Hyderabad is home to one of India’s most prized possession — the Salar Jung Museum — which is the third biggest museum in the country. The institution is globally popular for being a repository of exquisite art collections from various civilizations, providing us a deep insight of the cultures that have preceded us. In fact, it is known to house the largest ‘one-man collection’ in the entire world.
With over ten lakh visitors in a year, the iconic Salar Jung Museum is a perfect emblem of Hyderabad’s rich and glorious past.
The lavish collections of over a million artefacts, manuscripts, carvings, sculptures, and paintings — some of which date back to the 4th century — can be mainly credited to the efforts of Nawab Mir Yousuf Ali Khan, famously known as the ‘Salar Jung III’. A wardrobe of Tipu Sultan, daggers of Shah Jahan and Jehangir, Aurangzeb’s sword, and a painting of Raja Ram Mohan Roy are some of the treasures the historic museum boasts of.
Besides rare collections, the museum is also the home of an extraordinary library with more than eight thousand precious manuscripts and over sixty thousand books. Because of these inestimable acquisitions, Salar Jung Museum has earned the prestigious membership of renowned museological and historical organizations like the Museum Association of India, and ICOM-INC.
A Trip Down the Memory Lane: The History of Salar Jung Museum
Nawab Mir Yusuf Ali Khan, who was the Prime Minister of the seventh Nizam of Hyderabad, spent a substantial amount of his income to collect rare art objects from all around the world over a period of almost thirty-five years. These priceless collections were formerly exhibited in his ancestral palace before Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru shifted them to a private museum in 1951. The present Salar Jung Museum at Afzalgunj was inaugurated in 1968, and later, two new buildings were added to it.
The Awe-Inspiring Collections of Salar Jung Museum
The collections at the museum, comprising of the rarest of rare items, range from Buddhist to Egyptian, European, Arab, Sino-Chinese, and various other civilizations. The royal museum’s exceptional collections won’t fail to overwhelm history enthusiasts, art lovers, as well as usual visitors. The collections are classified into several different sections, including Middle-East art, Far-Eastern Art, European art, Indian Art, and so on. There’s also a dedicated gallery exhibiting a variety of items that were owned by the Salar Jung family.
Rare manuscripts on textiles, parchments, wood, glass, and palm leaves in numerous languages such as Turkish, Urdu, Arabic, Persian, and Sanskrit are a part of the museum’s exhibit. The matter of these manuscripts includes diverse subjects like literature, poetry, medicine, and magic. There are over thousand miniature paintings and calligraphic panels, along with an extensive compilation of Qurans collected from around the world. The Qurans are in various designs and fonts, including one written in Gold and Silver.
The Musical Clock
A stunning vintage clock, acquired from British clockmaker, Cook and Kelvey Co., finds its place inside the museum. The classic clock, with over three hundred parts, pulls a lot of crowd at the stroke of every hour. The main attraction is a bearded man in a robe, who comes out from an enclosure and hits a bell, signifying the time of the day.
Veiled Rebecca at Salar Jung Museum
The sight of Veiled Rebecca, a masterpiece crafted by celebrated Italian sculptor Giovanni Maria Benzoni, is an engaging experience and a treat for the eyes. According to the Hebrew Bible, Rebecca is the wife of Isaac. The specialty of the life-size sculpture is its transparent veil, and the pedestal carved out of a single marble slab. Giovanni Maria Benzoni has created only four pieces of the Veiled Rebecca, all of which are showcased in renowned museums across the globe.
Galleries in Salar Jung Museum
There are currently 38 galleries within the Salar Jung Museum, spread out on two floors. The first floor of the semi-circular museum building has 18 galleries, and the ground floor has 20 galleries, both displaying a range of items categorized into different sections and sub-sections. Besides the main galleries, there are reading rooms, libraries, a sales counter, and a cafeteria.
Salar Jung Museum authorities organize regular exhibitions on varied themes, and they also maintain a mobile exhibition van for outdoor exhibitions on special occasions. Photography isn’t permitted within the premises, so visitors will have to capture the beauty of the museum with their eyes, and feel its historic aura with their senses.
The magnificence and grandeur of Salar Jung Museum offer an incredible experience, making it a must-visit while in Hyderabad apart from other notable heritage sites.