An old caretaker in his 80’s greeted me at the huge fortified palace gates of Pragh Mahal Bhuj the capital town of Kutch district.His attitude appeared bright and cordial similar to his bright indigo coloured uniform.The city was ravaged during the earthquake of 2001 which left the area in shambles.The small princely town draws me habitually to the courtyards of the palace which is in the catastrophic state. The ruins with massive sandstones scattered around create a great location to the viewfinder.
Maharao Pragmalji the King was inclined to architecture and his aspirations lead him to build his abode in an elaborate fashion designed by Colonel Henry Saint Wilkins.The palace is built in Italian-Gothic style, this massive structure in front of me is the prominent place of the town visited by adventurous travellers. The Corinthian pillars and carvings with flora and fauna designs in the jaali work interpret the laborious work done by the artisans of the past era without the privilege of latest tools. Broken chandeliers and sculptures embellish the once elaborated with decorative details in the Durbar Hall.The protruding sandstones on the walls and the large chunks of stones lying on the ground bear evidence to the lost Chavda dynasty which once stretched over the whole district.
With the Independence movement accompanied with a chain of other unfortunate incidents led to the doom of this palace within a very short span of time.Now it dwells eminently in the ballads and their kutchi folklore sung by legends and folk artists regarding the palace and the love stories which formerly buzzed in life within the walled forts.
Photographers who get captivated by the desolate structure with parrots and pigeons nesting within the wooden ceilings manipulate the spooky environment to capture impacting pictures.The scale through the dark winding stairs is scary and it takes you to three royal colossal bells which had centuries of authoritative significance towards the people co-ordinating to it’s time.The building, aged around 150 yrs has a ruling heir living in another country summer palace known as Vijay Villas.
The entire landscape is discomforting by a cloud of gloom and a chilling desolation, once the final rays of sunlight bids adieu there is an ambience of our movements being watched with the air of dizzying heaviness.I could partake in the fated grandeur with a touch of desperation that echoes within the premises.A legend of erstwhile magnificence now lay insignificant.
The entrance to the ruined palace
The administration building of the palace
Corridor to the Bell Tower
- Bhuj is around 335 km from Ahmedabad. It’s well connected with rest of India by road, rail and air.Luxury buses are available.
- GSRTC buses connect Bhuj to other places of Gujarat.
- Bhuj is 16 hours journey from Mumbai by train and 8 hours from Ahmedabad.
- Bhuj has an airport with regular flights connecting to major cities of India.
- Best time to visit Kutch is December to March, during Rann Utsav which is organised every year.
- Climate: The temperature falls as low as 14 degrees at night during the winters.The temperature during summer reaches as high as 50 degree Celsius.
- Bhuj and its neighbouring villages have cottage industries owning a good collection of hand embroidered clothings.
- The place is famous for it’s Bhandej(Tie and Dye) work.Fine bhandej is expensive while the bigger bhandej can be bought at a cheaper price.
- This town is famous for its block prints and ajrakh work.
- The mirror and the coin work on bedspreads quilts and dresses have been handed down from centuries.
- Silver jewellery and the ethnic collection from various tribes of kutch is available in the narrow alleys of the town.
- Pure handmade leather goods are easily available with significant patterns.
- Please do take care while buying hand embroidered materials as the demand exceeds the production, so machine embroidered materials are replacing the original craft in some areas.Check the back side of the material to know its worth.