Literally meaning the Hall of Mirrors’, the Aina Mahal was built in 1761 by the flamboyant Lakhpatiji or Rao Lakhpatji, the ruler of the Princely State of Cutch between 1741 to 1752. It is said that the Maharao had a dream of palace made of marble and glass. However, there was no person who could make this dream a reality.
Then, one day, Ramsinh Malam came to Lakhpatiji’s court. The Maharao asked him to make his dream come true. Therefore, assisted by the mistris of Kutch, Malam built the Aina palace on the banks of the Hamirsar Lake.
Designed in the Indo-European style, the palace walls have gold lace and glass inlaid on them. The walls also are made of white marble and covered with mirrors, thus earning the name Aina Mahal. Gilded ornaments made from Venetian glass separate the mirrors. The Palace is dotted with huge carved doorways, elaborate window boxes and exquisite balconies.
The 2001 earthquake damaged a large portion of the palace. Some portion could be salvaged such as the bedroom, the music room and the courtroom. These have been restored and converted into a museum housing painting, arts, arms, the royal palanquin and many other artefacts.
Ramsinh Malam was a sailor, who during one of his trips lost his way in a storm only to be rescued by a Dutch boat. He stayed on and trained as an artisan in Europe for over seventeen years. However, he was unable to find fulfilling work there. So, he returned to Kutch in search of work when the Maharao gave him the palace to construct.
To bring to reality his unique work, Malam had to create most of the materials locally. He set up a glass-manufacturing unit in Mandvi, made china tiles in Bhuj and set a foundry too. He trained the local mistris of Kutch in the European styles such as glass blowing, clock making, gun casting and tilework. He oversaw the crafting of the mirrors and the glasswork and the fountains too. The palace is filled with his touch, be it a pendulum clock in sync with the Hindu calendar or the doors inlaid with gold and ivory.
Even to date Malam is known as the Sinbad of Gujarat and his songs dot the local folklore.
The locals can only tell the stories of love. Stories of kings, queens and their lives. In addition to that, to hear more of the stories, be sure to interact with the caretakers as you stroll through the palace. You will not find a better guide.