Jal Mahal – a palace on the water. India

4. Jal Mahal and Hawa Mahal Palaces. Continuing to see the sights of Jaipur

I inserted the phrase, “How much time to spend in the Pink City?” in the title of the previous chapter with the trip report on India. I think if you are a photographer, two days is enough. Spend the first to visit the Jaigarh and Amber forts, to climb the hills next to them. On the second day you can go see the rest of the sights. To my great regret we did not have such a chance: we had to climb the fort and see the Palace of the Winds by 5 pm. So, when we had finished our tour of Jaigarkh Fort we went to the rickshaw stand to make an appointment to go back to the center.

Naturally, there – a kind of “cab mafia”: no cheaper than 350 rupees do not agree to go, explaining the high price of travel because of young children, high taxes and forty rupees for a fee for parking at the walls of the fort Amber.

We bypassed all the motorized rickshaws lined up in a long row along the track at the entrance gate of the fort, back to the beginning. Twice we boarded the wagon, after which the driver voiced, “Oh, sir, there’s some misunderstanding, I’ll only take you for 300 rupees!” We get out and go to another one – same story.

The clock is ticking, our train to Bharatpur is about to leave, and we have to go to see Hawa Mahal and get our things at the hotel. We mustn’t do anything: we submit to fate and for 250 rupees we hire the black tarry son of Shiva, who promises to stop for 10 minutes and wait for us at the Palace on the water.

Jal Mahal Palace as a symbol of the similarity between Indian and Russian reality.

When you look at the guidebooks with pictures from Jaipur, three main landmarks serve as symbols of the Pink City: the Palace of the Winds (Hawa Mahal), Amber Fort and the Palace on the Water (Jal Mahal). At least when I was making my travel itinerary, these three sites were on the must-see list of things to see in this region of India.

Photo 1. Jal Mahal Palace on water - the jewel of Jaipur. A self-guided trip to India in February 2017. Nikon D610 camera with a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G lens. Settings: shutter speed 1/1000, exposure compensation 0EV, f/4.5, ISO 100, focal length 116mm.

Photo 1. Jal Mahal Palace on Water – the jewel of Jaipur. A self-guided trip to India in February 2017. Nikon D610 camera with a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G lens. Settings: shutter speed 1/1000, exposure correction 0EV, f/4.5, ISO 100, focal length 116mm.

Tourists picture this building roughly like the one in the photo above. If you take it in the mode light and mirror reflection on the surface of Man Sagar Lake, it’s a beauty!

When I tried to search for information about this palace, however, it turned out that information was extremely scarce. In 1610 Raja Man Singh I, who ruled the Principality of Amer, decided to build a water reservoir for which the Darbhawati river was dammed and the Maine Sagar Lake was formed. Then, during the reign of Maharaja Jai Singh II (ruled from 1699 to 1744), the height of the dam, that is, the depth of the lake, was further increased. In 1727, the Mughal Empire weakened and Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II decided to move the capital from arid Amber to the newly built city on the plains south of Jaipur. The city was the first settlement in India to be developed according to an urban plan. Architect Vidhiadhara Bhattacharya found inspiration in the shastras of the nine-row mandala (a special geometric symbol interpreting the model of the universe): the zoning of the main and secondary streets, all in harmony with the numerical proportions with great possibility of individual development.

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By 1734, Maharaja Jai Singh II thought about the fact that he had nowhere to lay his head while hunting… and ordered the construction of a hunting lodge in the middle of Lake Maine Sagar. They drained the water and built a five-storey mansion, flooded it again and got Jal Mahal (Palace on Water: jal means water in Hindi, mahal means palace).

While the maharajahs ruled, everything was fine with the lake. But in 1947 India gained independence from Great Britain, after which the principalities were abolished and the maharajahs’ property was nationalized.

We all know, state-owned means nobody’s property. The Jal Mahal Palace gradually fell into disrepair. The devastation was compounded by another disaster: in 1962, the Jaipur City Executive Committee decided to discharge the city’s sewage into the Maine Sagar Lake. Just imagine: three million people and no wastewater treatment plant… The content of organic matter was 150 times more than allowed by the state standards, and the number of hazardous bacteria was thousands times more than allowed by the state standards. The surface of the reservoir quickly overgrows with sludge, fish die, birds fly away. The Maine Sagar Lake is an ecological disaster zone, the Jal Mahal Palace lies in g…not in the literal sense.

