While I was researching for Kutch (whatever little I could) I treated treat Bhuj as a stopover. Now that I have seen it, it is anything but a stopover. And I have seen only a little of what is there to be seen, even by touristic standards. So, here is what a full day of sightseeing at Bhuj yielded for me!
My first stop of the day was the Swaminarayan Temple. I had left the entire sightseeing in the capable hands of Mr. Siddique, the owner and the driver of the taxi I used on this trip. He took me to the temple first. In the morning the place was quiet. Its marble pillars are covered in polythene which stuck as odd to me.
After the temple I went to the local market of Bhuj and did some shopping. ‘Some’ shopping took so much time that it became lunch time. After a nice Gujarati thali in the town we headed to the Kutch Museum but unfortunately it was closed for lunch. We then decided to check out the Prag and Aina Mahal. They were also closed. I spent some time in the courtyard where I managed to capture the pigeons in flight. And it was a good thing. When I came later, the courtyard became a parking lot.
I found the Kutch Museum at Bhuj well maintained. They even had a wheelchair near the ticket window. When I asked if it could be used they said the ground floor was wheelchair accessible. The trouble was I had very little time to go through the museum. It offers a lot by the way of fabrics, people and cultural artifacts. But all I was able to do was to rush through the displays.
There was a notice in this room at Prag Mahal that ‘Lagaan‘ was shot at this location. I asked the lady caretaker posted outside this room if she got used to the view. She said yes, she was now quite used to being around this grand room! Prag Mahal was built in 19th century. Its construction was started by Pragmalji II and completed by Khengarji III.
The palace is privately managed. They charge an entry free as well as camera fee. Both combined were less than 100 rupees. And even though I visited Kutch in the peak season I found it not too crowded.
Within walking distance of Prag Mahal is Aina Mahal. The exteriors of Aina Mahal are quite deceptive. It looks like an old home from the outside. When I asked why it had such unpretentious exteriors I was told that the original exteriors were damaged in the 2001 earthquake. It is only when you walk in you realize how grand the place it. At Vijay Vilas Palace, Mandvi there were rooms where I wanted to have tea. In this corridor at Aina Mahal I wanted to sit and read a book! It had such a feminine feel to it.
About seven kilometers away from Bhuj is the village Bhujodi. Here people sell fabrics, handicrafts and such stuff from their homes. There is usually a small shop attached to every home displaying attractive dresses or handicrafts. I am not much of a shopper but I certainly went overboard at Kutch! Two shawls, two dress material (one each of both for my sister) and quite a few dresses for Chhavi and Vasu (my niece). I usually don’t shop this much. The menfolk of the household didn’t get much though!
As these kids were walking back home, I was walking back to my waiting taxi after a long day of sightseeing at Bhuj. I was heading to Khamir where I was staying for the night. The next day I was heading back home.