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One of India's largest artificial lakes, Jaisamand Lake was created in 1685 when Rana Jai Singh of Udaipur built a marble dam across the Gomati River. The reservoir, originally called Jai Samand, is second only in size to the Upper Lake of Bhopal, India when the latter is full. The large lake covers 21,500 acres. Canals provide irrigation and drinking water to several villages to the west as well as providing drinking water to the City of Udaipur 35 miles away. In the arid Rajasthan area of India, the collection of water via reservoir was, and is, vital to supporting cities and agriculture. The building of these lakes became a point of civic pride and the essence of good governance by the Maharanas who ruled the kingdoms of western India. In his effort to emulate his father's creation of Rajsamand Lake, Rana Jai Singh created one of the country's most beautiful and productive lakes. Jaisamand Lake has since become a regular stop on most Rajasthan travel itineraries.
Jaisamand Lake has several islands near the north end of the lake; most are the home of the Bhil Minas tribe. A few fishing villages also inhabit the north end of the lake. But what brings tourists to Jaisamand are the cultural edifices created by the area's previous rulers. The marble 'bund' (dam) is over 1200 feet long and 116 feet high. On the bund are six exotic cenotaphs (monuments) with a Shiva temple in the center. The northern end of the lake has a palace with a courtyard, while its southern end has a pavilion of 12 pillars. The hills to its south have grand palaces with an excellent view of the lake. On the top of nearby hills are two old palaces constructed by Maharana Jai Singh. Beautiful summer palaces of the Udaipur queens are sited on all sides of the lake. Marble staircases descend to the water in several places along the 30-mile shoreline. Some of the old palaces now house government offices.
The lake is a favorite for swimming, boating and diving, with vigilance for crocodiles. Motor boats provide transportation between resorts located on the shore and on some of the islands. One resort in particular is considered one of the most elegant and beautiful in the region. The former forested hunting grounds of the maharanas are now a game sanctuary. The 12,650-acre Jaisamand Sanctuary contains leopard, spotted deer, Indian gazelle, mongoose, wild boar, hyena, jungle cat, fox, wolf, sambar and other species. The lake itself holds crocodile, turtles and a variety of fish. The combined lake, wetlands and forest welcome a wide variety of resident and migratory birds. Jeep excursions can be arranged for exploring the Sanctuary.
Jaisamand Lake is considered one of the lakes of romantic Udaipur, although it is about 35 miles from the city. The city itself, known as the Venice of the East, contains many man-made lakes and canals. Built over several centuries, the lakes have been developed into attractive vistas that reflect ancient marble palaces and beautiful, ever-blooming gardens. Most organized tours arrange for some time to be spent in Udaipur visiting the many cultural treasures located along the waterways. Udaipur has preserved the opulence of the former Mewar rulers. Many of these maharanas are considered national heroes for their defense over centuries against outside armies. Several monuments are found locally in their honor, such as the Maharana Pratap Memorial located on a hill above beautiful Fateh Sagar Lake. Many former palaces have been turned into 'heritage' hotels and offer exclusive luxury. Temples such as the Jagdish Temple offer a glimpse into both the expansive architecture and beautifully decorated interiors of the religious sites of the region. Many icons and statues in marble and brass grace the doorways and halls of this beautiful building.
Udaipur is the perfect place to investigate the long history of the people of the Mewar Region. The City Palace on the banks of Lake Pichola holds a museum filled with antiques, curios, sculpture and art from bygone eras. Ancient weapons, coins and articles of royal clothing tell the long story of development in the city of Udaipur and the surrounding area. In contrast to the history of the ruling classes, the Bhartiya Lok Kala Museum explores folk art, handicrafts and traditional objects of the common peoples of the region. The Mewar region of Rajasthan has long been known for its rich tradition of craftsmanship and artistry. Bhartiya Lok Kala Museum works to encourage local artists to continue these traditional crafts.
Travel to Jaisamand Lake is ordinarily arranged via tourism agencies. Differing itineraries will accommodate varied interests. Plenty of local lodgings are available in Udaipur in all price ranges. One need not be heir to a family fortune to enjoy the rich surroundings of many of the smaller heritage hotels that provide the excellent service that Indian innkeepers are known for. If travel to Rajasthan is in your future plans, make sure it includes a visit to Jaisamand Lake. It's a once-in-a-lifetime destination.
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