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“Gyan Museum is a Tribute to our Father’s Lifelong Passion & Dedication to the World of Literature, Art & Aesthetics” – Arun Dhaddha

A serene sanctuary that will draw you in, Gyan Museum’s artefacts and items tell the story of a princely era.

Entering the halls of Gyan Museum, you would never believe a space like this stands in Jaipur. Jaipur, a colorful town made immemorial with palaces, jaali architecture, embroidered garments, and stunning gemstone jewelry, is mostly seen in a highly traditional Indian light. Gyan Museum, however, is starkly minimalist, linear, and highly contemporary. The antiques that it displays, however, tell the story of a princely, traditional India.

Gyan Museum Jaipur

Gyan Museum in Jaipur consists of over 2,500 assortments of items collected by naturalist and gemologist Gyan Chand Dhaddha, which he amassed during his lifetime, including textiles, paintings, antique jewellery, vintage spectacles, inscriptions and objet d’art from around the world dating back to over 3,000 years. A tribute by his sons, Suresh and Arun Dhaddha, the museum has been designed by international designer Paul Mathieu. The space also houses a wholesale jewellery store, a factory as well as an art gallery.

Gyan Museum Jaipur's Arun Dhaddha

In this exclusive interview, the museum’s co-founder, Arun Dhaddha, talks to us among other things about the idea and inspiration behind the museum, its rare artefacts, their family’s jewellery business, and plans for the future.

LuxuryFacts: What was the idea, inspiration behind Gyan Museum?

Arun Dhadda: My father has been an avid collector throughout his life. He always harboured a vision of creating his own museum to display his collectibles to the world, for which he spent a lifetime travelling across continents in search of rare and exquisite art and antiquities. However, for certain reasons, he couldn’t fulfil this dream in the waking world.

Gyan Museum Jaipur

After my father’s demise, my elder brother Suresh Dhaddha and I saw it as our moral responsibility to bring his dream to reality. We envisioned creating a dedicated space for each of his collectibles, which were once overflowing in the basement of our house.

Gyan Museum is thus a tribute to our father’s lifelong passion and dedication to the world of literature, art, and aesthetics. Additionally, it serves as a destination in Jaipur for exploring the rich culture of Rajasthan.

Take our readers briefly through the museum.

Our museum features all 2,500 artefacts arranged in a mantra-like circular layout. Most of the antiques on display date back from the 15th to 19th centuries AD, with a few spanning over 3,000 years of rich Indian history. My father was a diverse collector, sourcing materials through his travels, antique houses, dealers and royal families. Of these, Gyan Museum houses 75% of artefacts from India and 25% from abroad. The museum’s design aims to give each artefact its own space to shine and breathe.

Gyan Museum Jaipur
The jewelry section at Gyan Museum.

During the guided museum tour, visitors are led through the collections, receiving a brief history and detailed information about each object. The first two sections showcase worldwide tapestries, beautifully hand-embroidered and hand-painted panels, along with eclectic artefacts and iconographies. Following this is a vibrant collection of fine miniature paintings and ancient games like Ganjifa and Pachisi. Walking past it, there is an inbuilt pond displaying exquisite vintage silverware and the largest collection of silver hookah mouthpieces in India.

Gyan Museum Jaipur inbuilt pool with silverware
The inbuilt pool at Gyan Museum that showcases the silverware collection.

An exclusive section is dedicated to my father’s extensive collection of vintage jewellery crafted in gold and adorned with jewels and gemstones. Furthermore, you also get to see old manuscripts, Islamic scrolls, fancy crockeries, vintage watches and eye-glasses. The tour finally concludes with a segment dedicated to my father’s personal belongings, offering a glimpse into his life beyond his passion for collections.

Please highlight for our readers a few of the museum’s rare artefacts.

The museum’s collection is as diverse and unique as the individuals who encounter it. Among the treasures on display, there are two silver pieces that hold a special significance. These were gifted to Gyanji by his father on his 16th birthday, marking the beginning of his lifelong passion for collecting. Today, they prominently stand among the museum’s silverwares, serving as a tangible reminder of his personal journey into the world of art and antiquities.

Gyan Museum Jaipur hookah mouthpieces
The 2 hookah mouthpieces that were gifted to Gyanji by his father.

