Jal Mahal, Jaipur’s famous Water Palace, could not have a more appropriate name: this is a structure that draws open-mouthed admiration from all who see it for the first time, an unbelievably solid-looking castle perched right in the middle of a lake that goes to as much as 15 metres in depth. The palace appears to be floating in one of the most noteworthy bodies of water in the Jaipur area, the Man Sagar Lake, right between the town of Amer/Amber (where one may find the also-stunning site called the Amber Fort) and the city of Jaipur itself.
The gorgeous Jal Mahal is actually much taller than most people realise at first glance. It is a full five storeys in height, although at certain times of the year, when precipitation leads to a massive build-up of water in Man Sagar Lake, only one of those five storeys may be seen above the water’s surface. This does not lead to flooding in the interiors, however, as they are watertight. This is part of what makes this stunning structure such a marvel, and a study for many architects around the world.
There have been problems developing throughout the past century, however, that have only been addressed recently. One major problem has stemmed from the rapid growth of Jaipur’s population and waste output. Waste streams have managed to find their way to the lake in the past, and have lead to serious eutrophication in the waters, rendering the lake less than habitable for local wildlife. As part of what led to the palace’s and lake’s fame back then was the rich and verdant flora and fauna, with the past maharajas even coming here to put on hunting parties for duck and other game birds, the Rajasthani government was naturally concerned after seeing the rapidly developing stench of the waters, along with the absence of the migratory birds that used to flock to the lake. Added to that, the lake was actually losing depth due to heavy siltation that was partly the result of denudation and erosion on the surrounding Aravalli Range.
Major renovations have thus taken place in the past years. Diversions in the drainage system have led to improved circulation and removal of accumulated sediments at the bottom, making the lake deeper; the water was treated to make it friendly again for aquatic as well as avian fauna. A new top-floor garden is being constructed in place of the old one, which has been lost already. Other parts of the red sandstone structure have been repaired as well, although most of the interiors, especially the marble floors have not yet lost their magnificence. Wooden boats in the classical style are also found on the lake for those who want to get closer to the structure.
Nowadays, you can find quite a few birds back in the lake around Jal Mahal, and this only makes the palace even more worthwhile a stop. The beautiful palace is something that should be seen both in the morning and the evening. In the morning, it looks serene and delicate. At night, it is lit up, and the reflection of its glowing form on the lake water lends it the appearance of a fantastic jewellery box, since its reflection is flush against the bottom of its actual walls.