Jal Mahal

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Jal Mahal Palace amidst Man Sagar Lake
Jalmahal Restored.jpeg
Location Jaipur
Coordinates 26°57′13″N 75°50′47″E / 26.9537°N 75.8463°E / 26.9537; 75.8463Coordinates: 26°57′13″N 75°50′47″E / 26.9537°N 75.8463°E / 26.9537; 75.8463
Type Freshwater – Recreational
Catchment area 23.5 square kilometres (9.1 sq mi)
Basin countries India
Surface area 300 acres (120 ha)
Max. depth 4.5 metres (15 ft)
Settlements Jaipur

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.[1][2]

Jal Mahal at night.

"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 Aravalli 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."[3]

Jal Mahal - Palace located in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake in Jaipur city
Jal Mahal Palace


The lake, situated to the north of Jaipur city lies between Amer, the historic city and Jaipur, the provincial headquarters of Rajastan 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 rain fall 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 (obligatory water demand for this is reported to be 2,410,000 cubic metres during the five months from November to March). Two large nalas (streams) that also drain the surrounding Nahargarh hills and Jaipur are the Brahmpuri and Nagtalai, which bring in large amounts of untreated sewage, in addition to solid wastes.[2][4][5][6]

Geology and soils

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.[6]


Man Sagar Dam at the Jal Mahal Palace lake outlet

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.[6][7][8]

Man Sagar Lake[edit]

Panoramic view of "Jal Mahal in Jaipur"
Status of water quality

In recent years, with the urbanisation of Jaipur city and areas surrounding the lake, the ecological system of the lake and its vicinity deteriorated drastically. It became heavily silted thereby reducing the surface area of the lake. The silt deposited (estimated to be about 2,500,000 cubic metres) was contaminated with effluents (untreated sewage) from the city's drainage system causing intense eutrophication. The ground water surrounding the lake was also found to be highly contaminated and created serious health hazards. The rainwater combined with sewage water flow from the city resulted in the lake water giving off a foul smell. Water samples collected from the lake were tested and found to clearly show that the water quality was not uniform. It was extremely poor in southeast, south and southwest due to the influent nalas. The water quality parameters of BOD and total nitrogen recorded were 20 mg/L each. BOD values indicated high levels of organic matter. COD showed a very high level of oxidisable chemicals. Nitrate and phosphate content were excessive. Coliform counts was more than 500 times the norm. The Chloride content was found to be fatal to plants and fish.[4][5]

A view of the Nesting Islands along the banks of Mansagar Lake, Jaipur

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.[5][6]

Flora and fauna[edit]

The flora is dictated by the subsidiary Edaphic type of dry tropical forests in the catchment; the total forest area of 9.01 square kilometres (3.48 sq mi) comprises dense forest cover of 6.45 square kilometres (2.49 sq mi) area, degraded forest of 0.95 square kilometres (0.37 sq mi) and encroachment of 1.61 square kilometres (0.62 sq mi). The dominant floral specie found in the area is Dhauk (Anogeissus pendula), which has lean foliage. The low vegetation cover and steep gradient of the hills causes substantial erosion and the eroded material flows into the lake. On the western side, beyond the urbanised area, the Nahargarh hills on the western side are also denuded, which has reduced its moisture retaining capacity.[6]

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.[6]

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[disambiguation needed], 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.[4][9] 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.[7] The other birds seen now are the grey heron, white-browed wagtail and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters.[5][8] The lake was also home for a large species of the aquatic ecosystem such as fish, insects, microorganisms and aquatic vegetation.[4]

The Palace[edit]

Jal Mahal Palace after renovation

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.[8] 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.[10] 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.[11] 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 Rajastahn 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.[8]

The Royal family chhatris and cenotaphs

At Gaitore, opposite to the lake, there are chhatris and cenotaphs erected over cremation platforms of some of the Kachwaha rulers of Jaipur. They were built by Jai Singh II within landscaped gardens.[1] The cenotaph monuments are in honor 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.[10]

Restoration works[edit]

