Darbargadh Palace, Gujarat, India
This walled complex houses three palaces from which Kachchh was once ruled. The largest is the 19th-century Prag Mahal. It’s in a sad state and most sections are closed, but it’s worth visiting for its ghostly Durbar Hall, a wonderful piece of decayed magnificence with broken chandeliers, rotting hunting trophies covered in bird droppings, and gold-skirted classical statues that wouldn’t look out of place decorating a nightclub.
The beautiful Aina Mahal, built in the 1750s, was badly damaged in the 2001 earthquake, but the 1st and 2nd floors are open again and contain a fascinating museum with excellent explanatory information in English.The palace was built for Maharao Lakhpatji by Ramsingh Malam, a sailor from Dwarka who had learned European arts and crafts on his travels. The elaborately mirrored interior is a demonstration of the maharao’s fascination with all things European – an inverted mirror of European Orientalism – with blue-and-white Delft-style tiling, a candelabra with Venetian-glass shades and the Hogarth lithograph series, The Rake’s Progress. In the bedroom is a bed with solid gold legs (the king apparently auctioned his bed annually). In the Fuvara Mahal room, fountains played around the ruler while he sat watching dancers or composing poems.
The 17th-century Rani Mahal, the former main royal residence, is completely closed up, though you can still admire the latticed windows of its zenana (women’s quarters).
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