Jai Vilas Palace was constructed by Maharaja Jayaji Rao Scindia in 1874 at a cost of Rs. 1 crore. It is a fine example of European architecture, designed and built by Sir Michael Filose. A combination of architectural styles, the first storey is Tuscan, the second Italian-Doric and the third Corinthian. The area of the Jai Vilas palace is 12,40,771 square feet and it is particularly famous for its large Durbar Hall. The interior of the Durbar Hall is decorated with gilt and gold furnishings and adorned with a huge carpet and gigantic chandeliers. It is 100 feet long, 50 feet wide and 41 feet in height.
Furniture: The Jai Vilas Palace Museum has a large collection of variety of furniture; namely, French, English, Malabar, Oriental and crystal. These were also made in India in the past patronized by the Scindias. The Scindias were fond of travelling, and during their visits to western countries they collected variety of furniture and artefacts for their personal use and for the Jai Vilas palace, some of which can be seen in the museum.
Carriage: There is a saying that ‘royalty is well defined through carriages’. The size, design and material used in making of the carriages were largely depended on their usage and purpose. Silver buggy, silver chariot, royal palanquins, open palanquins, gifted carriages, hunting haudahs and modern vehicles are some of the main collections that are displayed in the museum.
Paintings: Raja Man Singh Tomar was a great patron of art, therefore during his reign a school of miniature paintings had flourished in Gwalior. In the miniature segment, the museum has artefacts of aforesaid school and also Maratha style paintings made in Gwalior. In western art oil paintings, tondos and 3-D paintings are also valuable which were collected by the royal family from time to time.
Prints: Lithographs of Napoleon and Tipu Sultan are some of the rarest collections of the Scindias that are displayed in the museum. In addition, valuable patent-coloured-prints of western art works, collected by the royal family, make their collection rich. Some of these are displayed in the museum.
Sculptures: Sculptures from 2nd Century BCE to 20th Century CE are kept in the museum. Sandstone sculptures were acquired from the Gwalior Fort which belonged to the Tomars. Apart from this, marble sculptures form the West and patent replicas of the masterpieces collected by the royal family make the collection multifaceted.
Decorative Art: The museum has a vast collection of decorative arts from 19th to 21st Century. It includes ivory, metal, glass, crystal, ceramic, wood and stone. Silver and ivory are considered pious, and hence these were used for photo frames. In addition ceramic decorative plates, crystal and silver crockery, make the collection rich and unique.
Textile: The chanderi fabric has always been exclusive among the different textiles of India because of its sheer texture and light weight. It was preferred by the Mughals, and in early 20th Century CE the chanderi fabric was patronised by the Royal family of Gwalior. Since then it has become the royal fabric of Scindias. In the Museum one can see the authentic chanderi saree of cotton with gold border.
Library: The library consists of more than 7000 books related not just to the Scindias and their history, but also various subjects such as art, design, science, literature, philosophy, religion, archaeology, social science and museology. There are several rare books in the collection that were printed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. These range from volumeson the Darbar policy of Gwalior state to the complete works of the French Enlightenment writer, Voltaire.The museum plans to continually expand its collection of books, journals, and archival records, in order to enhance its collection. Our goal is to become a centre of research on Gwalior, the Scindias and the Marathas.
The museum library is open to researchers and students on a by-appointment basis.