Aina Mahal The Mirrored Palace of Bhuj

Aina Mahal: The Mirrored Palace of Bhuj

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Founded by Rao Hamir in 1510, the splendid city of Bhuj is a treasure trove of culture, grandeur and tradition. The place possesses a unique charm that can instantly make anyone fall in love with it.

Known for its meandering streets, frolic environment, holy temples, and traditional handicrafts and embroidery market, it is home to some of the most magnificent palaces in India.

Of the several places to visit in Bhuj, Aina or Aaina Mahal is one such attraction that demonstrates and validates the fact that the city of Bhuj has proudly preserved the traces of the bygone era. Also known as the Mirrored Palace of Bhuj, Aina Mahal has many untold stories buried in its grand structure that are yet to be explored

1. The History of Aina Mahal

Maharao Lakpatji built the glorious Aaina Mahal in the year 1750. At that time, the construction of this regal palace incurred a cost of 8 million (80 lakh) koris or about ₹20 lakh, which was equivalent to the state’s revenue of three years of that time. An Englishwoman named Mrs Postnas visited Aina Mahal in 1830 and mentioned her first-hand experience of this spectacular palace in her memoir, Cutch (1839). She covered and cited several interesting details, describing the unique beauty of the palace from the inside. In 1977, the government converted the palace into a museum. Aina Mahal endured the catastrophic earthquake in 2001 that shook the entire state of Gujarat and caused a tremendous loss of life and property. Later on, restoration was undertaken and it is now being looked after by the Aina Mahal Trust in Bhuj.

2. Architectural Style

Having stood the test of time, Aina Mahal still retains its charm. This magnificent structure is a perfect specimen of Indo-European architectural style and depicts the architectural excellence of the past era. Today, Aaina Mahal is one of the reasons behind the proud identity of Bhuj. Ram Singh Malam was the chief architect of the palace. He lived in Europe for 18 years and this is where he learned and mastered several European craft and architecture skills. Speaking of its architecture in detail, it is a two-storey palace that is constructed in local style and decorated in European style. While the exterior is whitewashed, the major components of construction comprise stones with beautiful carvings on them and wood fretwork. Blue delftware tiles make the floors of this palace breathtakingly grand and beautiful. The walls made of marble are adorned with mirrors that righteously clarify why it is called ‘The Mirrored Palace of Bhuj’. Besides, the fitted shelves with glassware and ceramics on display and the use of gilded frames on the walls to separate mirrors further enhance the beauty of this Bhuj Mahal. The provision of illuminating the rooms with hanging candelabra and chandeliers (with a tint of Venetian glass) exhibits a royal vibe and reveals a lot about the lifestyle and persona of the long-gone royal families. Apart from the rooms, the roofs and pillars of this Bhuj Mahal are ornamented with golden mouldings and empty spaces are garnered with triangular mirror compartments.

3. The Layout of Aina Mahal

As it is a two-storey mansion, the first floor of Aaina Mahal has the State Apartments, the Pleasure Hall, the Hall of Mirrors, and the Audience Hall. The second floor of this Bhuj Mahal has the Marriage Hall, the antechamber, and the Darbar (Court).

3.1 First Floor

On the first floor of this majestic palace, one notices a beautiful collection of paintings of that era. Besides, the collection available on this floor includes glassware, ceramics, chiming clocks, celestial globes, palanquins, furniture pieces, costumes, mechanical clocks, and more, all belonging to that time. Further, it is broadly divided into Hira Mahal and Fuvara Mahal. The Hira Mahal (royal bed-chamber) occupies the centre of the first floor and lies at the very next of the reception and Hall of Mirrors. The place is known for Maharao Lakhpatji’s bed which used to be purchased with state funds and auctioned after a year of use, right before ordering the new one. The floor and walls enclosing the Hira Mahal are blanketed by the fabric of Kutchi silk, with aari embroidery while the doors, ceilings, and pillars are veiled with brilliant guilt wood carvings and mirror work. The Fuvara Mahal or Pleasure Hall lies adjacent to the Hira Mahal. True to its name, it was a pleasure pool with a raised, square platform in the centre and can be reached out via narrow aisles on three sides. Pillars surrounding the pool are embellished with Chinese-style carvings. For illumination, the chamber has hanging candelabra which again transpires Chinese-influenced glass paintings. In the centre of the platform lies the throne which is surrounded by water sprays or Fuvara. Interestingly, Maharao used to conduct his courts in the Fuvara Mahal itself.

3.2 Second Floor

The staircase on the outside connects the two floors, and it is this place (Darbar) where the main courts were conducted. The antechamber displays royal decrees issued between the years 1617-1658 by Mughal rulers Shah Jahan, Jahangir, and Dara Shikoh mainly addressing the ruler Rao Tamachi who ruled between 1655-1666. In the centre of the court hall exists a silver throne with guilt wooden chairs. The walls of this floor display several weapons and there is also a marriage hall that was built in 1884. Interestingly, one of the many doors of the Bhuj Mahal is bedecked with ivory and gold that incurred the cost of 400 koris and was built by a carpenter named, Madho in the year 1708.

4. Timings to Visit Aina Mahal

The timings for Aina Mahal in Bhuj are 9 am to 12 noon and 3 pm to 6 pm. Since the palace is open all days of the week except Thursday. So, there is nothing to be worried about the timings to visit Aina Mahal in Bhuj. The maximum duration allowed for the visit is 2 hours. Do not miss to take your camera along to capture the splendour of this palace that once witnessed the grandeur of several royal personalities.

We hope this uncovers the best details of Aina Mahal which is a major highlight of most Bhuj tour packages. Go and experience this wonderful place!

Bhuj, Heritage Tours

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