Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Lake Palace on Lake Pichola


Resembling a Venetian palace and built entirely of marble, this stark white confection of cupolas, tranquil gardens with lily ponds, fountains and sprays of crimson Bougainvillea occupies a four acre rock in the middle of Lake Pichola.

Built in 1746 as a venue for Udaipur’s royal prince Maharana Jagat Singh II to entertain his paramours, the Lake Palace to this day, weaves a spell of enchantment around all who visit .

A night view from the Lake Palace across Lake Pichola
Like another world, part of its charm for us was that it was cut off from the bustle of city life just a ten minute boat ride away. We were blessedly free from the roar of car and bus engines. There were no pigs foraging in garbage at the roadside, no sacred cows lying in the middle of the road disrupting the traffic.

As I sat at the window of our suite the ancient chant of a muezzin calling the faithful to prayer and the passionate, tremulous notes of an Indian gazal drifted across the water. Close-by a grey cormorant perched on the bow of a fishing boat with wings spread wide to catch cool breezes, whilst clumps of water hyacinth splashed with blue swayed sensuously at each passing of the water taxi.

 Life was not always as tranquil in the Palace, though. There was a time during the rule of the British Raj when tensions ran high between the British authorities and the head of India’s premier royal family. Called upon to enlist men for the British army during the First World War, Maharana Fateh Singh, a feisty old fellow, exerted his royal privilege and declined. To him the British rulers were upstarts. Nevertheless, after the war he was awarded a military medal which he brushed aside with a disdainful “Put it on my horse. This is the sort of thing my messengers wear”.

Illustrious guests visit the Lake Palace
Since those days relations with Britain have improved. In 1961 Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were guests of the Maharana. The following year Jacqueline Kennedy and her sister, Princess Lee Radziwell were entertained at the palace. To this day Udaipur’s water palace remains a venue for royalty and the distinguished. The Shah or Iran, the Queen of the Netherlands, His Majesty Shri Wangchuck, Prince of Bhutan and his Queen are just a few of its royal visitors.

Posted by Anne Gordon on Saturday, 13th November, 2010


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