The Salar Jung Museum is an art museum located at Darushifa, on the southern bank of the Musi river in the city of Hyderabad, Telangana, India. It is one of the three National Museums of India. It has a collection of sculptures, paintings, carvings, textiles, manuscripts, ceramics, metallic artefacts, carpets, clocks, and furniture from Japan, China, Burma, Nepal, India, Persia, Egypt, Europe, and North America. The museum’s collection was sourced from the property of the Salar Jung family.
Founded in 1951, the Salar Jung Museum is situated on the southern bank of the Musi River in the city of Hyderabad, India. Comparable to London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, the collection housed at this museum is vast to say the least. Encompassing sculptures, paintings, carvings, manuscripts, ceramics, textiles, carpets, metal work, clocks, and furniture from all over the world, the Salar Jung Museum is the third largest of India’s museums. Comprised of the extensive collection of Salar Jung III, Mir Yousuf Ali Khan, this museum houses many of India’s most important treasures.
Mir Yousuf Ali Khan, otherwise referred to asSalar Jung III came from the noble Salar Jung family, from which five members had served as Prime Ministers to the Nizams, who ruled the state of Hyderabad from 1720 to 1948. Salar Jung III’s grandfather, Mir Turab Ali Khan,
was awarded a family title at the age of 13. He was thus known as Salar Jung I and later became Prime Minister at the age of 24. Known for his reforms and excellent administration, Salar Jung I was a great lover of art and this had a lasting influence on his family, including his grandson — whom he never met — would go on to collect the vast majority of the artefacts available on display today.
When his father, Mir Laiq Ali Khan Salar Jung II, died, Salar Jung III was merely 24 days old. At the age of ten, the Nizam bestowed upon him the family title of Salar Jung Bahadur, restoring various other titles as well as later making him Prime Minister. However in November 1914, Salar Jung III relinquished his post of Prime Minister in November 1914 as a result of a difference of opinion. It was from that point onwards that Salar Jung III began to dedicate his life to building upon and enriching his artefact collections.
Upon Salar Jung III’s death in 1949, the Government of India appointed a committee to administer the Salar Jung Estate; given that he died childless there was no one else to continue the maintenance of this extraordinary collection. The Museum was officially founded in 1951 in Diwan Devdi, the residential palace of the Salar Jung family which had 78 rooms and a large number of different buildings on the grounds. Initially opened as a private museum, the current collection contains only half of the original wealth of artefacts obtained by Salar Jung III. The whereabouts of the missing pieces is unknown.
In 1958, it was decided that the Government of India ought to take over the museum; up until this point the museum had been administered by the Salar Jung Estate Committee. This was somewhat of a compromise, and in 1961 there was an Act of Parliament declaring the Salar Jung Museum and its library as an ‘Institution of National Importance’. The administration at this point was then transferred to an Autonomous Board, with the Governor of Andhra Pradesh as its Chairman. In 1968, the museum was moved from Dewan Devdi to its present site of Afzalgunj, Andhra Pradesh; through this move more works of art went missing, either lost or stolen.
Despite this upheaval, what remains of Salar Jung III’s original collection is still vast and impressive. Throughout his life, it is believed that Salar Jung III collected some 43,000 artefacts as well as 50,000 books and manuscripts; only a few of these remain on display in today’s museum. Amongst Salar Jung III’s collection are many important works by the artist Raja Ravi Varma, who is often considered as one of the greatest painters in the history of Indian Art. Known for fusing Indian artistic traditions with the techniques of European academic art, Varma gained his recognition from his depictions of scenes from the Sanskrit epics of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana (often compared to the Bible, Qu’ran, works of Homer and Shakespeare with regards to cultural importance).
In addition to the extensive painting collections, the artefacts on display give an indication of the wealth of craftsmanship that has existed around the globe for centuries. Exquisite textiles from the Middle East, ornamental Jade carvings from erstwhile Indian Emperors, ceramics from Sino-Japan and glass and furniture from Europe. All in all, this is a truly comprehensive collection of wonderful objects that range across all artistic, craft and design disciplines. It shows one man’s unfailing dedication to the arts in all their forms and irrepressible interest in history and culture the world over. The Salar Jung Museum is therefore truly one of India’s greatest cultural gems and regardless of your artistic or historical interests, should definitely be a highlight of any trip to the area.
As on date, there are 38 galleries in the Museum in three blocks i.e. (1) Indian Block (27 galleries), (2)Western Block (7 galleries) and (3) Eastern Block (4 galleries) in which nearly 13,654 objects are on display. The Indian collections are from the States of Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Orissa, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir, and places like Kangra, Basholi, Jaipur, Udaipur, Mewar, Hyderabad, Golconda, Bijapur, Kurnool and Nirmal. The Western collections are from England, Ireland, France, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Venice and Austria. The Eastern collections are from countries like China, Japan, Burma, Korea, Nepal, Thailand, Indonesia and from Middle East countries like Egypt, Syria, Persia and Arabia. The Indian art objects comprise of stone sculptures, bronzes, wood carvings, miniature paintings, modern paintings, ivory, jade, textiles, metal ware, manuscripts, bidri, arms and armour, utility ware etc