The city is marked with wonderful architectural elegance and Jal Mahal stands at the forefront of these works of art. This serene palace is one of the biggest artificial lakes in Jaipur. Standing amidst the center of Man Sagar Lake, the palace, when you first look at it, will give you the illusion of almost floating atop the lake and that is the moment when this sight takes your breath away. Jal Mahal or the Water Palace is the most spectacular place among the top attractions in Jaipur. The tranquil water of the lake beautifully reflects the elaborate carvings and makes a fabulous sight one could ever dream of.
The history of Jal Mahal is rather indefinite, and the exact origin of the palace is still unknown. Jal Mahal was built between 1688 and 1743. Sawai Jai Singh built it for bathing with his queens and Pandit after the Ashwamedha Yagya. At that time it also served as a lodge for duck hunting adventure. It was also used for dancing and various other events. Man Sagar Lake was then formed when a dam was constructed between the hills which led to the formation of the lake.
Another legend states that Maharaja Madho Singh I constructed the palace in the year 1750 as a hunting lodge. It was never intended to be used as a palace. Later, the interior of the palace was enhanced by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Amber who renovated and added courtyard grounds to it.
The Jal Mahal palace is considered an architectural beauty built in the Rajput and Mughal styles of architecture. The amazing palace with red sandstone intricate architecture has five-storied buildings out of which four floors remain under water when the lake is full and the top floor is exposed.
The specially designed lime mortar and solid stone walls hold back millions of liters of water and have prevented water seepage for over 288 years. The depth of this lake is 15 feet with its low lying areas having a depth of 4.9 feet.
The palace is not too high and has four octagonal dome-shaped pillars at four corners with a big one in the center. The rectangular Chhatri on the center at the roof is built in Bengali style.
Inside, a staircase adjoins the lower floors to an aromatic terrace garden on top of the palace Chameli Bagh which provides a panoramic view of the Aravalli Hills. A platform in the centre of the garden was used for recitals and dance performers. Though the actual garden has deteriorated, it has been developed again and transformed into a restaurant. Even after braving two centuries, the 288-year-old palace still looks magnificent.
There are intricately carved arches of the ceiling and the extensively done up corridors that gives an alluring look to the Jal Mahal Palace. The palace has some of the exquisite marble cravings which denote the royal touch and there are two pillars in the palace which are the cenotaph of the royal family of Maharaja Jai Singh.
Later years saw the facade of this heritage site deprecating due to sewage and water logging. For this, restoration work was undertaken by the Government of Rajasthan to bring the palace to its current impressive state. The intricately redecorated interiors of the palace, featuring floral designs are quite attractive. The restoration work of this palace is that the work was done using traditional materials for plastering, materials that are not used in the construction work today. The plaster consists of partly organic material: a mortar mix of lime, surkhi, and sand mixed with gur (jaggery), guggal and methi (fenugreek) powder.
Then due to lack of maintenance, the Jalmahal was slowly turning into ruins. Work started in 2003, to beautify it, In the name of renovation, normal paint was done earlier, which destroyed the original look of the palace. Later, with the help of renowned experts and artists from across the country, this ruined Jalmahal of Jaipur has regained its lost charm. The craftsmen and architects with their finest artwork have tried their best to bring back the Jalmahal in the same heritage look as it was built years ago. The 288-year-old Jal Mahal built in Mansagar Lake in Jaipur has been given a royal look by spending 135 crores.
The marble and sandstone work in Jalmahal is inspired by the Rajput architecture of Amer and Jaipur. The marble was brought from the same 300-year-old marble mine at Andhi, Jaipur, which was once used to build the palace. New marble nets have been installed by replacing the broken old nets. People had ruined the walls of the palace by writing names on the walls with coal. These walls have been revived by plastering them again with Irish polish and art. Shahi Chameli Bagh, Anand Mahal Tibari and beautiful art galleries are decorated in their original look.
There used to be a royal garden on the roof of the Jalmahal. Due to lack of attention for a long time, wild grass had grown here. Now, this garden has been decorated in the Lotus theme. The design of the beautiful railing of Chameli Bagh has been taken from the Kamal Burj Mandal present in the Chandra-Mahal Garden of the City Palace. The Jasmine Garden with four heritage divisions is also beautifully carved. In the jasmine garden, all flowers are white and the air here smells of jasmine, lotus and frangipani flowers.
There are white marble chhatris and tibari around the garden of Jalmahal. The grandest tibari here is Anand Mahal. The Anand Mahal Tibari has been given a new royal look and is adorned with beautiful colours. It is carved out of 22-carat gold as well as Kundan and Meenakari artwork is done on them. This artwork here is inspired by the art of Sileh Khana of Jaipur’s City Palace. Every window of Tibari, which got spoiled by paint, dust and dampness, has been rubbed and beautiful artwork has been done on them. Other than this, Ras Bihari Tibari is based on Rajasthani Art that depicts the Raas Leela of Krishna inspired by Pritam Chowk of City Palace. Work is yet to be done on the remaining two Tibaris which will start soon.
