There are so many wonderful memories of Udaipur that it would be hard to put all of our experience in one post. Almost five days into our trip we never really saw the City Palace Udaipur because we saved the best for the last. The City Palace Udaipur is the beating heart of the city and most tourists come to the city to explore this palace. Hence, this is generally the first place that most would visit but we did the other way around.
Also, we don’t like being in crowded places, so we had clarity on not visiting this place on weekends. This is generally when most tourists would explore the City Palace Udaipur. So, we chose a Monday morning to get things right. Since our Airbnb homestay in Udaipur was close to Fateh Sagar Lake, we never really had a glimpse of the City Palace Udaipur on the first day.
When we went up Sajjangarh Monsoon Palace, we actually saw the City Palace Udaipur from the top for the first time. Later, we did a tour of the Jagdish Temple and the Udaipur market, and we were really close to the City Palace Udaipur. However, we decided to skip it because it was a Sunday and we expected more tourists.
So, while most of the world was busy getting back to work we were getting ready for the City Palace Udaipur trip. The excitement was high and we had planned this trip in our mind even before we came to Udaipur. So, we brought in our Indian traditional dresses that would in some way connect with the spirit of this majestic palace.
History of Udaipur:
Historically, the Mewar dynasty which includes the Sisodia and Choudhary family ruled Chittor, a bit north of Udaipur. Chittor remained the capital city for the Mewar dynasty for more than 800 years.
However, in 1537 when Maharana Udai Singh II inherited the kingdom he saw that things were not really good. The Mughals were at the door with their massive army winning most of the wars and taking control of the forts.
It is said that Maharana Udai Singh II, on one of his hunting expeditions, took the advice of the hermit to settle his kingdom here. The location offer protection on all sides with forests, lakes and Aravalli Hills. Maharana Udai Singh II decided to transform this new location as the new capital for his kingdom and named it Udaipur.
The Architecture of the Palace:
It might seem that the City Palace Udaipur is built right next to Lake Pichola on flat land, but it is not. The palace is built atop a hill in 1559, by Maharana Udai Singh II of the Sisodia Rajput family.
One of the reasons why we titled this palace as the ‘beating heart of the city’ is because it is unlike any other historic monuments. The palace has a history of 400 years, but it is always transforming. This palace is not a result of any one ruler. For around 400 years, several rulers of the Mewar dynasty have contributed to the making of this palace.
City Palace Udaipur is a combination of 11 magnificent palaces designed by 42 different rulers. However, the surprising element is the uniformity to the design that has been maintained over four centuries. 22 generations of the Sisodia Rajput family have lived here and have contributed to the building of the City Palace Udaipur.
The palace is made entirely in granite and marble. The interiors have plenty of balconies and towers that showcase the intricate glass-work, mirror-work and wall paintings. There are plenty of quadrangles interlinked with zigzag corridors and narrow passages.
This was done purposely to confuse the enemies during surprise attack situations. Also, the Mughals were large in size and therefore the palace has narrow and short passages. This would make it difficult for them to pass through conveniently and in groups.
Back to Our Tour:
There are two main entry points to the City Palace Udaipur, one on the north end also known as ‘Tripoli Gate’. We should have begin our tour from the Tripoli Gate but instead we finished it there. You’ll see the Tripoli Gate towards the end of the tour.
So, we got down at the southern entrance called Ganesh Pol. We bought our tickets for exploring certain parts of the City Palace that are now transformed into a museum.
There are different tickets for visiting different areas of the City Palace Udaipur, so you must know what areas you want to see. The employees at the ticket counter can help you with the information. Also, you can read the information banner at the ticket counter. It is simple and easy.
The ticket for regular City Palace Museum costs us INR 660 (Rupees 330 (US$4.6) each). Surprisingly, there is no camera fee here. So, that should save some money. However, when you step in it is recommended that you hire a guide. We walked in as the road led us further towards the Fateh Gate.
City Palace Udaipur has plenty of registered guides and we highly recommend that you hire one. This is mainly because the complex is so vast you would need some expert guidance. We found guides at the Toran Pol, which you’ll see later below.
The registered guide would charge you around INR 250 (US$3.5) for an hour of their service. You pay them in cash once you are done with the tour and bid goodbye.
We walked into Ganesh Deodi which has a small Ganesh idol right at the start of the tour. Lord Ganesha is worshipped before beginning any important task and hence the tour begins with His blessings. This marble idol is on the east side of the City Palace Udaipur. The idol was placed here in 1620 by Rana Karan Singh and has delicate glass inlay work around it.
As you move up the stairs you come to Raj Anjan (The Royal Courtyard). This is the oldest part of the palace and it is built on the exact location that the hermit mentioned to Maharana Udai Singh II.
