18 September, 2011
Jal Mahal - Water Palace - Jaipur
Mansagar Lake is a 300 acre lake surrounded by the Nahargarh hills. In the past, at the location of the lake, there was a natural depression where water used to accumulate. During 1596 AD, when there was a severe famine in this region there was consequent acute shortage of water. The then ruler of Ajmer was, therefore, motivated to build a dam to store water to overcome the severe hardships caused by the famine to the people inhabiting the region. A dam was constructed, initially using earth and quartzite, across the eastern valley between Amer hills and Amagarh hills. The dam was later converted into a stone masonry structure in the 17th century.
Jal Mahal or water palace, is built in the centre of the artificial lake Mansagar, outside the city to the north-east, by the road to Amber. Though sometimes dated as late as 1775, it is likely that this was constructed by Sawai Jai Singh, at the time of foundation, around 1735. Certainly, one surviving drawing in the palace collection that shows it is a type and style consistent with other drawings from Sawai Jai Singh's time.
The Jal Mahal palace, a pleasure resort, is considered an architectural beauty built in the Rajput and Mughal styles of architecture. Its position in a lake extends and established Rajput tradition, of which earlier examples include the very early palace of Padmini at Chittor (originally built c. 1300 but reconstructed c. 1880) and the Jag Mandir at Udaipur (1620s). Roughly contemporary is the Jag Nivas, also at Udaipur, which was built by Maharana Jagat Singh II. The palace has airy domes, pavilions and terraces around an old fruit orchard. A lot of people presume the Jal Mahal was a duck hunting retreat used by the maharaja and his guests for shooting migrating geese, grouse and duck but it was actually a pleasure pavilion for the royal family.
The palace, built in red sandstone casts an enchanting reflection in the calm waters of the Mansagar Lake. It is a five storied building out of which four floors remain under water when the lake is full and the top floor is exposed. The rectangular Chhatri on the roof is of the Bengal type. The Chhatris on the four corners are octagonal.
The garden on the roof – Chameli Bagh – is a Rajput garden, very different from a Mughal garden. It has plants bearing scented white flowers – juhi, champa, chameli, mogra.
The paintings on the tibaris celebrate the art forms of Jaipur, each with a different theme like sunehri, hari, neeli. All the doors are of rose wood, specially carved by traditional carpenters from Sikar. This is as authentically Rajput as it can get.