The only inside section of the entire Palace complex that visitors are allowed to explore is the Aina Mahal Museum. The princely complex is known as The Bhuj Darbargarh. Entrance to the Aina Mahal Museum is in a large room dominated with the Maharajah’s ornately decorated camel cart, litter…View image….View image, and elephant howdah down the center. (A houdah/howdah is a carriage which is usually positioned on the back of an elephant.) It was good to be rich!
Bhuj was founded in 1548 by Rao Khengarji I who began a dynasty that ruled over Bhuj in Kutch/Kachchh, Gujarat for over 400 years. Today, most of the city palaces of the former kings of the princely kingdoms that once made up this region became obsolete or abandoned as the Maharajahs constructed new palaces out of town. Very few sections of these Princely Palaces are open to view while others have been turned into hotels.
We began walking through the 18th century Aina Mahal in one inner courtyard that had marble columns, mirrored columns…View image, and exquisite indigo floor tiles made in India by Ramsinghji Malam, the artist who also designed the Room of Mirrors. Each footstep and corner brought new views of decorated walls, ceilings…,View image….View image. There were paintings of people and royal life…View image. Miniatures, doors inlaid with ivory…View image
Kantilal, spewing information like a fountain, finally led us into what is considered the Aina Mahal highlight. The resplendent Hall of Mirrors (“Aina” means mirrors in Hindi). Small mirrors. Large Mirrors. Mirrors on columns. Mirrors inlaid into marble. And let’s not forget the gilt, Venetian glass chandelier and other “bits and bobs.”
Quite a place to put it mildly and can you just imagine what was lost in the earthquake? For example: Just one room in a still collapsed section of the Maharajah’s Darbargarh is reported to have been the library with books dating back more than 100-200 years. All these artifacts are buried under tons of debris.