Once a summer palace of the royals of Kutch to beat the heat of Bhuj, it is now a full-time residence of the royal family. The Vijay Vilas palace was built near the Mandvi seashore which ensure its always windy and residents will feel comfortable during the summer. Due to cool wind from the sea and year around pleasant atmosphere the palace roof top terrace is also called Hava Mahal. Its design is an amalgam of old palace design from different regions of India with a modern architecture. This small contemporary palace is one of the best places to visit in Kutch.
The palace was built by the Maharao of Kutch “Shri Khengarji III”, as a summer resort for the use of his son, Yuvraj Shri Vijayaraji and is therefore, named after him as Vijaya Vilas Palace. The construction of the palace was completed in 1929 and was built with red sandstone. The palace is set in the middle of gardens with water channels and marble fountains. The magnificent stone carved work of the palace has been done by the various architects from the places like Rajasthan, Bengal and Saurashtra with the help of the local Kutchi artisans and carpenters. The intricate carved jaalis, balconies, murals and carvings, colored glass work and door panels, the colored glass windows and elegant stone carvings make it a wonderful palace worth visiting.
The mixture and mingling of architect and style of different regions of India, as such, can be distinctly seen in design & architect of the Vijaya Vilas Palace.
The palace is slightly away from the main road connected through a single-track access road. At the entrance, there is a payment counter where you have to pay for the entrance ticket and photography ticket, if you wish to take pictures even from mobile phone. Parking lot is next to the ticket counter and parking charge is ₹ 50 for cars. Palace is not visible from here. You have to walk a while through the sprawling palace grounds with lot of different varieties of tress along with many peacocks, before you reach this impressive red sandstone Palace.
You have to remove your footwear before entering the palace. On the ground floor there are a couple of rooms like the Living Room, Drawing Room, Dining Room, Library, etc. open for public viewing. You can view all the rooms from outside, from open windows and doors, entry inside the rooms is not allowed. There is an array of artifacts, photographs, gifts, souvenirs, furniture and hunting trophies such as stuffed tiger on display.
On the ground floor lobby, you can find all the details of the palace, its history and that of the royal family through information boards. You can also check the celebrity’s pictures who have visited the palace. The palace exterior and the rooms have been featured in the popular Bollywood movies like “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam”, “Lagaan” and the Amitabh Bachchan starrer commercial ‘Khushboo Gujarat Ki’ was also shot here.
Once you have seen all the rooms on the ground floor, head straight to the second-floor terrace. First floor of the palace is not accessible to the visitors. The real charm of the palace is on the second floor.
If you are interested in the architectural beauty of the palace then head straight to the terrace. There is nothing interesting on the ground floor. The way up to the terrace is a single track, crammed, spiral staircase. The architecture on the terrace is very impressive and a perfect spot for photography. The umbrella shaped arches and the small minarets made for an antique photo booth. During rush hours you may struggle to get a good photo opportunity since al the decent spots are occupied.
On the back side of the terrace there are two wrought-iron spiral staircase that will take you to the uppermost part, a gazebo like balcony, which offers a commanding view of the beautiful surroundings with the forest and the beach, the wind mills, the airstrip and the sea. This was my second visit, but I haven’t been there during sunset time. Only I can assume that it will be very beautiful.
After spending more than an hour in and around the palace, we return to our car. Just want to add that there is no good restaurant in the vicinity, so either come before or after lunch. The only option (best but costly) is the nearby Vijay Vilas Heritage Resort. As I remember visitors are allowed entrance on payment for a buffet lunch at their restaurant. We already had our lunch at Mandvi so we did not check this place. There is also a private beach which is accessible only to guests staying at Vijay Vilas Heritage Resort.
The palace is open every day from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Children from 6 to 11 years – ₹ 25
Person above 11 years – ₹ 50
Mobile Camera – ₹ 25, Still Camera – ₹ 50 and Video camera – ₹ 200
How to get there
Vijay Vilas Palace is 8 Kms from Mandvi. State Transport buses connects Mandvi to every corner of Gujarat. Most frequent service is available from Bhuj at about every 30 min. After reaching Mandvi, there are many shared jeeps and taxis available.