The Aina Mahal palace, or “Hall of Mirrors” was built during the flamboyant rule of Lakhpatji in the middle of the 18th century. Master craftsman Ramsinh Malam, who trained as an artisan for 17 years in Europe, felt unappreciated by lesser rulers in the area, so he went to the royal court at Bhuj and appealed to the king for work, who commissioned this palace. Malam designed it in a mixed Indo-European style and set about creating the materials for the palace locally. He established a glass factory at Mandvi, forged cannons in an iron foundry and manufactured china tiles in a factory in Bhuj. It seems Gandhiji’s ideal of swadeshi had an early proponent in Ramsinh Malam. He personally crafted the fountains, mirrors and glasswork, as well as many other wonders of artisanship—a pendulum clock in sync with the Hindu calendar, doors inlaid with gold and ivory… come visit to find out the rest.
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.
Situated at the northeast corner of Hamirsar Lake.
Time : 9:00 am to 12:00 am
3:00 pm to 6:00
Closed : Thursday
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; Sahjanand Travels and Patel Travels are two recommended ones. There are also private sitting (non-sleeper) buses, and ST (State Transport) buses that make the trip for less money but considerably less comfortable seats. 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 rail: 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.