Formerly known as Sajjan Garh Palace, the Monsoon Palace is the former palatial residence of the royal family that stands high on top of the Bansdara Peak of the Aravalli Hill overlooking the city of Udaipur and its surrounding valley. Its name is derived from Maharana Sajjan Singh (1874 to 1884) of the Imperial Dynasty of Mewar, who also built the Sajjangarh Fort in 1884.
The land surrounding the palace has been recognized as a national park by the government. It is home to a wide variety of wildlife, most notably tiger and peacocks. The palace offers a panoramic view of the entire city, the lakes, palaces and the surrounding countryside.
Looking from afar, the palace looks like a splendid white tiara on the hill. It was purposely built to keep watch on the progress of the monsoon clouds; thus it is famously known as Monsoon Palace. According to folklore, the Maharana planned to build a nine-storey observatory on top of the hill but his untimely death (at the age of 26) didn’t allow him to fulfill his wish.
Based on history, the royal family’s stay at this palace was short-lived. It was abandoned in 1880 after the engineers realized that it was impossible to pump water all the way up to the steep hill. The Monsoon Palace gained international exposure when it was notably featured in the 1983 James Bond film Octopussy. Today, most guest houses and hotels in Udaipur still advertise free film showing of this film as part of the accommodation.
Inside the palace, you will see an old painting of an artist’s original plan of nine-storey observatory. Later, Maharana Fateh Singh continued the construction of the palace. Nowadays, the palace seems quite dilapidated but it is still worth visiting. It is now under the Forest Department of Rajasthan.
Built from white marble, it stands three floors tall, and the grand central court has a staircase and several quarters and rooms. The palace’ walls are plastered with lime mortar while the pillars are carved exquisitely with flowers and leaves. The white palace appears very beautiful during monsoon season. This structure is also equipped with an underground cistern to collect rainwater for consumption throughout the year. The cistern has a storage capacity of 195,000 liters.
On the other hand, the ground level is transformed into a museum, boasting wide collection of old paintings, maps and pictures. Looking from the top of the Monsoon Palace, you will be rewarded with a magnificent view of Aravalli Hill and Udaipur, and during evening, the palace is illuminated, providing a very stunning look. The Khas Odi or Shikarbadi, located next to the palace is another interesting tourist destination.
The Monsoon Palace is best visited just before dusk, when its incomparable view over the city combines with fascinating colors to paint a fabulous picture. The sunset over the Aravalli Hills, even when it’s cloudy, is worth the trip. The drive to the palace will take you about 30 minutes, passing through the Sajjan Garh Wildlife Sanctuary.