Udaipur city is set in the lush green Girwa valley in South Rajasthan. Udai Singh, a ruler of Mewar clan, established this place as his capital after leaving Chittorgarh. His son Maharana Pratap is the most celebrated Mewar ruler who was always a pain in the neck of Mughals. It is hard to believe that a city established by these warriors encases a set of elegant palaces. Some of their successors were great connoisseurs of art and luxury. The result is that Udaipur is home to some of the finest palace of Rajasthan.
City Palace of Udaipur is the largest palace complex in Rajasthan. It is, in fact, a collection of several palaces built between 16th and 20th centuries. This palace complex was the seat of Mewar rulers who were known for not accepting the sovereignty of Mughals. When you imagine an edifice built by the warrior clan, you expect a sturdy and intimidating structure. But City Palace is far from that; it is elegant, lavish, and artistic.
City Palace stretches along the eastern shore of Lake Pichola. And its architecture is a beautiful amalgamation of Rajput and Mughal styles. A part of the palace complex has been opened for the visitors. This portion is called ‘City Palace Museum’. Some of the palaces inside have been turned into heritage hotels.
If you are an admirer of hilltop forts and palaces, Udaipur wouldn’t disappoint you. Sajjangarh, a deserted palace, is perched on top of a hill called Bansdara. Situated amidst Sajjangarh Wildlife Sanctuary, this palace is just a short drive out of the town. You can get commanding views of Udaipur from the upper storey of the palace. And the backyard has a terrace which looks out on the unending hills.
This is the best place to enjoy sunset in Udaipur. Maharana Sajjan Singh had envisioned this palace as a summer retreat cum observatory. He had imagined that the royals would gaze at the monsoon clouds from the top of the palace. Hence, the palace is also called ‘Monsoon Palace’. Maharana’s untimely death stalled the plan of building the observatory. However, his successor accomplished the construction of the palace. But eventually it was abandoned because of the inability of pumping water upwards.
Jag Mandir Palace
Jag Mandir Palace and its garden are nestled on an island in the Lake Pichola. Backdropped by the hillocks and surrounded by the waters of Pichola, Jag Mandir enjoys a picturesque setting. The palace is centred on a small but elegant courtyard. The impressive feature of Jag Mandir is its ‘Gol Mahal’ which is a domed pavilion with detailed stone inlay work. Some of the chambers inside exhibit the history of the island.
Prince Khurram, who became the Mughal king Shah Jahan, had once taken refuge here after rebelling against his father. The terrace in front of Gol Mahal doubles up as an open-air cafe (the prices are quite steep). A walk to the garden behind will get you soothing vistas of lake, hills, and the city palace.
Fateh Prakash Palace
Fateh Prakash Palace is a part of the City Palace Complex but isn’t accessible with the ticket of palace museum. Built in the early 20th century, this palace is now a hotel. It has a magnificent Durbar Hall and an unusual crystal gallery which can be accessed by visitors by buying a separate ticket.
The Durbar Hall is an Edwardian-Era ballroom which was used to host royal functions. Though the furniture is now aging, the Bohemian chandeliers and the Venetian glass keep the charm intact. A gallery which has a unique display of crystal-made things overlooks the Durbar Hall. Maharana Sajjan Singh did a binge shopping of crystal items in the 1880s. All of them are on display here. The collection includes crystal furniture, vases, hookah, etc.
Note: The entry fee, though quite steep for the experience offered, includes an audio guide and non-alcoholic refreshments in the bar.
The white edifice that appears afloat in the Lake Pichola is popularly known as Lake Palace. Perched on an island called ‘Jag Niwas’, this edifice is a combination of two palaces: Dilaram and Bari Mahal. Maharana Jagat Singh II was the man behind this structures. Built in the mid-eighteenth century, these palaces were utilized as summer residences by the royals. While being closed to the visitors, Lake Palace does add a romantic feel to the beautiful Pichola with its elegant exteriors.
Note: Lake Palace is now maintained by Taj Group as a luxury heritage hotel and is amongst the finest hotels of the world.