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Rajsamand Lake, Rajasthan, India

Also known as: Rajsamudra Lake

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One of the famed 'Lakes of Udaipur', Rajsamand Lake lies 40 miles north of the City of Udaipur. The Udaipur region of Rajasthan was once known as Mewar, land of patriots and heroes. The Mewar dynasty traces its roots to the Sun God, with examples of its proud history constructed in beautiful marble. Rajsamand Lake follows that tradition, featuring a beautiful white marble dam and embankment at the southern end. The lake was created by Maharana Raj Singh in 1660 by damming the Gomati, Kelwa, and Tali Rivers.

Used for irrigation and water supply, the reservoir is now used to provide water to the small city of Rajsamand along its southwestern shore. Marble staircases, nearly all consisting of nine steps, touch the waters. Here amid the marble terraces visitors can see the five toranas (weighing arches), where Maharana Raj Singh and his descendants organized the event of Tuladan; the kings used to weigh themselves in gold and then distributed it amongst the Brahmans, making Rajsamand Lake a special religious location.

On the embankment of the lake sit nine pavilions or 'Nauchowki', also constructed by Maharana Raj Singh. The beautifully carved pavilions are decorated with pictures of the sun, chariots, gods, birds and wonderful carvings. The history of Mewar is inscribed in 1017 stanzas, on 27 marble slabs called the 'Raj Prasasti'. The historic text inscribed here is claimed to be one of the longest etchings known in India. Contemporary with the construction of Rajsamand Lake, Dwarikadhish Temple sits along the banks of the lake in the little town of Kankroli. Dwarikadhish is one of the names of Lord Krishna, and the temple is the most significant temple of the Vaishnavas and Vallabhacharya sects.

The main idol of the temple was brought by Maharana Raj Singh in 1671, supposedly from Mathura, the hometown of Lord Krishna. The temple was constructed at the time Rajsamand Lake was dedicated in 1678. Each year a religious festival takes place with numerous devout worshipers arriving to receive the blessings of Lord Dwarikadhish. The temple is a serene and picturesque location from which to view Rajsamand Lake, with a small garden and a library with a huge collection of old books. In recent years Rajsamand Lake has suffered from drought and is much reduced in size. It is expected that a few wet years will return it normal levels.

Many visitors stop here on the way to another popular tourist destination: Kumbalgarh Fort and Wildlife Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is located less than 10 miles west of Rajsamand Lake. One of the 'must visit' locations on the Udaipur region, the fortress has a massive perimeter of 22 miles. Over 360 temples are located within the fort. The view from the fortress heights is spectacular. The wildlife sanctuary holds wolves, leopards, jackals, nilgai deer, sambar deer and various species of birds. Jeep treks are often arranged to Kumbalgarh from the Government Tourist Office in Udaipur.

The trip between Rajsamand Lake and Udaipur holds a number of other destinations of interest. The small city of Kishangarh is a noted location for marble sculpture. A marble quarry nearby produces the marble for many local craftsmen. Roopangarh Fort was built in 1648 on a strategic hill overlook to control the trade route to Sambhar Salt Lake, and the city grew up around it. This was the royal residence for a century, and Kishangarh was the capital of the state. The Fort and the ornate palace next to it have been turned into hotels. As some of the rooms and suites are little-changed from the days when the royals slept here, Kishangarh provides some of the most authentically-royal lodgings in Rajasthan. Kishangarh is also the origin of some of India's most famed miniature paintings. These miniatures were part of the royal collection, but arrangements can be made to view them via the hotels.

Returning from Rajsamand Lake to Udaipur, tourists who are wise enough to plan their trip for the winter season can enjoy the exquisite handicrafts of Rajasthan by attending the Shilpgram Fair. This festival, spanning 10 days in late November and early December, has been organized to support the local artists and craftsmen of the area. Artwork, hand woven clothing, embroideries, mirror works, camel leather work and handicrafts are all on display. No visitor will be able to leave without falling in love with at least one piece of local art, no matter how large or small.

If visitors still desire to explore the architectural treasures of the Mewar, Udaipur city holds any number of palaces, museums and temples, all reflected in the many waterways that give Udaipur the title of 'Venice of the East'. The interconnected waterways are based on the several man-made lakes in the city, making travel by boat a pleasant way to view the cultural treasures. The City Palace Museum and the Bhartiya Lok Kala Museum are good choices to view both the artifacts of royal life and the folk arts and crafts of the common citizens. Jagdish Temple is a visual delight, with beautifully-decorated halls and many religious statues. Even the graves of the royal maharanas have their own museum in the Ahar Archeological Museum and Archeological Site.

Multiple choices are available for lodgings: many palaces have been converted to 'heritage hotels' with varying degrees of luxury. More modern hotels are also available as are home-stays in local homes, arranged through reputable tour operators. Just visiting the former palaces and forts of the maharanas between Udaipur and Rajsamand Lake will immerse visitors in centuries of history of western India. A more perfect location to experience India can hardly be imagined. Don't forget to add this to your 'bucket-list'.


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