Handing Over 1954-2001

Unfortunately, R. K. Jalan’s unstoppable passion and failure of business eventually led the family to bankruptcy. In order to pay off the better part of his debts, the family was left with only two options: either to sell the whole collection, or to sell off other personal assets. At the beginning of 1954 R. K. Jalan found himself turning to his daughter-in-law Satya Bhama Jalan, and it must have been the first time that he approached his daughter-in-law directly, to ask her to help the family at such a crisis. When R. K. Jalan explained his dilemma, she said nothing, but wordlessly brought out the caskets containing her jewellery; and it was decided that the jewellery would be sold. This she did without expecting anything in return, but to her surprise, her father-in-law signed over to whole collection to her, in a letter signed by the three generations: himself, her husband Hira Lal Jalan, and her eldest son.

Satya Bhama Jalan, daughter-in-law of R. K. Jalan and inheritor of the Jalan collection, photographed by Don McCullin in 1988 with her granddaughters Mahima Jalan (left) and Purvi Jalan (right)

After the death of R. K. Jalan, later in that same year of 1954, Satya Bhama Jalan became the sole owner of the main portion of the collection, and upon her own death in the year 2001 this was passed on to her two sons Bal Manohar Jalan and Giriraj Manohar Jalan and her grandson Nikhil Jalan (son of late Shyam Manohar Jalan).

This is not to mention the many and sundry small items that were offered, most prolifically by R. K. Jalan himself, as gifts to Quila House guests, in souvenir of their visit. These gifts have now become heirlooms in their own right in the recipients’ families, and are brought out and fondly reminisced over whenever a Jalan should come to call.

One of the textile antiques from the Jalan collection: a Mughal-era patka

Many pieces originally belonging to the Jalan collection have, for a variety of reasons, found their way to other museums. The first such instance was, of course, that memorable incident with the Egyptian mummies. Others have gone on loan to temporary or permanent exhibitions elsewhere, for instance, almost 100 pieces went on loan to an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 1947.

The National Museum, in particular, has its own “Jalan Collection”. The first President of India, Dr Rajendra Prasad, made a personal request to the Jalan family to have their collection of ancient Indian gold and silver coins in the Museum. This was at the time when the family were grappling with Dewan Bahadur’s debts, and partly to pay them, and partly to satisfy Prasad’s request, the coins were sold to the National Museum.

Several textile pieces from the Jalan collection are also on display in the Calico Museum in Ahmedabad. This includes Emperor Shah Jahan’s tent, which is considered one of the museum’s highlights.

Quila House and the Jalan collection