One of the most prestigious buildings within the red-walled City Palace of Jaipur is the Chandra Mahal or Chandra Niwas, which translates to the Palace of the Moon. This seven-floored construction actually served as the occasional residence of one of the recent maharajas of the city, the late Sawai Bhawani Singh, whose grandson, Padmanabh Singh, was crowned as his successor eight days following his passing.
The maharajas of Jaipur, also often referred to as the Kachwaha Rajputs, erected the Chandra Mahal and the rest of the edifices included in the City Palace. This enormous complex of citadels, halls, and ceremonial venues sprawls over no less than a seventh of the total area of the city, which makes it one of the must-see sights for those visiting Jaipur. The Palace of the Moon is easily among the easiest to spot of all the structures to see here, due to its height. You can see it from most other buildings in the City Palace, such as from the Diwan-i-Khas.
A rather interesting feature of the Palace of the Moon, apart from its statuesque appearance, is that each of its seven storeys has a special feature and name attached to it. For example, the ground floor (or first floor, in the American understanding) is currently home to a stunning array of paintings, sculptures, and other pieces of art that belonged to or depict the maharajas and former royal family members of Jaipur. There are other pieces of history here, from precious enamel products to preserved examples of weaponry used by the Jaipur military as far back as the 1400’s. This floor is thus called the Maharajah Sawai Man Singh II Museum, and it is the only floor in the palace to which tourists and other sorts of visitors have access. The rest of the palace is closed to visitors because even to this day, the descendants of the ruling families do occasionally use it as their home.
Something that must be explained here, perhaps, is that while India is a republic and the privy purses of the maharajas were indeed abolished in 1971, the maharajas of Jaipur have continued to be honoured by a good number of the city’s residents. The title, while no longer bearing any true administrative or executive power, has thus continued to exert some form of influence on matters political and cultural in the state. This is part of the reason the descendants of the Kachwahas continue to reside in the other storeys of the Chandra Mahal, from the mirror-inlaid walls of the glorious Shobha Niwas to the topmost storey of the Mukut Mahal that commands a majestic view of the environs.
Even if visitors are not permitted to enter the other storeys of the Chandra Mahal, there are a lot of reasons to go to see the palace anyway. For one thing, the view of it from outside is already something that just has to be seen to get a sense of the grandeur of the past royalty. The museum on the ground floor is also something that invites curious tourists. Finally, it is always interesting to take a peek at the flags on the topmost storey of the palace: tradition has it that the city’s flag goes up when the maharaja is in Jaipur and the imperial flag joins it when the maharaja is actually in the Palace of the Moon itself.