Aina Mahal – Bhuj

Since we were not able to visit Aina Mahal on our second day in Bhuj, we did so on the last day of our trip to Bhuj. We went there during the morning and luckily, Aina Mahal was open that day. The Aina Mahal of Bhuj is a living museum of art, music and architecture, showcasing some of the best artisan skills of 18th century India. While it could do with a little more maintenance, the small palace transports you back in time, as you walk through its various halls, checking out a whole range of artifacts and collectibles. There was everything from chariots and exquisite hand carved doors, to wedding cards and Belgian glass chandeliers.

We bought our tickets at the entrance and started to walk along a clearly marked path to learn about the various artifacts. First up was a chariot and a palanquin. The palanquin looked so big and heavy that it must have needed a group of men to lift it with the king sitting inside.

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            (ticket window at the entrance of Aina Mahal)

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                                      (old chariot which looked like it could have been used for racing)

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                                                                      (a palanquin of the royal family)

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                                                   (not sure what this was, it was next to the chariots)

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                                                                (a weighing scale used by the royal family)

One interesting piece in the hall was a clock showing the lunar calendar. This artifact is believed to be one of the first pendulum clocks which works according to the Hindu calendar. As we walked further, we entered the Fuvara Mahal or the entertainment room. This room housed chandeliers and lamps that were filled with coloured water (18th century version of coloured LEDs). The Fuvara Mahal also had various classical Indian musical instruments. One can only imagine how amazing the ambience would have been with all the lamps and chandeliers lit during the evenings and performers serenading the room with music and dance.

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                    (a clock showing the lunar calendar)

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                                                              (the entertainment room in Fuvara Mahal)

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                  (the first of many exquisite door carvings)

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                                                                       (the history of Aina Mahal, Bhuj)

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                                                           (a colourful table and beautiful blue floor)

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                                                                        (chandeliers in one of the halls)

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                           (beautiful hand carved door)

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                                   (that was made of gold)

Next up was the Hira Mahal, or the bedroom. This was perhaps the most opulent of all the rooms in the palace. There were gold carvings on the ceilings and expensive glass and marble items all throughout the room. An interesting item here was an ancient Indian board game called Pachisi. Apparently king Lakhpatji was an avid Pachisi player.

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                                                                     (gold flowers carved on the ceiling)

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                                      (Hira Mahal or bedroom with a Pachisi game seen in bottom right)

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                                                            (sheesha pipe and some precious lamps)

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                                                                     (gold carvings and marble sculptures)

After we left Hira Mahal, we walked past door after door, each one more exquisite than the other. One of the doors had intricate ivory carvings. Though illegal to use in today’s time, ivory was a common material used for expensive artwork in the 18th and 19th century India. Some of the doors not only had beautiful hand painted designs, but they were also very colourful. The colour had somehow managed to not deteriorate over time, and it still looked quite amazing.

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                          (hand carved design on a door)

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                                       (ivory carved door)

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                                                    (coloured light slipping through the coloured glass)

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                                        (designer floor)

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                             (beautifully decorated door)

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                              (colourful hand carved door)

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       (lovely bright red and green coloured design on a door)

We finished seeing all of Aina Mahal in about 75 minutes. While not very well maintained, Aina Mahal is a good destination to immerse yourself in the history of the royal family and experience (to some extent) what it would have been like to live in the Aina Mahal in the 18th century. This palace is definitely recommended if you are visiting Prag Mahal. Please note that Aina Mahal remains closed on Thursdays.

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