Silver Splendour
The exhibits at world’s first-ever silver museum reflect the finest of silver smithies, besides showcasing indigenous artisan techniques
Swati Rai

The exhibits include the magnificent traditional royal transport like the haudah (Top)

silver utensils on display
The exhibits include the magnificent traditional royal transport like the haudah (Top), which was used for mounting elephants in religious, state and military processions; and (right) silver utensils on display

shriji Arvind Singh Mewar of Udaipur, scion and the 76th custodian of the House of Mewar, recently unveiled the world’s first-ever silver museum filled with family heirlooms dating back to 743 AD at Udaipur. The inauguration coincided with the Maharana of Mewar’s Charitable Foundation’s (MMCF), annual award-giving ceremony in recognition of international and national scholars and achievers for their work of permanent value to society.

Reflecting the finest of silver smithy, the nostalgic exhibits are displayed at Amar Mahal, which is located at the entrance of the Zenana Mahal. These are said to be the inspiration for the Taj Mahal in Agra. The museum houses silver artefacts of great personal value to the House of Mewar. The priceless pieces of history range from the grand silver wedding mandap of Shriji’s daughter Princess Padamja Singh Mewar to items of ritual use and royal transport. Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar, Chairman and Managing Trustee of MMCF, remarked that the exquisite exhibits hold great personal value. The pieces include the 1939 custom-made buggy, which formed part of his late mother’s dowry too. Several unique items such as the Ram Rewari, and religious items from the collection are displayed here for the first-time ever.

The works on display, illustrate the result of the long-standing historical relationships between the House of Mewar and both the Rajput courts and the Mughal establishment, as well as showcasing indigenous artisan techniques. These connections also manifested as shared influences in the arts. In terms of techniques, the Mughal influence is seen in items like the gulabpash (rose water sprinkler) and the surahis (decanters) known locally as kunjis. Most of the other techniques are local, including examples of pierced work and cladding, where silver sheets are used to cover the contours of wooden objects. It includes pieces ranging from silver artefacts used in rituals such as Ram Rewaris (portable shrine for religious deity), magnificent traditional royal transport like the haudah used for mounting elephants in religious, state and military processions. Royal buggies and palanquins are also from a significant part of the exhibition.

The museum is set up at a time when the Zenana Mahal is under modernisation and renovation with financial assistance from the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, under the scheme ‘Setting Up, Promotion & Strengthening of Regional & Local Museums’.

The selection of unique items included in the silver gallery is a slice of history served on a silver platter. It is a researcher’s delight and a reflection of the artistry of the silversmith, along with, of course, the beauty of this precious metal. Indian silver is remarkable for its limitless forms, noted for its technical perfection and characterised by its varied use. Culturally, and more specifically, religiously, silver is held sacred in traditional Hindu beliefs, which associate the beautiful white metal with the cool moon, surpassed only in importance by warm gold. Oft used in religious ceremonies and is association with purity; a favourite of the Royals even when it came to lavish dining etiquette. Moreover, unlike gold which is highly malleable, silver is strong enough to allow the fashioning into sturdier objects and could thus be put to more robust and varied use, including transport.

In the designs of some of the items a simpler aesthetic is reflected, perhaps purposefully, as they were used in the daily prayer rituals dedicated to Shree Parameshwarji Maharaj, the presiding deity of the Eklingnath ji temple, that has been the family deity of the Maharanas of Mewar ever since the foundation of the state was laid by Bappa Rawal. For the creation of these objects, the craftsman deployed a combination of cold mechanical assemblage systems like flanging, riveting and screwing, and the common casting processes of heat, including soldering. The final result was a collection of classic forms, devoid of chased or engraved decoration, but all the more noble for their simplicity and practicality.