: Kachchh, Gujarat.
Hall of Mirrors. mahal) Bhuj.
The last ruler of Kutch Maharao Madansinhji established the "Maharao of Kutch Aina Mahal Trust on 1st January, 1977. Aina Mahal means a mirror palace. It was created by the artists Ramsinh & Gaidhar Devshi in the period of Maharao Lakhpatji (1752-61).
In 1757, Rao Lakhpatji visited the emperor Alamgir in Delhi. He was graced with the title of Mahi Maratib. He welcomed foreigners in his court. Fortune brought him a man named Ramsingh malam who specialized in Kutchi architecture, enamel work, jewellery, tile work and interior decoration.
The great master piece of Ramsingh is the Hall of Mirrors in the Aina Mahal. The walls are white marble covered with mirror which are separated by gilded ornaments. The hall is lit by elaborate pendant candelabra with shades of Venetian glass. The hall of mirrors is on the second floor of the Aina Mahal but Ramsingh devised ingenious pumps and siphons to raise up water to fill the pleasure pool and to operate fountains which cast spray in an intricate variety of patterns charming the eye and cooling the air.
The small state apartment, carpeted with exquisite Kutchi silk embroidery, its walls paneled high with the same priceless fabrics still contains Maharao Lakhpatji's bed. The hall is filled with a miscellaneous collection of objects; a Dutch Clock, English and French celestial globes, some antique pictures, mechanical toys, glass and china. On the walls of the corridor are a variety of pictures, some European and many Indian. The Aina Mahal alone cost eight million kories and was only one of the many enterprises which the Maharao and Ramsingh undertook together.
HALL OF MIRRORS
The real attraction here, though, is the Hall of Mirrors, created by the master artisan, Ram Singh Malam, under the patronage of his poet-ruler, Maharao Shri Lakhpatji around the middle of the 18th century.
A blend of Indian and European artistry (Ram Singh acquired, his skills in Europe), the walls of the great hall are of white marble covered by mirrors separated by gilded ornaments, lighting being provided by elaborate candelabra, with shades of Venetian glass. It has a platform above it surrounded by a series of fountains operated by an elaborated system of pumps below a Venetian chandelier.
Another remarkable feature is the pleasure pool, in the middle of which rises a square platform where the Maharao composed his poems and gave encouragement to the classical arts of dancing girls, bards and musicians.
Maharao Madansinhji Museum
The entrance to the palace houses the tourist office, and this is also the site of the museum, which has a varied collection of paintings, photos and embroideries. There is a 15m long scroll depicting the Royal Procession of Maharao Shri Pragmalji Bahadur (1838-75).
Prag Mahal (New Palace): Across the courtyard from the Aina Mahal is the new palace, an ornate Italianate marble and sandstone building, which was constructed in the latter part of the l9th century. Parts of it are now used for government quarters.
This palace is well worth half a day, and is open daily except Saturday from 9 am to 11.45 am and 3 pm to 5.45 pm. Entry fee is Rs 3 and photography is prohibited.
HOW TO GET THERE
Various domestic airlines are available connecting Ahmedabad and Mumbai .
Direct trains between Bhuj-Ahmedabad on meter gauge line and Mumbai (Bombay) on the broad gauge line from Gandhidham.
State transport buses and private luxury coaches connect various centres of Gujarat. Bhuj is connected by state highway upto Bhachau to Ahmedabad by National Highway # 8A (310 Kms).