This went on until 1999, when the leaders of Jaipur realized that comments such as, “Don’t stay in the Maine Sagar area, it stinks terribly,” were damaging the city’s tourist image and something had to be done. They held a tender, which in 2004 was won by a construction group owned by a local jewelry oligarch. The lake, the palace and the adjoining territory were given on lease for 99 years, with a yearly payment of 20.5 million rupees and a 10% increase in rent every year.

The work boiled over, several million tons of fecal matter was released into the water and removed, and the reservoir was deepened by several meters. Two additional canals were dug to divert urban runoff directly into the river. They made a trap for large debris in the rainwater collection areas (the surrounding hills are full of settlements without treatment facilities, where thousands of tons of polyethylene bottles, plastic bags, etc. are dumped).

They also invited a team of restorers who repaired the walls, decorated the interiors and planted a flowering garden on the roof. There were plans to open a luxury hotel in the Jal Mahal Palace. In addition, a promenade along the waterfront was arranged.

Photo 2. Caravan on the shore of Lake Maine Sagar in Jaipur. Testimonials from a tourist on a wilderness trip in India. Nikon D610 camera, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G lens. Parameters: 1/500, 5.6, 100, 29.

Photo 2. A caravan on the shore of the Maine Sagar Lake in Jaipur. Traveler’s reviews of a wilderness trip in India. Nikon D610 camera, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G lens. Parameters: 1/500, 5.6, 100, 29.

It must be said that the efforts of the new managers bore fruit: the pond began to transform from a dead swamp into a lake, fish and even birds appeared.

Photo 4. Stilt-walkers on the shore of the Maine Sagar Lake in Jaipur. Self-trip report to India in winter 2017. 1/800, 4.5, 100, 200.

Photo 4. Stiltworms on the shore of Maine Sagar Lake in Jaipur. Self-trip report on a winter 2017 trip to India. 1/800, 4.5, 100, 200.

Today, though the landscape of Maine Sagar may not be perfectly clear, at least tourists aren’t turning their noses up at the Jal Mahal Palace.

Photo 5. Jal Mahal Palace on the Maine Sagar Lake in Jaipur. Tourist reviews of traveling to India on your own. 1/250, 9.0, 100, 24.

Photo 5. Jal Mahal Palace at Man Sagar Lake in Jaipur. Tourist reviews of a trip to India on your own. 1/250, 9.0, 100, 24.

All was serene in the firmament overhanging the emerald hills, the water surface of Maine Sagar and the amber Jal Mahal, until in 2010, a local lawyer named Gaur began “brewing a compote,” like Alexei Navalny, known to all Russians. He pulled up the papers and dug out that in 2004, officials had cheated with the valuation of the Indian cultural heritage site, dividing the palace, the reservoir and the hills around it into separate lots. All this reduced the rental rate by 10 million rupees a year.

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Well, then – a series of courts in 2011, 2012 and 2015, arrests of corrupt officials and the declaration of the Maine Sagar Lake and the Jal Mahal Palace as a national park with a ban on any economic activities in the area.

Excursion to Hawa Mahal Palace

We spent a quarter of an hour on the shores of Maine Sagar. Most impressed by the half-wild pigs tearing up the piles of garbage dumped at the water’s edge. Then we drove to the famous palace of winds or Hawa-Mahal.

Photo 6. Hawa Mahal Palace in Jaipur. Reviews of self-guided tours of India's Golden Triangle. 1/50, 11.0, 100, 24.

Photo 6. Palace Hawa-Mahal in Jaipur. Reviews of self-guided tours in the Golden Triangle of India. 1/50, 11.0, 100, 24.

The building was built in 1799 as a room for the Maharajah’s many wives. Muslim women are not supposed to show their faces to outsiders, so legend has it that 953 small windows were tripled in the building so that women could observe life outside without showing their beauty to outsiders.

Photo 7. In the backyard of the Hawa Mahal Palace. Wilderness tours of Jaipur. 1/80, 11.0, 100, 24.

Photo 7. In the backyard of the Hawa Mahal Palace. Jaipur wilderness tours. 1/80, 11.0, 100, 24.

