The Building of Quila House
The Jalan Collection
A Parade of Visitors
The Next Generations
Contact Quila House
From the age of 12 R. K. Jalan had already developed a
habit of collecting coins. As a child in a typical Marwari business family,
which expected its male members to engage full-time in the business, he was
often drubbed by his elders, who could not imagine at the time that this little
hobby would one day develop into a very famous one-man collection, which would
be later generally known as the Jalan Museum. No amount of difficulty could stop R. K. Jalan from becoming an ardent buyer.
R. K. Jalan (second from left on camelback)
and his son Hira Lal Jalan (first from right on camelback)
photographed at the Gizah pyramids
During the period between 1935 and 1937 R. K. Jalan
travelled extensively. In the year 1935 he went on his first trip to England
with his son Hira Lal Jalan to attend the celebrations of the Silver Jubilee of
King George V and extended his trip to Scotland, France, Germany, Switzerland and Egypt.
R. K. Jalan made many fruitful visits to the European auction houses, the result
of which was, that on his return to Patna from London, after six months of his
European tour, he had three wagon-loads of invaluable artefacts and antiques.
R. K. Jalan and Hira Lal Jalan
(respectively second and first from right)
at Oxford in 1935
Family portraits take pride of place in the main drawing
room of Quila House
Visitors are nevertheless always
welcome, and visits can be arranged on request and by invitation, no matter the
status of the person who wishes to enjoy this very personal and therefore unique
creation of R. K. Jalanís.
Before leaving on his European trip,
R. K. Jalan had it in his mind that the plans for the new Quila House would only
be finalised when he came back. He instructed the architects to reserve the
northern side of the house, where there would be no sun, for his collection, in
order to protect the artefacts; and to use the southern side of the house for
the residential section.
Not all his new acquisitions,
though, were greeted with unmitigated pleasure: when confronted with the sight
of Egyptian mummies, R. K. Jalanís wife, Gigia Bai, threatened to starve herself
until and unless the mummies were removed from the house. They were quickly
donated to a suitable government museum.
Dewan Bahadur did not confine his
passion for antiques to his own collection. He was also in the purchasing
committee of Patna Museum, and was instrumental in securing its rich patrimony
of Indian artefacts.
Quila Houseís main building
comprised originally only two living suites (one for R. K. Jalan
and the other for his son Hira Lal Jalan)
and nowadays the major portion of the ground floor of the house holds the
displayed items collected by R. K. Jalan. This is first and foremost a private
residential house of the Jalan family, and many artefacts such as furniture,
silver utensils and porcelain services are still used by the family on a regular
basis, and in particular for special occasions such as marriages or the arrival
of a new baby.
From the china and porcelain collection:
An array of early coloured Chinese porcelain over the entrance to the
where the furniture in 18th century French style can be seen
The main part of the collection
comprises Chinese jade and porcelain pieces from Han to Ching dynasties. The
rooms displaying these are also known as the China and Jade rooms in the family.
The collection also includes a
substantial number of celadon plates, which are said in some versions of the
tale to change their colour, and in others to crack, if poisonous food is served
A sample of the largest extant celadon plates in the collection
Large Chinese blue and white vases complement
French tapestries and Indian carpets in the main hall
The large hall or main
hall, which is also the main drawing room of the family, is where most of the
formal ceremonies of the family take place. In it can be found examples of French Louis XV and
Louis XVI furniture; Mughal and European silver; German, French, English
and Chinese porcelain; Russian relief-embroidered pannels on the life of Christ; Tibetan and Nepali wood
carvings; French tapestries; ivory pieces and fine clocks; chandeliers; and Persian and Indian carpets.
Emperor Napoleon IIIís four-poster bed
Amongst the remarkable pieces of
Mughal silverware found in the main hall is a silver dinner set, including a
thali dish, which belonged to Emperor Akbarís prime minister, Birbal.
Independent Indiaís first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, famously dined on
this same set during his second visit to Quila House in 1952. In truth, Nehru
was initially reluctant to use the set, fearing it might be seen as
ostentatious, and only relented once reassured that the gesture was intended to
honour two prime ministers who, across the centuries of Indian history, were
both known for serving their country so well.
Other rooms adjoining the main hall
display an assortment of notable pieces of furniture. The first of these is a
four-poster bed belonging to the Emperor of France, Napoleon III; it is just
unbelievable to many visitors from across the world to find it tucked away in a
place like Patna.
In the second of these rooms are
other equally unexpected items: Tipu Sultanís ivory palanquin, and a jewellery
and cutlery cabinet custom- made for King Henry II of France, with the Kingís
cipher and superb enamel work medallions of the King and Queen and of the
goddess Diana (which can be understood as a reference to the Kingís famous
mistress, Diane de Poitiers).
King Henry II of Franceís cabinet.
The central enamel medallion
depicts the goddess Diana
Tipu Sultanís palanquin
Distinctive Murano crystal from Venice
In the entrance hall, 15th century Tibetan manuscripts together
with Newari palm leaves of the 12th century are arranged in between
two rows of display almirahs containing a variety of coloured and cut
glass from Venice, Turkey, France and Ireland, along with Persian, Indian and European
The Crown Derby collection of dinner
set plates especially designed for King George III should not be missed. It is
normally kept behind closed doors, and so proves an exciting discovery for
visitors as the doors are pulled back to reveal the glitteringly bold patterns
on the plates.
The Crown Derby dinner plates, once the doors are
In fact, with such a rich and varied
collection, many artefacts can go unnoticed in oneís first visit to the house.
But no-one disputes that it totally is worth making an effort to come, despite
the chaos and tedious travel to the old city of Patna, which can take some good
time to reach.