We have been visiting Udaipur for over ten years but, until this week, had never visited the Monsoon Palace, formerly the Sajjan Garh Palace. The locals tell you, quite rightly, that it is good to visit on a clear day when you can enjoy the views. Along with warmer days, this last week has seen a return of clear blue skies after more hazy conditions earlier in January. We witnessed a spectacular sunset a few evenings ago and resolved to make the trip up to the Monsoon Palace on the next clear afternoon.
Leaving the outskirts of the city to the south west, you drive up through the Sajjangargh wildlife sanctuary which is home to leopard and doubtless other rarely seen species like sambar, wild boar and jackals, but alas no tigers these days. The tigers were much hunted in the countryside around Udaipur by the Maharanas and the local aristocracy. There is a hunting tower which we can see on the hill behind the house in Bedla, north of Udaipur. Bedla takes its name from the family which owned much of the land there before Independence and who clearly hunted where now houses are being erected.
The palace was constructed in the late 19th century by Maharana Sajjan Singh, the 72nd ruler of the Mewar Dynasty, as a place from which to watch the monsoon clouds . Made famous by the James Bond film, Octopussy, it is rather less glamorous than you might expect, but no matter: location is everything.
Nothing quite prepared us for the wonderful 360 panoramas from this, the highest point in and around Udaipur. The first view is to the east across the Aravalli Hills which cradle Udaipur. Lake Pichola, one of the five lakes in Udaipur and perhaps the best known, can be seen to the left of the image.
The second and third views pan north east and capture more of the the city which has grown around Lake Pichola and between it and Lake Fateh Sagar.
The City Palace sits regally on the north eastern shore of Lake Pichola and looks out across the lake to Jag Niwas, once the royal summer retreat and now the Taj Lake Palace Hotel. Both are wonderfully located to capture the setting sun across the initially lower farmland to the south west on the far side of the lake, before the Aravalli Hills, rising steeply, close the circle of the natural fortress which protects the city.
The next view, coming further round to the north, shows Lake Fateh Sagar on the left and Lake Pichola on the right.
Looking due north between the hills below, we can see up to Bedla. The house is just hidden from view by the eastern slope of the hill to the left of centre, but we could clearly see the temple on the hill above the house and the hunting tower to which reference is made above.
Turning toward the west, you return to countryside with hills and valleys.
It was a cloudless sky with just a little late-afternoon haze by the time the sun started to set. The spectacular sunset we had witnessed earlier in the week was the result of some scattered cloud low over the hills to the south west. As the sun sank down behind them, its rays caught the clouds and were reflected back down. On the evening of our visit, the sun sank with a warm glow but no pyrotechnics. We will watch out for the right conditions and scurry back up to capture an amazing sunset to share on another occasion. For now, we were blown away by the panoramas, feeling uplifted and very privileged.
I’ve been up early to finish the blog and have just pulled back the curtains in our small study to see the sun breaking over the hills to the east. Another clear and bright day: perhaps one of those sunsets awaits!