Jal Mahal (meaning "Water Palace") is a palace located in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake in Jaipur city, the capital of the state of Rajasthan, India. The palace and the lake around it were renovated and enlarged in the 18th century by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Amber. "The Jal Mahal palace has got an eye-popping makeover. Traditional boat-makers from Vrindavan have crafted the Rajput style wooden boats. A gentle splashing of oars on the clear lake waters takes you to Jal Mahal. You move past decorated hallways and chambers on the first floor to climb all the way up to the fragrant Chameli Bagh. Across the lake, you can view the hills, dotted with temples and ancient forts, and on the other side, bustling Jaipur. The most remarkable change is in the lake itself. The drains were diverted, two million tonnes of toxic silt were dredged from the bottom, increasing its depth by over a metre, a water treatment system was developed, local vegetation and fish reintroduced, the surrounding wetlands regenerated and five nesting islands created to attract migratory birds.
In the past, at the location of the lake, there was a natural depression where water used to accumulate. During 1596 AD, when there was a severe famine in this region there was consequent acute shortage of water. The then ruler of Amer was, therefore, motivated to build a dam to store water to overcome the severe hardships caused by the famine to the people inhabiting the region. A dam was constructed, initially using earth and quartzite, across the eastern valley between Amer hills and Amagarh hills. The dam was later converted into a stone masonry structure in the 17th century. The dam, as existing now (see picture), is about 300 metres (980 ft) long and 28.5-34.5 metres (94-113 ft) in width. It is provided with three sluice gates for release of water for irrigation of agricultural land in the down streamarea. Since then, the dam, the lake and the palace in its midst have undergone several rounds of restoration under various rulers of Rajasthan but the final restoration in the 18th century is credited to Jai Singh II of Amer. During this period, a number of other historical and religious places, such as the Amer Fort, Jaigarh Fort, Nahargarh Fort, Khilangarh Fort, and Kanak Vrindavan Valley were also built in the vicinity. All of these places are now linked by a tourist corridor of roadworks.
The Jal Mahal palace is considered an architectural beauty built in the Rajput and Mughal styles of architecture (common in Rajasthan) providing a picturesque view of the lake (from the Man Sagar Dam on the eastern side of the lake that acts as a vantage point for viewing the lake and the valley), and the surrounding Nahargarh (abode of the tigers) hills. The palace, built in red sandstone, is a five storied building out of which four floors remain under water when the lake is full and the top floor is exposed. The rectangular Chhatri on the roof is of the Bengal type. The chhatris on the four corners are octagonal. The palace had suffered subsidence in the past and also seepage due to water logging, which have been repaired under the restoration project undertaken by the Government of Rajasthan. The hills surrounding the lake area, towards the north east of Jaipur, have quartzite rock formations (with a thin layer of soil cover), which is part of Aravalli hills range. Rock exposures on the surface in some parts of the project area have also been utilised for constructing buildings. From the north east, the Kanak Vrindavan valley, where a temple complex is situated, the hills slope gently towards the lake edge. Within the lake area, the ground area is made up of a thick mantle of soil, blown sand and alluvium. Forest denudation, particularly in the hilly areas, has caused soil erosion, compounded by wind and water action. Due to this, silt built up in the lake resulting in a raising of the bed level of the lake. On the terrace of the palace, a garden was built with arched passages. At each corner of this palace semi-octagonal towers were built with an elegant cupola. The restoration works done in the palace in the past (10-15 years back) were not satisfactory and an expert in the field of similar architectural restoration works of Rajasthan palaces carefully examined the designs that could decipher the originally existing designs on the walls, after removing the recent plaster work. Based on this finding, restoration works were redone with traditional materials for plastering. The plaster now used consisted of an organic material of a special mortar mix of lime, sand and surkhi mixed with jaggery, guggal and methi (cummins) powder. It was also noticed that there was hardly any water seepage, except for a little dampness, in the floors below the water level. But the original garden, which existed on the terrace had been lost. Now, a new terrace is being created based on a similar roof garden existing on the Amer palace.
The Jal Mahal is around 5 KM from the center of Jaipur city. It is easily accessible by autos and taxis. If you are feeling particularly adventurous you can try the local bus service. The nearest bus stop is Shahpura Bagh which is 200 m from Jal Mahal.
The Jal Mahal was declared as a protected area by the government after which the entry to this wondrous jal mahal place has been restricted. Earlier there were boat rides to around the palace. However it still makes an amazing location for a romantic evening stroll.
The pathway outside the Jal Mahal has no entry fee. Tourists are free to spend as much time as they like and click as many pictures as they want.
The ideal time to visit the Jal Mahal is in October when the weather is the most pleasant.
The Jal Mahal is on the way to Amer Fort. The best plan is to visit this place twice, once on the way to Amer in the morning and second in the evening when the palace is lit up.
The best part about the Jal Mahal is the chowpatty, street food market. On your way back from Amer when hunger engulfs you, eating the aloo tikki chat while looking at the colorful Jal Mahal will fill your stomach and the soul.