Considered to be one of the grandest royal complexes in Rajasthan, the City Palace is built on the banks of Lake Pichola in Udaipur. The splendid palace was constructed in 1559 by Maharana Uday Singh and many Maharanas lived and administered their kingdoms from here, while the palace held the seat of power. The successors later added more structures to the palace, adding to its grandeur and magnificence. An array of pavilions, courtyards, Mahals, rooms, corridors, and hanging gardens are now a part of the Palace. A museum showcasing the best elements of the Rajput art and cultural history is also built inside the palace. It showcases many things including the finest of Rajasthani paintings and architecture.
This grand edifice of granite and marble nestled at the foothills of the Aravali range stands tall among its contrasting natural surroundings. The regal palace, full of intricate architecture, is a subtle and simple mix of Chinese, European and medieval influences and has a combination of domes, arches, and towers embellishing the palace at numerous places. The sight of the green and lush gardens providing a base to the city palace to rest on is a sight to behold. The Bollywood industry has some fans of the place who are in awe of it. This can be testified by the fact that parts of movies like ‘Guide’ and ‘Octopussy’ have been shot here. A soft amalgamation of rich cultural heritage and architecture, a visit to this palace will surely take you on a journey through various pages of our history.
More about City Palace, Udaipur
The history of the City Palace finds its origins in the kingdom of Mewar, which reached its highest potential near the territory of Nagada. The founder of the kingdom, Guhil, established the dominance of Maharanas in 568 AD. His successor, Maharana Uday Singh II of the Mewar kingdom subsequently inherited the throne and the fear of losing the kingdom and its control to the Mughals forced him to move the capital to a location near Lake Pichola. Surrounded by hills, forests and flanked by lakes, the city of Udaipur felt like a new safety ground from invasions and the construction of the palace was done on advice from a hermit.
‘Rai Angan’ was the first structure to be built in the palace and from there, the construction started in full swing and continued with vigor till it got completed in the year 1559. Over a period of 400 years, many changes and additions were made to the then existing structure. A few structures, including 11 smaller new palaces were added by the ruler Uday Singh II. Maharana Pratap, his son, inherited the throne after his death but was defeated in the Battle of Haldighati by Akbar, the Mughal Emporer. Mughals then took over Udaipur but after Akbar’s death, they returned it to Maharana Pratap’s son.
MaharanaBhim Singh was forced to sign a treaty accepting protection from the British because of increased acts of offenses by the Marathas. The palace was under British control till India gained independence in 1947, and the kingdom of Mewar merged with the Indian democracy in 1949.
The front facade of the City Palace is a strikingly noticeable sight to behold, which is almost about 244 meters of high and 30.4 meters wide. The unique and distinguishing feature of the palace is that even though it was built in parts and structures over the years, it is homogeneous in terms of the construction and design of those structures. While the Marble and Granite were the primary stones used in its making, the marble-work, mirror-work, silver-work, murals, wall paintings, and colored glass decorate the palace with their delicate and intricate designs regally. A very welcoming view of the city is visible from the terrace at the top of the palace.
On the inside, the palace is like a maze of long corridors, which were so designed to protect the people inside from a surprise attack by the enemies. Hati pol or the large elephant gate is the entrance to the complex. At the same magnificent entrance, there is also a Jagdish temple. Subsequently, The big gate or the Bari Pol then leads to the courtyard, followed by the Tripoli or the triple gate. Many beautiful apartments are housed inside the City Palace, overlooking the entire overview of the city. The royal courtyard also called the Raj Angan, built by Maharana Uday Singh is one of the oldest structures of the palace. The Mahals have been converted into museums now. The 11 small palaces inside the City Palace are now turned into galleries for visitors. From the highest point of the palace, Amar Vilas, the view of hanging gardens along with waterfalls, terraces and towers is breathtaking.
Structures inside the City Palace
The inside of the palace is a collection of different types of structures. They include the following:
- Gateways: The gateways are the entrances to the palace. There are a number of them, including the Bari Pol, on the left side, the Tripola at the center, which is a triple-arched gate constructed in 1725 and the Hathi Pol or the elephant gate on the right. The Bara pol is the main entrance to the palace which welcomes you to the courtyard. It was at this place that the Maharanas were weighed against jewels of gold and silver and later these jewels were distributed among the poor. Toran Pol or the arches made of marble are also built here.