You explore further, and come across other remarkable pieces. One such gem is a stunning 19th-century miniature painting portraying the bejewelled Goddess Lakshmi, resplendent in the museum’s painting section, often making visitors go speechless. Additionally, there’s a Pesh-kabz showcased in the weaponry section, adorned with intricate Hindu motifs delicately painted inside its glossy crystal hilt, thus showcasing the fine craftsmanship of its time.

Gyan Museum Jaipur pesh-kabz
The Pesh-kabz with miniature paintings inside the glass hilt.

Lastly, the Pochi style bracelet made of thickly yarned fibre with basra pearls knitted over in a cluster in the jewellery section is both charming and alluring. In short, each artefact has its own story to tell, inviting visitors to appreciate the rich history and ornate craftsmanship.

How was the signature concept of the museum envisioned and executed by international designer Paul Mathieu?

My father was a man who embraced both tradition and modernity, and we wanted to reflect this essence in the space we created for his collectibles. Our architectural vision aimed for an international aesthetic rather than one steeped in orientalism.

Gyan Museum Jaipur
The salon at Gyan Museum.

It was during a serendipitous encounter with Paul at MET in 2010 that our vision began to take shape. Through numerous discussions, we arrived at a design concept inspired by the majestic forts of Rajasthan, executed with a contemporary and minimalist touch.

Our goal was to offer visitors an impactful transition as they entered Gyan, leaving behind the chaos of the outside world. Upon pushing open the door’s exquisite rock crystal handle, guests are welcomed into a serene, high-ceilinged, all-white space, instilling a sense of calm and freshness. At its center stands a majestic jade statue of Lord Ganesh, bestowing blessings on all our visitors.

Gyan Museum Jaipur

Upon ascending the white marble staircase reflecting the ones of the fortress, visitors are gently guided through the museum’s collections, through a curve of the doorway leading to the museum collection. This journey embodies the essence of Gyan, seamlessly blending tradition, modernity and architectural aesthetic.

Tell our readers about your family jewellery business, Gem Plaza, its shops and factory as well as the adjoining art gallery for contemporary artists.

Gem Plaza is one of the pioneers of handcrafted jewellery and exquisite craftmanship established by my father in the 1980s. Today, as the third generation in this jewellery business, we proudly operate our retail store, Gem Plaza, located on the bustling MI Road in Jaipur.

Gyan Museum Jaipur
The textile section at Gyan Museum.

In addition to our retail presence, our atelier in Sitapura serves as the heart of our operations. Here, alongside our museum, we employ a team of 200 skilled artisans dedicated to creating the finest and most original jewels. Building on the legacy of Gem Plaza, we expanded our reach globally with the creation of GYAN, a jewellery brand that captures the essence of contemporary Jaipur while honouring traditional craftsmanship. GYAN’s designs aim to bring elegance and innovation to modern women worldwide, showcased in our GYAN salon, which attracts both Indian and international clientele. Just like the museum, everyone is welcome to visit the GYAN salon with a prior appointment. Additionally, I would like to add that we just recently launched GYAN jewellery in the USA market in 2023, further solidifying our presence on the global stage.

Gyan Museum Jaipur
Vintage eyewear at Gyan Museum.

Talking about the art gallery within our atelier, our goal is to support and promote local contemporary artists with it. We offer them a platform to exhibit their work through three-month-long exhibitions. Additionally, our space hosts artistic and educational workshops as well as engaging talk shows. The response from artists in the region has been overwhelmingly positive, reflecting our commitment to nurturing creativity and fostering cultural exchange within our community.

What are your plans for the future?

Gyan Museum Jaipur
Vintage watches at Gyan Museum.

Our primary focus will be on expanding my father’s esteemed collections, ensuring their preservation and accessibility for generations to come. Additionally, we aim to establish strong partnerships with international museums, welcoming patrons from around the globe to experience our unique exhibits. Furthermore, we’re eager to contribute to the cultural exchange by loaning artefacts to museums and exhibitions worldwide, fostering collaboration and enriching diverse audiences with our treasures. Also, I believe in prioritising community engagement, thus aiming to develop educational programmes, workshops and events that resonate with diverse audiences, fostering a deeper appreciation for art and history.

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