When I first saw Jaipur’s Water Palace, also known as Jal Mahal, I was stunned. There it was, jutting out of the middle of Man Sagar Lake and nestled between downtown Jaipur and the Amber Palace, it was awesome. Peering out at the Jal Mahal, from the roadside inspired curiosity as much as wonder. Sadly that is as close as you can get, today.
Google Map Location: Jal Mahal, Jaipur India
How to get there: Go to Jaipur and head to the Amber Palace, it is on the way
Why is the Jal Mahal under Water?
This is a common question – Could the palace have been built on land and then later the area flooded? No. Something that often amazed me in India was the lengths that the super rich would go to try to cool themselves off and the Water Palace is no different. It was purposely built in the 18th century, with the first four floors under water and only one top floor above water. The primary purpose of having a palace in the middle of the lake was to capture the cooling effect of the wind on the water, helping to keep the palace a bit more cool than if it was built on land.
Beyond the cooling effect of the surrounding water, the water also acted as a natural barrier and defense from land based attacks while providing a high level of privacy for the royal family. The royal family also wanted the Jal Mahal to be architecturally impressive while still blending in with the surrounding lake. In fact, they worked hard to harmonize the lower portion of the structure so that it had only minor impacts on the animals that lived in the lake.
What was the Jal Mahal used for?
The royal family used the Jal Mahal as a summer retreat. The scorching heat of the summer was an ideal time to go the the water palace especially since it was designed for cooling purposes. The royal family used it as a hunting lodge, the surrounding areas in Rajasthan were and are teeming with wildlife to hunt, but today we mostly have only safaris in those areas.
Jal Mahal is not limited to purely functional activities, the royal family had it built to show off their power and prestige as well as authority in the region. The only way to properly show that off was through entertaining guests. First and foremost when the royal family built this location it was not surrounded by a city, but by the wild lands. Simply looking across the lake from the Water Palace revealed animals that were by the lake, perhaps drinking the water while being hunted by predators or perhaps only the unique birds of the area. It also acted as a place to host guests with feasts, offer networking events with other royals and celebrate certain festivals.
Jal Mahal Today and in the Future
Today it is an obscurity, alone in the middle of a lake. A lake that people are not allowed on. It is quite beautiful to see, but there is no opportunity to get up close to it – the interior of the water palace is quite strictly off limits and no boats are allowed on the lake.
That being said there has been talk about possibly opening a very high class restaurant or hotel experience there, however I believe these are more rumors and stories people like to tell.
Is it worth it to visit the Jal Mahal?
Absolutely yes! If you’re in Jaipur you can drive by it, you can stop for a moment to get a better look. It is an extremely easy thing to see when in Jaipur and it is beautiful, don’t miss it.