City Palace Udaipur – The gem of the Lake City

posted in: Asia, Heritage, India, Rajasthan | 30

I can’t believe that in my chronicles of Udaipur, I left behind the biggest gem of the city! When I refreshed my last post on the things to do in Udaipur, I realized that I never did write about the lovely City Palace Udaipur. This was technically my first major exploration in Udaipur. Not only because it was top of Udaipur list but it was right next to my chosen hotels in Udaipur. It turned out to be just the right start to my journey through this beautiful city.

City Palace in Udaipur at night

Central to Udaipur, this royal palace is just unmissable. It is quite easy to spot it from a lot of places in the city – the tall pavilions or the high walls or in some cases, the high flying flag. The powerhouse of the Mewars, it is quite an important Udaipur Attraction – one that joins the dots between places like Chittorgarh and Kumbhalgarh. It is one of the largest palaces of Rajasthan. Given this,  you can imagine the overwhelming feeling you are bound to get when you visit. It is quite impossible to capture it all in one visit. However, to make the most of it, here is my list of unmissable spots within the City Palace Udaipur.

History of City Palace Udaipur

One of the largest palaces of Rajasthan - City Palace Udaipur

The Royal family of Mewar was one of the key clans who resisted the rule of the Muslim invaders including Mughals. In fact, the famous story of Padmavati of Chittorgarh is an epic tale of the bravery of women of this clan. They initially ruled from Chittorgarh but had to constantly defend it from the attacks of the Mughals. In fact, during one of those attacks, Prince Udai Singh had to be smuggled out and taken to safety at the Kumbhalgarh Fort.

City Palace Udaipur along Lake Pichola

It is this very prince who established the city of Udaipur by Lake Pichola.  Maharana Udai Singh moved his capital from Chittorgarh to this new city and built the current City Palace. Udaipur became a safe haven owing to its location amid the high hills of Aravalli. Adding further protection was the maze-like layout of the City Palace itself. The way the palaces were designed was bound to confuse the enemy.

One of the many Jharokhas of City Palace Udaipur
The Domes and Spires of the City Palace that can be seen from various parts of Udaipur

The City Palace Udaipur was built in the year 1569. It grew with each of the latter generations adding their touches to it. In fact, it witnessed 42 rulers over 400 years. You can see a beautiful fusion of architectural styles within this complex consisting of 11 palaces. The Persian fused with the Rajasthani and some bit of European decor – quite an eclectic mix. What makes it even more alluring is its location by the Lake Pichola.

City Palace Udaipur, Rajasthan

Today, the City Palace has three parts – the first being the City Palace Museums which is open to the public, the second being the Heritage hotels within and the third where the Mewar Royal Family still resides.

The Looming Gates of Udaipur City Palace

The main gate of the City Palace is called Badi Pol.  This is where you will enter to go to the ticketing counter. From the entrance itself, you will see a triple arched gate structure. This is the Tripolia Gate of the Udaipur City Palace. I remember being fascinated with this for its gorgeous balconies atop the gate. I could imagine the Maharana on his elephant entering the gate under a shower of flowers which fell from those balconies.

Tripolia Gate at City Palace in Udaipur

Notice the antiquated lights at each of the entrance. Brought another scene to my mind – where the Maharana with his family arrived in the vintage Rolls Royce through those lit gates. The Durban must have opened the doors of the cars to let the Maharana and the Maharani step out.

Bhairav Site and its story

As you walk from the Badi Pol to the Tripolia Gate, try spotting two epic structures. One – a signboard that marking Bhairav Site and the other 8 unique arches referred to as Torans. The story of Bhairav Site is best explained by the board above. The Torans, on the other hand, is connected to an interesting ritual followed by the kings. Every year, wealth equivalent to the weight of the King would be distributed to the public. The public weighing of the King would be carried out along this corridor. If any of the wealth was left over after the initial distribution, it was used to construct these arches.

Manek Chowk

Manek Chowk in City Palace Udaipur
Manek Chowk as seen from the upper levels of City Palace

Walk through the Tripolia gates to a wide courtyard that is named Manek Chowk. Right now. you will see the City Palace Parking along with a few handicraft shops. This used to be a square where the Elephants were made to play Tug of War. Two elephants were tied to either end of a wall through the doorway next to the Tripolia gate. The two would then pull away and the one who ended up touching the wall was considered to be weak.

Things to do in Udaipur - City Palace

The magnificence of the city palace can be well admired from here, especially one of their main gates called Toran Pol. This by far, was the most colorful gate. The arch with the “Om” decor was reminded me of the door hangings that I have at my home. These hangings (also, called Toran) are typical of Gujarati and Rajasthani homes and are supposed to be decorative and auspicious. In fact, the palace legend has it that the royal bridegroom had to touch the same with his sword before his first wedding night.