Photo 8. Bas-relief in the Palace of the Winds in Jaipur. Tourist reports of a trip to India. 1/800, +0.67, 5.0, 100, 28.

Photo 8. Bas-relief in the Palace of the Winds in Jaipur. Tourist reports of a trip to India. 1/800, +0.67, 5.0, 100, 28.

The walls of the building were built of yellow sandstone. But in 1876, Prince Albert came to Jaipur, and Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh ordered all the buildings in the city to be painted pink, symbolizing the Hindu greeting and good nature.

Photo 9. From the street the Palace of the Winds is pink, from the courtyard it is yellow. Jaipur tour report. 1/320, 0.67, 7.1, 100, 24.

Photo 9. From the street Palace of the Winds is pink, from the courtyard – yellow. Jaipur tour report. 1/320, 0.67, 7.1, 100, 24.

Before the trip to India, I read such reviews about Jaipur: “Be sure to go to the Hawa Mahal, because usually Indian palaces and forts are beautiful only outside, but boring inside, and only the Palace of the Winds is out of the ordinary, there are unusually beautiful interiors. Well, I don’t know…In my opinion it is not different from other places we visited on this trip.

Shot 10. Interiors of the Hawa Mahal Palace. Tourist reviews of Jaipur tours. 1/320, -0.67, 7.1, 100, 24.

Photo 10. The interiors of the Hawa Mahal Palace. Tourist reviews of Jaipur tours. 1/320, -0.67, 7.1, 100, 24.

The very top of the building consists of small rooms in a single row, where a narrow staircase leads. I even had to stand in line waiting for the platform to become free.

Photo 11. The intricate architecture of the Palace of the Winds in Jaipur. Report of an independent trip to India. 1/200, 7.1, 100, 31.

Photo 11. The intricate architecture of the Palace of the Winds in Jaipur. Self-trip report to India. 1/200, 7.1, 100, 31.

A pretty view of the city streets from above, which were once viewed through the windows by the wives of the raja.

Photo 12. This is how 200 years ago the imperial wives must have sat and looked outside, dreaming of going out into the world. 1/1250, -0.67, 4.0, 100, 32.

Photo 12. This is how 200 years ago the imperial wives must have sat and looked out onto the street, dreaming of going out into the world. 1/1250, -0.67, 4.0, 100, 32.

…or the Jantar Mantar Observatory…

Photo 13. View through one of the 953 windows of the Hawa Mahal Palace of the Jantar Mantar Royal Observatory in Jaipur. 1/500, -1.33, 7.1, 100, 44.

Photo 13. View through one of the 953 windows of the Hawa Mahal Palace of the Royal Observatory of Jantar Mantar in Jaipur. 1/500, -1.33, 7.1, 100, 44.

Well, we are not the wives of the raja: we can also go out to the balcony of the Palace of the Winds to get a better view of the place where the eclipses and weather were predicted and the exact time was calculated from.

Photo 14. View of the courtyard of Hawa Mahal and the Jantar Mantar Observatory. Jaipur trip reviews. 1/200, -0.67, 9.0, 100, 24.

Photo 14. View of the courtyard of Hawa Mahal and the Jantar Mantar Observatory. Reviews of the trip to Jaipur. 1/200, -0.67, 9.0, 100, 24.

It is said that Krishna’s headdress can be guessed at in the architectural style of Hawa Mahal. There must be something…

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Photo 15. Decorations on the turrets of the Palace of Winds in Jaipur. Trip through the Golden Triangle of India. 1/1200, -0.67, 4.0, 100, 70.

Photo 15. The decorations on the towers of the Palace of Winds in Jaipur. A trip through the Golden Triangle of India. 1/1200, -0.67, 4.0, 100, 70.

In the previous chapters of my India trip review, I lamented that I was embarrassed to ask the locals to take pictures. Well, sometimes I did struggle with my modesty, though. And now I will have at least group portraits of the sons of Shiva in my report from time to time.

Photo 16. Indian tourists on the roof of the Hawa Mahal Palace in Jaipur. 1/100, -0.33, 7.1, 100, 35.

Photo 16. Indian tourists on the roof of the Hawa Mahal Palace in Jaipur. 1/100, -0.33, 7.1, 100, 35.

