Highway to Rajasthan (Part IV) – Jag Mandir

Our next stop was Chittorgarh, the erstwhile capital of the Mewar Kingdom prior to Udaipur ,the last capital of Mewar. But before we depart Udaipur, here is a look at one of the places worth a visit – Jag Mandir.

The courtyard of Jag Mandir

The history of the place goes back to early seventeenth century when Maharana Karan Singh, the then ruler of Mewar, gave refuge to Prince Khurram who rebelled against his father, the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. To shelter Prince Khurram along with his wife Mumtaz Mahal and sons Prince Dara and Prince Aurangazeb in the year 1623-24, Karan Singh built a palace in an island in the midst of Pichola lake. The palace was called the Gul Mahal. When Jahangir died in 1627, Prince Khurram ascended the throne of the Mughal empire and assumed the title Shah Jahan (who built the famed Taj Mahal). As an act of gratitude, Shah Jahan restored six districts annexed by the Mughals to the Mewar Kingdom and also helped it regain its past glory. Meanwhile Jagat Singh succeeded Karan Singh in 1628 and expanded the Gul Mahal which came to be known as the Jag Mandir, so named after a temple was installed in the island palace.

Jag mandir, the temple in Jag island at Pichola Lake

More than a century later, in the middle of Eighteenth century, many European families most of whom were women and children, were again given refuge in the same palace by Maharana Swaroop Singh, the then ruler of Mewar, during a revolt by the Indian soldiers of the British Army in 1857 which came to be popularly known as the Sepoy Mutiny, considered the first Indian War of independence against the British Raj.

Once, or rather often, a sanctuary for those running for their dear lives, the place is now a hot spot for the tourist scooting around for beautiful places to see. It not only houses a temple (which is why it is called Jag Mandir) it also has a restaurant to satiate the hungry travelers or those wanting to spend a few sublime moments by the water sipping on a Lime soda or a hot cuppa coffee by the water.

A place to sit and satiate the hunger @ Jag Mandir, Pichola lake, Udaipur
A blissful moment by the water…with a view of the lake.
Rajasthani Hookah…for those wanting a little smoke by the water, Maharaja style.
A view of the Pichola lake from Jag Mandir

Definitely worth spending an evening here in Jag mandir.

Highway to Rajasthan (Part III) – City of Udaipur

A night’s rest in Jaipur and a visit to the erstwhile city of Amber got me all enthusiastic to see the legendary Chittorgarh and Udaipur, the capitals of the famed Mewar Kingdom, stories of which captivated me so much back in my school days, like the chivalry and bravery of Rana Pratap and his stead Chetak, the famed beauty of Rani Padmini of Chittor that doomed the Kingdom and endless tales of intrigue, valour and tragedy. So with much enthusiasm we hit the road again the next day leaving Jaipur around 1030 hrs (again after making concessions for the kids and their breakfast) taking the National Highway 8. The NH 8 is a straight road to Udaipur via Ajmer, Beawar, Bhim and Nathdwara with a distance about 400 Kilometers. We however decided to go via Chittrogarh and so we turned off NH 8 into NH 79 from Kishangarh after travelling about 95 kilometres from Jaipur. Till Kishangarh, it was a dream ride. The roads were wide, smooth and free (six lane highway, three on each side). We were, however, cautioned that the highway gets pretty congested after Ajmer. Hence our decision to take the less travelled NH 79 which took us through Nasirabad, Bhilwara and Chittorgarh. The road was only four lane (two on each side) but in a very good condition except for a few patches. With fewer number of trucks plying on this route, it was a better alternative.

National Highway 79

When we reached Chittorgarh, we were running a little behind schedule and we still had 117 kilometers to cover for Udaipur which we wanted to reach before sundown. So we changed our plans and decided to visit Chittor on our way back which was good because I did not want to rush it.

At Chittorgarh headed for Udaipur
On Chittorgarh – Udaipur highway

Udaipur was the last capital of the Mewar Kingdom. It was founded in 1559 by Maharana Udai Singh II (father of Rajput hero Rana Pratap) who built a palace on the banks of the Pichola lake and after the erstwhile capital Chittor was captured by Mughal emperor Akbar in 1568, Udai Singh shifted his capital to the palace by the lake which became Udaipur city, so named after him.

Pichola lake

The Palace by the lake still stands today, a part of which houses the abode of the present Raja (descendent of the King who built the City) and the rest has been converted into a heritage hotel and Museum where the tales of Rana Pratap and his belongings are on display.

City Palace of Udaipur

For the uninitiated, Rana Pratap is a cult hero of the Rajputs that had ruled the Rajputana region (what is now Rajasthan and some areas of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh). Heir to Uday Singh II, he was one of the few Rajput rulers who fought valiantly till his dying days against the mighty Mughal empire which ruled most of India at that point of time. Rana Pratap considered the Mughals as invaders and led the Rajput confederacy consisting of handful of other Rajput nobles and rulers against the Mughal empire under Akbar, as opposed to most of the Rajput Rulers like Jai Singh of Amber who forged an alliance with the Mughals and prospered or at least assured of their existence as vassals after accepting the Mughal suzerainty. It was in the famous battle of Haldighati in 1576 that Rana Pratap faced off the mighty Mughal army led by Jai Singh himself as the Commander-in-chief. The superiority of the Mughal army and its artillery wrecked havoc on Rana Pratap’s army and yet folk songs are still sung on how Rana Pratap on his faithful and agile stead Chetak tried to pin down Jai Singh, who was riding an elephant, with his spear. Rana Pratap was eventually forced to flee by his generals and it was his faithful stead Chetak yet again who, wounded as it was, flew the king out of the battlefield and died jumping a river while escaping. Rana Pratap stood staunchly by his valour and honour and despite losing his kingdom he remained undefeated at heart. He is said to have spent his life roaming the jungles of the Aravalis trying to recapture Mewar again. The story had left a vivid memory on my mind since my school days that I just couldn’t resist telling it here.

Coming back Udaipur , a boat ride took us on a tour of Lake Pichola with breathtaking views of palaces that were subsequently built by the later rulers (which now have been turned into heritage hotels).

Boat ride at Pichola lake

          

Udaipur City by the edge of Pichola Lake
Udaipur by the lake
A view of city life by the lake
The Taj Lake Palace of Udaipur
The honeymoon suite of The Taj Lake Palace of Udaipur
The Oberoi Udaivilas
The Leela Palace Udaipur
Jag Mandir

Udaipur, owing to its location, remained safe from the Mughal reach and remained the capital of the Mewar Kingdom untill it became a princely state under the British India in 1818. Meanwhile with the decline of the Mughal empire, the Rajput rulers reclaimed much of the territory of Mewar back, however, Chittor the erstwhile capital of Mewar still remained illusive to the rulers of Mewar.

Next stop…..Chittorgarh.