As kids we almost belonged to the world where everything was surreal. The ever-sparkling chandeliers hanging from the clouds above, the floor that you set foot on of crystal gleaming back at you and everything around you made of crystal too. How we wish we could stay in that dreamy world all our lives. But alas! The dreams were of glass for sure.
But Maharana Sajjan Singh of Mewar, did turn his dream into reality. This reality is now captured forever with us at The Crystal Gallery at the City Palace, Udaipur. Thanks to him and Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar, that we have a chance to own a moment of the fairytale world even now. For the hows and the whos, please read on an exhaustive coverage by the Sunday Pioneer.
A GLEAMING TREASURE HOUSE
Sunday, 26 May 2013 | Pioneer | in Agenda
Those with the means to do so must visit the famous Crystal Gallery in Udaipur to gaze at some of the unique masterpieces, if only to appreciate what a pair of hands can achieve in its quest of chiselling such alluring marvels, writes Sonal Prakash
Recently on a visit to Udaipur someone suggested that I must make a stopover at the famous Crystal Gallery. On a previous trip to this picturesque city, I had deliberately cancelled a visit to the gallery, as I was travelling on a shoestring budget. Then a student, I did not have enough money to buy the high-priced tickets to this beguiling corner, tucked away in the famous City Palace of Udaipur. Fortunately, on this visit there was no such inhibition and I could tour the gallery without feeling the guilt about being a bit extravagant.
Opened to visitors in 1994, the gallery is accommodated in Fateh Prakash Palace, which is an extension of the City Palace of Udaipur. Like many such palaces in Rajasthan, this royal residence, too, has been redesigned as a luxury hotel.
Frankly, on entering the gallery, I was not prepared for the sight that awaited me. ‘Bewitched’ is the only word I can think of for describing my reaction on seeing the gallery for the first time. The sparkle of the crystals was blinding as I started getting used to all the glitter and glimmer enveloping me. The variety of objects on display made for a breathtakingly beautiful view leaving me marvelling at the clever craftsmanship. For instance, the queen-sized bed made of crystal — perhaps only one of its kind — immediately drew my attention although I could not help thinking how anyone could possibly be comfortable sleeping on it.
Another fascinating object was the crystal carpet with precious stones embedded in it. Even though walking on it would have been a trifle difficult, the cunning workmanship was praiseworthy. The other artefacts included crockery — particularly beautiful was one tea set made in red crystal — chandeliers, other furniture such as sofas, dressers and dining tables. Other crystal items on display were fountains, washing bowls, decanters, perfume bottles, etc. These and many more objects made for a very interesting and attractive display.
This enormous collection of crystals was packed away in boxes and recovered only in 1994. Its packing material was torn off after more than a hundred years; its worth estimated not very long ago. The present head of the Mewar royal family, Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar, realised that this vast collection was no less than a treasure, and perhaps only one of its kind. It was then put on display for the visitors to admire, albeit in return of a hefty sum. The visitors to this gallery would do well to take an audio guide tour which would regale them with historical anecdotes about how the current custodian of the House of Mewar conceived the plan for opening the gallery after the crystals were unpacked.
The person who took the initiative in ordering the manufacture of this assortment of crystals was Maharaja Sajjan Singh of Mewar. He was at the helm between the years 1874 and 1884. The Maharaja delved in music and poetry. Extremely artistic in taste, he was in effect an extremely cultured person. He placed an order with the famous Birmingham based F&C Osler company. Most of the artefacts on display in the gallery have been manufactured by this company. The firm was renowned for its crystal-making, mostly luxury pieces, such as perfume bottles or dinner sets. The firm was founded in 1807 and went on to monopolise the market of crystal products especially during the Victorian era. Osler made ostensible strides towards innovating the cut glass industry. The concept of vast-sized crystal products such as chandeliers can be credited to this company.