After spending the morning in Bhuj town center, we drove to the old port city of Mandvi to spend our afternoon there. On our agenda was visiting the Vijay Vilas Palace, checking out a 400 year old ship building industry and lastly watching sunset at Mandvi beach. Since there was a lot to cover, we wasted no time and left Bhuj right after lunch. Mandvi is about 60 kms from Bhuj, and it takes about an hour to drive there.
(children waving on the highway to Mandvi)
Upon reaching the sea-side town of Mandvi, we headed straight for the Mandvi Palace (Vijay Vilas), which was in a quiet area surrounded by lots of trees of various kinds. Once near the palace, a narrow road led us to the gate of the palace complex, which had a board of the Vijay Vilas Resort, labelled “Heaven on Earth”. A portion of the palace has been converted into a hotel/resort. We weren’t staying at the resort and hence we drove past the gate and into a parking lot to park our taxi. We then walked a few feet further to reach the ticket counter of the palace. In addition to the tickets to enter Vijay Vilas, we also had to buy separate tickets for using our camera, a trend which now seems to be a common thing at many tourist attractions across India.
(road leading to the entrance of Vijay Vilas)
(price chart at the entrance of Vijay Vilas)
Once we entered the palace premises, we walked towards the palace. While walking, the first thing that struck us was the expansive space. There was a lot open space around us, with fruit trees and mangroves surrounding a large lawn area in front of the palace. The palace itself looked grand, with water fountains and interestingly, a small cannon, present in front of the building.
There is always a lot of history packed in any ancient building, and Vijay Vilas is no exception. Besides enjoying the beautiful architecture of the early 20th century building, we also walked through various rooms of the palace, each housed with various artifacts of the royal family. There were all sorts of things that we found inside, from a huge stuffed tiger to old pictures of car collections, to beautiful glass paintings and precious furniture. There was even a long banquet table which could seat more than 20 people for a meal. Walking through the palace gave us an idea of what life would be like for a member of the Royal family of Kutch.
(the magnificent Vijay Vilas also called Mandvi Palace)
(a small canon in the front yard)
(entrance of the palace)
(a long banquet table fit for a lavish royal meal)
(a lounge area overlooking a huge and beautiful backyard)
(a real tiger which was hunted and then stuffed for preservation)
(one of the many rooms inside the palace)
After immersing ourselves in a little bit of history and royalty, we climbed up a set of winding stairs to reach perhaps the best area of the palace – the terrace. The open and airy terrace provided wide views of the palace premises, and we could even see Mandvi beach in the background. Apparently, the royal family has a private beach adjoining the palace. While we were exploring the terrace, we also saw some exquisite stone carvings in various ‘Jalis’ or latticed screens. To us, the terrace seemed oddly familiar. For some reason, it reminded us (and many other people) about Bollywood. This is because a lot of Indian movies are shot at the palace and on the terrace. The most famous one is Hum Dil De Chuka Sanam.
(intricate hand carved designs)
(spiraled stairs going to the terrace)
(another piece of amazing design on the ceiling)
(view of the backyard from the terrace, surrounded by lush green land also belonging to the Royal family)
(Mandvi beach and windmills visible in the background)
(Red sandstone, marble and other expensive materials were used to construct the palace)
After walking through the palace and its terrace, we headed back down and walked around to the back of the palace. The back side of the palace had a huge backyard. It was almost like a courtyard, with a marble water fountain, a grand sitting area and a lawn (which was not very green as we went during off-season). It seemed like an ideal place to hold star-studded events such as receptions or parties.
(a sitting area in the back of the palace)
(The Vijay Vilas Palace seen from the backyard)
(a marble water fountain in the backyard)
Behind the palace, there was a small ground floor structure. Upon closer inspection, we noticed that this small building was actually the pantry of the palace. A royal kitchen needs well stocked food.
(the Pantry of the palace, where food is stored)
We were done with our palace visit in about 90 mins. It was thoroughly enjoyable and one of the highlights of our Kutch trip. I would highly recommend anybody visiting Bhuj to make this day trip to Mandvi. For us, the trip was not over yet, as we headed to our next destination – the famous Mandvi shipbuilding yard and the beach. You can read about it here.