Friday, October 7, 2011

Udaipur's Romantic Lake Palace

Built in 1746 as a romantic tryst 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 it.

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 covers every inch of a four acre rock in the middle of 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.

Water Hyacinth
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.

Lake Palace, room with a view
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”.

More to follow ...

Photographs copyright Anne Gordon
Posted on Friday, October 7th, 2011


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