Standing atop a hill and facing lake Picchola, City Palace, Udaipur is the biggest royal palace of Rajasthan. The splendid structure is 1500 ft. long and 800 ft. wide from north to south. The foundation of the palace was laid down by Maharana Udaisingh.

The story of the building of the impressive palace made of balconies, couplas and towers is quite fascinating. According to a legend, one day while out hunting, Maharana Udaisingh saw a hare as it emerged from a thicket. He shot an arrow that killed it. As in those days, he was worried about the location of his palace, he thought that the spot where the animal fell down was the right place. Lost in these thoughts, at a little distance he saw a sage, Premgiri in deep meditation. He went near the sage and sat there patiently. After coming out of meditation, the sage advised him to build his palace where the holy fire was burning. Accordingly, he constructed a small shrine there and established his throne there. This is the oldest part of the palaces known as Dhunimata or Nauchauki. The coronation ceremony of the kings used to take place here.

It is interesting to note that as required by treatises of Indian art and architecture, all the main roads of the city lead to the royal palaces.

On either side of the frontage of the main gate of the royal palace, there is a verandah and living quarters that until 1955 were occupied by soldier orderlies who were posted as the guards of the  gate. There is a minaret to the right that is known as  Gadihal ki Chhatri, the clock turret chamber, striking hours of the clock that used to be regulated by the length of each day according to the Indian astrological system, has sixty Ghatikas in 24 hours. In the other minaret called Nagarkhana ki Chhatri the drums were used to be struck four times a day, indicating the quarter of time of the length of the day. The drums were also struck to signal the departure and arrival of the ruler.

Inside Badipol, gate, there are seven carved out stone arches, Toran Dwars. They commemorate the munificence of Maharana Jagatsingh First. They stand for seven weighing ceremonies when gold equal to the Maharana’s weight  was given to the needy. There is also a building where saddles were stored. Maharana Bhagwatsingh had established a library named Shiva Shakti Peeth. Now the library has been shifted. The building is at present being used as the central office of Maharana Mewar Charitable Foundation.

Then one sees Tripolia, a triple arched gate, built in the time of Maharana Sangramsingh Second. The building over the roof of Tripolia is named Hava Mahal that was built in the reign of Maharana Swaroopsingh.

After passing through Tripolia one comes to Manak Chauk, a huge courtyard. Almost half of this courtyard serves as a sturdy roof of underground cellars beneath it. On the eastern side of the Chauk are handicraft shops where there used to be stables for elephants and horses. The floor of the Chauk is so strong that inspite of the fact that it has been the venue of elephant fights it has not been damaged.

Near the east-south corner of Manak Chauk, is Surajpol that was constructed in the time of Maharana Karnasingh. It leads to Maharana Mewar Public School. Towards the right side of Manak Chauk is an open place known as Aggad where elephant fights took place on the occasion of birthday celebrations of the Maharanas and on Patotsav day of Eklingji.

Naharon Ka Darikhana used to be the main place for holding the outdoor Darbar, royal court, especially on Holi, Diwali and Dussera. Maharna Bheemsingh converted the garden of Naginabadi into Naginabadi ka Darikhana and then public audience used to be held there.

From Pagada Ki Hathani platform the Maharanas and other members of the royal family used to mount and mismount their horses, elephants and other conveyances. On the occasion of Gajashva Pujan, the adoration of elephants and horses, taking their seat on this platform the Maharanas used to worship these two animals.

Near Hankadi Badi there is a small hall that was used earlier as armoury where all the important arms and weapons of the Mewar army were kept including the lance of Rana Pratap. As also the Khadga, a double edged sword, that is believed Maharana Hamir Singh obtained from a deaf female anchorite and with its divine power recaptured the fort of Chittor as well as the territory that had fallen to Alauddin Khilji in 1303 AD. Sabhashiromani, the main assembly hall, was used for the purpose of discussing important and serious matters. Ganesh Chouk is a small courtyard paved with redstones.

On the front wall of Ganesh Deodhi the image of Lord Ganesh that is decorated with fine mosaic glass work, has been installed in a niche.

The personal jewellery and ceremonial attire of the Maharanas were kept in Pandey Ji Ki Ovari. In the rooms and verandah of Nika Ki Chaupar are large paintings depicting different episodes from the life of Maharana Pratap. The suit of the armour worn by him and the saddle and the armour of his faithful steed Chetak can also be seen here.

On the walls of Chandra Mahal can be seen protruded human figures. The Maharanas used to sit in Lakh Gaukhada just after their crowning ceremony and would  distribute one lakh silver coins, weighing  about twelve grams each for charitable purposes.

A place popularly known as Badi Mahal has fruit trees and flowering plants. The real name of this palace is Shiva Prasan Amar Vilas. Several features of this building reveal the expertise of the architects of Mewar. The huge cistern in the centre of the garden used to be filled with coloured and scented water on Holi and the Maharanas and the courtiers played Phag.

The north domed room of Dilkhush Mahal called Kanch ki Burz features exquisite glass work. Dilkhush Mahal also known as Chitram ki Burj has specimens of murals that depict scenes of the festivals as they were celebrated by Mewar rulers.

In Badi Chitrashal the walls are decorated with carefully set porcelain bricks obtained from China. Yash Mandir has exquisite glass work ornamentation. So also has Moti Mahal.

