Lake Palace

Lake Palace is a former pleasure palace, conceived in romance by the Maharana Jagat Singh II (62nd successor to the royal dynasty of Mewar) of Udaipur, Rajasthan. It arises majestically from the serene waters of Lake Pichola. "Jag Niwas", as it is called in Hindi, now houses a luxury hotel, Taj Lake Palace. A surreal 18th century marble vision flanked by the enchanting Aravalli mountains on one side, and lofty palaces on the other, the Taj Lake Palace invites guests to explore its corridors and courtyards, pavilions and ponds, gardens and fountains, that echo with the memories, luxuries and extravagances of a bygone era.

History of the Palace

The sonnet in stone was created from the desire of a young man to picnic under the moonlight with a beautiful maiden. Legend has it that the young Prince Jagat Singh asked permission of his father, the Maharana of Mewar, to accompany the ladies of the court to the pleasure island, Jag Mandir. His father refused, strongly saying that if his son wanted to spend his time so frivolously he should build his own pleasure palace. [ Crump, Page 250.] The moment he ascended the throne, that's exactly what the Maharana did.

After succeeding to the throne, on May 4, 1743 [http://www.mewarindia.com/comm/indexcom2.html. Retrieved 14 April 2008.] , the foundation stone for the impossibly beautiful palace was laid on a four-acre island near the northern shore of the lake. The palace was completed on 20 Jan 1746 [http://www.mewarindia.com/comm/indexcom2.html. Retrieved 14 April 2008.] . A lavish ceremony marked its inauguration. Every beautiful maiden in the zenana attended, and the hedonistic revelry was captured by the court bard, Nandram, in his lyrical poem, Jagatvilas. Thoroughbred horses, elephants, clothes and jewellery were showered as gifts upon the king's noblemen and court bards. The celebration, true to the extravagance of royal India, lasted for three glorious days.

But the history of the palace really begins eras earlier with the royal Sons of the Sun, the first rulers of the ancient House of Mewar, believed to be the direct descendents of the legendary King Rama himself. When Chittor, the traditional capital of Mewar was overrun by the Mughals, the ruler Udai Singh was wise enough to realise his fortresses were no longer impregnable to the onslaught of modern warfare. He made a strategic decision to flee the city and look for a safer place to set up his new capital. He returned to the cradle of his ancestors, the Aravalli hills. He knew the surrounding forests, hills and lakes would afford him all the protection he needed and laid the first stones of the city he christened Udaipur after himself. For four centuries, it stood steadfast as the majestic capital of the Mewars, until it was absorbed into the state of Rajasthan in 1949.

Maharana Karan Singh, grandson of Rana Pratap, one of the most famous Mewar rulers, was the great builder who set up many of the rooms, courtyards and halls of the grand City Palace. A spectacular pleasure palace, with the beautiful zenana as its centrepiece, arose from his vision. It was christened the Jag Mandir. The palace holds a special place in the annals of the family’s history for a tale of immeasurable hospitality. A young Mughal prince, Khurrum, rebelled against his emperor father, and sought refuge at the palace, the home of the traditional enemy of the Mughals. He was still a guest at the palace when his father died, and it was from here that he made the proclamation of his succession to the emperor’s throne as Shah Jahan. Folklore has it that when Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal, he was inspired by his memories of the Jag Mandir.

In Maharana Jagat Singh's reign, the kingdom experienced some trouble. Ignoring the crisis his kingdom was facing with the oppression by the Marathas, Maharana Jagat Singh continued to live lavishly, chasing every pleasure life had to offer. Without his carefree joie de vivre, the spectacular Lake Palace would never have existed. Since it first arose from the lake in all its majesty, writers, poets and artists of all kinds have tripped over themselves in a vain effort to describe the unearthly beauty of the palace and its surroundings. Said the Vicereine Alice, Countess of Reading, “The lake looked like every tale of fairyland rolled into one, thousands of lamps, hundreds of temples, cupolas, and marble palaces, with a dark blue velvet sky overhead, bestrewn with stars… The Children of the Sun must indeed reign here for a more beautiful light I have never seen than that which bathes these palaces.”

