Located within the City Palace complex and nestled amidst
old buildings, temples and the palace quarters, this museum was founded in
1959 by Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II. The exhibits comprise of the
ancestral collections built up by the successive rulers of Amer and
Jaipur, and is presently run by a public
charitable trust. A small selection of paintings, manuscripts, weapons and
armours was displayed in the 'Pothikhana' (library) and the 'Silehkhana'
or armoury (both of these in their present form, were established in 1952)
of the palace.
However, the collection remained exclusive and was shown only to selective visitors and dignitaries with the special permission of the Maharaja. In 1959, this private museum consisting of the Pothikhana and the Silehkhana was thrown open to public and a new Textile and Costume gallery was added to it.
The Art Gallery is housed in the Diwan-i-Aam constructed for holding important State functions. A variety of objects-miniature paintings, illustrated manuscripts, decorated bookcovers, palm-leaf and Sanchipat manuscripts, old printed books, gigantic Mughal carpets, gold and silver Takhis-Rawan (movable throne), covered Ambabadis and open Howdahs, palanquins and carriages with richly embroidered velvet coverings are displayed in this gallery. The museum has a splendid collection of miniature paintings including two unique and priceless manuscripts of the Persian translation of the two Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The latter work, specially made for the use of Emperor Akbar, known as the 'Razmnama', contains illustrations made by the greatest Mughal painters and is reported to have cost seventy two thousand gold mohurs in 1584-85 AD. Besides the finest miniatures of Amer-Jaipur school, evident in the illustrations of the Ragamala, Bhagavata Purana, Devi Mahatmya etc., good examples of early and later Mughal schools, Deccanese schools and fair specimens from Bikaner, Malwa, Bundi, Kota, Jodhpur, Kishangarh etc., are also represented. A fine collection of astronomical books in Arabic, Persian, Latin and Sanskrit acquired by Sawai Jai Singh for study of the planets and their movements, an old copy of the Ain-i-Akbari and its Hindi translation done in 1797 AD and a rare manuscript on 146 forms of Saligram, Surdas' Padavali (contemporary copy) and the earliest copy of Bihari's Satsai are also on display. This manuscript collection consists of nearly 16,000 volumes.
There are rare bird and animal studies by Ustad Mansur and court scenes, battle scenes, portraits and mythological paintings by famous Mughal painters. Important examples of the Jaipur school consisting of life size portrait-studies of the Maharajas by Sahib Ram and the leading painters of the courts of Maharaja Ishwari Singh, Madho Singh I, Pratap Singh and Lagat Singh have been displayed in the gallery.
The large carpets displayed against the eastern and western walls of the art gallery were manufactured in the Mughal carpet factories at Agra and Lahore during the reign of Emperor Shahjahan. These are said to have been collected by Mirza Raja Jai Singh to decorate some of his newly-built palaces at Amer. Attention should be drawn here to the large Kishangarh masterpieces of Raja Sawant Singh and Bani Thani personified as Krishna and Radha and to a set of large cloth paintings from Hyderabad and Jaipur. Other objects on display in this section include book covers, paper cuttings, postage stamps and coins of the old Jaipur State, old photographs and negatives, old furniture, glassware and other decorative objects of art.
The 'Silehkhana' or the Armoury of the museum is housed in a beautifully decorated suite of rooms. It has one of the largest and finest collections of edged weapons and antique handguns in the country. The edged weapons include swords, curved Persian Unnas, slightly curved Mughal Shamshers, 'talwars', double-edged 'Khandas', pointed 'Guptis' and 'Asas', dagger-broad 'Jamdhars', curved 'Jamkhas', long and narrow 'katars', hiltless 'hanbwas' and 'Chhuris', lances, axes, knives and arrows of various shapes and sizes.
Some of the swords are of great historical importance; there are two swords and a few with the names of Persian Emperors and Mughal Generals engraved on them, and many personal weapons of Maharaja Ram Singh, Madho Singh II etc.
Besides these, there is a fine collection of beautiful gunpowder flasks (Kuppis) made of hem, ivory, leather and sea-shell, inlaid with delicately carved ivory of Mother-of-Pearl and decorated with embroidered motifs. Shields made of tough crocodile, rhinoceros, antler and buffalo hide, embossed, lacquered or painted and set with boxes of chiselled steel gilt or studded with precious stones. Fire-arms of all descriptions, imported from Europe or made in Jaipur, or other parts of India, are of considerable interest.
The Textile and Costume section has a fine collection of the fine loom, woven and embroidered Kashmir shawls, Kimkhabs (brocades) from Surat, Banaras and Aurangabad, the large variety of hand block prints from Sanganer and other localities, the Bandhej (tie and dye) pieces from Jaipur, Muslins from Dhaka, old embroidered rugs and tent-hangings, delicately embroidered and applique rosary-bags, caps, Rath (a type of carriage) covers, Thal-Poshes (dish covers) royal paraphernalia, exquisitely embroidered costumes worn by the different Maharajas and their consorts, typical Rajasthani costumes used over the ages and delicate Zari (gold thread) and Gota (gold or silver frill) works, for which Jaipur has always been very famous.
The most noteworthy exhibit is perhaps the unusually large brocaded Jama (a robe) and pyjama of Maharaja Madho Singh I. The Maharaja was nodoubt of gigantic physical proportions. There is an equally large white muslin pleated Jama and a huge silk covered Atamsukh worn by him, which is on display in the museum.
A very rare gold brocaded velvet throne carpet bearing seal marks and notes dating back to 1605 AD, two richly embroidered window curtains belonging to the mid-seventeenth century and a finely woven gold and silk circular Thal-Posh (dish cover) also belonging to the seventeenth century are worthy of mention.
It is obvious that such a large collection of antiquities cannot be put on regular public display but attempts are being made to exhibit more items of historical and topical interest and artistic merit like old Baggis, Rathas and Palanquins; old utensils, ritual objects, old furniture and tents etc., in order to give the visitors a good idea of the rich cultural heritage of Jaipur.
Timing : 9.30 A.M. to 4.45 PM.