In Mor Chauk or Chhoti Chitrashali there are fine peacocks in relief mosaic and decorative forms and other forms made out of colourful glass work. The Manak Chauk is also decorated with colorful glass ornamentation and fine paintings. The audience chamber of Surya Prakash has also glass ornamentation. On the front wall of Surya Chaupar is a large image of sun in gold with extending crystal rays. In the reign of Maharana Bhupalsingh a new painting of Sun was installed in place of the old one.

Surya Chauper, has a balcony and a window named Surya Gokhara, sun window, and on the exterior of the wall of this window there is an image of the sun in gold. The Maharanas are Suryavanshi, descendants of the sun. When the sun was not visible due to clouds, people of Mewar had the Darshan of the Maharana sitting in Surya Gokhra taking him to be the sun itself.

There existed a marble palace known as Moti Mahal that in the time of Maharana Fatehsingh was shifted to the embankment of Fateh Sagar lake. It now stands in the centre of the embankment.

Nau Satta ki Payaga was a stable for only those horses that were used by the Maharanas.

After passing through a gate named janani Deodhi, one sees Pitambar Rayaji’s temple that has an idol of Lord Krishna dressed in yellow attire. The lower most chambers of Bhandar that was originally named Amar Mahal were used as armoury and on Dussera, Shastra Pujan was performed here in the presence of Maharanas. Later on, the palace was converted into the state treasury and gold, silver and other treasures of the state were kept here.

Ravala, the palace for royal ladies, has queen’s apartments that are decorated with murals, inlaid glass work and panels depicting incidents of the life of Lord Krishna and his consort Radha.

In Osara, place of ceremony and celebration, ladies of the court and their guests assembled on auspicious occasions for pleasure and gaiety.

Around the courtyard of Ravala are displayed transport equipment, trumpets of brass, cymbals, drums, domestic appliances etc.

Toran Pol is  considered to be the main entrance to the central palaces. So all the rites related to coming in and going out of the royalty were performed here. The bridegroom who came to marry the daughter of the Maharanas had to strike the Toran at this gate. So it got its name, Toran Pol.

Palanka Khana, the saddle store, has an idol of Lord Ganesh in a big niche on the roof of the verandah.

Shambhu Niwas was built by Maharana Shambhusingh. It was generally used as guest house for important guests from Europe or other princely states of India. However, after Maharana Bhupalsingh ascended the throne and later adopted Bhagwatsingh as his son, the palace became the abode of the heir apparent. So Bhagwatsingh resided here till his death.

Fateh Praksh Palace built by Maharana Fatehsingh is a large and airy hall with rows of arched windows. It is also known as Minto Hall as its foundation stone was laid by Lord Minto. It is popularly known as Darbar Hall as Darbars were held here until the time of Maharana Bhagwatsingh.

The Crystal Gallery was opened to the public in 1994.  A large number of rare objects collected from different parts of the world are displayed here. These unique pieces were ordered in 1877 by Maharana Sajjansingh from lamps to washing bowls, perfume bottles to paper weight and writing instrument, the collection has it all. The Gallery also boasts of a crystal bed, the only one of its kind in the world. A fabulous jewel encrusted carpet is also a special attraction.

The charming and attractive Shiv Niwas was built according to the wishes of Maharana Fatehsingh. As it is crescent shaped, it is also called Gol Mahal. Some of its parts are marvelously decorated with  ornamentation of glass mosaic and paintings. Now it has been converted into one of the most luxurious hotels in Udaipur that takes one back in time to the era of the Maharanas and their regal style. Family portraits, original antique fixtures and furnishings from the house of Mewar give it a charm of its own.

Akhara ka Mahal used to be a holy building and the idol of Lord Shiva, Bananathji, was placed in the southern part of this palace. To the west of the Akhara ka Mahal there is a holy building and a bathing Ghat known as Shri Gulab Swaroop Bihariji ka Mandir and Bansi Ghat. Bhim Niwas is also decorated with glass mosaics  and wall paintings.

In Parvati Vilas royal ladies used to worship Gangaur Mataji during Gangaur festival.  Jal Niwas Palace has an enchanting fountain system. Near it is Pipali Ghat and a temple of Lord Shiva constructed on the wishes of Rupa Dhayabai, the foster brother of Maharana Arisingh Third.

Karan Vilas Palace that was used as dining hall and later on as state accounts  office now houses the Govt. Archeological Museum. In one part of Karan Vilas artifacts relating to archaeology and musicology such as epigraphs, icons, paintings, weapons and costumes belonging to ancient and medieval Mewar are displayed. In the second portion is the office of the Deptt. of Archaeology and Museums, Udaipur.

In Saraswati Bhandar rare manuscripts, scriptures, literature and a big number of illustrated manuscripts were preserved. After the formation of Rajasthan State these materials were distributed among different departments. Another building that was record office of Mewar state, now serves as the office of the Archives Dept. of Udaipur.

Among several special features of these palaces one is that they have been designed and built strictly according to the norms laid down in Indian scriptures about royal architecture. The other one is that although built during various periods, the uniformity of design has been very well preserved.


( Source : Architectural Glories of Mewar by Dr. Rajshekhar Vyas )