Udaipur is a city in the Indian state of Rajasthan. The major draws of the Udaipur city are its lakes, ancient Havelis, heritage museums and the grandeur City Palace complex which tops the list of things to do in Udaipur. The huge edifice sits on the shores of the Lake Pichola overlooking the city panorama.
The palace was built by Maharana Udai Singh of Mewar kingdom when he shifted his capital from Chittorgarh to the City Palace in Udaipur due to frequent attacks on Chittor by Mughals. The palace is built in marble and granite with ornate interior embellishments of colorful murals, paintings, and mirror work, intricate carvings in marble, silver, and wood. Today the 16th-century palace built over a period of 400 years is an epitome of Mewar splendor.
The City Palace houses two heritage hotels Fateh Prakash Palace and the Shiv Niwas Palace and the museum providing insight into the culture and history of the Mewar dynasty.
Udaipur City Place Highlights
There are two main entrances to the city palace complex to the north is Badi Pol and to the south is Sheetla Mata Gate. There are ticket counters at both the gates but one needs to pay extra if you enter through the south for you get access through the Chandra Chowk Gate en route to the Crystal Gallery. If you enter through the northern side entrance you buy the tickets outside the 17th-century ‘Bara Pol’ (Great Gate) which is the main entry from the city. While you are walking to the next gate take a look at the left wall of Palace. There are eight marble arches or Toranas erected.this is said to be the very place where the Maharanas were weighed with gold and silver which was then distributed among the local people. Maharanas are said to be weighed eight times hence the eight arches.
We then walk in through the massive Tripolia, the gate with triple arches built in early 18th century into the main courtyard called Manek Chowk.
Toran Pol and the Suraj Pol are two more gates from Manek Chowk to the Moti Chowk which provide access to the main palace area. These whitewashed entrance doors are beautifully painted in vibrant colors with martial animals and vines in the traditional Rajput style.
Manek Chowk is a huge arena opposite the palace facade and center for several activities. The part of Manek Chowk opposite the ‘Toran Pol’ is said to be the venue where the elephant fights would be organized by the Kings which was a way to test their prowess prior to the wars.
Suraj Gokhada is an open gallery in the imposing facade of the palace with carved balustrades. It is said that the king would address the public from the very spot. The ground floor and the building opposite to the palace houses several handicrafts, textile and souvenir shops which were once used as horse stables.
The Manek Chowk also has a big restaurant where you can stop by before starting the City palace tour which would take a minimum of 2 hours.
Every evening the Manek Chowk enlivens up with the Mewar sound and light show ‘The Legacy of Honour’. The show takes place from 7 pm to 8 pm and walks one through the great history of Mewars and the state of Rajasthan which is definitely something not to miss.
From the Toran Pol and Suraj Pol, we entered into the small courtyard called Moti Chowk where several workers were busy with flower decorations probably for the would-be function in the palace which we learn more of at the end of the function.
The walls of the Moti Chowk has several gorgeous pictures of Elephants and horses like the one above. There are also posters and short description for all the rulers of Udaipur which you can read through as you move towards the museum entrance of the palace. After the security check, we entered into the City Palace museum through the Ganesh Deori or the door of Lord Ganesh. This leads to the Rajya Angan or the royal courtyard which is said to be the very spot where a priest suggested Maharana Udai Singh to built the Udaipur city which would be his future Mewar capital. There is also a temple dedicated to the sage in the same courtyard.
Pratap Museum or City Palace Museum
The museum displays a remarkable collection of armories and weapons and several important paintings. The total weight of Maharana Pratap’s armor and weapons exhibited is said to weigh 35kg which was worn by the king during the war. The statue of Maharana with horse disguised as Elephant is from the famous battle of Haldighati fought between Maharana Pratap and the Mughal emperor Akbar. There are even paintings depicting the war scene.
From this courtyard, the climb up to the next floors is through narrow and steep stairs, quadrangles and small corridors which were actually built to make access to enemies difficult and confusing.
Our first stop was a small hall called Lakku Gokhada (translates to Lakh – Balcony) where the Kings are said to donate gold coins enough to fill a large marble tank (which would mostly come to around one lakh coins) which was then later distributed to the public.
We next walked into a beautiful garden area called Badi Mahal. The courtyard has several trees and benches where one can rest for some time before proceeding further to explore the palace. The Badi Mahal sits on a high rock structure which is the height equivalent to the fourth floor of the palace building.
The windows in the Badi Mahal courtyard offers wonderful views of the Manek Chowk and the sprawling city of Udaipur.
The Badi Mahal is surrounded by colonnaded corridors which lead to small exhibition rooms which house bird cages and miniature paintings. There is a small pool here which is said to be used for Holi festival celebration.
The Manak Mahal has several amazing embellishments of colorful glasswork. There are several windows decorated with colorful glasses. ‘Sheesh Mahal’ (Kanch-ki-Burj) is a chamber here which has stunning work of mosaics of mirrors adorning the walls, ceilings, and even the floor. This served as the bedroom for King. The
Do not miss the miniature paintings collection of Radha-Krishna in Bhim Vilas. Surya Choupad which has a huge ornamental sun which is the royal symbol of the Kingdom of Mewar. You will find the symbol displayed at several sections of the palace including one on the facade of the Manek Chowk.
There is a small courtyard at the south of Manak Mahal which offers panoramic views of the city of Udaipur on onside and on the other side is the summer palace of the Mewars the gorgeous ‘Lake Palace’ which rises in the midst of the shimmering Lake Pichola. Also worth checking are the interesting artwork of mosaic and colorful glasses which adorn the windows and walls of the courtyard.
Mor Chowk or Peacock Chowk
From here we descend into the Mor Chowk or Peacock Chowk which is the most beautiful part of the palace for the stunning mirrorwork and mosaics. The ground floor wall is adorned with peacocks made up of elaborate mirror works and colorful mosaics. The peacocks are said to be crafted with 5000 pieces of glass in different colors of green, gold and blue. The balcony on the upper floor overlooking the balcony is even more impressive with intricate glass work.
The southern end of the museum comprises the Zenana Mahal is the royal ladies’ quarters built in the 17th century which today houses museum exhibits and picture gallery. Below chambers serves as entertainment rooms for the royal ladies of the palace.
Below is the beautifully painted entrance to the Zenana Mahal from Laxmi Chowk.
Laxmi Chowk is a large courtyard part of Zenana Mahal which contains an imposing white pavilion. When we visited this courtyard was bustling with people working on decoration and looked like they were preparing for a luxurious event for the evening probably some party or ceremony. And the flowers we saw in the Moti chowk at the start of the tour were used here to decorate the tables in the courtyard.
Amar Mahal – Silver Gallery
When we thought we were done with the palace tour the guards at the exit of Laxmi chowk ushered us towards the silver gallery. The gallery was hidden amidst all the decorations happening for the function in Laxmi chowk. The gallery displayed several items of silver from the royal household like utensils, kitchenware, cribs, palkis and a huge chariot driven by a pair of model horses, toys which had beautiful intricate work on them.
City Palace Museum Timings
The City Palace is open from 9.30am to 5.30pm. The sound and light show in the Manek Chowk take place from 7.30 to 8.30. There are separate tickets for entrance, camera and the audio guides which can be bought at both the entrance of the palace.
When you are here it is recommended to take a boat tour on Lake Pichola which offers incredible views of the City Palace and several other heritage and luxury hotels around the Pichola lake including the Lake Palace. Also, Bagore Ki Haveli is a heritage museum on the shores of Lake which worth a visit for the museum as well as a heritage dance program that takes place every evening.
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