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Lakshmi Sharath

Lakshmi Sharath

Prag Mahal and Aina Mahal – Palaces of Bhuj and their stories

Posted: 16 Jan 2017 01:55 AM PST

Walking through the old capital town of Kutch, we listen to a few stories as we explore some of the places to visit in Bhuj Kutch.

It is hot and dusty. Everything looks hazy to me – from an ancient monument in front of me to a lake teeming with water birds. And then I look again closely and wonder if I am seeing a mirage. Standing tall in front of me is a huge bell tower, reaching out to 45 metres or 150 feet tall. And a palace , which looks straight out of an European old town. I am a bit surprised.

Bhuj, palaces, Prag Mahal. clock tower, places to visit in Bhuj Kutch

The clock tower in Prag Mahal is 45 feet high

I am in Bhuj, in the heart of Kutch in Gujarat and amidst the monotones of the Rann and the haze from the heat, I did not expect to find a palace built in Italian Gothic style, staring right in front of me. My auto driver tells me that this is the one of the most popular places to visit in Bhuj Kutch.

Bhuj , palaces, Prag Mahal

Built in Gothic style is the Prag Mahal

Bhuj , Prag Mahal, palaces, places to visit in Bhuj Kutch

The architecture is a blend of European and Indian styles

I am at the Prag Mahal built by Rao Pragmalji in 1838, with Corinthian pillars and carvings with jaaliwork depicting flora and fauna..  Broken chandeliers and sculptures adorn the once ornate Durbar Hall.

Bhuj , Prag Mahal, Durbar Hall, places to visit in Bhuj Kutch

The once upon a time ornate durbar hall of Prag Mahal

The style I am told is European but the materials are a fusion of Indian and Italian . Sandstone from Rajasthan is blended with Italian marble. The palace was designed by Colonel Henry Wilkins and apparently cost 31 lacs even at that time and gold coins were given to artisans.

Bhuj, Prag Mahal, clock tower, places to visit in Bhuj Kutch

Another view of the Clock Tower from where you can see all of Bhuj

This 19th century palace , one of the places to visit in Bhuj Kutch was probably one of the most ambitious monuments built by the king, but today it stands, forlorn and desolate, a victim of man and nature.

Bhuj city, skyline

View of Bhuj from Clock Tower

I climb up the bell tower and I can see all of Bhuj but what really fascinates me is another derelict monument. Retaining its grace even in its state of ruin is the Queen's Residence or Rani Ka Vas, another of the beautiful places to visit in Bhuj Kutch.

Bhuj, Prag Mahal, places to visit in Bhuj Kutch

Rani Ki Vas – view from Prag Mahal

There is a sense of lost grandeur and a touch of melancholy that echoes from these walls. Every palace and fortress in Gujarat tell a story – a tale of erstwhile glory. Imagine a time when a king commissions a palace virtually for one artist, to showcase his talents. And we are about to visit one of the most quaint places to visit in Bhuj, Kutch.

Bhuj Palace Prag Mahal, places to visit in Bhuj Kutch

One of the most beautiful structures lies absolutely desolated

Standing next to Prag Mahal is a much older palace, built in the 18th century reflecting its glorious era in the mirrors. The Aina Mahal or the palace of mirrors Is a veritable treasure trove.

Bhuj Aina Mahal palaces, places to visit in Bhuj Kutch

Door inside Aina Mahal

Built by Maharaja Rao Lakhpatji has an interesting story around it. It told the tale of a shipwrecked man called Ramsingh Malam who was rescued off the shores of Dwaraka  by a Dutch ship. He apparently went to Holland and spent a few years learning art and architecture, He eventually returned and tried to showcase his skills to the Maharaja of Kutch, Lakhpatji, and it took him a month to get audience. The king liked what he saw and he commissioned almost an entire palace for him.

Bhuj Aina Mahal, places to visit in Bhuj Kutch

Aina Mahal is a treasure trove literally

The two storeyed obscure building is actually magical the moment you step inside it. The palace must have been one of the grandest edifices in its heydays. Everywhere I look, I see mirrors and glasses of all sizes and shapes fitted in golden frames places on marble walls surrounding me. Even the bedroom of the king is filled with mirrors while the doors have carvings made of elephant tusks.

Bhuj , Aina Mahal, places to visit in Bhuj Kutch

Mirrors inside the Aina Mahal

Malam was assisted by the local architects who were called mistris. So while you had Belgium and Venetian glass ware, you also apparently had local glass sourced from Mandvi.  The king even commissioned him to set up a local glass factory and an iron foundry here. Malam who learnt all about lunar clocks in Europe brought his expertise here .  The rooms include a pleasure room, a room showcasing arts and arms amongst others. Despite its fading grandeur, it's still a visual delight.

Almost every brick of palaces in Bhuj tell a fascinating story. And if you want to hear them, then plan a trip and join the Spundana trail which takes you into the heart of Kutch. For details mail them at

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Watch this video on Top five things to do in Kutch 


The post Prag Mahal and Aina Mahal – Palaces of Bhuj and their stories appeared first on Lakshmi Sharath.

