My last visit to Gujarat State as a tourist was about 4 decades back - June 1979 to be exact. At that time, I had visited the usual tourists and religious spots like Sasan Gir, Somnath, Dwarka, Ahmedabad, Ambaji etc. At that time and also thereafter, visit to Kutchh was not in my radar. It was only during the last 10 years or so when Gujarat Tourism's well publicised 'Rann Utsav' being conducted during November-February every year became well-known, I developed interest in Kutchh as a tourist destination.
What triggered me to seriously think of making a visit to Kutchh and also its White Rann was when I saw in a photo exhibition of the tourist places in Gujarat during Saputara Monsoon Festival in August 2011. Also the Gujarat Tourism's punch line 'Kutchh nahi dekha to kuchh nahi dekha' (If you have not seen Kutchh, you have not seen anything) was motivating enough to see Kutchh as early as possible. So I planned the trip to Kutchh in the winter of 2013-14. As is often said, man proposes, God disposes. The planned trip did not materialised.
It took another three years to fructify the trip to Kutchh. My son had planned the trip to Kutchh during the Christmas vacation (December 2017). I am averse to trip to tourist places during the peak seasons such as summer school vacation, Diwali and Chirstmas vacations. But being a family trip with grand children, peak seasons are the only time slots available for them. So trip has to be well planned in advance. We booked the train tickets exactly 4 months in advance. We booked the hotels for our Bhuj and White Rann stay about 3 months in advance.
We reached Bhuj in the morning by Kutchh Express and checked into Hotel Grand 3D by 10 AM. The rooms were spacious and clean. Since most of the important tourist places in Bhuj are closed during 1.00PM to 3.00 PM, we took it easy and decided to take some rest after lunch at the Hotel's restaurant. The food was tasty and the price was reasonable.
Since Prag Mahal, Aina Mahal, Hamirsar Lake and Swaminarayan Temple, were all in the vicinity of about 2-3 kms from our Hotel, we took a full auto to drop us at Prag Mahal@Rs.70/-. Rani Mahal, Prag Mahal and Aina Mahal are adjunct to each other.
At the entrance of the Prag Mahal on the right side was a crumbled palace which is called 'Rani Mahal' (Rani Ka Vas). One can see it only from outside as it has been badly damaged during the earth quake of 2001 and hence risky to go inside the palace. From the outside, it appears that most of its rooms have become a dwelling place for pigeons. However, the palace has intricately carved jharokhas and balconies with lattice windows. It is not known as to why even after 16 years of earth quake, there is no indication of the restoration work being undertaken. Probably, Rani Palace may be beyond restoration.
The first thing that comes in front of the tourists after entering the complex is Prag Mahal. This palace which was built in Italian Gothic style during 1865-79 by the Maharaja of Kutchh was badly damaged during 2001 earth quake. The restoration work is still in progress. As such only 3-4 rooms can be visited by the tourists. The main attractions of Prag Mahal is the Darbar Hall and the Clock Tower. The spiral stair cases lead to the Clock Tower from where one can see the view of the entire Bhuj city. The spiral stairs are long and narrow. Some of the tourists may feel claustrophobic while climbing the stairs.
An unusual requirement for entering the rooms in the main palace is taking out footwear before entering the rooms on the ground floor of Prag Mahal. However, for visiting Clock Tower, one can go with the footwear.