Udaipur Palaces : History and Heritage
Palaces of Udaipur
Udaipur is an amazing specimen of blend of beauties of Nature as well as of human skill- Nature has provided lakes and mountains, and the human hand has enhanced their charm by building massive palaces which are the specimen of master-pieces of art and architecture.
A brief introduction of a few of these palaces a tourist must include in his itinerary is given below :—
LAKE SIDE PALACES
Lake-side palaces, (formerly known as Maharana’s palaces) a chain of massive structure, are on the eastern shore of the famous Pichola reflecting their size and shape in the steel-blue water of the lake. They present a curious blend of contrasts of architecture—mediaevalism mixed with the modernism of the product of Windsor Palaces. Mr. Furgusson, the famous engineer-historian says, “They are the biggest palaces in Rajputana. They much resemble Windsor in their thickness and boundaries”. The Rajasthan Gazetteer describes them as a “very stately building having length of 1500 feet from north to south and width of 800 ft”. Though, they have been constructed from time to time by different Maharanas, but their peculiarity lies in maintaining their architectural homogeneity. Col. Tod has summed up, “The palace is a most imposing pile of a regular form built by granite and marble rising at least a hundred feet from the ground and flanked with octagonal towers crowned with cupola”.
City Palace Complex
The city palace complex is beautifully located at the highest point in the area overlooking the lake Pichola on its west and the city on its east. It’s the largest Palace complex in Rajasthan. The palace is actually a conglomeration of buildings added by various Maharanas, but it manages to retain a surprising uniformity of design.
Maharana Udai Singh, the city’s founder, originally commenced it. The historic palaces are constructed according to Vastushastra concepts. The palace was built of Rajnagar marble stone in 1698-1710 A.D. It contains a garden and two large cisterns made out of a single marble slab each.
The balconies, towers and cupolas surround the palace and there are fine views over the lake and the city from the upper terraces. The palace is entered from the northern end through the Baripol and the Tripolia Gate with its eight carved marble arches. To ancient architect and building construction technologies used in palaces have no comparison with the modern multi storied concrete structures. The palaces are air conditioned without using any electrical equipment and the direction of wind and sunlight is well-arranged technically.
Dilkhush Mahal, Moti Mahal, Manak Mahal, Hawa Mahal, Badi Mahal, Bhim Vilas, Madan Vilas, Morchowk, Lakkhu Gokhda & Museum etc. are main features of city palace. Dilkhush Mahal was built in 1620-28 A.D. and contains paintings and beautiful glass mosaic. Moti Mahal was built in 1820-28 A.D. and has lovely glass ornamentation. In City palace complex Zanana Mahal is another part to visit. Zanani Dyodhi, Rang Mahal, Badal Mahal, Moti Chock etc. are main parts of Zanana Mahal.
Within these palaces is all the magnificence of the East, peacock in mosaic on the walls, floors inlaid with tiles of rare design and roof garden affording thrilling views of the panorama below.
Cristal Art Gallery, located in Fatehprakash is a big collection of hundreds of beautiful articles, various crystalline, glasses and China Clay articles’ unique collection.
The main part of the Palace is now preserved as a museum with a large & Varied, although somewhat run down collection. The museum includes the Mor Chowk with its beautiful mosaics of peacocks. The Manak Mahal has glass and porcelain figures. Krishna Vilas has a remarkable collection of miniatures. In the Bari Mahal there is a fine central garden. More paintings can be seen in the Zanana Mahal. The Moti Mahal has beautiful mirror work. The Chini Mahal is covered in ornament porcelain tiles.
The successors of Maharanas have been maintaining the beauty and aesthetic value of Palaces and they have converted some of the part into heritage resort and luxurious hotels.