VMWare training in Chandigarh

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HappY New week!

Happy New Week!

Another cold day. (- 6C)

source: Stavanger Daily Photo

Treks and travels

Treks and travels

The massive Kumbhalgarh fort

Posted: 14 Jan 2017 08:10 PM PST

When I started planning for South Rajasthan trip, the fort of Kumbhalgarh impressed me a lot. I did some reading about Mewar history which was rich in the valour of the kings, especially the bravery of Mahrana Pratap and Rana Kumbha. I thought I would not be able to give justice by doing a day trip to Kumbhalgarh. I added two nights stay at Kumbhalgarh which effectively gave us a complete day to explore the fort.

The walls of Kumbalgarh fort and the Palace

I will put in some facts about Kumbhalgarh fort before proceeding to write my experience.
  • The fort in its present form was built by Rana Kumbha in 15th century, but it existed during Maurya age with the name of Macchindrapur but not much evidence is available.
  • Maharana Pratap was born in this fort.
  • The wall of the fort is 38 km long and considered as second longest wall after Great Wall of China.
  • It is the second largest fort in Rajasthan after Chittorgarh fort.
  • It is also declared as UNESCO sight in 2013.
  • The fort remained impregnable falling only once due to shortage of water. And it was to Akbar's forces.

The fort walls
These facts were reverberating in my mind as I entered into the fort. The first surprise was when I saw the entrance fees. It was just 15 rupees per head and photography was free!! It was a refreshing change after having paid a bomb to view the Udaipur city palace and its surroundings. 

Fort walls
As we entered into the fort through Hanuman Pol, we had two options. The path to the left climbed up to the Palace and left to the temples. Having decided to visit the Palace first, we took the path to the left. 

Kumbhalgarh Palace
It is nice to see the fort in a good condition. It may be because it was not invaded much by enemy forces. We climbed up crossing several gates. We took a slight detour to see the birth place of Maharana Pratap. 

One of the gates in Kumbhalgarh fort
At the top of the fort was Kumbla Palace. The entire fort and its surroundings was seen from the Palace. In the photo below, you can see the solid walls of the fort running on the hills and forests. It is in a good condition and one can walk on the fort for 38km and reach the same spot. Apparently, I did not see tourism of Rajasthan promoting it as trekking spot. There are lot of ruins that can be seen in the fort.

Fort walls on the hills
Below is the view of the road that leads to the fort. The hilly terrain with the solid construction of the fort would have made it impregnable. You can also see that authorities maintaining the fort very well. 

Road leading to the fort
Having spent a good amount of time at the Palace, I decided to come down. Also, the number of people had increased dramatically and I did not like the sound they were making. It was good that we had decided to visit in the morning. 

The Palace
Once I reached back to main gate, I went towards the temple complex. The important temples were Neelkanth and Parsvanath temple. The huge Shiva idol inside the temple should not be missed. Neelkanth temple is also the place where the "Light and Sound" show is held every evening. More about it in the next post.

Neelakanth Temple
Most visitors have a look at the Palace and return back. Unlike day trippers, we were staying in Kumbhalgarh and had time to spare. So, I decided to venture further into the fort. As I proceeded further, I saw two Jain temples opposite to each other. 

View of Palace from the Jain temple
From here, I decided to visit "Gole Rao group of temples" situated further down. On the way, I also saw the ruins of a temple.

The ruins on the way
Finally, I reached the "Gole Rao group of temples". While the Palace was flooded with people, I was the only one present in this temple!! Apart from couple of villagers, I had not seen any soul on the entire route. I immensely enjoyed the temporary solitude that was awarded to me!!

Gole Rao group of temples
From Gole Rao, I had seen a temple that looked nice. Though it was hot and I was dehydrated and hungry, I decided to visit before joining the family for lunch. The temple was Bawan Devri and it was another peaceful temple with only few langurs wandering around.

Bawan Devri 
The entrance to the fort is on a narrow road with a limited parking place. We had not realised it when we came to the fort in the morning. But in late afternoon when we decided to go back to our hotel for lunch, the road leading to the fort was crowded resulting in traffic jams. Even a camel was struck in the traffic jam.

Vehicles piled up to Kumbalgarh fort

Camel in traffic jam
I have visited several forts and I would rank Kumbhalgarh as one of the best forts in India. A must visit in Rajasthan. It is about 80 km from Udaipur. Though it is possible to do a day trip from Udaipur, I strongly suggest to stay for a day to explore the fort and also see "Sound and Light show". But the stay is very expensive in Kumbhalgarh as there are only high end resorts.


The Portuguese artist BORDALO II has made this huge big deers-head using just trash!
(Click on the image to enlarge.)
Todays models, are BLUE & BJØRN, both living in Stavanger. She is from Thailand, and I don't understand how she could cope so well, and also better than me, on a freezing day like today! Her friend is from Sunnmøre, further north and used to the type of weather we have here on the western coast of Norway.
Nice meeting you two!

source: Stavanger Daily Photo

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