Ganesh Deodhi

It was the day of Dusshera when I visited the City Palace Udaipur. I found myself thrust into a crowd as I stepped in through the gates. In the Mayhem, I had to keep aside my camera as I could get a clear shot of the magnificent Ganesha shrine that stared back at me. The Glass inlay of the chamber just brought out the magnificence of the Hindu God.

Mosaic Work around the Ganesh Deodhi

Here is a quick picture that I managed to grab from a vantage point. Though you cannot see the Ganesha, you can well admire the seamless manner in which the mosaic patterns enhance the Ganesha Shrine.

A quick shot of the Ganesh Deodhi at City Palace Udaipur

I had to walk out of the area quickly as I was holding back the crowd behind me. I hope that I get to visit this palace again for I definitely want to share the beautiful Mewari murals that flanked the doorway.

Pratap Kaksh

Statue of Maharana Pratap in City Palace, Udaipur

One of the most iconic rulers of Mewar was Maharana Pratap. His heroics are a part of every Indian History Textbook. He was born in the famous Kumbhalgarh fort and later, ruled Udaipur while resisting the Mughal emperor Akbar. One of the key stops in the Udaipur City Palace is the Pratap Kaksh or the Pratap Gallery. His tale of heroics is well documented here. You can see several life-sized statues of him and his famous horse – Chetak. A definite stop in this humungous palace.

Read about the birthplace of Maharana Pratap – the Badal Mahal in Kumbhalgarh.

Statue of Maharana Pratap with Chetak

Before you move to the next stop, remember to peep into the Nav Chowki Mahal. Flanked by 16 pillars, this used to be the coronation hall of the Sisodia dynasty of Mewar.

Chandra Mahal

Lakhu Kund in Udaipur City Palace

The highlight of the “Moon Palace” or the “Chandra Mahal” is a marble basin. This is called the Lakhu Kund. As the folklore goes, the basin was filled with 1 lakh silver coins after a coronation ceremony. One-fourth of this was showered on the audience below while the rest was given to the needy.

Badi Mahal

Literally translating to the “Big Palace”, this is the highest point of the City Palace Udaipur. The Badi Mahal is built at ground level, just that it is atop a hill or a rock. You are bound to spend a lot of time here capturing the magnificent views of the city and Lake Pichola.

The fountains of Badi Mahal

The center point of this palace is a huge pool with fountains. This is where the celebrations like Holi and Diwali were held. Quite a picturesque place with its huge trees and natural light.

The carved windows of Badi Mahal

What charmed me the most here was its pretty windows. They were an extension of the carved marble walls that were further enhanced with stained glasswork. The play of light and colors were just magical and the views they offered – more enchanting.

Chitrashali Chowk

The Dutch and Chinese tiles in Chitrashali

This is almost like a bridge between the Badi Mahal (also, called Amar Vilas ) and the next important palace – Moti Mahal. However, it is one artistic passage. This is where you will find the most amazing views of the city. The Mewari arched windows open to the Manek Chowk below. You cannot miss the Dutch tiles along with Chinese ones that line up the walls. In fact, this is the main feature of the Chowk. They say that this courtyard area used to come alive with the court dance and music performances.

City view from Chitrashali

Dilkhush Mahal

Sheesh Mahal in City Palace Udaipur

Close to the Badi Mahal is a smaller palace called Dilkhush Mahal (heart’s delight) with two important structures. The first one is called Kanch ki Burj – a glass and mirror facade. Some even refer to it as Sheesh Mahal for every inch of the room is covered with mirrors. One is no longer allowed to get into the room but even from the outside, the sheer opulence shines through.

Ceiling of Krishna Vilas

The 2nd important part of this palace is the Krishna Vilas. A tragic tale of a 16-year-old princess is attached to it. This used to be her residence in the 1800s until she committed suicide to prevent war between two kingdoms. It seems the princes of Jaipur and Jodhpur were vying for her hand! Though Tragic, the Krishna Vilas is quite a structure. Every inch of the ceiling and walls is covered with paintings from the life of Lord Krishna!.

Moti Mahal of City Palace Udaipur

Moti Mahal in Udaipur City Palace

The Pearl Palace or the Moti Mahal greets you with a vibrant display of colors and light owing to the colored glass and mirror work. This place was the private residence of the Maharanas – specifically Maharana Karan Singh.  Some of the later rulers like Maharana Jawan Singhji added their own touch and decor to the same. There were others like Maharana Bhim Singh who made smaller structures of their own like the Bhim Niwas.