- Amar Vilas: An elevated area with a hanging garden, Amar Vilas is wonderfully enriched with decor of fountains, terraces, towers, and a marble tub in the shape of a square. The Maharajas used to love spending their time here because it was the highest point of the palace. The way to the Badi Mahal is also through Amar Vilas.
- Badi Mahal: The structure of Badi Mahal, or the Garden Palace which is 27 meters high, is built on a natural rock formation. The swimming pool that was used while celebrating Holi is also situated here. The wall paintings of Lord Vishnu from Jagdish temple and paintings from Jag Mandir are kept inside a hall here. The hall is also the house to miniature paintings from the 18th and 19th centuries.
- Fateprakash Palace: The Fateprakash Palace has been transformed into a hotel now. There are rare and antique items like crockery, crystal chairs, tables, chairs, beds, table fountains, dressing tables, and jewel-studded carpets present in the palace. These rare items were ordered by Maharana Sajjan Singh in 1877, but unfortunately could never be used by him as he died even before they arrived.
- Durbar Hall: The Durbar Hall is a comparatively newer structure added to the palace. It was constructed as a place for official functions within the Fateprakash Palace in 1909. Scintillating chandeliers and weapons and portraits of the Maharana embellish this hall.
- Bhim Vilas: Bhim Vilas is a gallery with beautiful paintings from the lives of the Indian gods, Radha and Krishna.
- Chini Chitrashali: This is a unique attraction in the palace as it has a beautiful collection of Dutch and Chinese tiles.
- Choti Chitrashali: This gallery is dedicated to the images of peacocks.
- Krishna Vilas: A collection of miniature paintings grace the chamber of Krishna Vilas.
- Manak Mahal: This Mahal was a hall dedicated to formal audiences and formal gatherings of the Mewar rulers. It has an elevated niched which is completely covered by mirrors on the inside. Motifs like the sun-face emblems can be viewed here. At the lower level, the reception center called the Surya Chopar shows the largest emblem among these.
- Mor Chowk: This inner chamber has an intricate illustration of three peacocks representing the three seasons of summer, winter, and monsoon and is an integral part of the palace. It took 5000 pieces of glass in green, blue, and golden color to design these shining peacocks. On the upper level, a balcony is projected by colored glass insertions. Kanch-ki-Burj lies right next to this and is home to a mirror mosaics collection on the walls. There is a smaller chowk within this chowk called the Bari Charur Chowk for private use.
- Rang Bhawan: Initially the Rang Bhawan was the royal treasury. Now it is the home for Lord Krishna, Meera bai and Lord Shiva, located in the palace.
- Sheesh Mahal: Maharana Pratap built this ‘Palace of mirrors’ for his wife, Maharani Ajabde in 1716.
- Museum: Initially called the ‘Zenana Mahal’ or the
ladies chamber, this place is now open for public visiting as a museum.
Best time to visit
Less crowd can be expected in the evening and morning hours, and the place is also a little cooler. The months of winter between October and March are preferred if you wish to visit City Palace.
Places to stay nearby
Comfortable and luxurious stay options like Hotel Udaigarh, Hotel Chandra Prakash, Hotel Raj Palace, Hotel Ishwar Palace, and Fateh Prakash Palace are available near the City Palace itself. You may also choose to treat yourself and indulge in a luxurious and extravagant stay at Hotel Oberoi or Hotel Udai Vilas.
Tips for visiting
- In some permitted areas, photography is allowed. However, charges of INR 200 and INR 500 are to be paid for photography and videography respectively.
- It is advisable to carry sunglasses, a hat, sunblock, and sufficient water with you.
- Maintain necessary caution around the delicate relics inside the museum.
- Generally, the City Palace is very crowded, especially in the peak season and on long weekends.
How to reach the City Palace
It is located right inside the city of Udaipur and is accessible through tongas, auto-rickshaws, and taxis. The city bus service also connects everything, including the city palace well. You can also take a ferry ride from City Palace to Jag Mandir for approximately INR 400.