When I was casting around for things to do during my first full weekend in Hyderabad, one of my uncles suggested checking out the Salar Jung Museum. Touted as housing the world's largest personal collection belonging to one man, the Museum is located in the old part of the city, close to the Charminar and the Chowmahal Palace.
When Salar Jung III, one of the last Nizams of Hyderabad, passed away with no direct heirs, his collection was donated and turned into a museum so that anyone interested could look through his collections and marvel at the sheer number of items he and his ancestors had accumulated.
I visited on Sunday morning and spent about 2.5 hours wandering the halls. I had to keep reminding myself that everything I was seeing belonged to one man. There was so much stuff that it seemed almost impossible, but there is enough documentation to assure even the strongest of doubters that it is legit.
Since there is so much stuff, the collection is broken down into rooms centered on common themes, including Ivory; Jade; Manuscripts; Armor; Kashmir; Textiles; Miniature Paintings; Flora and Fauna; Rugs; etc. There are about 33 rooms in all, not including the 5 rooms in the Western Block and the 4 rooms in the Eastern Block. My favourite in the Western Block was the Clock Room, which I just thought was really cool. In the Eastern Block it was probably the Porcelain Room -- it's always so humbling to see works like that which have survived for over 400 years.
Of the main exhibition, my favourite room was hands-down the Manuscript Room, which is really shocking to no one at all. There are all these ridiculously old books with Urdu sprawled all over them, and I literally just stared at them trying to figure out what tales they must include. In all reality it is probably not all that exciting, but in my mind it is thrilling. [ed note: when I posted a picture on Instagram and Twitter about how fascinated I was by the books, the Museum's Twitter account responded and invited me to make an appointment and spend some time in their Manuscripts Department. umm, yes please]
Second to that were the Kashmiri, Ivory, and Textile Rooms. There was a table and four chairs made completely of ivory which were amazing. They used to belong to Tipu Sultan, so of course that made me like them just a little bit more.
Probably the biggest attraction of the Museum, and the thing I read the most about prior to my visit, is the Musical Clock. At the beginning of every hour, a little figurine comes out and hits a mini gong to represent which hour it is. People start clamoring for seats with 20 minutes to go, and by the time it rolls around, there are people crammed into every possible corner in order to witness it. I was lucky enough to see it at noon, so the gong sounded 12 times, which was pretty cool. I caught it again at 1 o'clock, which to be honest was a little anticlimactic, since it only sounded out once. It was kind of funny, though, because you could tell people were waiting to hear more and were confused as to whether or not that was all. But yes, it was all very cool.
The second-most popular attraction is the "Veiled Rebecca", a marble statue that attracts a lot of attention. It was certainly exquisite, but for me the manuscripts and textiles and wall hangings hold more intrigue. I would have liked a little more back-story for the statue; perhaps then it would have held more significance for me. But there is no doubting it is a remarkable work of art.
Overall I really enjoyed visiting the Museum. It provided a little glimpse into the history of the city - of which there is a lot - and it was really interesting to see how much stuff the Salar Jung Nizams had collected from around the world during their reigns. And for only Rs 10 [the Indian entrance fee; it's Rs 150 for non-Indians] + the Rs 50 camera fee [the first time I've ever paid a camera fee for an attraction in India, if that tells you anything], it was definitely worth the visit.
And you better believe I'll let you know if I make it back to that Manuscripts Department.
|[the exterior of the museum. my panoramic skills are still in need of some improvement]|
|[the view as soon as you enter the museum]|
|[antique fire engine as you are walking up to the entrance]|
|[statue of salar jung iii in a little garden outside the museum]|
|[creepiest seven dwarves i've ever seen]|
|[pretty awesome train set. i know a certain little nugget in baton rouge who would be all over this]|
|[beautiful grand piano]|
|[this guy made me laugh. and kind of reminded me of a russian czar. anyone else?]|
|[a lighthouse clock. i want one]|
|[wooden toys made in india]|
|[the main display in the 'flora and fauna' room]|
|[loved this rug]|
|[because of course the french room has clouds and angels painted on the ceiling]|
|[i don't normally take photos like this, but i couldn't get enough of the floor in the clock room]|
|[anyone up for a tea party?]|
|[my favourite wall hanging in the chinese room]|
|[i love old books]|
|[especially when they are written in foreign scripts]|
|[so many books, so little time]|
|[some of my favourites from the textile room]|
|[the workmanship on these ivory chairs was remarkable]|
|[pretty sure i need one of these for my house]|
|[the musical clock]|
|[the crowd waits patiently for 12 o'clock]|
|[the veiled rebecca]|
|[boris and i think you should check out the salar jung museum]|