A series of art galleries have also been created in the palace. The walls are decorated with exquisite canvas paintings on five themes. In these paintings, the Jalmahal and its surrounding landscape are shown on a 34 feet long canvas. A special focus has been given to the heritage of Jaipur in these paintings.
Seeing the variety of birds from Jalmahal and the beautiful plains of the Aravalli ranges is no less than an adventure. Wetlands have developed around the palace which attracts birds like herons, sandpipers and stilt birds. Improvements in aquatic life have also been done and the ecosystem is created for many species.
Along with this, the banks of the lake were also developed. Extensive cleaning was done around the palace. Near the Jalmahal, there was moss on the mount made for birds to sit. The broken mount was renovated. Jal mahal had become a sewage dumpsite. Mansagar was completely cleaned to save the Jalmahal. Separate pipes were installed for sewerage. Now sewerage waste does not come to Mansagar. Oxygen level maintenance devices have been installed to keep the store water fresh.
Things to do at Jal Mahal
This serene palace is one of the best places to visit in Jaipur. Though entry is not allowed, there are few things you can enjoy.
1. Photography: Jal Mahal can prove to be an amazing beauty and every photographer’s dream, having the backdrop of the hills and the palace. Experiment your photography skills from the seating points at the side of the road. The scene is equally alluring at the night when the place is lit up and its glittering silhouette is reflected in the dark water around Jal Mahal, it is a sight worth watching and capturing in your memory and camera. During the monsoons, when the sky is heavily cloudy, the verdant hills behind Jal Mahal illustrate a picturesque background and that is why it is probably one of the most photographed sights in Jaipur.
2. Sightseeing: The path beside the lake is lined with seating arrangements where you can sit and savour the beauty of the surroundings. No matter the place scores hoards of tourists, you will get a place all for you to relish the view of the lake and the palace. The real beauty of the palace can be seen after the sunset in the evening when the entire palace illuminates in lights casting scintillating reflections in the serene and calm water of the Man Sagar Lake. Jal Mahal in the evening shines like a gold jewel nested in the picturesque Aravali valley conjuring up a breathtaking view.
3. Street shopping: You can enjoy shopping some traditional stuff on the path adjoining the boundary wall of the lake. There are several hawkers selling traditional Rajasthani jewellery, mojris and handicraft items. You can try your bargaining skills for sure and you will be obliged too.
4. Camel rides: You can enjoy camel rides at the banks of the lake while enjoying the overlooking beauty of nature and munching on some packed refreshments sold by the nearby stalls. Additionally, you will find several photographers here, ready to take your instant picture in traditional attire.
5. Bird watching: The surrounding hills covered with lush green trees and the serene lake by the shore gets a lot of migratory avian visitors. You can spend a lot of time admiring the mesmerizing beauty of the place at sunset and doing some bird watching. In earlier days when weather was cleaner, Jal Mahal was home for more than 100 species of local and migratory birds including Flamingo, Pintain, Coot, Ruff, Red-breasted flycatcher, crested grebe, kestrel, and pilchards, etc. With pollution the water of the lake became unsuitable for them, gradually their number declined. But after the restoration work the place offers the enchanting scenery of migratory and other exotic varieties of the chirping flock. A few birds can now be seen at Man Sagar Lake like the grey heron, common moorhen, blue-tailed bee-eaters and white-browed wagtail. It is the hot bird watching spot being and the best place to unwind stress with the natural charm of water and birds.
The water palace is amidst the scenic surroundings of Mansagar Lake and Nahargarh hills. The Man Sagar Dam is situated on the eastern side of the Jal Mahal lake that provides a good vantage point providing a picturesque view of the lake and the surrounding Nahargarh hills.
You cannot go inside as the government has restricted the entry and the boat ride has also been stopped. The only glimpse you can get is from the road or on the way to Amber Fort. You can go anytime and can spend as much time as you wish.
How to Reach
Jal Mahal is located at a distance of 11 km from Jaipur Junction Railway Station and 8 km from Amer Fort being situated at the main Amer-Jaipur road. It is around 5 KM from the center of the city. It is easily accessible by autos and taxis.
Best time to visit
Jai Mahal is best when visited during the rainy season as the natural surroundings become even more charming. You can also plan during the month of October to March. Also, if you visit any other time of the year, for the best experience, visit this beautiful palace either during the morning to feel the peace amidst the nature or in the evening when the palace is lit up. This is how to spend a day in Jaipur.