— JASMEEN DUGAL (click here to know more about this blogger)
Amrapali Museum preserves the cultural heritage and time-honoured traditions of the nation through its awe-inspiring collection of rural, tribal and folk jewellery, ornaments and objets… not as a lost relic of the past but as an affirmation of its culture. There is so much to see that if you spent an entire day appreciating each exhibit, you would see only a percentage. So it is wise to focus on two-three galleries during each visit and let it seep into your consciousness. I spent a few hours touring the museum during a recent trip to Jaipur and emerged with a wealth of knowledge. Let me try to document it here!
When Amrapali founder Rajiv Arora, during an interview with him, told me about the 6,500 sq ft museum of jewellery, I was fascinated. ''On our trips to buy old silver, my partner Rajesh Ajmera and I saw people melting vintage jewellery at refineries or hawking it at pawn shops; it was shocking how valuable pieces of jewellery were being destroyed for a small sum of money!! As history students, we were aware of just what was being lost forever — the craftsmanship, the culture, the traditions. That's when we decided to step in and buy such pieces. Before we realised it, we had amassed a large collection and the thought of opening a museum to preserve these pieces of jewellery and ornaments, and present to the world the art of Indian silversmithing and goldsmithing, was born; today it is an invaluable source of information for history and design students, scholars and tourists.''
Earlier this week, I met his son Tarang Arora, CEO and Creative Director of Amrapali, and certified gemologist from The Gemological Institute of America. ''My father and Rajesh opened this museum to showcase antique jewellery that they had collected on pan-India travels. They didn't want to keep these collections in a locker. Instead, they wanted everyone to see the value in its artistry, which highlights just how rich India's culture is'' he explained as he took me on a tour of the museum. ''We have designed a wall to exhibit jewellery from head to toe, in segregated sections. However, we plan to change the layouts often so you can look forward to something new on each visit.'' Not too familiar with tribal, rural jewellery, I was fascinated by heavyweight silver anklets that were soldered around wearers' ankles. ''The tradition of wearing wealth in jewellery is an intrinsic part of tribal life. Since anklets were soldered in their childhood, no one could steal it while the wearer was sleeping. And it could be sold if circumstances demanded. Each tribe has different stories like this!'' I was also fascinated by a Parsi diamond necklace inlaid with enamelled letters, 'Humata Hukhta Hversta' i.e. 'good thoughts, good words, good deeds'. ''We had this necklace for years and didn't realise what it meant till I Googled it'' explained Tarang. Whoa!
Spread over two floors, the mezzanine displays silver and gold jewellery from the length and breadth of the nation while the basement houses more jewellery, an intrinsically carved silver door and fascinating objets that prove to be a window into our rich cultural heritage. What caught my eye? The 'mukhnaal' i.e. fish-shaped silver mouthpiece for a hookah; the gold mojris embellished with rubies and emeralds; the bookstand most likely used to read the Quran, crafted from a single translucent jade inlaid with kundan; the silver anklets for horses; the ruby-studded back-scratchers with concealed swords; the 'jadai nagam' worn on braids; the wine flasks modelled on royal courtrooms' dancing figures; the swatches of near-extinct fabric from Varanasi — each exhibit in the museum holds rich information about different regions. I was also in awe of male ornaments like the heavyweight silver belt from Calicut and the 'mukut' from Himachal Pradesh. The millennial man sure could learn a lesson in style! On a serious note, the geographical diversity of tribal silver at Amrapali Museum is a learning curve for historians, students and tourists alike! A must-visit on your next trip to Jaipur.
Amrapali Museum, K-14—B, Ashok Road, Panch Batti, C Scheme, Ashok Nagar, Jaipur
23 June 2018 12:54 pm IN CONVERSATION WITH AMRAPALI FOUNDER RAJIV ARORA