Jal Mahal (meaning Water Palace) is a palace located in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake in Jaipur city. The palace and the lake around it were renovated and enlarged in the 18th century by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Amber.
The lake, situated to the north of Jaipur city lies between Amber, the historic city and Jaipur, the provincial headquarters of Rajasthan state. It has a water spread area of 300 acres (121 ha) and is enclosed by the Aravalli hills on the north, west and eastern sides, while the southern side consists of plains that are intensely inhabited. There is the Nahargarh Fort (Nahargarh meaning home of tigers) in the hills that provides a commanding view of the Man Sagar lake and the Jal Mahal palace, in addition to a beautiful view of the city of Jaipur. The lake was created by constructing a dam across the Darbhawati River, between Khilagarh hills and the hilly areas of Nahargarh, in the 16th century. The drainage area of the lake is 23.5 square kilometres (9.1 sq mi) contributed by an urban area accounting for 50% and hilly terrain accounting for the balance, being degraded Aravalli hills, which have added to the siltation problem in the lake. A rainfall average of 657.4 millimetres (25.88 in) per year (90% of this rainfall occurs during the months of June to September) in the catchment contributes to the storage in the reservoir. At the outlet end of the dam there is an irrigation system that is supplied with water stored in the reservoir.
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, 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 downstream area. 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 road works.
The fresh water draining into the lake is seasonal during the rainy months of July to September. This flow originates from 325 small and large streams that drain from the hilly catchment of the lake. The two municipal nalas from Jaipur city contribute a perennial flow to the lake. The volume of water in the lake has been assessed as 3,130,000 cubic metres at the maximum water level. During the dry season, from October to June, it is said to be about 360,000 cubic metres. The depth of water at the deepest location in the lake is recorded at a maximum of 4.5 metres (15 ft) and a minimum of 1.5 metres (4.9 ft). In addition, the stored water is also used for irrigation at the downstream end of the lake during the summer months resulting in a drying up of the lake during these months.
The reserve forest area of the lake catchment has several wild life species such as Deer, Jungle cat, striped hyena, Indian Fox, Indian wild Boar and leopards. The lake used to be a bird watcher s paradise in the past and was a favourite ground for the Rajput kings of Jaipur for royal duck shooting parties during picnics. The lake was natural habitat for more than 150 species of local and migratory birds that included Large Flamingo, Great Crested Grebe, Pintail, Pochards, Kestrel, Coot, Redshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Ruff, Herring Gull, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Grey Wagtail, but their numbers declined with the deterioration of the lake. Now, with restoration works undertaken, the birds have started visiting the lake again, though not to the same degree as in the past. In order to attract attention to the lake s condition, a private initiative of holding an annual birding fair was started in 1997. It is reported that the common moorhen, a resident species has started breeding in large numbers at the lake. The other birds seen now are the grey heron, white-browed wagtail and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters. The lake was also home for a large species of the aquatic ecosystem such as fish, insects, microorganisms and aquatic vegetation.
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 Mansagar 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. 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.
At Gaitore, opposite to the lake, there are Chhatris or cenotaphs erected over cremation platforms of some of the Kachwaha rulers of Jaipur. They were built by Jai Singh II within landscaped gardens. The cenotaph monuments are in honour of Pratap Singh, Madho Singh II and Jai Singh II, among others. Jai Singh II s cenotaph is made of marble and has impressive intricate carvings. It has a dome with 20 carved pillars.
The Jal Mahal palace within the Shan Sagar lake is accessible from the Jaipiur-Delhi National Highway No 8, over a road distance of 4 kilometres (2.5 mi)) from Jaipur. Delhi is a further 273 kilometres (170 mi)) away. Jaipur city being centrally located in Rajasthan, the National Highway No.8 not only links to Delhi but also to Mumbai. NH No.11 is a road link of 366 kilometres (227 mi)) from Bikaner to Agra via Jaipur. The lake is 8 kilometres (5.0 mi)) from Amer palace on the Amber – Mansagar dam road to the north.Jaipur is well connected by rail to all the major cities and towns of India. Jaipur is on the broad-gauge and meter gauge network of the Indian Railways and has direct trains on the broad gauge network to all major cities in Rajasthan and India. The city is also connected with a metre gauge rail route with Sri Ganganagar, Churu and Sikar within the state. One of India s most famous and luxurious trains, The Palace on Wheels, originating from Delhi also makes a scheduled stop in Jaipur.
Jaipur has well connected domestic air links with Jodhpur, Udaipur, Aurangabad, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Goa, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Indore, Bangalore, Mumbai, Surat and Raipur, Lucknow, Gorakhpur. Jaipur International Airport is situated in its satellite town of Sanganer and offers sporadic service to Muscat, Sharjah, Bangkok and Dubai.