Lakes of Udaipur : History and Heritage
Lakes are lifeline and future of the Udaipur city. By virtue of interconnected lakes, it has a large water retaining capacity. It is one of the main reasons for the city’s establishment in this region. The natural formation of mountains and basins provides excellent opportunity, the depressions into reservoirs with minimum construction in the form lakes.
The lakes of Udaipur, brimmed with steel-blue wate, splashing the feet of the lofty and green hills on the west, reflected by the massive white palaces and revered temples on the east, studded with enamouring island-palaces amidst the innocent ripples and attended by pageants of Nature amidst these environs, present a rare specimen of Nature’s curious craft and bountiful blessings.
While boating in, or otherwise strolling around, the lakes in the evening or in the moonlight, you will feast your eyes and imagination with the bewitching phenomena of Nature. As the sun sinks behind the hills on the west, a deep purple light falls bathing hillside and glen in a rich glory, and the still water becomes a mirror of burnished gold. The long receding and darkening glens, the ridge beyond ridge of rugged hills distinguished only by the comparative sharpness of their outlines, and the lovely lakes with their bold promontories carry one back in a fancy to the west coast of Scotland.
Indeed, these lovely lakes at sunset or in moonlight impart Udaipur and its environs an appearance like a realisation of the visions raised in childhood by pictures in fairy books and illustrated tales from the “Arabian Nights.”
Main Lakes are: Pichola, Swaroop Sagar, Doodh Talai, Rang Sagar Goverdhan vilas reservoir, Fatehsagar, Baghdara, Badi, Madar, Udaisagar. Among the lakes, the followings, which must form the itinerary of a tourist to Udaipur and its vicinage, deserve a special mention.
Pichola lake, on the western fringe of the city at a 3-mile-distance from the Railway station and constructed by a Banjara during the reign of Maharana Lakha (1382-1418A.D.) consist of four different lakes, viz., the original Pichola, the Rang Sagar, the Swroop Sagar and the Dood Talai, now all compositely referred to as ‘Pichola’. It is north to south about 3 miles long, east to west about 2 miles wide and 11 feet deep, containing 418 million cu. ft. of water in its 3 3/4-sq. mile area. The Prince of Wales, who visited Udaipur in 1905 A.D. has appropriately appreciated the beautiful Pichola lake, which hemmed in by the forest-covered sepia tinted hills, is an exquisite oasis in the brownness of southern Rajputana.
Lake Pichola is surrounded by hills and its major parts are covered by greenery. On the eastern part the temples, buildings, Ghats etc. create a scene of Varanasi and morning on this bank is similar to Varanasi in vicinity of Holy River Ganga. Actually this lake is a small but it looks like a huge lake due to its natural situation and surroundings. Gangour Ghat, Lal Ghat, Bansi Ghat, Hanuman Ghat, Panchdevri etc. are the lake fronts and the places of performing various socio-cultural activities.
Swaroopsagar, Doodhtalai, Rang, Sagar, Kumharia Lake are the part of this huge lake Pichola.
There are two island palaces—Jag-Mandir and Jag-Niwas-in the lake which are accessible by boats provided as a regular service.
Sunset in the evening and the sight of the ‘Whale Hill’ (closely resembling the ‘Whale’ in appearance) in the south-east of the lake also deserve a mention for tourists.
It is another beautiful lake interconnected with Pichola. Surrounded by Sajjangarh and Neemach Mata, Motimagri hills with lush green gardens and forests. This magnificent lake gives different feeling on different times. In morning, afternoon, evening & night, it gives new feelings everyday every time. Whenever you look at this lake it has a new reflections and feeling and attraction in it and surrounding it. The sunset behind the Sajjangarh lake gives a scenic beauty composed of thousands colors on the wide canvass spread over the beautiful lakes and surrounded hills & vegetation.
Originally, this lake was constructed by Maharana Jai Singh in 1678 A.D., but later on, on account of excessive rains, it gave way destroying Sahelion-ki-Badi. Therefore, Maharana Fateh Singh got it reconstructed in the present shape at a cost of 6 lakhs of rupees, and hence, it was renamed ‘Fateh Sagar’. The foundation stone of the embankment was laid by the Duke of Connaught, the third son of Her Majesty Queen Victoria. The embankment is also known as Connaught Bund which is 2800 feet long.
Fatehsagar is 13 feet deep and 2 sq· miles in area. It is at a distance of 4 miles from the Railway station.
George Carstairs writes in his book ‘Shepherd of Udaipur’, “The beauty of Fatehsagar is that of a peaceful natural scene”.
A drive or stroll through the electrically lit serpentine drive (or ‘Marine Drive’ of Udaipur) crawling along the lake-shore provided with comfortable cement benches by the City Corporation, the Municipal Garden known as “Rock Garden’ carved out of a rugged rock overlooking the bashful ripples, boating in the lake, a trip to ruined but historic palaces of Moti Magri where Maharana Udai Singh, the founder of Udaipur, had constructed his palaces are few among the sights to be enjoyed by a tourist while enjoying the sight of the lake.
