Doors to the world’s first silver museum will be thrown open at Amar Mahal at Udaipur’s City palace complex by Udaipur’s reigning king Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar on Sunday. Spread over 7,100 sq feet, the museum will have hundreds of sterling silver objects on display, some of which are royal family heirlooms since 743 AD!
These include a 1939 custom-made buggy from Birmingham, part of the current monarch’s late mother Rani Shilakumariji’s dowry. “My mother was the princess of Bikaner and her parents wanted to surprise her with something special at her marriage. She was quite fond of it given the sentiments attached,” recounted Shriji who remembers joy rides with his mother as a child.
Apart from being the single largest item on display along with detailed intricate work (a ballerina mid-pirouette on the door), solid silver chassis, wheels and spokes make it stand out. “Given that it was meant for a lady with flowing raiments, the buggy has two folding extendable steps to make climbing into the nine-feet vehicile comfortable,” he points out with a gleam in his eyes.
In past times, Mewar maintained links both with other Rajput courts as well as the Mughal estbalishment. Although initiated in politico-economic contexts, these connections also manifested as shared influences in arts and craft. This is clearly seen in Mughal influenced techniques in items like the gulabpash (rose water sprinkler) and the surahis (decanters locally called kunjis) on display. Most other works are examples of indigenous techniques like pierced work or cladding where silver sheets cover contours of intricate wooden objects.
When asked about his favourite in the collection he’s curated, the regal partriarch chortles. “These are in the family and used for various rituals and ceremonies. Obviously each evokes emotions and nostalgia.” He admits when prodded, that he can’t decide between a wedding mandap where he gave away his daughter Padmaja in marriage two years ago (complete with four sets of nine silver pots, a solid silver hawan kund and other puja items) and ramrewariyas (small ornamental palanquins for the Gods) are his personal favourite. “May are unaware that it is not my family but the family deity Shree Eknathlingji who is the ruler. We’re mere custodians since the foundation of the state by Bappa Rawal. These palanquins are meant for Him.”
The museum will be housed in a building which gave Mughal emperor Shahjahan inspiration for the Taj’s design. “Though the Taj stands out because of superior marble as opposed to the local marble used here, the work is really fine. Ill-advised, someone decided over 200 years ago to white wash it leaving intricate detailing covered in two inches of whitewash. It took three years to restore Amar Mahal to its original grandeur and we hope it will give visitors an added attraction.
On the same occasion, the Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation (MMCF)'s 32nd annual awards 2013 will be conferred.This year’s awardees include Sanskrit educationist Professor Ramanuja Devanathan, litterateur Satya Narayan Shastri, primatologist Dr S M Mohnot, water harvesting activist Purshotam Gaur, archaeologist Dr Rima Hooja, craftsman Prithvi Raj Kumawat, tabla virtuoso Anuradha Pal, national-champion in shooting (air-rifle) Apurvi Chandela and powerlifter Bhupendra Kumar Vyas.