The Jal Mahal Palace – The Mystery of India’s ‘Floating’ Palace

Photo by Swaminathan/Flickr

Visitors gazing across the shining Man Sagar Lake in Jaipur in India may think they are imagining things when they see the hauntingly beautiful Jal Mahal palace abandoned in the middle of the waters.

The incredible island palace, whose name translates as Water Palace, is very real though, and has an equally colourful and mysterious history.

Thought to have been built 300 hundred years ago, it is said the partially-submerged palace was used for Maharajah picnics and duck hunting soirees.

The palace has four floors hidden under the water’s surface, with the fifth floor above water, allowing visitors in boats to examine its exquisitely carved balconies and archways.

The beautiful lake palace, which is cracking and overrun by pigeons, is adorned with intricate carvings and many pillars

Every archway, balcony and doorway is adorned with marble carvings which denotes the royalty, along with the 20 pillars which are the cenotaph of the royal family of Raja Jai Singh.

In the courtyards, visitors can enjoy the tranquil garden overlooking the lake, which features hyacinths and jasmine flowers.

It is hard to believe that the palace was neglected for more than 200 years, as a result of sewage-filled water seeping through cracks in the red sandstone walls which were designed to hold back millions of litres of water.

There are no chambers in the palace, but there is a beautiful garden which allows guests to relax among the hyacinths and jasmine flowers

The palace has been restored to its former grandeur after a six-year renovation project with a team of architects and craftspeople.

The work was needed after water from a sewage system started to seep through the red walls, causing an unbearable smell

Although gondola trips to the island are no longer available, there are boat trips that can be booked, and there have even been art galleries being held in its picturesque surroundings.

The lake used to be a bird watcher’s paradise in the past and was a favourite ground for the Rajput kings of Jaipur for duck hunting

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The hill that surrounds the lake is a part of the Aravalli hills range. In 1596 AD, there was a severe famine in this region due to drought. The ruler of Amer built a dam to store water help the local people.

The dam was made of earth and quartzite across the eastern valley. In the 17th century, this dam was converted to a stone masonry. The 980 ft long dam is still existing today, and it has three sluice gates which release water for agricultural land. Since then, the lake, palace, and dam were restored many times by various rulers in the area.

Constructed of red sandstone, using a combination of the Rajput and Mughal style of architecture, common in Rajasthan, the palace was adorned with works of art, elaborate carvings, and rooftop and terrace gardens. Even the floors were inlaid with patterns.

Today, a visitor walking along the new promenade, constructed on reclaimed land around the lake shore, can stop and view the Jal Mahal palace in all its splendor. The water is now clean and clear. No garbage and sewage fill the lake. Instead, water hyacinths, reeds and other natural flora of the region are seen in abundance.