My review of the Palace of the Winds: To be in Jaipur and not visit this attraction, I probably would have regretted it. But, overall, nothing special – climbing the fort wall from Amber Fort to Jaigarh was 300 times more interesting. If I had the time, I would have spent two days in the Pink City: the first wandering the hills of Amber, the second a must-see program through the ancient center.

Photo 17. Everything in the Palace of the Winds has been ruthlessly restored. I was most impressed with this antique door. 1/50, 4.0, 220, 24.

Photo 17. Everything in the Palace of the Winds has been mercilessly restored. I was most impressed with this antique door here. 1/50, 4.0, 220, 24.

We went outside, caught an electric rickshaw with whom we agreed for 250 rupees (3.78 USD) to go to the hotel, wait to pick up our suitcase, and from there to the train station.

Jaipur is referred to by the very romantic epithet “The Pink City.” In the video above you can see that the reality is a bit different from what you imagine when you hear that name…

You can also see in this video how not to travel in India: I am referring to our huge blue suitcase, with which we went to the Himalayas, and to the holy Varanasi, and have now crossed half of India.

The peculiarity of electric rickshaws is that the fare is cheaper, but slower. Even cyclists overtook us, and when we hit an overpass going steeply uphill, we almost stalled. We were beginning to worry we would miss the train. Then the driver stopped by the roadside, opened a box with batteries (it turned out there were two of them), flipped the switch and we were off to the train station in a breeze. We had some more time to look at the passengers on the platform.

Photo 18. The waiting room at Jaipur Junction railway station. Travel reviews about traveling to India on your own. 1/60, +0.67, 9.0, 4500, 29.

Photo 18. The waiting room at Jaipur Junction railway station. Travel reviews about traveling to India by yourself. 1/60, +0.67, 9.0, 4500, 29.

Photo 19. Trains in India are very colorful. Scene at the train station in Jaipur. 1/160, 0.33, 3.2, 220, 70.

Photo 19. Old man Khottabych in Indian train. Scene at the train station in Jaipur. 1/160, 0.33, 3.2, 220, 70.

Train #12196 is a high-speed train between Jaipur and Agra. It left on schedule: at 5:10 pm. And at 8:10 p.m. we were already off at the station in Bharatpur, where a photo safari in Keoladeo National Park was scheduled for the next morning. But about this excursion I will tell in the next chapter of the report.

By the way, for the first time in both trips to India the train was equipped with seats: plain, but clean, leather seats. The passengers were European tourists and rich Indians. The ticket price was 740 rupees (11 USD) for two, pennies.

Before I say goodbye to you, here is a list of interesting places in Jaipur, where you can still go on a tour if you find yourself in the city.

Table. Jaipur Attractions. Addresses, opening hours and entrance fees for foreigners.

Name in Russian Name in Latin letters Opening hours Ticket price, rupees Photo charges, rupees
Amber Fort Amber Fort 9.30 – 16.30 500 50
Jaigarh Fort Jaigarh Fort 9.30 – 16.30 200 30
Palace of the Winds (Hawa Mahal) Hawa Mahal 9.30 – 16.30 400 30
Palace on Water (Jal Mahal) Jal Mahal From dawn to dusk
Monkey Temple (Galta) Galta Ji 5.00 – 21:00
Jantar Mantar Jantar Mantar (Observatory) 9.30 – 16.30 100 50
Albert Hall Museum Albert Hall (Museum) 9.30 – 16.30 30
City Palace City Palace 9.30 – 17.00 500
Nahargarh Fort Nahargarh Fort 9.30 – 16.30 30
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Well, now I say goodbye! The standard sightseeing tour, widely known to most Russians, is over. Next we have a safari in the national park in Bharatpur, ancient temples in Orchha and Khajuraho, bike tours through Indian villages, photo hunt for crocodiles in Raneh Canyon, and the tigers in the Panna Tiger Reserve, walking through Delhi again with a visit to the minaret of Qutb Minar and flying to Goa, beach vacation at Palolem Beach. So, if you haven’t already signed up to be notified of new blog posts, it’s time to do so. See you around, my friends.

Where in India is the Castle on the Water? What is it interesting about?

Who knows exactly where this castle is, what it is and how to get there? Just a lot of conflicting information, and I want to see the castle!

