The flamboyant & the cinematic City Palace of Udaipur

Wherever you live on this planet – India, Asia, the US or Europe, chances are that you have heard of (or stayed in) this luxurious, heritage resort of India that floats on a lake – the magnificent Taj Lake Palace of Udaipur. Taj Lake Palace (formerly known as Jag Niwas) is known for many reasons today: the filming location of the 1983 James Bond movie titled Octopussy, the preferred choice of stay for the royalty & the place that provided refuge to many European families during the sepoy mutiny of 1857. All of these are just a few of the many reasons behind the mass-popularity of Jag Niwas. However, this is not why the palace was built in the first place. Originally Jag Niwas was constructed so that the royal prince could steal a few moments of privacy and solitude from the very public City Palace.

City Palace, situated on the banks of Lake Pichola, is said to have been built over a period of 400 years. Situated atop a hill & built in a fusion style of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture, the city palace of Udaipur is a living testament of the exuberant, rich & flamboyant life of erstwhile India. City Palace is one of its own kind with its gorgeous gateways (Badi pol, Hathi pol, Tripolia), series of palaces inside its complex such as Zenana Mahal, Manak Mahal & Fatehprakash Palace, with its corridors, courtyards and balconies overlooking the Udaipur city & the lake. Surprises await you at every corner of this palace, with its breath-taking interiors done in marble, coloured glasses, mirrors, murals, silver & wall-paintings. You won’t be able to absorb even half of this and the palace will open up more to you with its exclusive museums showcasing miniature paintings, handicraft, ornamental items of Chinese & Dutch origin. The unique crystal gallery of unused items: crystal chairs, tables, dressing, sofa, beds, fountains & jewel-studded carpets remain accessible for the public eye in the Fateh Prakash Palace today. Didn’t I say that City Palace of Udaipur is one of its own kind?!

Behind everything that sparkles in & around the City Palace:

Most of us have heard the stories about Rana Sanga who was described as the greatest Indian King by Babur, was taken by surprise by the use of gunpowder & was poisoned by his own men. We have heard of Panna Dai who sacrificed his own son to save the royal prince, Udai Singh II. And who hasn’t heard of the mighty, Maharana Pratap who was a force to reckon with, and made all attempts to take Chittaur back?

You see the connection here?

Every country has its heroes who continue to live in people’s memories, its celebrated literature & everyday stories that continue to live even if centuries pass by. India has many such stories that tell tales of our heroes who showed impossible levels of valour, courage & compassion. If they ever make a list of such heroes, three names that would sure appear on this list would be – Rana Sanga, Panna Dai & Maharana Pratap.

Rana Sanga belonged to the Sisodia Dynasty whose capital was Chittaur. After Rana’s death, two of his sons were assassinated one after the other which was why Chittaur then belonged to Rana’s third son – Udai Singh II. Had it not been for a loyal and compassionate nurse, Udai Singh II would have met the same fate too. But Panna Dai courageously sacrificed her son, saved Udai Singh II & shifted the royal prince to Kumbhalgarh.

Udai Singh II is not only known as the son of Rana Sanga, or the prince who was saved by Panna Dai, but also as the father of the mighty ruler, Maharana Pratap. After shifting the base to Kumbhalgarh, the Mewar kings fought & took Chittaur back. But it was getting increasingly difficult to keep the seat.

Chittaur was getting vulnerable day-by-day & Udai Singh’s army & resources were getting exhausted. This was when the 12th ruler of the kingdom of Mewar & of the Sisodia dynasty, Raja Udai Singh II decided to shift to a new area and build a new capital. The city that he built came to be known as present-day Udaipur. And the palace he started building is the present-day City Palace.

City Palace over the last 10 years:

The first time I visited City Palace was in 2011, on an office trip. And the last I visited City Palace was in December 2021, with family. Between these 10 years, every time I visited the palace, my attention remained divided between Lake Palace, City Palace & other hotspots of Luxury within the city. I spent hours buying handicraft items, leather bags, miniature paintings & jewellery boxes. The remainder of the time was meant for boat rides, walks along the Fateh Sagar & Pichola lakes, cultural shows at Bagore ki Haveli, countless cafes situated in the old Udaipur city & pictures that could go onto my Facebook profile.

Udaipur kept offering & I kept taking. Today, I have more memories than I can share. I talk about some, remember some & the rest are locked in some deeper alleys of my mind, waiting to be rediscovered on one fine day.

No matter how much you explore or take, the city always has more to share.

The next time you are in Udaipur, here’s what I recommend after you have visited the City Palace:

  1. Boat rides in Lake Pichola
  2. Hole up in a cafe nearby and read a book
  3. Watch the cultural show at Bagore ki Haveli
  4. Explore the handicraft shops & buy some souvenirs
  5. If you can, plan a visit to nearby Chittaur or Kumbalgarh fort

3 Comments Add yours

  1. arv! says:

    One of my top places to visit in Rajasthan.


    1. Just Yamini says:

      After Jaipur, you mean? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. arv! says:

        I think it hard to rank one over another. Each has its own charm.


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