If it was not encased in a glass box, many of us would have been tempted to pull the veil of Rebecca to check if it was a real piece of cloth.
What is the truth? The marble sculpture 'The Veiled Rebecca' needs close attention. Even the veil of the sculpture which covers much of its beautiful face is carved in marble stone. We might wonder if that 'piece of cloth' will be blown by the wind. Such is the realism of this sculpture. This sculpture is one of the most famous among the collection of art works in the Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad. One of the largest 'one-man-collection-museums' in the world, The Salar Jung Museum has the views of many streams of art from many different origins. Let us go around it once.
If you go past old Hyderabad where history had stood still and reach the banks of River Musi, you will come across Salar Jung Museum which is one of the national treasures. The exhibits here are made up of collections across three generations of the Salar Jung Family. The Salar Jung Family had adorned the position of Chief Minister of The Nizam of Hyderabad for three generations. Much of the collections here are from Nawab Mir Yusuf Ali Khan, the third Salar Jung. In 1951, the then Prime Minister of Independent India dedicated this collection to the nation.
One has to take tickets to enter the museum. It has six blocks spread over two floors. There are artefacts dating back to 2nd century BC here. There are Persian carpets, scriptures and glassware. One can never get satiated with the exhibits as there are so many varieties of collections there. Paintings from England, Ireland, France, Belgium, Italy, Germany etc. would surely awe the visitors. There are two noteworthy paintings. One of these is a portrait of an individual. The toe of the boot of the individual in the portrait would appear pointing towards the viewer no matter if the viewer is standing directly in front or on the sides. There is also a painting of a township which changes its perspective with respect to the viewer's position.
The exquisite detailing of the carvings made on ivory would surely enchant the visitor. Chairs made of ivory were presumably gifted to Tipu Sultan by Louis 16. There are exhibits from the collection of the Mughal Emperors too.
The sculpture titled 'The Veiled Rebecca' was collected from Italy during Salar Jung's visit in 1876. The original work was by Giovenni Marian Benzoni and the one in Salar Jung Museum's collections is one of the many duplicates.
The gallery is split into three categories, namely ‘India’, ‘Eastern’ and ‘Western’. There are 38 galleries spread over two floors and comprising of 11 types of works. The musical clock here needs special mention. The parts of this clock were made in England and assembled in Calcutta. Every hour, a figurine comes out of the clock and clangs a bell. The clock which is about the size of a human shows not just the hours but also the month. This clock is one of the chief attractions of the Salar Jung Musuem. Many come here just to listen to the clock’s music.
There is a curious statuette in display here. On the front, it appears to be Mephistopheles, a demon of the German folklore. But if you look at the reflection on the mirror behind, it would look like the beautiful Margarita, also of the German folklore. The folklores say that Mephistopheles is a deputy of Lucifer. This is the famous twin statue which is also named thus. It is a creation of the 19th century. It will take many days to cover all the exhibits in detail. These show pieces which link culture, art and time should be termed as ‘must-see’.
Six blocks of art
Spread over three blocks in the ground floor, the gallery include wood-carvings, bronze gallery, European sculptures, founder's gallery, South Indian gallery, ivory works, weaponry and a canteen. On the first floor, there are plenty of artefacts ranging from Japanese Galleries to European Glass-wares.
Once you are through the Salar Jung Museum, look for the places around that give genuine Hyderabadi Biriyani. The Char-Minar, the Mecca Masjid etc. are within walking distance.