Maharaja (great king) Sawai Ram Singh originally wanted this incredible structure to be used as a town hall. However, his successor Madho Singh II decided instead, that having a building that would house all of Jaipur’s major artwork would be more beneficial instead. Now, the Albert Hall Museum is the oldest museum that also functions as the State Museum, in Jaipur, India.
Designed by Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob (a British Army officer and Director of the Jaipur PWD), with the help of architect Mir Tujumool Hoosein, construction started initially to greet Kind Edward, the Prince of Wales, when he was to make a visit to India. Ten years later in 1876, the museum was opened to the public, displaying many paintings, carpets, metal and wood crafts, arms, weapons, and much more. You will enjoy exploring some of the same artifacts that those from over 100 years ago also fell in love with. In fact, let’s take a look at some of them now.
Almost standing in the middle of the street, this architectural masterpiece was designed and built in the Indo-Saracenic style. There are many archways, floors, and it’s all incredibly symmetric. You’ll need to purchase your ticket right outside the entrance gate: 300 INR (4.52 USD) for foreign visitors, 150 INR (2.25 USD) for foreign students, and 40 INR (0.60 USD) for Indian citizens, and 20 INR (0.30 USD) for Indian students. Many times there will be a group of young adults, or teenagers, that are visiting with their school, but they tend to move in and out of the complex pretty quickly allowing you the time you need to really study and appreciate the artifacts presented.
On the ground floor, there are many weapons showcased that you may or may not be familiar with. You’ll see many different swords and knives that have been attractively decorated with jewels or have a hilt made of jade. Some of the blades even have inscriptions that read in Arabic, Sanskrit, and elegant calligraphy. You’ll also see many antique revolvers, gunpowder holders, along with bows and arrows. There is a display card next to the glass holding these precious items from the past, and you’ll see Hindi as well as English descriptions to let you know exactly what each piece is.
One of the highlights at the Albert Hall Museum is the female mummy Tutu. She was one of the members from the priest’s family of God Chem (Ptolemaic Era – 322 to 30 BC), and she was discovered at Akhmin. Tutu is 4000 years old, and if you look closely at her lid you will see a winged scarab beetle which is thought to be the symbol of resurrection. Inscribed on the lower half of the lid you can see a wide collar of beads, towards the waist, and if you look closely you’ll notice the winged goddess Isis that is known for protecting the dead. Anubis (Egyptian god of the afterlife) is displayed along the legs of the mummy Tutu and is supposedly aiding in the mummification process. Osiris (the god of the dead) is depicted on the very last panel of the lid with two cobras. He is thought to be the one who judges the soul once it has passed from this life to the next.
On the first floor, there is a hall full of jewelry that was worn by peasant men and women who lived in eastern Rajasthan in the 19th century. Even though these pieces were worn by so-called ‘peasants’ they are very ornate and would be highly sought after today in society. Adorned with many gemstones and crystals especially garnet, these silver and brass period pieces are designed with many realistic elements, such as birds, butterflies, and floral patterns. Many used to be worn as forehead or foot ornaments, which are really interesting to look at, and you’ll also see the more common rings, earrings, necklaces, and even waist-belts.
You’ll even come across several costumes that were worn by both the elite and the masses. These costumes are quite intriguing and were blended with a multitude of colors. The Hindi word “bandhani” is a popular type of tie-dying that is not at all what we’re accustomed to envisioning when we think of tie-dye today.
There are different styles of bandhani in Rajasthan: laharia, pomacha, and chunari. Laharia is a when diagonal stripes are colored in five, six, or seven colors, pomacha is commonly given as a gift to a new mother and is usually yellow with a red border, and chunari is considered to be the most popular pattern, usually dotted and dyed in red and green. It’s really neat to look at these clothes, as most of these styles are still worn by many in Rajasthan today.
The Albert Hall Museum is open daily from 9am until 5pm, then again from 7pm until 10pm. The ticket booth is just outside the museum beside the main entry, and if you are a foreign national you can expect to pay 300 INR (4.50 USD), and 150 INR (2.25 USD) if you are a foreign student. For Indian citizens, you will pay 40 INR (0.60 USD), and for Indian students, it is only 20 INR (0.30 USD). During the summertime, it does get extremely hot in Jaipur with temperatures rising as high as 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit). This museum is not air-conditioned, but there are fans running throughout the complex. You want to be sure that you are dressed comfortably yet still conservatively as there are many school children who take field trips here and also to respect the culture. This is a wonderful place to visit with your family and friends, especially for those who are interested in learning more about India’s beautiful culture.
For more information, visit their website at http://alberthalljaipur.gov.in/