India is a country with rich history and a cultural heritage that sets it apart. There are visuals of the bygone era that can still be seen in many parts of the country. One of the standout reminders are the palaces of the historical rulers. In their architecture and design, you can see glorious craftsmanship. Here are 5 mirror palaces in India that exemplify that craftsmanship.
1. Sheesh Mahal (Amber Fort), Amber- Rajasthan
Built by Raja Man Singh in the 16th century, Amber Fort is one of the most popular destinations near Jaipur and home to probably the most famous mirror palace in the country. Its architecture is an inspiration on its own. The Sheesh Mahal or the Palace of Mirrors is filled with scintillating work on colored glass that is convex in shape. The shape of the glasses reflects the light in such a way that the morning rays of the sun form an image of elegance. The intricate works make you wonder about the thought process that went into making something so beautiful. It is a special highlight of the Amber Fort and a reminder of the ways of the Royals.
2. Sheesh Mahal (City Palace), Udaipur- Rajasthan
The sheer opulence that this palace depicts just overcomes your thought as you enter the palace complex. A famous tourist attraction of Udaipur, it stands tall overlooking lake Pichola. The architectural style of the palace has been described as a blend of many. It was originally built in the 16th century and the palace is considered one of the largest in the country. Its breathtaking mirror work will truly inspire and amaze both the artist and the connoisseur inside you. The craftsmanship is so delicate that sometimes, it is impossible to believe that all of this was made by hands. The artisan’s work has stood the test of time and is a testimony to their talent.
3. Aaina Mahal (Palace of Mirrors), Bhuj- Gujarat
Commissioned by the swashbuckling ruler Rao Lakhpatji, the palace is a fruitful result of an artist’s complete dedication to his craft. The interesting thing about this palace is that everything that went into building this masterpiece were sourced locally, right here in India. From the foundries in Mandvi to the cannons in Bhuj, Ramsinh Malam, the architect of the place, put all of his 17 years of learning in this place. The glasswork is in perfect harmony with the marbles that separate them and tell an intricate story altogether. In 2001, due to the huge earthquake, parts of the palace were damaged. But, extensive restoration work has gone into restoring the beauty of the palace. It is a bittersweet tale which is very much worth exploring in Gujarat.
4. Sheesh Mahal (Mehrangarh Fort), Jodhpur- Rajasthan
One of the largest forts in the country, the Mehrangarh Fort is fortified with thick walls and stands tall on the hill watching over the city. The fort encloses within itself the Sheesh Mahal which is built in Rajputana style architecture. When you see the carvings and the work of the artisan’s, there is a hint of inspiration from the Mughal era but perfectly embodying the Rajput’s traditional values. The glass work is bigger as opposed to the intricate mosaic work with glass panels depicting many religious deities. The arch of the chamber is truly the epitome of craftsmanship. When Rudyard Kipling said “A palace that might have been built by the Titans and colored by the morning sun”, he was certainly not amiss.
5. Sheesh Mahal (Agra Fort), Agra- Uttar Pradesh
The Agra fort has witnessed the power shift of the Mughal empire. Humayun was crowned here and then he lost to Sher Shah Suri and finally, recaptured the throne in 1555. Akbar rebuilt the fort and made Agra the capital of the Mughal Empire. The Shish Mahal served as an opulent bath house and was constructed in 1637. The glass work in the Sheesh Mahal is grand on every scale and is spread across the two halls in which it is situated. Due to the thick walls of the palace, artificial lights were used to light up the complex. Each ray of light, when reflected of the high quality glass work, created an incredible effect. There is a fun fact about this Palace. It is said that the emperor used to hold secret, inner circle meetings here. So, after your visit to Agra, if you think the walls are telling a lot of stories, you might not be wrong.
The sophisticated work of the craftsmen gives the Imperial palaces a distinct character and makes the Mirror palaces literal jewels in the Fort’s crown. The glass work had both ornamental as well as logical use in the ancient times and was very well utilized and implemented. This old age artistry has added to our rich cultural heritage. Although the style might have changed, the talent and the art form still persists. The craftsmen will forever be remembered for their glorious craftsmanship.
By – Rohit Agarwal
Rohit is a guest contributor to Grassroutes blogs. He writes for Trans India Travels to share his passion of exploring the globe with others.