Amar Mahal Museum

amarTowards the end of town in the direction of Srinagar, atop a hill by the highway are three old palaces; this is also the highest point of Jammu. The Hari Niwas Palace is now a heritage hotel and the Ranbir Niwas Palace is the residence of the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir. The third which is actually the first that meets the eye when you come up on the sweeping driveway though well-tended grounds is the French chateau-inspired Amar Mahal. It overlooks the River Tawi. A section of this palace now houses the Amar Singh Museum and Library. This is a repository of several rare artifacts, documents and works of art.

Housed in the first and second floors of the palace, the library has a collection of over twenty thousand volumes on subjects like history, religion, politics and even a selection of contemporary bestsellers. Expectedly, the library concentrates on books that pertain to Jammu and Kashmir and on the subject, the collection may well be the most substantial in the world. Several rare books are there too; these were acquired by the late Raja Amar Singh. The upper sections also hold suite of the former Maharani Tara Devi of the State; with hardly a thing unchanged since the time she used it, this is a remarkable window to the lifestyles of an era gone by.

Perhaps the single most striking exhibit in the museum is the solid gold throne of the former rulers of Jammu and Kashmir. There is a gallery of contemporary Indian artists and includes the works of Sardar Sobha Singh, M.F. Hussain, J. Swaminathan, G. R. Santosh, Bikash Battacharjee, Ram Kumar, Laxman Pai and Kishen Khanna.

Among the other exhibits are the forty-eight remarkable miniature paintings of the Nala-Damyanti romance. With sensuous beauty, the tension of the love affair is beautifully portrayed. The details are unbelievable for the finishing touches were applied with a brush that held a single hair.