To break the monotony of too wide an expanse of water of the Pichola lake. Nature has placed islands and man has crowned them with palaces, viz., Jag-Mandir and Jag-Niwas. Mr. Furgusson writes about these palaces, “The only object in Europe compared with these are the Borromean islands in Lago Maggiore and they are superior to them as Dumo at Milan is to Buckingham Palace. Indeed I know of nothing that will bear comparison with them anywhere”.
Jag-Mandir palace, standing on a rock in the Pichola lake is known for its natural setting and historical eminence. Its cupolas, glass mosaic, use of vast seamless stones of transparent thinness, spacious court-yard guarded by elephants made of marble stones, majestically standing palm trees and a good garden in its western wing—all present simply a charming sight which is to be seen with one’s eyes and believed.
The historical importance of Jag-Mandir palace lies in its association with Prince Khurram (Shah Jahan, viz. ‘Emperor of World’, the title conferred on him by Jehangir in reward for his success in bringing about a treaty between Maharana Amarsingh and Jehangir himself). While mediating the negotiation of a treaty in 1613-15 A.D. between his father Jehangir and the then ruling Maharana Amarsingh I of Mewar, Prince Khurram is reported to have come to Udaipur when he laid the foundation stone of this palace. Later on, Prince Khurram, when rebelled against his father Jehangir, came at Udaipur to seek refuge, and therefore, the construction of the portion comprising the biggest cupola etc. was accelerated by Maharana Karan Singh and the Prince was given refuge here in 1623-24 A.D. This portion of the palace was begun and constructed according to the. directions and desire of the Prince. Later on, in the 19th century during 1857-Mutiny also many English people from Neemuch flew here and got shelter in this palace.
There is one more point of historical importance beyond this. It is so said that Prince Khurram inspired by this palace and its setting, while in refuge, conceived his World famous Taj Mahal here, and later on, delivered and brought it up at Agra. The biggest cupola and glass mosaic inside it, spacious court-yard and the water-pool in its front, use of large seamless marble stones and the reflection of the palace in the lake around, had inspired him to construct a big and beautiful monument of similar design and mosaic (of course superior to this) in his life. Later on, this desire of Shah Jehan found its way in the construction of the famous Taj Mahal at Agra to commemorate his love for his beloved Mumtaz Mahal. The cupola, glass mosaic and the use of marble stone of the Taj; all reflecting in the water of Jamuna, though much superior in design and dimensions, have broadly notable commonness of essence and outline with those of this water palace.
It is also assumed that Maharana Karan Singh commenced Jag Mandir, but took its name from Maharana Jagat Singh (1628-1652) who made a number of additions to it.
Jag Niwas palace built by Maharana Jagat Singh II (1709-51) in 1746, covering an area of 4 acres is a pretty palace built of marble and granite on an island in the Pichola lake. Historical paintings, and luxurious settings of the columns, baths, reservoirs, fountains, furniture and colour is a curious mixture of mediaevalism and modernism.
The Today it has been converted into a luxury five star hotel, Lake Palace Hotel, One of the marvelous hotels in world with gardens, fountains, courtyards and a swimming pool. A launch crosses to the island from Banshi Ghat just south of Palace Museum.
The massive Sajjangarh Palace, visible practically from every point, is situated at an eminence of about 500 feet on a hill. Maharana Sajjan Singh built this Palace. Also known as Monsoon Palace. It is situated at a height of 3100 feet from sea level. The fish eye view of Udaipur City and surrounding is visible from here. It provides an enjoyable site from where viewsome surroundings can be seen delightfully. Apart from this, all lakes, city and the vast expansion of the surroundings can also be viewed at a time from here.
LAXMI VILAS PALACE
Laxmi Vilas palace, majestically situated on a hillock well high peeping over the waters of Fateh Sagar, is was magnificent palace of modern structure. It had luxurious and artistically decorated suites in different colours with all amenities of living. It provides panoramic view of the lovely Fateh Sagar and its adjacent green hills. Now it is a hotel. Previously it was run by ITDC Government corporation, not it handed over to a corporate group.