We met a fellow motorcycle traveller here. He had been on the road for nearly 6 months! The bike looked well equipped for all contingencies.
Time is always at a premium during the stay here. So many things to see and to do. So one has to be selective in their choices!
The food in the City is served in a huge hall. Excellent dishes, but pure vegetarian (unfortunately for the non-veggies). It was always a 5-Star spread for all meals. It took the first meal we had to realise that Gujarati traditional dishes are heavy! They required an extra "mile" for digestion. Preparing meals for the whole City would not be an easy task, but was again managed very well.
The traffic-free streets of the Tent City provided ample opportunity to walk past beautifully illuminated buildings at night.
The White Desert is only a short drive by bus from the Tent City. The narrow road to this destination was jammed with tourist buses and taxis as dusk approached. It actually took us over half an hour to cover a few kilometres! But the patience was amply rewarded once we could see the splendour of the desert stretching in front of us.
On the bus for sightseeing in and around Bhuj.
The approach to Pryagmahal Palace had numerous buildings which still showed the after effects of the massive earthquake of 2001. Beautiful architecture destroyed, but surprisingly survived the 7.9M shocks which nearly flattened the town, leaving nearly 19,000 dead and 167,000 injured! A tribute to the design of these buildings.
Next door to the Aina Mahal, in the same walled compound, is the giant Prag Mahal, which may at first seem slightly out of place at the far western edge of India, looking more appropriate in France. But then again, globalization is not a new phenomenon.
Prag Mahal is named after Rao Pragmalji II, who commissioned it and construction began in 1865. It was designed by Colonel Henry Saint Wilkins in the Italian Gothic style, and many Italian artisans were involved in its construction. The palace artisans' wages were paid in gold coins. Construction of the palace, which ultimately cost 3.1 million rupees, was completed in 1879 during the regency of Khengarji III (Pragmalji II's son) following Pragmalji II's death in 1875. The local Kutchi builder community (Mistris of Kutch) were also involved in the construction of the palace.
The 2001 Gujarat earthquake severely damaged the palace. In 2006, the palace was burgled, with thieves stealing antiques worth millions of rupees and damaging other items throughout the palace. Today, the palace is in a "ghostly", "forlorn" state. However, the palace and the tower have been repaired, after Amitabh Bachhan took personal interest in restoration of palace. Its tower and clock have been repaired and are now open for public viewing.
The cracks on the turrets are huge and clearly seen from below.
The visible effects of the earthquake.
The 54-foot Clock Tower.
Aina Mahal (or Palace of Mirrors) is an 18th-century palace in Bhuj, Gujarat, India. It is located next to the Prag Mahal. It was built by Rao Lakhpatji in 1761. The chief architect and designer of Aina Mahal was Ram Singh Malam, who was assisted by local builder community (Mistris of Kutch) in construction. It was constructed with marble walls adorned with gold lace and glass. The walls of the palace are of white marble covered with mirrors separated by gilded ornaments with shades of Venetian glass.
The palace was damaged in the 2001 Gujarat earthquake. However, a portion of the palace which was not so badly damaged has been restored and it houses the museum, displaying the bed room, music room, court room and other old pieces of arts, paintings, arms, palanquin etc.
Some exhibits displayed inside the Aina Mahal. Priceless, but in dire need of being looked after. Its a crying shame how they are being managed, with dust settling on most items and no sign of any restoration work to ensure preservation for the future.
This exhibit shows the ornate palanquin used by the Maharaja.
The personal sword collection of the Maharaja
Numerous games and dice. Most modern board games seem to be copies of these ancient Indian games of chance or skill.
Beautifully inlaid ceilings and Belgian chandeliers were everywhere.
A painting of the famous Baji Mastani of the Peshwa Court at Pune.
A vast collection of ornately carved mirrors.
An exquisite door inlaid with ivory.
A request from the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, asking for loan of the ivory-inlaid door.
The well-appointed Music Room for the Maharaja's enjoyment.
A chariot for transporting the royal family members.
The traditional welcoming puppets
Exquisitely handcrafted dolls and animal toys
The huge indigo blue peacock adorned one of the side panels
Richa in the company of a Guinness Book of World Record holder who excelled in making the cloth pigeon from a bedsheet-size linen, while swirling around all the while!
Folk song artists entertaining the crowds
Bharatnatyam dance troupe performing.
Dances in a swirl of bright colours!
A scene from the African jungles.
Visit to the Hiralakshmi Memorial Craft Park, Bhujodi.
Hiralaxmi Craft Park is the brainchild of Mr. Chetan Shah, Managing Director of Ashapura Group. The seeds of this idea were sown when a delegation of rural artisans was invited to the Ashapura guesthouse to demonstrate their art and artifacts. During his discussions with the artisans, Mr. Shah realized that many of these treasured arts were on the verge of extinction. This was primarily due to lack of an organized forum to exhibit their artifacts and financial support.
Thus, the Hiralaxmi Craft Park was born. Hiralaxmi Craft Park complex is situated at Bhujodi village in Kutch and is spread over 10 acres of land. The park is accessible to the general public free of cost since its opening on December 18, 2005. Apart from a well established and organized forum to display and sell their wares, the artisans are provided with meals, boarding, lodging at free of cost and a daily stipend during their stay at the craft park.