When during rains (September) lake water overflows, its waterfall, profusely lit with mercury lights in the night by the Municipality, creates a spectacular and colourful sight enjoyed by thousands of people during the night.
Udaisagar—accessible by a motor vehicle, is another picturesque lake in the east of the Railway station at a distance of 8 miles built by Maharana Udai Singh in 1859-65 A.D. Its 2 1/2 mile length and 1 1/2 mile width, 20 feet depth, 4 sq. mile area and 180 feet wide embankment have stood the challenge of rains so far. Its overflow during rains is a scenic sight.
The tranquil atmosphere and lulling breezes of the lake have seen in their vicinity the defeat of Emperor Auranzeb at the hands of Maharana Raj Singh in 1680 A. D.
The Badi lake (because it is near Badi village) also known as Jiyan Sagar, (named after Jana Devi, the mother of Maharana Raj Singh) is at a distance of 6 miles in the north-east of Udaipur. It was built in 1684 A.D. at a cost of about 6 lakhs of rupees. Its 600 feet long embankment has successfully met the challenge of rains year after year.
It has a 30-feet-depth and 1 1/2 sq. mile-area and is approachable by a motorable road.
The beautiful lake and its lovely sheet of water not a mile in width but running far to the left and right until lost amid the windings of the hills really take us in a fancy to the lochs of Scotland.
On account of salubrious climate of the surroundings of the lake, an already existing T.B. Hospital has been, on an expense of lakhs of rupees, recently converted into a big T. B. Sanitorium. The Sanitorium makes provision for 400 beds and provides latest types of machinery and amenities for the treatment of the patients. It was inaugurated by Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the President of India, on May 2,1960.
‘Bagdara’ means a resort for the lion. This lake amidst a thickly wooded valley at a distance of 14 miles from Udaipur, connected by a motorable and beautifully wooded road has shooting boxes on its encircling hills. There is a small shooting house on a hill from where the panoramic view of the whole green valley appears amazingly beautiful. The shores of the lake are thickly studded with green trees reflecting into the small but deep lake creating a wonderful sight. The lake has an inviting atmosphere and a look for picnic parties.
Jaisamudra (also called Dhebar lake) which is one of the biggest artificial lakes of fresh water in the World is at a distance of 32 miles south-east of Udaipur approachable by a regular bus service through picturesquely wooded road. It has its elevation 1000 feet above sea level and its catchment area 690 sq. miles. It is about 9 miles long, 6 miles wide, 30 miles in circumference, 21 sq. miles in area and 102 feet deep containing 20,000 million cu. ft. of water. It is surrounded by hills raised 1000 feet high above its water. Its embankment is 1200 feet long, 116 feet wide, 70 feet thick at base and 16 feet thick on the top.
There are 7 islands in the lake on which there is now rare inhabitation of Bhils who use ‘Bhels’ (rough boats) for their means of transport.
This lake was constructed by damming the river Gomti by Maharana Jai Singh, who, on its inauguration on the 2nd of June, 1691, walked around it and distributed in charity gold equal to his own weight.
The lake has been gaining more and more importance these days. Its vast sheet of emerald green water expanding to invisible extent is an amazing realisation of man’s fortitude and dauntless will. Its fresh water fish are indispensable menu for non-vegetarians and its irrigational services are very useful. Forests in its vicinity abound in variety of wild beasts. Recently, a Game Sanctuary has been established around the lake.
Rajsamudra, in Rajasamand district, joining the two towns of Rajnagar and Kankroli, 42 miles from Udaipur, is 4 miles long, It miles wide and 55 feet deep. Its 2-mile-long embankment, 195 sq. mile catchment area and 7 sq. mile area contain 280 m. cu. ft. of water.
This lake was constructed at the expense of Rs. 39,64,653/8/- by Maharana Raj Singh, who, on its sanctification ceremony on the 1st of February, 1676, distributed in charity gold equal to the weight of his chief consort, his grandson and himself with many other charities all nearing to Rs. 65 lakhs.
During War time (1939-45) this lake was used as a Sea-Plane base by the World Airlines Operator B.O.A.C.
Apart from the vast sheet of water, a visitor should see the beautiful ghats and edifices known as Nou-chowkis paved with marbles containing exquisite and unique sculpture which equals that of the Delwara Temple of Mt. Abu. The Nou-chowkis also have ‘Raj-Prashasti’ an inscription composed of 1017 verses in Sanskrit (describing the history of Mewar) inscribed on 27 slabs in 1675 A.D. This Sanskrit inscription is said to be the biggest literary work inscribed on stone so far known.