pieces carved out of ivory and you wonder how many elephants would have been killed to make all these? But not to despair, ivory was sourced not only from the elephants but also from narwhals and hippos – if that is of any comfort🙃. There is a significant collection of ivory sculptures here from all around the world, beautiful and worth your time.
On the ground floor there is the Arms and Armoury Gallery esp from the Mughal era. On display are the swords of Mughal emperors – Bahadur Shah, Aurangazeb and axe (tabar) of Shah Jahan.
Not to miss on the ground floor is the Indian Miniature painting gallery – has miniature paintings from across the country. Originating from Persia, miniature painting style was patronised by Mughal emperor Akbar and flourished during the Mughal era. The details in the pictures, the mix of colours used are all exquisite.
And now moving onto the first floor, one of the prettiest exhibits in the museum is the Jade Gallery. Once again Jade carving developed in India during the Mughal period. If today jade is mostly seen adorning pendants and necklaces, centuries back, it saw a multitude of uses such as belt buckles, sword and dagger handles, mirror backs, chess pieces and much more, all exhibited here.
Next you must take a quick tour of the Toys and Dolls Gallery. The figurines are so delicate and pretty, you will enjoy this one.
The Indian Silver Gallery also warrants a quick look and here are two pieces that I found fascinating👇
If you have time, you can go through the Far Eastern Galleries – exquisite pieces from China, Japan and other countries of the orient are showcased here. Here’s another bunch of school kids doing a quick tour of the Far Eastern Galleries👇.
There is enamel work, silk paintings, glass paintings, wood work – so much to see !!
There is a lot more to see on the first floor and it maybe a good idea to give the tired feet some rest. I don’t remember which gallery I saw this, but the mother of pearl made as sails is something I saw here for the first time and thought would post the pic.
This is a very brief glimpse into the massive collection on exhibit at the Salar Jung museum, a great place and a must see on a visit to Hyderabad.