Friday, 11 May 2018

Awe-inspiring Aina Mahal, Bhuj - a paradigm of hybrid Kutch tradition

Naturally endowed with a long coast line, varied topography, for centuries Kutch is widely known for fine  silver-work, woodcraft and embroidery, but when it comes to architecture and painting, because of lack of publicity, they are not well appreciated by the outsiders. There are many palaces in Gujarat and in the Kutch areas, each competing  with the other one in artwork and ornamentation, that are unique to this place. These palaces are epitome of hybrid Kutch tradition. 

 The Aina Mahal, Kutch  is an 18th-century palace located next to the Prag Mahal in Bhuj, Gujarat.  Built by Rao Lakhpatji (1752 - 1761) in 1761 its chief architect was Ram Singh Malam, who was  well supported by the local builder community  (Mistris of Kutch) in the construction  work. His assistant was  one Gaidhar Devshi. The ruler Lakhpatji, was a competent administrator, poet and critic, and was as much known for his talents in his exposition  of classical music as for his bravery in battle field. As for his master craftsman Ramsingh, he  was equally versatile and had the uncanny ability to give shape to his complicated ideas. 
Aina mahal, Bhuj. pinterest.com
The palace walls made of white marble are  adorned with laced gold and glasses. The latter are separated by gilded ornament.  This old palace is transformed into a Museum, now it is a major tourist attractions in Bhuj.  The fabulously embellished  Aina Mahal is a part of the extravagant Darbargadh Palace of Bhuj, an old port city.
Aina Mahal, Bhuj. Outlook India
Though the Mogul influence was on the decline, it was still recognized as the court of honor. In 1757, Rao Lakhpatji,  on his visit to emperor Alamgir  in Delhi,  impressed on him the services rendered by the Kutch State  to the emperor and  to the Haj pilgrims embarking on their voyage at Kutch ports and also presented him with the famous breed of Kutch horses.  Very much impressed, and as a token of his appreciation, the emperor bestowed Rao Lakhpatji with the royal title and emblem of Mahi Maratib -   the premiere decoration of the House of Timur.  
 The water bodies with fountains in this palace form a variety of patterns that make the visitors drop their
Bhuj and other areas.Gujarat  Weather-Forecast.com
jaw. Ramsingh, enthusiastic as he was about  his artwork spent 18 long years in Holland and became an adept in the art and techniques of  making clocks and tiles, canon fabrication, enameling, glass - making and architecture. When he returned to India he went to Kutch.  Earlier, architect, Ramsingh Malam, was rescued by the Dutch when he was shipwrecked at the East African Coast and spent his time, learning different skills . The ruler Rao Lakhpatji  failed to recognize Ramsingh's genius, skill and ingenuity in his specialized work. Initially, he  was given, the mirror hall project by the ruler, putting trust in his ability to incorporate his knowledge and training  in various fields, besides, the  tile work and water  fountains - at Aina Mahal.  The interiors and exteriors of this palace are so well planned and decorated, it will leave the visitors spell-binding. The water bodies with fountains in this palace form a variety of patterns that make the visitors drop their jaw.  

Glass-paintings, mirrors  of all sizes every where, the effect was just overwhelming. In the bed chamber, the big bed with gold legs  are surrounded by not less than seven  outsize mirrors in Baroque-style gilt frames. About 4000 planks and countless pieces of mirror were sourced from Jaipur to make this set.  A combination of  convex and flat mirrors were used in a subtle manner to give it a 3D effect.
Aina Mahal, Bhuj. www.hindustantimes.com/
Now in bad shape. Aina mahal, Bhuj. indovacation.net

The two-story structure has a Darbar Hall, a hall of mirrors and suites. The last ones were meant for the various members of the royal family.

When architect Ramsingh, years later came back to Kutch,  Rao Lakhpatji  gave him a chance to bring out his skills and imagination. The Aina Mahal was now embellished with Venetian-style chandeliers, silver objects, clocks-all made locally under the Ramsingh’s direction.  It was a deliberate display of opulence and wealth, an envy of the Jadeja Nobles who refused to be humbled and self-effacing. Aina Mahal is also a museum and here on  display are fine local craft like scroll paintings, jewelled swords, ivory inlaid doors and paintings, including European - both portrait and landscaping. Also included are photographs, royal possessions and finest samples of the Kutch embroidery. After the earthquake, part of  Aina Mahal was in shamples. The Gujarat Government had a serious plan to repair and restore this beautiful building back to old grandeur.

https://www.indianetzone.com/20/aina_mahal_kutch.html