There are two areas this courtyard is further divided into Mardana Mahal (Men’s Chamber) and the Zenana Mahal (Ladies Chamber).
You will find plenty of items on display here. However, the most fascinating of all is the display of armour and weapons used by Maharana Pratap and Chetak during the Battle of Haldighati (1576).
In the picture below, we see Chetak (horse) statue wearing a trunk-like gear. The reason for this is, most Mughals would ride an elephant while Maharana Pratap would ride Chetak. Instinctively, elephants do not attack their own kind. This trunk-like gear disguises the horse as an elephant baby and avoids being attacked by enemy elephants.
Badi Mahal also is known as the Garden Palace is the highest point of the City Palace Udaipur museum area. Rana Amar Singh II built this part in 1699 for special events. The entire area has marble construction with 104 marble pillars around. Amar Vilas is the highest point in the Badi Mahal.
The most striking thing about this area is that it is one of the highest points of the palace but it seems like ground level. The courtyard has plenty of large shady trees and plants life. It is quite surprising to see so many trees on the fourth floor of the palace.
Badi Chitrashali Chowk:
Tucked between the Badi Mahal and the Mor Chowk, Badi Chitrashali Chowk (Big Painting Courtyard) is a recreation space. Rana Sangram Singh II constructed this place between 1710 and 1734 for music and dance performances. This area offers a panoramic view of the city and the Lake Pichola. The main attraction here is the blue Chinese tiles, coloured glass and wall murals.
As you move further you come to Mor Chowk (Peacock Courtyard). This space mesmerizes you with its exquisite glass inlay work. This space was used for special audiences and dinner events. Rana Karan Singh constructed this space initially, but Maharana Sajjan Singh added the glass inlay work later.
From here we move into the Zenana Mahal (Ladies Chamber) area.
The Queen’s Chamber is definitely more beautiful and eye-catching than the Mardana Mahal (Men’s Chamber). It has plenty of balconies and frescoes that make it so appealing and photogenic.
Kaanch Ki Burj:
Kaanch ki Burj (The Mirror Tower) is right next to the Mor Chowk and has a mosaic of mirrors on the wall and the ceiling. This is probably the most ornate part of the City Palace Udaipur. The domed ceiling of this small chamber reflects light in the most beautiful way.
Maharana Karan Singh constructed Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace) and used it as his private residence. However, almost two centuries later Maharana Jawan Singh added ornamentation to make it even better. The mirrored walls and stained glass windows reflect light in many different ways throughout the day.
Manak Mahal (Ruby Palace) is another chamber that you shouldn’t miss when you are touring the City Palace Udaipur. Adorned with rubies and inlay glass work this space was used for a formal audience. Here you will find the religious insignia of the Sisodia dynasty.
On the lower level of the palace is Surya Chopar (Sun Square) that has the largest sun-face emblem made of pure gold. It was customary for the Maharanas to pray to the Sun before breakfast every morning. However, during the monsoon season, this was not possible due to weather conditions. Hence, a large sun-face emblem was made which would reflect light. The kings would offer prayer to the Sun before they have their first meal of the day.
City Palace Galleries:
Located in the Zenana Mahal area is the Symphony of Mewar Music Gallery that displays antique musical instruments that belong to the royal family. There are other galleries interconnected that display old temple statues, artwork, pictures and priceless regal memorabilia. The Silver Gallery focuses on silverware used by the royal family in their daily lives.
As you come towards the end of the City Palace Udaipur museum tour you walk out through the Toran Pol (The Arch Gate). As per the royal traditions, the royal bridegroom with his sword must touch the structure hanging on top of the gate before entering the bride’s home on the eve of his wedding. Probably by using a long sword or by standing on an elephant, I guess.
Note: There are many other sections of the City Palace Udaipur that we didn’t explore like the Vintage Car Museum area and the Crystal Gallery. Also, it would be hard to include all the images we shot in a single blog post.
City Palace Udaipur is a great place that you must add to your list when you are visiting Udaipur. However, it offers very little to people to those who are not much into history and architecture. Also, you should pick a weekday for the trip if you don’t prefer crowd.
If you are taking your own time to explore the palace (without the guide) you can be exploring the museum for 2-3 hours and even more. Hence, plan your trip for the day wisely and make sure that you have plenty of time for food.
We would suggest you have a good breakfast before you enter the City Palace Udaipur because there is plenty of walking to do. Also, you have to climb up and down the narrow recesses which can be tiring.
Hope you enjoyed the mini tour here. If you did, please like the post and comment on what part you like the most of the City Palace Udaipur.