Tremors leave Quila House shaken

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  • Published 20.09.11

Patna, Sept. 19: The tremors yesterday not only shook the confidence of the residents of the state capital, but also partialy damaged one of the architectural treasu- res of the city — the Jalan Museum.

The earthquake caused a number of cracks on the walls of Quila House that houses the museum.

Aditya Jalan, the scion of Jalan family who owns the Quila House, said: “The tremors yesterday shook the building. Later, we spotted a number of cracks on the walls. Glass covers of a number of art pieces also cracked because of the earthquake.”

Located in the heart of Patna City, one of the most congested areas in the state capital, the palatial Quila House has over 10,000 artefacts, all part of famous historic tales.

The house itself is a part of history, as it is nestled on the ramparts of what was once Sher Shah Suri’s fort. The Afghan ruler built the fort on his return from an expedition to Bengal in 1541.

The building is also home to a large private collection of artefacts.

In 1934, a destructive earthquake had severely damaged the old bungalow. The new house was designed in a different style, incorporating elements of English and Dutch architecture.

Among the artefacts on display at the house is a bed that once belonged to Napoleon III of France (the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte and his successor). There are dinner plates once used by Marie Antoinette, the French queen.

A visitor can also see swords of Mughal emperors Humayun and Akbar, and furniture that belonged to French emperors Louis XV and Louis XVI.

Late Diwan Bahadur Radhakrishna Jalan bought the Quila House (now known as Jalan House) in 1919 from the Nawab of Gaya who had fallen on bad days. The museum has a long list of VVIP visitors since the days of Pandit Nehru.

Sources said Radhakrishna Jalan’s family has put in all effort and dedication, even in times of great financial difficulty, to maintain the collection of the patriarch, who travelled across the globe for decades to pick up the priceless treasures.

However, a month ago, the family was forced to close down the museum after severe seepage of water in the 81-year-old building.

A source said an additional construction on the main building, initiated by some members of the family, had made the structure vulnerable.

The source added that a new construction had been started on the first floor of the main building, on the terrace of the museum. However, the building, which is old, cannot sustain the load of any new construction. The matter is embroiled in a litigation, said sources.

“We had to ask several senior state government officers and Patna Municipal Corporation officials to intervene as the old building would not have survived the load of such constructions. After repeated pleas, they ordered against further construction. Officials have to understand that the collection though private is also a treasure for the city and visitors take pride in marvelling at these timeless wonders in a place like Patna,” Aditya said.

A 6.9-magnitude earthquake struck at 6.11pm yesterday, killing 22 people in India and four in Nepal. It sent people rushing out of buildings from Calcutta to Delhi.

Several houses collapsed and walls developed cracks in Gangtok, the epicentre of the quake, where many tall buildings have come up recently.