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India's largest art museum to set up Islamic art gallery

Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad, India, 12 September 2017 [Omer123hussain/Wikipedia]
Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad, India, 12 September 2017 [Omer123hussain/Wikipedia]

India's largest art museum, and third largest museum in the country, will be opening an Islamic art gallery by next year.

The Salar Jung Museum, in Hyderabad is said to have the largest one-man collection of antiques and art treasures in the world, attributed to Nawab Mir Yousuf Ali Khan, commonly known as Salar Jung III, a former Prime Minister of the once princely state of Hyderabad Deccan.

The museum currently has over 2,500 rare Islamic artefacts, some of which have never been displayed to the public before. However, these are, at present, showcased in various galleries under Indian, Middle Eastern, European and Far Eastern collections. These will now be exclusively displayed in one place, in the forthcoming Islamic art gallery.

In an interview, the director of Salar Jung Museum, Dr A Nagender Reddy, told Khaleej Times that Islamic art gallery was scheduled to open much sooner, but plans were stalled due to Covid-19 and the unavailability of skilled labour. The gallery though, is reportedly set for inauguration by the end of this year.

The idea of establishing the gallery came about in 2009 when about 400 Islamic artefacts from the Salar Jung Museum were on display at an exhibition of Indian Islamic art held in Sharjah, UAE.

Measuring around 26,000 square feet, the new gallery will be located at the museum's eastern wing and will include an array of artefacts including manuscripts, Persian carpets, swords and body armours, ceramics and copies of the Holy Quran.

Among its prized possessions will be the oldest folio of the Quran in Kufic script, dated to the ninth century, a rare fruit knife with a jade hilt decorated with precious stones belonging to the Mughal Empress, Nur Jahan, and archer rings of the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan, who commissioned the construction of the iconic Taj Mahal.

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