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Column: Exploring Udaipur’s Lake Palace

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Udaipur, in the state of Rajasthan, is widely regarded as India’s most romantic city. The Lake Palace Hotel is one of the main reasons why.

In A.D. 1559, Maharana (or Maharaja) Udai Singh II, ruler of the Mewar region of northwest India, moved his capital to what is now Udaipur and built a palace on a ridge above Lake Pichola. His successors added to what is now the magnificent Udaipur City Palace. In 1743, Maharana Jagat Singh II, the ninth successor of Udai Singh II, began building a summer palace on an island in the center of Lake Pichola directly west of City Palace. The rectangular building faced east so occupants could worship the Hindu sun god as the sun appeared over City Palace. When completed in 1746, the white marble palace, named Jag Niwas in honor of Jagat Singh, contained colonnaded courtyards featuring picturesque fountains, terraces and ponds. Because the palace occupies the entire island, from a distance, Jag Niwas appears to float on Lake Pichola.

After India gained independence in 1947, the Mewar Maharana and his family gave up governing authority but retained ownership of City Palace and Jag Niwas. By the late 1950s, Jag Niwas had begun to deteriorate and Bhagwat Singh, then the head of the family, decided to turn it into a luxury hotel. The hotel conversion was completed in 1969 and the Lake Palace Hotel obtained a five-star rating in 1971. Guests arrive on small boats leaving from City Palace and are showered with rose petals as they enter the hotel, sheltered from the sun by velvet umbrellas held by descendants of royal butlers. Sixty-five guest rooms and 18 palatially furnished suites offer spectacular night views of City Palace. The hotel gained international notoriety in 1983 as a setting in “Octopussy,” a James Bond movie starring Roger Moore.


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