In the year 2000, Government of Rajasthan entrused to IL&FS the task of finding a permanent solution to the development requirements of the Man Sagar Lake and the palace. In 2001, Government of Rajasthan initiated a project for the 'Ecological Restoration of Man Sagar Lake' and the palace in its midst to its past glory and to enhance the tourism potential of the precincts, through the Jaipur Development Authority (JDA) as the nodal agency. It was also recommended that private developers should also be involved in this effort. In the year 2002, the Ministry of Environment and Forests sanctioned through its National Lake Conservation Programme (NLCP), Rs247.2 million (about US$5 million) and released Rs173 million (about US $3.46 million) as grant-in-aid with the proviso that the balance amount shall be raised by JDA. JDA initiated steps for restoration and completed 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) tourist trail and a 1 kilometre (0.62 mi)) long promenade, apart from other works.[7][12]

In 2004, the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation took matters in its hands and decided to try and restore the monument to its original glory. They signed an agreement with Jal Mahal Resorts, granting it a 99-year lease to develop 100 acres along the Man Sagar Lake (in the middle of which Jal Mahal stands) and the palace.[3] The 99-year lease was given out to a business tycoon, Navratan Kothari. For the past 9 years, he has worked on the cleaning of the lake and restoration of the Palace. Now there are many inhabitants of the area and it has created a great job opportunity for the people of Jaipur and Rajasthan. For the future, Navratan plans to build a few hotels around Jal Mahal and make it a very popular tourist destination.

Joint sector project
Jal Mahal palace in its restored beauty in 2011.

The Lake restoration project of the Man Sagar Lake area with an estimated investment of Rs1.5 billion (considered as one of the largest and unique such projects in India) has evolved a plan that has diverse project components.[2] Consequently, there are many project stakeholders and beneficiaries. The project stake holders are: the Government of Rajasthan and their subordinate organizations such as the Public Works Department (PWD), Rajasthan Urban Development Authority (RUIDP), the Jaipur Development Authority (JDA – the nodal agency for implementation of all aspects of the project), the Department of Tourism, Rajasthan Project Development Fund (RPDF) and the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC) and an Empowered Committee on Infrastructure Development (ECID); the Central Government organizations associated for planning and financing are the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOE&F) through its National River Conservation Program (NRCP) and ILFS.[2] The Private Sector Developer (PSD) appointed was M/s KGK Consortium. Under the public–private sector partnership model approved by the EICD, PDCOR had prepared the Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the restoration of Man Sagar Lake, Jal Mahal restoration and lake precincts development. The total project area for restoration and development approved by ECID was 432 acres (175 ha) comprising the lake with 300 acres (120 ha) water spread, the lake precincts area of 100 acres (40 ha), which subsumed 15 acres (6.1 ha) of submerged land) for tourism development under joint sector cooperation and 32 acres (13 ha) for lake promenade and tertiary treatment facility and related works.[13]

Unique features of the project

The studies indicated two approaches to tackle the nature of environmental degradation that had occurred in the lake, namely, dealing with natural catchment area and concurrently addressing the serious problem of municipal sewerage emerging from large scale urbanisation or human settlement. Keeping this broad planning approach in view, under the lake restoration project, the works undertaken involved were: the re-alignment of city drains, de-silting of the lake, construction of artery road from Amber to Man Sagar Dam (about 2.7 kilometres (1.7 mi)), construction of check dam in a 100 metres (330 ft) length with silt removed from the lake, creation of three nesting islands for migratory birds, lake front promenade in1 kilometre (0.62 mi)), afforestation and treatment of forest area portion of lake catchment, plantation to stabilise the slopes of bank formation. Afforestation envisaged plantation of local plant species such as Acacia arabica (Desi babool) and tamarix indica (planting close to the water edge where they can grow well), Terminalia arjuna (Arjun ) poplar, Neem and all species of Ficus, which would provide diversity in vegetation and also better habitat diversity for feeding by birds and wild life.[6][12]

