The Vijay Vilas Palace in Mandvi was the summer retreat for the erstwhile royal family of the princely state of Kutch. A part of the palace is now a heritage resort and a beach camp.
Vijay Vilas Palace was built by King Khengarji III for his son and heir Vijayaraji. Construction started in 1920 and was completed in 1929. The imposing palace, located at Mandvi in Gujarat’s Kutch district, was built in an Indo-European style with exquisite stonework.
The palace was built in red sandstone and structured with beautifully carved stone meshes, stunning Bengal domes boasting exquisite artwork along with coloured stain glass and stone work on the walls. The palace is set in the middle of well-laid gardens with water channels and marble fountains
A 360-degree view of the surroundings from the roof-top gives a splendid view of the horizon along with the Arabian Sea.
The palace shot to fame when Bollywood movies “Hum Dil De ChukeSanam” and “Lagaan” were shot here. It has now become a popular tourist destination. The palace also has a museum accessible to the public. Visitors can see the interiors of the palace along with the rooms and terrace.
The palace is nestled in 450 acres of lush greenery, and also has a two-km-long private beach. It has its own private sanctuary as well which is maintained in an eco-friendly manner to preserve its pristine beauty. One can see blue bulls, jackals and an occasional chinkara in the sanctuary.
During the 1940s, the Vijay Vilas Palace was the summer estate of the Maharao of Kutch. Maharao Vijay Singh would shift with his administrative staff during the summer months.
Being a summer palace, it has latticed windows, terraces and pavilions where the family could enjoy the sea breeze and the spectacular views. After the 2001 earthquake, many of the palaces of Kutch were damaged, but they were gradually restored.
The Maharaos of Kutch belong to the Jadeja Rajput clan, claiming descent from Lord Krishna. The Jadejas came to Kutch from Sindh and became rulers of the region under Rao Khengarji I Hamirji, in 1540. They later expanded their rule over Jamnagar, Rajkot, Morvi, Gondal and other princely states.
Bhuj was the Jadeja Rajput capital of the Kutch Princely State, but Mandvi was their commercial capital when the port was thriving. Maharao Lakhpatji, in the 18th century, was known for building great palaces and he also built one in Mandvi which is now a woman’s college. The present owner of the palace is Pragmal Madansinh III.
A heritage resort also forms part of the Vijay Vilas Palace complex, but it’s not a palace stay. The resort is in a heritage building, which was built with the palace to accommodate the royal family members and their guests.
What is the USP of the palace property?
The greatest luxury on offer is silence and peace that surround the palace. The chirping of birds and the lush green lawns add to a refreshing and enchanting surrounding. The palace has sprawling lawns, and the Arabian Sea can be seen from the terrace of the palace.
Could you tell us more about the architectural history of the palace?
The blending of the architectural styles of different regions of India can be distinctly seen in the design of the Vijaya Vilas Palace. The balcony at the top affords a superb view of the surrounding area. The tiny intricate windows give one a feeling of openness; cool sea wind breezes in from the windows.
The carved stone works of Jalis, Jharokas, Chhatris, Chhajas, murals and many other artistic stone carvings, coloured glass work on windows and door panels all have been done by architects and craftsmen from Rajasthan, Bengal, Saurashtra, and even the local Kutchi artisan comunity, the Mistris of Kutch.
Could you tell us something more about the resort?
The building which is now a resort is not a palace and was previously used for the guests of the erstwhile royal family. It was converted into a resort; we also have tented accommodation.
The resort provides spacious rooms and suites. All the rooms are well designed and are comfortable.
The beach camp at Mandvi is a private resort on the Vijay Vilas estate. It is located on a private beach and offers air-conditioned tented accommodation.
According to Anil Baghia, manager, reservations and marketing, during the days of the Raj, princely states set up camps with well-appointed tents to accommodate guests for special occasions like weddings, coronations, hunting trips, etc.
The tented resort at Mandvi beach is designed like the colonial guest camps with furniture to match. It is set at the edge of the palace estate where it meets the private beach stretch. The Raj-theme of the tented resort goes with its location in a palace estate and does not intrude on the natural landscape of the beach, he adds.
The beach camp comprises 10 air-conditioned tents, each with its own verandah, spacious air-conditioned bedroom and attached bathrooms. The camp has 24 hour electricity with backup generators. There is also a thatched roof dining area on the beach, a barbecue area, and amenities like deck chairs. The beach is ideal for long walks and the sea is also safe for swimmers.