Nestling in the lap of the historical township of Patna City, the Jalan museum is virtually the pivot around which the past revolves. This private museum possesses some of the antique pieces and art objects that just cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
Housed in a 459 – year – old Qila or fort , this art museum was founded in 1919 by Diwan Bahadur Radha Krishna Jalan. Though the Diwan Bahadur is no more, the museum that he created has been successful in catching the eye of the world .
In 1947 when an exhibition of Indian art took place in London , an expert team flew in to Patna City all the way from the capital of England to visit the Jalan museum. It selected 98 items for their display at that event. It is really surprising that a one – man collection center now is considered as one of the richest museums of the world.
The museum is located in an ancient Qila or fort near the river Ganga . The fort, built in 1541 by the Afghan ruler Sher Shah Suri , has an interesting history of its own .
As per “ Tehrik – e – Daudi “, Sher Shah spent a whopping Rs 5 lakh to construct the Qila . The historical records say that the Afghan chieftain stayed at Patna City or Patna Saheb for some time. He liked the location and decided to build a strong fort. Though the fort has collapsed, its ruins still remain.
The East India Company purchased the fort from the Muslim Nawabs . The Diwan Bahadur, who purchased it from the Britishers, was known the world over as connoisseur of art . During the silver jubilee celebration of King George V, he was invited to London as a guest. He collected rare things, old sculptures,
archaeological items, paintings, ancient furniture and other historical things from different nooks and corners of the world. Once he produced a mummy during his sojourn to Egypt and brought it to the Qila House. However, he could not keep the mummy in the museum due to the objection of his wife. Hence, that piece from the land of Pharaoh was removed.
The museum enthralls all. Here, the fossil of a 10 million – year – old tree can be found standing as mute testimony of history . Brought from America this fossil still offers a fresh look.
The Jalan Museum has several halls . The first hall , ineteralia , contains rare manuscripts in Hindi , Sanskrit , Tibetan and Siamese , belonging to 16th and 17th century . While the porcelain – made dinner set of King George III meant for 28 persons , amazes a visitor , the 16th century Persian files and “ tanpura “ of Rajasthani folk singer ‘ Dal “ and “ Badal “ would undoubtedly charm him . The idol of Surya Deva ( SunGod ) from Orissa too leaves the people spellbound . It belongs to the 16th century . The 11th century Chamunda idol also looks quite new.
The Qila House figures in several books authored by the Europeans . In “ Travels , On My Elephant , “ Mark Sand wrote , “ As we rode under an impressive portico flanked by romantic Italian stone statues and a pair of blue and white Chinese water jars standing in niches , a small , well groomed , prosperous looking man , wearing a smart suit in top pocket of which was row of gold Cartier pens , came running to meet us . Welcome to Qila House , he said excitedly . I have been expecting you . I am Bal Manohar Jalan , but my friends call me Bala “ .
Bal Manohar also played a major role in putting Jalan Museum on the international tourist map . Due to the efforts of his son Aditya , this museum now is going to be put on the website . Onnce on website , the importance of the Qila House would go up further .
There are many interesting events associated with the Qila House . One of them relates to the silver dinner set of Raja Birbal .
In 1953 when the then Prime Minister , Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru visited Jalan Museum , he was served food in Birbal dinner set . Panditji who came here along with the Bihar Governor , Mr R R Diwakar and Chief Minsiter Dr Sri Krishna Singh , refused to eat from that dinner set as he thought it was rather feudalistic to eat from silver utensils.
He , however , was told that it belonged to King Birbal . Panditji , subsequently , eat from it with great pleasure. The articles of worship of Raja Birbal are also lying here .
The journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal mentions about he worship items of Raja Birbal kept in the Jalan Museum . Made of solid silver , inlaid with gold and copper , the worship items of Birbal also find their place in the book . It says that those items are near 400 years old . The worship articles , all excellent specimen of Bidri – work , bears the name of their owners and the dates on which they were acquired .
One of the halls deal exclusively with the porcelain items of China and idols of Chinese style . They belong from 7th to 10th century AD during which the Sung and Ming dynasties ruled this land of “ Great Walls” . The blue – coloured “ War God “ and statue of Lord Buddha , both belonging to 16th century , are star attractions of this hall. In the third hall , there are very attractive and rare French vessels kept in an almirah belonging to the 17th century and made by “ Serve “ , a French company . The picture of woman was made first on the vessel and then it was polished , so that it may last for centuries and was brought from Paris in year 1945 . Many other valuables which were brought from Paris are kept in this hall . Among these are the expensive golden furniture of Louis 15th and Louis 16th .A wine-cool of Marie Antoinette ( Louis 16th’s Wife and last Empress of France ) and some articles of use of Napolean Bonaparte are also kept here . Among them are his tea set and a small box .
A very attractive cut – glass watch is kept in the corner of the same hall. It is said that it was made by a Nawab of Lucknow for Wajid Ali Shah. And the stand of watch was made by Nawab of Murshidabad . A grand couch of Napoleon . The Third ( nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte ) is kept here . The length of the couch is short . It is said that Napoleon The Third was short in height . The emblem of his empire is inlaid in the center of the couch , which is visible . The swords of King Humayun and Akbar are the most important articles of this hall. The name of both father and son are inlaid with Gold on the swords . The edge of Humayun’s sword is straight and sharp . There is beautiful. inlaid work on the grips of these swords .
The forth and last hall has jade stones ( 260-200BC ) of Han period . These are rare and huge in quantity . These jade stones were brought from London from an auction held there . Seventy percent of stones were purchased by London Museum and rest 30 percent were purchased by the founder of this Museum . They are of different sizes and some are in these shape of icons.
The palanquin of ivory of Tipu Sultan is also a worthy collection of this Museum. An inlay of golden flower is made on this and the emblem of Tipu is also inlaid on the palanquin.
A beautiful cabinet of Henry The Eight of France is kept in a corner of this hall . In the center of this hall. In the center of this cabinet there is a beautiful picture of “ Diana “ . The picture of the king and the Queen can be seen on both sides of the lower part of the cabinet . An idol of Lord Buddha is also a very prized article of the Museum. The time really stands frozen here.