Aina Mahal

The Aina Mahal in Bhuj, India, is an old Palace that was built in the 18th century. The erstwhile palace which belonged to Maharao Lakhpatji has now been transformed into a Museum that is one of the chief Tourist Attractions in Bhuj. The Aina Mahal is famous for a housing an awesome Hall of Mirrors from which the palace get its name (Aina in Hindi means mirror).

History

The Aina Mahal was constructed by Rao Lakhpatji in the year 1750. Its creator had a passion for music, art, architecture, and literature. The layout, design and decorations of Bhuj Aina Mahal were highly influenced by a royal dream that had eventually been converted into reality by an extremely deft craftsman whose name was Ramsinh Malam.

Ramsinh had learnt to master the art in Holland for 17 years. There he received training in the techniques of making clocks and tiles, canon fabrication, enameling, and architecture. When he returned to India and then went to Kutch, Rao Lakhpatji did not take time to recognize his genius and skill over the work.

Thus finding Ramsinh capable of materializing his plans and ideas, Rao Lakhpatji appointed the former to take on the mirror work, tile work and fountains at Aina Mahal.

Description

Though large in itself, the Aina Mahal is a part of an even larger palace complex. The building is two storied consisting of a Darbar Hall, a hall of mirrors, and suites belonging to the various members of the royal family.

The most distinctive feature of Aina Mahal, Bhuj that sets it apart from all other Forts and Monuments in Bhuj is the fact that it reveals a strong influence of European. Much of this owes to the fact that it was built by Ramsinh who had imbibed the European styles of art and architecture from his stay in Europe for 17 long years.

The Hall of Mirrors which is supposedly the prime attraction of Aina Mahal has white marble walls that are covered with mirrors and gilded ornaments. The floor of the Mirror Hall is laid with tiles with a podium above it that is surrounded by a chain of fountains. Aina Mahal large chandelier made of Venetian glass adds grandeur to the Hall.

The Aina Mahal lies in the old part of the city of Bhuj. The palace is built in a, fortified courtyard and also houses a few of the rare idols.

The Aina Mahal is at the northeast corner of Hamirsar lake, easily walkable from most of Bhuj. Anyone along the way will give you directions. Be sure to explore the rest of the compound outside the palace, with its beautiful carved doorways, elaborate window boxes and balconies. Most of the compound is in ruins, some brought down as recently as the 2001 earthquake. Poke around and explore unexpected places; don't settle for just walking into the palace museum with a ready-made experience. 

Timings:      
Open round the year     9:00am - 11:45am & 3:00pm - 5:45pm
       
Fees:      
Entry                                         Rs.10/-
Charges for Photography     Rs.30/-

Main Attractions: 

Halls of Mirror, Crafting on the walls, Hamirsar Lake

How to reach there
By Road: 

For those traveling from Ahmedabad, the bus may be more convenient than the train, though slightly more expensive. Several private companies run sleeper buses (with a full horizontal bunk), leaving the city for Bhuj between 8pm and 11pm, arriving in Bhuj between 6am and 8am the next morning. These bus companies all have their offices around Paldi in Ahmedabad. There are also private sitting (non-sleeper) buses, and ST (State Transport) buses.

Once in Bhuj, ST buses go to larger destinations around the district, private jeeps can also be rented (a good option for larger parties), and some smaller places can only be reached by chhakdas.

By Railway: 

Two daily express trains, the Bhuj Express and the Kutch Express, go from Bhuj to Ahmedabad (8hrs) and on to Mumbai (16hrs.) However, both trains pass through Ahmedabad in the middle of the night, as the schedules are designed to depart and arrive and reasonable hours from Bhuj and Mumbai, not Ahmedabad.

By Air: 

One or more flights daily connect Bhuj to Mumbai.