The 250 year old Palace of Mirrors or Aaina Mahal located in the corner of Hamirsar Lake in Bhuj is nearly in shambles after the devastating earthquake of 2001. A small part of it has been restored and opened to public. In spite of being told that this palace is lost its sheen with time and may not be worth a visit, I was quite sure about a visit to Aaina Mahal. The palace built in 18th century by chief architect and craftsman Ramsinh under the patronage of Jadeja ruler Lakhpatji is an amalgamation of Indo-European styles. Though Ramsinh was heavily influenced by his nearly 2 decade (17 yrs) training in Europe on the use of glass, everything used in this palace was made locally.
The building is partially destroyed and the run down staircase led us into a hall through a small passage where the glass fitted and gold plated cannon and palanquin on display have definitely seen better days. The Hall better known as Fuvanra Mahal appeared to be the entertainment room and the musical instruments were organized all around with a marble throne in the centre, presumably for the king. The musicians would take seat on the square divan decorated with an embroidered cover. The lamps all around would be filled with water and a layer of oil that would light up the room while the vibrato and tremolo of the stringed instruments entertained the audience. The walls are complete with exquisitely carved gold plated and ivory doors interspersed with glass and mirrors. It was not shining as you would expect a palace of mirrors to be but yes some of the hanging chandeliers were testimony of the days of yore.
Next to it is the “Hira Mahal” or the state bedroom which had a huge bed standing on pure gold bed posts. The Maharajah had a penchant for luxury and he changed his bed every year which was auctioned off to the wealthiest in his state. The 27 mirrors all across the room inlaid with glass and wood work was immaculate. The bed patiently awaits its turn to be embraced in royal intimacy all over again !! On our way out, we saw a few reverse glass paintings adorning the walls- Indian scenes depicted in European Style.
Remnant of a fading glory. Keep expectations low and allow imagination to take over.
- Timings: 10-12.30pm and 3-5pm
- Entrance: Rs 20 and additional Rs 50 per camera
- Time to See: An hour or so