Bhuj is set in a desert, a land so arid that there is no respite from the sun. Yet the colour of the people and their culture shines forth in many ways. The history of the land is also rife with stories of people wanting to add to the rich heritage. One such mark on the history of Bhuj is the Prag Mahal.
Legacies of a Raja
Built in the nineteenth century, the Prag Mahal is situated adjacent to the Aina Mahal, another landmark of the city. The mahal is named after Rao Pragmalji, the second. He was the ruler of the Princely State of Kutch from 1860 to 1975. He was one of the progressive rulers of the region and was responsible for implementing the system of state funded education.
Rao Pragmalji, the second, commissioned the Prag Mahal in 1865. The Mahal was designed by Colonel Henry Saint Wilkins and was constructed by the mistris of Kutch and Italian artisans.
A Gothic structure….
The mahal is built in an Italian Gothic style and, even today, seems very out of place among the traditional buildings surrounding it. The mahal is constructed entirely out of sandstone from Rajasthan and Italian marble. The fine jail work on the wall depicts European plants and animals. The chandeliers, the statues carved in classical styles and the taxidermy animals on the walls all speak of the bygone era.
… Set in Indian Settings!
Even though all European in its style, there are still Indian touches in the Mahal. The temple in its courtyard, made of marble carved with traditional motifs, is the best piece of it all. The Prag mahal also has a clock tower, which is 45-foot-tall, and accords some of the best views of the town. Rao Pragmalji, the second, did not live to see his dream being completed. His son, Khengarji, the third, completed the Prag Mahal.
Bringing back the glory
Successive earthquakes in the area have left cracks in the walls of the palace. It was lying forgotten until Amitabh Bachchan, the actor, took an avid interest in restoring the palace. The clock tower has been restored and work is on, on the other parts of the mahal.
Bollywood has used the Prag Mahal as a setting for many of its movies. Parts of the famous movies such as Hum Dil de Chuke Sanam and Lagaan, among others were filmed here.