By the middle of the 20th century, the palace had fallen into a state of despair due to the lack of interest by the ruling family and the effects of time and the weather, though it was still used by the royal family as their summer residence. When Bhagwat Singh succeeded to the throne of Mewar in 1955, he decided that the only way to maintain and restore the palace was by converting it into a hotel. [Crites, Page 227.] Under the supervison of American artist Didi Contractor, [Crites, Page 232.] hotel facilities were added, the ponds and gardens were cleared and restored while pavilions were and enlarged. In 1963, [Crites, Page 232.] the palace officially opened its doors, though Queen Elizabeth II and the Prince Philip in 1961, [http://www.mewarindia.com/comm/indexcom2.html. Retrieved 14 April 2008.] Jacqueline Kennedy and her sister, Lee Radziwill in 1962 [http://www.mewarindia.com/comm/indexcom2.html. Retrieved 14 April 2008.] stayed there during visits to India prior to the official opening. [Warren, Page 60.] Due to its grandeur, magnificence and romantic location, it rapidly became popular and immediately established itself as one of the most iconic hotels of India.

In 1971, Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces took over management of the hotel. [Warren, Page 60.] and added another 75 rooms. [http://www.mewarindia.com/comm/indexcom2.html. Retrieved 14 April 2008.] In 2000, a second restoration was undertaken. As both, royal abode and luxury hotel, The Taj Lake Palace has captured the affection of the likes of Lord Curzon, Vivien Leigh, Queen Elizabeth and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

The hotel operates a boat which transports guests to the hotel from a jetty at the City Palace.

Hotel Facts

Guests can experience opulent luxury in 83 rooms and suites.

Luxury Rooms (33)Offering sumptuous comfort and princely-inspired décor. All rooms provide stunning views of the lake as well as luxury guest amenities.

Palace Rooms (33)Offering opulent comfort and inspired design befitting royalty. Include all the above guest amenities as well as clawfoot bathtubs, and spacious lounge areas.

Suites (17)

*"Grand Presidential Suite (1)"
**Shambhu PrakashThe Shambhu Prakash suite, named after the Maharana Shambhu Singh is furnished in impressive, opulent strokes and graced with high curved arches, exudes grandeur and a European touch. The adjoining terrace offers panoramic views of the lake and hills.
*"Grand Royal Suites (10)" The Grand Royal Suites, the epitome of royal grandeur, offer a tryst with the finest traditions and lifestyle of the rulers of the princely kingdoms of Rajasthan