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This palace on the water is called Jal Mahal and what makes it marvelous is that it is actually located on the water. When you look at it from the side, you get the impression that the palace is just hanging in the air and is reflected in the water. In fact, from above you can see only part of the palace, and as many as three floors are under the water.

This palace is located in the Indian state of Rajasthan, near the city of Jaipur. If you are wondering, from the world-famous resort of Goa, the palace is located at a distance of over 1500 kilometers. The Jal Mahal stands in the Man Sagar Lake. When the dry season comes and the water level in the lake drops, the walls of the palace are better seen, and when it begins to rain, he again submerges under water. The palace was originally built as a residence for local rulers who liked to hunt birds in these parts. There is a legend according to which in the beginning this castle was built on dry land, but at one point there was a severe drought and people were forced to build an artificial lake, which led to the flooding of the castle, but it saved the lives of thousands of people. How it was in reality, no one can say for sure.

Until recently, the castle was in a derelict condition, the water was overgrown with various plants and began to bloom. But not so long ago the lake was cleaned and put in order. To get to this castle can only be by boat, but the castle itself is not allowed to the tourists. You can admire the castle and hear its history at the sightseeing tour.

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Indeed, this amazing palace is called Jal Mahal. Sometimes it is also called the White Palace. It is literally a few kilometers away from Jaipur, the capital of the state of Rajasthan. Looking at this architectural marvel, the impression is created that the palace seems to hang over the water. However, this is far from being the case. Its four lower floors are simply under the water of Man Sagar artificial lake. The entire palace can be seen in early summer, around June, when the area is dry.

Construction of the palace took place in the mid-eighteenth century by order of the Indian Maharaja Madho Singh I. In this region the maharajahs and their families escaped the scorching heat. Many of them hunted ducks here. By the way, there are still many birds in this place. Originally, the palace of Jal Mahal was built entirely on land and was intended exclusively for the rest of the rulers and their families. But in the year when there was a terrible drought in the country, the Maharaj ordered a dam to be built in the bed of the nearest river. Thus the picturesque valley in which Jal Mahal was situated was completely flooded. The people living in the surrounding villages began to use the water from the lake to irrigate their fields. Thus, the Maharaj, saving the locals from starvation, sacrificed such a beautiful architectural creation.

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Since then, Jal Mahal, standing in the middle of the lake, has been called the “Palace on Water”. For many years no one took care of the palace building, and it became overgrown with bushes, and the pond itself was covered with mud. But, just recently, the palace was put in order, restored, and the pond thoroughly cleaned. You can get close to the palace by boat, but the entrance to the palace itself is closed. Usually the palace is viewed from the shore on an elephant tour around Lake Man Sagar.

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Jal Mahal Palace is located in a beautiful and picturesque valley, which impresses with its beauty and perfection. This valley is located a few kilometers west of the city of Jaipur, which is also the capital of the state of Rajasthan. This amazing palace is submerged in Lake Man Sagar, in the dry season, the water goes somewhere, and the walls of the palace are exposed. There is a legend that the palace was built on land, and in times of famine and drought, the ruler ordered the valley to be fenced off with a dam. Over time, the valley filled with water and surrounded the palace. Since then, Jal Mahal became known as the Palace on the Water. You can only get to the palace by boat, but tourists are not allowed there. Usually, Jal Mahal is viewed from the shore during a walk around the lake, which can be done on elephants.

You can visit this place as part of a tourist group by buying a very popular tour of the golden triangle of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. This tour lasts for 6 days and costs from $375. The trip starts with Delhi touring the Old and New City. The jewel of Agra is the Taj Mahal Mausoleum. The tour ends with the magical city of Jaipur, which in addition to the Jal Mahal Palace, has a lot to see.

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The Castle on the Water in India or as it is also called Jal Mahal and White Castle is quite near the center of Jaipur (the capital of Rajasthan), a few kilometers to the west in a very picturesque valley. It is a truly amazing and very beautiful place with a rich history. But for some reason it is not very popular among tourists, and to visit it, I think, everyone who comes to India should. The castle itself is built on the lake Man Sagaren, so when the rainy season in India, its walls are hidden by water. But when the water level of the lake begins to fall, the palace seems to float in the air above the water itself. During the dry season, when the water level of the lake is even lower, its walls are completely exposed. Therefore, we can safely say that Jal Mahal is beautiful in any season.

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