Here is an interesting story about Maharana Jawan Singh. It seems he promised a street artist half the kingdom if she crossed over Lake Pichola by walking on a rope. She almost made it to the other side! Except that the rope was cut by the palace guards to prevent her from succeeding.

One notable palace is Pritam Niwas palace which was used by the disabled Maharana Gopal Singh. Here you can see his wheelchair and other accessories. The Moti Mahal is the last part of the male section or the Mardana Section of the Palace.

Manak Mahal

Manek Mahal in Udaipur City Palace

Manak means “Ruby” and with that, you know that you can expect yet another ostentatious hall. Quite like the Sheesh Mahal, this one too is filled with silver, mirrors and glass. However, this was not a residence. It was used as a hall for private audiences or meetings among the Mewar kings.

Surya Choupar

Surya Choupar in Udaipur City Palace

The Mewar rulers were worshippers of Sun. In fact, their day began with prayers to the rising sun. This was well depicted in the embossed Sun symbol at the lower levels of the Manak Mahal. The beautiful design was made with Gold Leaf and encrusted with gems.

Mor Chowk – the highlight of City Palace Udaipur

Mor Chowk in City Palace Udaipur

If there is one place that is a highlight of this magnificent palace – then it is the Mor Chowk. Mor means “Peacock” and as you can see, this square has the most exquisite ones defining it. The glass and gemstone inlay that has been used to create these peacocks shines in the morning light creating a certain aura. You really cannot take your eyes of the masterpiece.

Closeup of the peacock mosaic
Close up of the pictures around the jharokha in Mor Chowk

A small jharokha to address people protrudes out into the Chowk. This is further enhanced by the artwork of Mewari people flanking it. The glass inlaid pictures of the Mewar kings are definitely art pieces to behold. These same pictures from the inside look very different. You can catch them when you move along the passage from the Chitrashali to Moti Mahal.

The mosaic art in Mor Chowk from the inside

The design of the Mor Chowk represents the three seasons – Monsoon, Summer, and Winter. The chowk was used for private dinners and celebrations.  The place was made by Maharana Sajjan Singhji and is said to have over 5000 mosaic pieces creating the design.

Zenana Mahal

Zenana Mahal in Udaipur City Palace

The women’s quarters are quite different from the male ones. The Zenana area is soothing with its calm blues and little swings. The Laxmi Niwas Chowk – a huge square used to be the meeting and party area for the ladies. Now it is extensively used for weddings and important balls.

Lakshmi Chowk in City Palace Udaipur

Along the way to the Zenana Area, you will come across the Royal Kitchen set-up. From old pots and pans to fireplaces, it is quite a collection. In fact, it is quite illuminating to note how simple the Royal kitchens were.

Royal Kitchen of Udaipur City Palace

Another notable area is the home of the Queen Mother – Rajmata. A bedroom set up showcases how simple and elegant the Queen’s rooms were as compared to the men.

The Royal Collection of City Palace Udaipur

Royal Outfit showcased at Udaipur City Palace

As you exit out of the palace areas, there are a few City Palace museums that you should not miss. Some of my favorites were the exhibits of the Royal clothes and jewelry and the ones with the palanquins and carriages. There are also, collections of arms and weapons as well as the royal baby cribs.

Silver Palanquin exhibited in City Palace Udaipur

There is plenty more that you would enjoy seeing but covering all this list itself can be overwhelming. It can easily take you half a day and yet, you might realize that you need more time! Either way, if you have managed this list, you definitely have covered the major part of the Udaipur city palace.

How to get to City Palace Udaipur

  • Udaipur has its own airport with regular flight connections to most major cities in India. It is also, well connected by road and rail to the rest of India.
  • The Udaipur palace is located right in the center of the city. You can get here using any of the public transport options. To get this on your Google maps, please click here.

Travel Tips

  • The City Palace Udaipur timings are from 9:00 hours to 17:30 hours. However, note that the ticket window closes by 16:30 hours. The ticket price is INR 250 per adult and INR 100 for kids above 5 years. Camera charges are extra at INR 250
  • Try to catch the evening program of City Palace Udaipur Light and Sound show. This available in English and Hindi. The shows start at 19:00 hours every day.
  • There are regular guides as well as audio guides available at the ticketing counter.
  • Don’t miss the Jagadish Mandir that is just before the Badi Pol. You should also, check out the street market that stretches to the main gate.
  • If you are looking at a fairytale wedding, you can have one at Udaipur Palace. Check their website for details on how to go about it.
  • When booking for Hotels in Udaipur, check out the City Palace area. The entire area is filled with places to see in Udaipur, making your internal commute easy.
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