These monuments are located in the heart of Bhuj town. They are adjescent to each other and privately managed monuments. The current ticket price is Rs 40 per pax and camera ticket of Rs 50 per unit. Both these monuments have apparently bore the brunt of damage during the 2001 earthquake and were renovated with the help of the Iconic Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachachan. He was able to canvass and garner funds for the renovation undertaken.
Parag mahal was designed by Col Henry Wilkins in an Italian Gothic model. He employed many Italian artisans to complete the monument, and being firangis they demanded to be compensated in Gold coins. The construction was begun in 1865 and completed in 1879 during the reign of Khengarji III, after the death of Paragmalji in 1875.
Durbar hall is the best portion of the palace with a huge hall endowed with plenty of windows and ventilation. The huge arched teak wood doors decorated with stained glasses gives a rich look. The hall is well decorated with Chandeliers, wall fittings of hunted animals such as deers and paintings with seating arrangement for the dignitories and visitors. Statues of angels and messengers of god are embedded on the pillars. There is dummy of Lioness too adoring the showcase in one corner of the durbar hall.
The balcony on one side is open terraced with a watch tower and a bell tower embedded in them. One can have a complete view of the Bhuj Township around Harmisar lake and surroundings. One has to climb 28 spiral staircase to reach the upper deck of the tower. Overall Parag Mahal is a unique monument considering that it was built at a time when there sufficient unrest and it costed over 30 lakhs due to cost over-run in 14 years.
After the 2001 earthquake damage the Palace was robbed by antique hunters in 2006 who pulled of a heist and damaged many antique items stored in the palace. The palace wore a ghostly look till it was resurrected after Amitabh Bachchan took personal initiative.
When Lakhpatji was a prince ( 1707 -1761 ) he developed a passion for music and dance. He visited the moghul emperors court on the invite of Emperor Muhammed Shah and was impressed by their luxurious life style. He enjoyed the private Muzras arranged in his tent for a nightcap literally. He was escorted back to Kutch with two courtesans from the Moghul darbar as a mark of friendship. This inspired him to build a similar palace for pleasure in Aina Mahal.
Ramsingh Malam was engaged as an architect who had returned from Europe learning all the latest technique in architectural designing. As soon as Lakhpat ascended the throne in 1741 he commissioned the Aina Maha and it took almost a decade to complete the same in 1752 when he was official declared a king.
Aina Mahal being a palace for pleasure had plenty of mirror work in the form of chandeliers, stained windows, pillars decorated with glass work, roofs decorated with mirrors, plenty of wall mirrors were installed to give a glamourous look to the corridors. The earthquake took its toll in damaging half the building and only the second half of the structure is resurrected.
Some of the important items on display in the current museum at Aina Mahal are :
Maharao’s Horoscope :
Every ruler in Kutch believed in drawing up their own horoscope. Maharao Pragmalji’s II horoscope was drawn up in 1839 which spreads over 127 feet in length being considered as the longest handwritten horoscope in the world. Only portion of the horoscope are displayed on the façade of the palace walls in Aina Mahal.
Nagapanchmi Scroll :
This scroll which spread over 47 feet long depicts the procession of Maharao Pragmalji ( 1838-76 ) on the occasion of Nagapanchmi ( festival of snakes ) The procession used to commence with the king riding a horse drawn carriage from Aina mahal and terminate at the Burjio ( fortress of Bhuj ). It was finished using organic materials and natural dyes by Juma Ibrahim in 1876.
Hira Mahal :
An opulent bedroom was designed for the royalty by the architect. The four legs of the cot were made of gold. A gold plated mirror painting of the king was hung on the walls of the bedroom along mirorrs on all sides. Chandeliers provided lighting and wall panels and other decorations were hung on the wall. A diamond studded sword and shield presented by the Moghul emperor too finds a place on the bedroom wall. It is alleged that the design of bedroom was such that a single light would shine through entire room due to multiple reflections.
Darbar Hall :
A well lit up room with ventilation was built for the king to hold meetings with visitors and noblemen of Kutch. The king was seated in the centre of the durbar hall with visitors sitting in a straight row on the left and right hand side in front of him. The seats were designated as it were reserved for respective jagirdars, it was left empty if they were absent. Current arrangement is from the british period, earlier it was diwan type of arrangement.
Fuvara Mahal :
It was an entertainment room with dance and music flowing to entertain the guests of the King. It was well decorated with Chandeliors, windscreens, wall mirrors and curtains. The lighting effect with stained glass added to the passionate atmosphere.
Aina Mahal :
It was a room filled with mirror work which was dream come true of Lakhpatji in 1951 when it was completed. The design was inspired by European and blended with Kutchi artwork.
The other rooms were designed for marriage and visitors room. Thus a palace for luxury was conceived and executed by the architect Ramsinh Malam.
Overall a visit to both the monuments is a must for tourists in order to soak in the luxurious lifestyle of the Rao’s. They did not want to be left behind in terms of grandeur and pompous lifestyle followed by the Moghuls. These monuments are symbol of their success and prosperity.
Ack : 2 photos from Aina Mahal official website.