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A shining jewel in the crown of lakes surrounding the Rajasthan city of Udaipur is Fateh Sagar. This 988-acre artificial lake serves as a water supply to the city but represents so much more. For Udaipur is known as the Venice of the East; it is surrounded by lakes and canals in the midst of a near-desert landscape. Udaipur is one of the most luxurious resort destinations in India and is also often referred to as the Romantic City of Lakes: it is a preferred spot for weddings and honeymoons among the wealthy. The marble palaces of Udaipur find their reflection in the many waterways. The opulent culture of the Maharanas built the lakes, palaces and temples during their reign, and they are carefully preserved in today's tourism-based economy. Fateh Sagar is surrounded by colorful gardens and bordered on three sides by green hills. It is an oasis of peace and serenity in an increasingly busy city.
Three islands grace Fateh Sagar's surface. Nehru Island is a public park and a favorite playground for children. This garden island sports a floating, boat-shaped restaurant and a zoo. The second island is also a public park with spectacular water jet fountains. The third houses Udaipur Solar Observatory, the largest observatory in Asia. Located very near the city proper, Fateh Sagar is a common destination for picnics and for enjoying the hired pedal boats. Motor boats may be hired to travel to the islands. A public road circles the entire five-mile circumference of Fateh Sagar with lovely views of the lake and the surrounding green hills. The lake is quite clean, and there are areas set aside for splashing in the refreshing waters. The lake still supports some fishing, mostly for various species of carp and catfish. The Udaipur Lake Conservation Society is attempting to gain government commitments for removing sediments and stocking different species of fish, along with better sewage treatment facilities to protect the watershed into the future.
The lake was originally constructed under the instruction of Maharana Jai Singh in 1678. Two hundred years later, heavy rains and flooding collapsed the eastern embankment, causing loss of life and damaging the Saheliyon Ki Bari or 'Garden of Maids' on a lower elevation. In 1889, Maharana Fateh Singh reconstructed the levee and improved the lake to accommodate flooding. During monsoon season, the lake now covers up to three-quarters of a square mile. The lake is well constructed, with three intake channels from the Ahar (also known as Berach) River and an overflow channel for use during the rainy season. Three main causeways lead to the lake from Pichola Lake, Madar Lake and Badi Lake, offering the option of travel by boat to different parts of the city. Making up much of the channel between Fateh Sagar and Lake Pichola is Swaroop Sagar, another small artificial lake built by Maharana Swaroop Singh around 1860.
Only one palace directly overlooks Fateh Sagar: the palace built by Fateh Singh has been converted to a luxury hotel with beautiful views of the water. The reconstructed northeastern embankment, called the Pal, the Drive, or Connaught Bund (embankment or breakwater) borders the entrance to Moti Magri Hill. The summit of the hill holds a landscaped park with the Maharana Pratap Memorial. One of the most striking cultural locations near Fateh Sagar is the reconstructed Saheliyon Ki Bari. This 'Garden of Maids' was built in the 18th century by Maharana Sangram Singh for the royal ladies. The beautiful garden is adorned with pools, marble elephants, lotus ponds, fountains and marble pavilions. A 'rain fountain' pavilion features beautifully carved birds that sprinkle 'rain' from their beaks. A museum on the site displays a huge collection of items from the royal households, including antique artwork, stuffed animals and cobras and the accoutrements of royal living.
The city of Udaipur is noted for its cultural and historic attractions. One of the most striking architectural attractions is the Jagdish Temple. Located at the southern end of the Swaroop Sagar and a part of the City Palace complex, this temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the preserver of the Universe. Built in the early 1600s, the temple features beautifully carved pillars, lofty decorated ceilings, and brass and stone sculpted religious icons. Also of great interest to those who enjoy learning the historical context of Udaipur and Rajasthan is Bhartiya Lok Kala Museum. This unique museum features folk articles from the surrounding area, including theater puppets, rural dress, folk deities, musical instruments and paintings. Other museums of interest include the City Palace Museum and Ahar Archeological Museum and Archeological Site. A short side-trip near Lake Pichola is the Monsoon Palace or Sajjan Garh.
Lodgings are plentiful around Fateh Sagar and Udaipur. Several former palaces have been converted to luxury hotels. Less expensive lodgings can be found at many of the local hotels, where perfect guest service is the norm. The entire city is a delight for shoppers, especially those looking for folk art or traditional fabric. All types of restaurants can be found nearby. There is never a shortage of things to do or see, only a shortage of hours in the day in which to see them all. A visit to Fateh Sagar will fill travelers' senses with the sights and sounds of historic Rajput Era. Fateh Sagar deserves a prominent place on your Asian itinerary. Don't miss it!
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