The intriguing Jal Mahal in Jaipur

posted in: India, Asia, Heritage, Rajasthan | 49

I don’t remember when exactly, I got obsessed with Jal Mahal in the Man Sagar Lake – I know it was even before I started planning my Jaipur trip. I remember obsessively asking every person who had been to Jaipur or belonged there on whether they had been to Jal Mahal? Were they allowed in? How can one go in? What is there inside the palace?

Jal Mahal, Jaipur

I must admit that the one thing that I was extremely disappointed about the fact that no one that I knew, had ever managed to go in. No one knew about the place. And it seemed that we were not allowed it either. Just before my trip, I searched online extensively and had to accept the fact that I could now not even go by boat to see it up close and personal. Some small hope still remained that maybe my research was outdated and after I was in Jaipur, I would find a way to get into the Jal Mahal.

So, what was it about the Jal Mahal that had me completely crazed –

  1. Unlike the other water palaces, this one was not built on an Island.
  2. A five-storied palace of which the first four floors are submerged in water! Wow! What must it be like to see water from the windows (if there were any).
  3. How did the water not seep into the palace? How did they really build it, given that the foundation was underwater? Imagine the water pressure it withstood.
  4. Built by Maharaja Jai Singh II, this was not a palace to live in but a short halt option when the royal family wanted to do some duck hunting. The reason was not a good one but the concept was intriguing. So, if there were none of the ostentatious bedrooms or living quarters, what was there inside?
  5. Why were we not allowed in? Were there some haunting stories?

Here is what my online research told me –

  • Jal Mahal was built during the famines when the lake had completely dried up. Hence, the foundations were built in the normal manner.
  • It was a stone palace with walls so strong that it did not allow any water to seep through. It had some limestone mortar reinforcing the walls.
  • It was indeed, a place to entertain and stop-over when the royal family was duck-hunting. It was also, a place to spot migratory birds. What was inside was revealed to me through this website. From what I could read about, I was specifically intrigued by the beautiful gardens – Chameli Bagh and the Badal Mahal. I sure would have loved to even see those interior designs and motifs that were described here.
  • The palace was in ruins and there was a lot of water logging within the property. However, the same was renovated and there was a lot of restoration done.
  • We were not allowed here any more the property had a legal case pending. They had even stopped the boat rides that took you close to the palace. :-(. There went my gondola ride!!!!

However, some small part of me still hoped against hope for some miracle. I did not leave hope and after reaching Jaipur, I asked every possible guide, hotel and taxi driver on whether one was allowed inside Jal Mahal. With every no, I felt disappointed but my hope still remained!

I got my first glimpse of this obsession of mine en route to Amer Fort. I had already extracted a promise from my travel companions that we would halt here – just for a few minutes on our way back. And we did. It was a delight to spot the various chhatris or domes that I had read about. I could see the tall trees of Chameli Bagh and the round minars of the palace. Beyond that, I could not see anything.All I could do is gaze at this lovely monument and let my imagination take over.

Against the Jal Mahal
Man Sagar Lake, next to the Jal Mahal

We took a few pictures against this monument and gazed out at the ducks swimming around it. I thought that the ducks were lucky enough to be able to see what I could not :(. To make myself feel better, I bought a little junk jewelry off the street vendor nearby and with that last wistful look at this monument, we drove off.

The only way I could satisfy my thirst was by watching this video over and over again. Someday, I hope that I get to see what is inside this intriguing piece of architecture – The Jal Mahal in Jaipur. Someday, I hope to quench this thirst.

 

 

Getting to The Jal Mahal

  • My earlier posts on Jaipur will serve as a guide to getting into this city.
  • Once in Jaipur, you can see Hawa Mahal enroute to the forts of Jaipur. You can hire a car or an auto or take one of the local buses that head to Amer and get here.

Travel Tips:

  • There isn’t much that you can do here except watch the palace from the outside.
  • You will find a street market, especially in the evening, along the lake. You can buy some Jaipur artifacts, jewelry, scarves and bags from here. However, note that these are just imitation stuff. Bargain well
  • There are some entertainment options like camel rides here. You can opt for the same.
  • There are plenty of restaurants around the Jal Mahal and you can try some out for authentic Rajasthani cuisine.

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