In addition, to remove eutriphication of the lake water and improve its water quality, in-situ Bioremediation process with 140 diffusers & 5 air compressors to aerate and create inversion of the lake bed and stored water was also envisaged. The city sewage, which supplied 7.0 MLD of untreated sewage was treated with Sewerage Treatment Plant (STP) and then led to the lake to maintain its water level, after due removal of nutrients through tertiary treatment. This process involved diversion of the Brahampuri Nala into the Nagtalai Nala by a lined channel to its south. This was then lead through a treatment plant on site to generate secondary level effluent, which was then discharged into an artificial wetland through a hyacinth channel. For this purpose, a Physico Chemical Treatment Plant was also envisaged and the effluent from this plant was taken through artificially created wetlands in an area of 4 hectares (9.9 acres)) (not only to treat the water but also to serve as natural habitat for birds) and through this process the entire eco-system is being re-generated. Vegetation generated in this process is disposed in a composite pit near the lake.[6]

It is also reported that about 500,000 cubic metres of silt was removed from the lake. This silt was then put to use for strengthening of embankment and building of islands as wintering grounds for migratory birds.[14]

After the above initial restoration works of the lake and its feeder system were mostly completed by the JDA, during 2003, private sector developers were invited to develop identified tourism components on the land adjoining the lake. After following the due process, a joint sector undertaking called the PDCOR was formed between the JDA of the Rajasthan Government and the consortia of private developers with lead provided by M/s. KGK Enterprises. The project for tourism development was entrusted to this joint group. The tourism project entailed development of Convention Centre and Art Gallery, Multiplex and Entertainment Centre, Craft Bazaar, Arts and Craft Village, Resort Hotels, restaurants and food courts, public park and gardens including responsibility for restoration and maintenance of the Jal Mahal.[2]

Visitor information[edit]

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.[6] 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 – Man Sagar Dam road to the north. The Jal Mahal palace is now open to visitors for the first time having undergone dramatic transformation.[3][15]

List of lakes in India[edit]



  1. ^ a b Bradnock, Roma (2004). "Footprint Indiapages=1407". Jalmahal (Footprint Travel Guides). p. 341. ISBN 1-904777-00-7. ISBN 9781904777007. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Innovation Report: Jal Mahal Tourism Project" (pdf). IL&FS. Retrieved 2009-09-11. 
  3. ^ a b c Joshi, Namrata (13 June 2011). "A Jewel Finds its Water". Outlook India. Retrieved 30 August 2011. 
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  5. ^ a b c d "Lake Restoration toward Creating Tourism Infrastructure". Indian Institute of Science: Seminar Proceedings. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Dr. K.N.Joshi. "Impact of Urbanization on Urban Lake Using High Resolution Satellite Data and GIS(A Case Study of Man Sagar Lake of Jaipur, Rajasthan)" (pdf). Jaipur: Institute of Development Studies. Retrieved 2009-09-19. 
  7. ^ a b c "Tourism deal". Down to Earth: Science and Environment on Line. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  8. ^ a b c d "Jal Mahal gets a Rs1000 cr facelift". rediff.com. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  9. ^ "Jal Mahal Jaipur". Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  10. ^ a b Brown, Lindsay; Amelia Thomas (2008). "Rajasthan, Delhi and Agra". Goitare and Jal Mahal (Lonely Planet). p. 160. ISBN 1-74104-690-4. ISBN 9781741046908. Retrieved 2009-09-13. 
  11. ^ Matane, Paulias; M. L. Ahuja (2004). "India: a splendour in cultural diversity". Jalmahal (Anmol Publications Pvt. Ltd.). p. 55. ISBN 81-261-1837-7. ISBN 9788126118373. Retrieved 2009-09-13. 
  12. ^ a b "The Ecological Restoration Project of Mansagar Lake". Jaipur Development Authority, Government of Rajasthan. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  13. ^ "Minutes of the 8th meeting of the Empowered Committee on Infrastructure Development (ECID) held on April 05, 2005" (pdf). Government of Rajasthan. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  14. ^ "Mine Spoil Restoration: A strategy combining rainwater harvesting and adaptation" (pdf). Man Sagar Lake. Jaipur: International Network on Ethnoforestry. 2005. p. 15. Retrieved 2009-09-20. 
  15. ^ Franklin, Jenny. "Jal Mahal Palace of Jaipur: The Beauty in the Water". Ezine Mark. Retrieved 30 August 2011.