**Khush Mahal Khush Mahal, tucked away to the rear of the palace, was once one of the two queens chambers. The spectacular suite with its aesthetically furnished interiors subtly divided by cusped arches is evocative of an understated elegance. An antique swing, suspended by decorative gleaming brass chains, invites you to sit back and enjoy the charm of this beautiful suite as coloured glass panels transform sunrays into a kaleidoscope of colours, infusing the room with an enchanting ambience.
**Udai Mahal Udai Mahal pays tribute to the illustrious and foresighted ruler Maharana Udai Singh II, who laid the foundations of Udaipur, on a cluster of hills near Lake Pichola in the mid-16th century. The exquisitely furnished suite, embellished with original miniature paintings, brocade panelling and antique ivory inlaid chairs create a regal world waiting to be savoured.
**Sarva Ritu Sarva Ritu or the ‘All Seasons' Suite is a seamless blend of royal living and contemporary luxury. The interiors are embellished with charming beds with decorative silver headboards, rich furnishings, a brilliant Waterford chandelier and engravings.
**Kamal Mahal Kamal Mahal or Lotus Palace alludes the beauty of the flower, traditionally regarded as a symbol of purity in India. The pristine beauty of the suite, with its select artefacts, paintings, furniture and carpets, conveys a warm and welcoming ambience. The Pichwai, a revered hand painted cloth traditionally crafted in Nathdwara to be hung behind idols, adds beauty to the suite.
**Sajjan Niwas The Sajjan Niwas suite, built by Maharana Sajjan Singh between 1874-1884, retains an old world charm in its lamps, portraits, glass mosaic inlay, traditional cloth fans, doors surfaced with mirrors and furniture. The bedroom of the suite, decorated with frescoes depicting the Hindu deity Krishna, is suffused with romance. The Sajjan Niwas Suite opens onto the Sajjan Terrace overlooking the lake with spectacular views of the Jagmandir Island and Aravallis.
**Chandra Prakash The Chandra Prakash Suite, the Luster of the Moon Suite, glows like a celestial orb with golden-yellow chandeliers and lamps softly lighting the decorative gilt mouldings, sinuously sculpted marble, fine fretted screens, floor inlaid with yellow, diamond-shaped tiles and the ceiling embellished with frescoes. Maharana Bhupal Singh held court in this august room in the 1930’s; making it the only suite to hold this honour.
**Mayur Mahal Mayur Mahal or Peacock Palace is inspired by the resplendent beauty of the iridescent blue, green and bronze hues of the peacock. In India the beautiful bird has traditionally been regarded as a symbol of royalty, love, fertility and the rains. Artistically crafted with glass mosaic peacock motifs embellishing the walls of this exquisite suite and its rich interiors create a regal ambience. The coloured glass window panels change the mood in the room with the shifting sunrays.
**Jal Tarang Jal Tarang evocative of the waves of water is a beautiful suite. Located at the lobby level it offers scenic views of the tranquil waters of Lake Pichola and the mountains. The beauty of this suite has been enhanced by enclosing the corner chattri, once semi-open pavilion to enjoy the view and breeze, and adding a Jacuzzi in the snug space. With a flick of a switch, the glass panel changes from frosted to clear so that you can soak yourself in complete privacy with a drink and a spectacular view of the lake and mountains.
**Sarva Shresth Suite Sarva Shresth Suite, as the name suggests, is simply the best. The beautiful, spacious and elaborate suite encompasses the arrangement of a complete residence as it includes a living and dining room. Embellished with elegant and old-world artefacts and furniture, it offers guests a complete experience of staying in a palace.
**Virkha Virkha or rains, are specially precious in desert and semi-arid regions of Rajasthan. Clouds fill the skies, and the rain fall gently fills the lakes, transforming the land into soothing shades of green and infusing the air with a soft scent of damp earth. This elegant suite, embellished with local crafts and textiles, includes a sitting area and two balconies that offer guests panoramic views of the lake to enjoy the special season.

*"The Royal Suites (5)" The Royal Suite offers the guest a glimpse of royal living, intimately linked with the evolution of the beautiful Lake Palace, offer a bonding with nature’s elements.

