Advantages A little bit of everything
Disadvantages No cameras allowed and odd groupings of some items.
|Is it worth visiting?|
On the first day of our trip to Hyderabad we arrived early in the morning and slept until lunch time. We didn't want to waste a whole day so we set off in our taxi in the afternoon to try to see the Golconda Fort. After just a couple of minutes on the road it started to rain and as we drove it got steadily worse. Since we were aiming to go to an outdoor sound and light show in a ruined fort, the realisation soon dawned that going there probably wasn’t the cleverest idea I'd ever had. Remembering my quick scan of the guide books that morning, we took a decision to postpone the fort for a dryer day and I asked the driver if he could take us to the Salar Jung museum instead. It was – to be honest – the only place I could remember from the guide book that was on our list of included attractions and was sure to be indoors.
The furniture was fascinating and much of it was so over the top in design and detail that you couldn't imagine ever having a house grand enough for it to stand in. There was – I'm ashamed to admit – a stunning collection of carved ivories, every one of which I'd have happily stolen and taken home. There were rooms full of textiles, bronzes and archaeological finds, 17th century Moghal glass and a particularly strange room called 'fauna' which contained the weirdest mix of rather randomly grouped animal related 'stuff' like carved animals sitting in cases with stuffed critters and porcelain representations. It was as if someone got all Salar Jung's bits and bobs out and said 'Well these are all animals so lets just stick them all together'. In the so-called 'toys' section there were all sorts of weird things that I'd not have called toys including some old Staffordshire flat-back ceramics. We later discovered at the Mysore Palace that the term 'toys' can be used to cover a much wider scope than we'd understand in the West – including carved gods which can be worshipped. There was a room full of rather nice Persian and Chinese carpets which we particularly enjoyed and a strange display of the Masonic regalia of the founding family.There are two newer wings on either side of the main building – appropriately enough a Western wing with mostly European exhibits and an Eastern Wing of Oriental pieces. These newer wings were architecturally less interesting than the main building and the Western wing in particular had some truly awful things in it. In total the museum has 38 different galleries but even with the newer wings added, it's estimated that only about one quarter of the total collection is ever on display.
We had only an hour and a half to rush around the museum, which possibly wasn't the fairest way to see it. A wet Sunday afternoon in a city where it seldom rains probably wasn't the best time to go either and the museum was absolutely chock-a-block with people shuffling slowly between the rooms. There's a pleasant and spotlessly clean snack-bar if too much culture is prone to make you hungry or thirsty. There should be a shop but the place it was supposed to be seemed to just be the home of the first-aid room. Sadly (but rather refreshingly) we've found that very few Indian museums have much in the way of a decent shop, seldom running to more than a few dusty tomes or plaster-casts of weird things you couldn't possibly want to buy. The Salar Jung didn't even manage to run to that.
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