Saturday, April 13, 2024

Tourism      Lakes and Gardens      Rajasthan     Udaipur    

Lake Pichola

Place : Udaipur, Rajasthan
Significance : It is one of the most picturesque lakes in India
Best Season : July to August
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Edged with hills, gardens, temples, bathing ghats (chabutaras), havelis - Lake Pichola means ‘the backyard’ is an artificial fresh water lake in Udaipur. One of the largest and oldest, it is located in the heart of the city Udaipur in Rajasthan state. The beauty of the lake, the picturesque images of the monuments on the water and the lush green surroundings make this place worth visiting.

Surrounded by the Aravali hills, Pichola lake is nearly  4 km length, 3km width and gets maximum deep at the time of heavy rains, but dry up at the time of severe drought. Rainwater is the main source to fill these lake and when there is more water in the lake, it attracts a lot of Indian and Foreign tourists. 

Named after the nearby Picholi Village, two islands locally known as Jag Niwas and Jag Mandir are located within Pichola Lake. On its shores are the Oberoi Udaivilas, the Leela Palace Kempinski, two heritage hotels - Shiv Niwas and Fateh Prakash - and the City Palace museum.
Legends say that it was created early in the 15th century, during the reign of Maharana Lakha by a Banjara tribesman, Pichhu Banjara who built a bridge over it as his Bullocks couldn't cross the stream of the Lake. Later it was enlarged by Maharaja Udai Singh and built a stone masonry dam known as ‘Badi Pol’. Over the decades, the lake and surroundings have been developed and it has become a major tourist attraction.

Jag Niwas Island is entirely covered by the Lake Palace, a 250 year old white marble and mosaic summer palace. One of the most romantic places in the world, it is a beautiful palace, situated in the mid of the Lake Pichola. The palace is now a five star heritage hotel under Taj Group of hotels, with beautiful gardens and pavilions. Appears to be emerging from clean blue water, it is the most photographed hotel in India. The palace was built by Maharaja Jagat Singh as his summer home in 1740. Its courtyard has a restaurant offering stunning scenic views. Sheesh Mahal (The Mirror Palace), Krishna Vilas (The Abode of Lord Krishna), Chini Chitrashala (Chinese Art Gallery), Mor Chowk (Peacock Court) and the Amar Vilas (The Eernal Abode) are the main attractions of this palace. 

A little father south is the Jag Mandir built by Maharaja Karan Singh. It is notable for the Gul Mahal, a domed pavilion which was built by Maharana Jagat Singh (1628-52). Although, Jag Mandir was built by Maharana Karan Singh, it takes its name from Maharana Jagat Singh who made a number of additions to it. He built a Zenana' or the women's section to the palace. Famous as the star location in the movie 'Octopussy' it has also gained historical importance, when Prince Khurram (later Shah Jahan) was given refuge here when he was in revolt against his father, Mughal Emperor Jahangir.At the time of 1857 mutiny, Maharana Swaroop Singh gave shelter to European families in this palace. 

This is a three storied building, built of yellow sandstone dedicated to the Lord of the Universe. Its inner lining is made of marble. The interior is decorated with coloured stones and presently it boasts some exquisite Mughal paintings. The courtyard center has exquisitely carved chhatri of special grey-green granite. The island is well maintained, with fountains and has a row of elephants that look like guarding the island. It is also said that Jagmandir was the inspiration behind the Shah Jehan's Taj Mahal. He took many ideas especially the pieta dura work from Jag Mandir palace. Now this Island has hosted a number of grand events through the decades including weddings and Royal parties.

Apart from these two large islands, there are several other smaller islands. On the western coast of the Lake, Just behind the Jag Niwas, is the Arsi Vilas Island where Swaroop Sagar Lake is connected to Lake Pichola by an arched bridge that was erected by Maharana Swaroop Singh. The bird sanctuary and Sitamata Game Sanctuary here, attracts a large number of tourists. Constructed by Maharana Arsi Singh, for to watch the sunset from the middle of the lake, it has a lower platform at the back, which serves the purpose of a helipad when required. 

To the southern part of the lake, is a hill known as a Hora Magra where one can see the Eklinggarh Fort. Towards the eastern banks of the lake one can see City Palace of Udaipur the largest palace complex in city. The northern side of the lake, there is the ceremonial ghat wherein Gangaur Festival is celebrated. Dedicated to Gauri, a manifestation of Goddess Parvati; consort of Lord Shiva, it is celebrated on the first day of Chaitra, the day following Holi and lasts for 18days.

Besides Jag mandir and Jag Niwas there is the Mohan Mandir and Natani ka Chabutra. The Mohan Mandir was built between 1628 and 1652 by Jagat Singh. Even though it looks like a temple, it does not have a deity. It was built in memory of one of the unofficial sons of Maharana Jagat Singh, Mohandas. Presently it is owned by the state government and is used for display of fireworks during the Gangeur or Mewar festival.

Natini Chabutra, a raised platform in the courtyard built in the memory of a natani (tightrope walker). There is a story behind it. Maharana Jawan Singh offered half of the Mewar Kingdome to a tightrope walker if she crossed the lake from a village on the west bank to the City Palace on the East bank. But she was cheated as the rope got cut off and she drowned in the lake. Before she drowned, she cursed the Maharana family that there would not be any direct successors for them. That curse believed come true. 

Most beautiful at sunrise and sunset, one can sit and enjoy this beautiful lake on Lal Ghat, Gangaur Ghat and Hanuman Ghat . It also offers excellent opportunity for boat riding. the tourists are usually ferried in boats to their destined hotels. One can take a boat from the City Palace jetty on Bansi Ghat. (Fee: Adult: Rs 250, Child Rs 130 per hour, and Adult: Rs 130, Child Rs 50 for 1/2 hr). The longer boat ride includes a 20-min halt at Jagmandir Island.

The favorite spot of moviemakers, Lake Pichola is located only 3 km away from the bus station and railway station and 25 km from the airport. One could reach the lake by getting auto-rickshaws, Tongas, taxis or by local buses.