**Sandhya Suite Sandhya or evening, a time suggestive of beauty and tranquillity is embellished in rich emerald green and royal blue. The suite is perfect for savouring sunsets that are always special by the side of the shimmering waters of Lake Pichola and the spectacular Aravalli mountains. The softened sunrays, slipping in through aquamarine window panes, light the ornate antique gilt furniture casting a magical ambience in the room. Guests can enjoy the changing colours of the sky and waters over spirits and entrée’s in the privacy of this beautiful suite.
**Basant Bahar Basant Bahar, inspired by the spirit of the season of spring, is a luxurious suite. With a silk canopy over the decorative four poster bed, silk furnishings, rich carpet, miniature paintings and inlaid furniture, the suite offers a heady regal ambience as well as the ethereal beauty of spring. The suite also has scenic views of the lake and Jagmandir, the neighbouring island palace.
**Aravali Darshan The Aravalli Darshan, as the name suggests, offers a view of the Aravallis, the oldest fold mountains in the world that stretch 350 miles in a north-easterly slant through Rajasthan. Discover the pure beauty of nature with the spectacular panorama of the ring of mountains ensconcing the turquoise waters of Lake Pichola whilst staying at this elegant suite.
**Machla Magra Machla Magra as the name suggests offers a magnificent view of an unusual mountain that outlines the form of a fish. This wooded hillside was once a favourite hunting ground for the king, and even today the shooting box seen amidst its foliage recounts the days of royalty as does the stone city wall that gently meanders up the slope. The compact suite also offers views of the lake; of Jagmandir the neighbouring island palace; and the hills, that can be enjoyed from the snug alcove.
**Jag Mandir Darshan Jag Mandir Darshan offers a picturesque view of the Jagmandir island, a serene palace built by Maharana Karan Singh in about 1620. The Mughal prince Khurrram, later Emperor Shah Jehan, sought refuge in its soothing ambience in 1623 and it is said that inspired by the exquisite palace he later built the Taj Mahal at Agra. The rulers of Udaipur enjoyed the beauty and tranquillity of the palace. When heir apparent Maharana Jagat Singh II was restrained by his father to curtail his moonlight soirees at the island, he vowed to built his own island palace. The result was the creation of Jag Niwas, now Taj Lake Palace, which was inaugurated with lavish and elaborate festivities in 1746. The Jag Mandir Darshan suite recalls the incident that gave Udaipur the beautiful lake palace. The elegant suite is blessed with a view of the lake, Jagmandir Island and the hills.

*"Royal Spa Suite (1)"
**Rang MahalRang Mahal as the name suggests is suffused with colour. The bright and cheerful colours of the embellishments infuse the suite with joie de vivre. Created in one of the oldest parts of the palace, this lovely one beded suite having a treatment room (massage room) and its own private Jacuzzi, charmingly set in two levels offers scenic views and of Jagmandir, the neighbouring island palace.

Trivia

The palace was a central feature in James Bond's "Octopussy".

References

Literature

*cite book|author=Crump, Vivien; Toh, Irene| title= Rajasthan| location=London| publisher=Everyman Guides|origdate=1996| format = hardback| id = ISBN 1-85715-887-3| pages = 400 pages
*cite book|author= Crites, Mitchell Shelby; Nanji, Ameeta|title= India Sublime – Princely Palace Hotels of Rajasthan| location=New York| publisher=Rizzoli| origdate=2007|format = hardback| id = ISBN-13 978-0-8478-2979-9| pages = 272 pages
*cite book|author=Badhwar, Inderjit; Leong, Susan|title=India Chic| orig date =2006| location=Singapore| publisher=Bolding Books|id = ISBN 981-4155-57-8| pages = 240
*cite book|author=Michell, George, Martinelli, Antonio| title=The Palaces of Rajasthan| origdate = 2005| publisher=Frances Lincoln| location=London| id = ISBN 978-0711225053| pages = 271 pages
*cite book| last = Preston | first = Diana & Michael | title = A Teardrop on the Cheek of Time | origdate = 2007| format = Hardback| edition = First| publisher = Doubleday | location = London | language = English| id = ISBN 9780385609470| pages = 354 pages
*cite book| last = Tillotson | first = G.H.R| title = The Rajput Palaces - The Development of an Architectural Style| origdate = 1987| format = Hardback| edition = First| publisher = Yale University Press| location = New Haven and London| language = English| id = ISBN 03000 37384| pages = 224 pages
*cite book|author=William Warren, Jill Gocher| title=Asia's Legendary Hotels: The Romance of Travel| location=Singapore| publisher=Periplus Editions| origdate=2007| format = hardback| id = ISBN 978-0-7946-0174-4

External links

* [http://www.tajhotels.com/palace/Taj%20Lake%20Palace,Udaipur/ Taj Lake Palace] Homepage of the Taj Palace Hotel.
* [http://www.mewarindia.com/] Homepage of the royal family of Mewar.


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