In the centre of Jaipur, one may find the famed Ram Niwas Garden, which also hosts facilities like a theatre, a zoo, cafes and bird parks, among other things. But perhaps one of the most notable buildings to be found here is also one of the least modern, strictly speaking, for it is the oldest facility of its kind in all of the state. Opened in the late 1880’s, this is the Albert Hall Museum of Jaipur, also known as the Jaipur Central Museum.
This glorious edifice (for there can be no denying the glory of its façade and imposing profusion of arches and Indo-Saracen trimmings) was actually designed by one of the most prominent designers of the city, Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob. An Englishman stationed in Jaipur, this man was responsible for a great many of the area’s most highly-regarded public works and buildings, including the St. Stephen’s College in Delhi, the Rambagh Palace, and even the Bikaner House, which is now known as the Palace Hotel. There are many other notable edifices in the state that he designed, and Albert Museum is undeniably among the most noteworthy.
The museum was built under the orders of Maharajah Ram Singh. Originally, the maharajah intended that Swinton Jacob’s construction be made to serve as a town hall, but the plan was changed by the man who succeeded him, the Second Maharajah Madho Singh. This Jaipur ruler decided that the building would become a museum instead, as it is to this day.
The building was named after Albert Edward of England, better known as King Edward VII, who was visiting Jaipur when they laid the foundation stones for the building. Today, Albert Hall Museum is easily one of the most attractive places in Jaipur for the tourist or traveller, due to the sheer wealth of local culture it can present to visitors. There are floors filled with royal portraits and donated properties, as well as floors absolutely stuffed with the most exquisite products of the acclaimed Jaipur craftsmen.
Jaipur is known for a great many crafts, and this is reflected in the sheer number of intricately worked metal pieces in the museum, the vibrant and almost unbelievable colours—comparable to the shades of blue and green on a peacock’s feather—of the centuries-old pottery housed here, the ornate sculptures spread amidst the levels, and more. There are also puppets in the old style, traditional weapons and blades as well as elegant and slender rifles, classical instruments, and the best carpets. Indeed, the museum boasts the Persian Garden Carpet: one of the three earliest and most expensive examples, the other two being the Wagner Garden Carpet of the Burrell Collection and the one in the Museum of Industrial Art in Vienna. The one in Jaipur was purchased from Shah Abbas of Persia for an astronomical price, and is not always out for public view.
There is more to be found in the Albert Hall Museum that should delight you. There is a gallery for Mendhi Mandana (body art in henna) motifs and an Egyptian collection that includes a mummy from the Ptolemaic age of Egypt. The museum is in good condition too, as massive renovation started around 1959 and later years have seen ongoing maintenance. The typical hours are what you would expect, from 10:30 to 16:30 hours each day.