Pragmahal though bigger and grander is a poor cousin to the rich and charming Aaina Mahal. Where Aaina Mahal is all about fun and frolic, Pragmahal is serious business. It is made in the Italian Gothic style with Rajasthani Sandstone and Italian marble – so one can see strong essence of both Indian and European style. The entire buildings I made of huge rooms with tall ceilings and many doors adored with colourful stain glass windows.
One door after another leads you to one grand room after another. The 2001 earthquake and 2006 burglary are not a scratch on the grand entrance and the doors of this palace, beautifully fitting into the historic majestic structure. The stone carvings and designs are luminous and colourful at places.
But the cracks and crumbling plaster of the walls make shift haphazard furniture arrangements, cloudy mirrors, decaying taxidermy, oversized metal cookware, torn and faded heritage paintings, shaky palanquins make you feel that nothing is being done to save the precious history of the nation.
The sunlight seeping through stain glass and jali windows lend a subtle elegance to the corridors and pillars - which stand silent and strong witnessing the ruin of the present as they did the past.
If you are visiting Rann of Kutch then it is advisable to stay in the city of Bhuj and visit Prag Mahal, Aaina Mahal, Chhatardis and Vijay Vilas Palace for heritage viewing. Try to explore the small markets and streets of Bhuj and Mandawi too – you never know what you find. Most of the houses and structures are over 100 years old and you feel you are time travelling to the 1800s. The Gujarat tourism campaign highlights Rann and not Bhuj when it talks about Kutch area. Food for thought - the potential beauty of this city is only covered with a thin layer of dirt, and little polishing and effort will really bring the shining glory back of this place.