The wonders of Sajjangarh Palace
Any traveller who reaches Udaipur, the city of lakes, will never fail to take the boat ride though Pichola. But, after enjoying the reflections of palaces and the beautiful old hawelis that seems to have dipped their feet in the water, your eyes will be fixed on the beautiful marble palace that rests on the top of Aravalli hills, like a beautiful white swan, that had flown down to rest. The reflection of yellow light at night makes this palace look like a ghost palace, which has been a home to the princess as seen in ghost stories. The palace that stands tall on the top of the Banasadhara peak is known as Sajjangarh Palace or Monsoon palace. This palace was the dream palace of a prince who loved rain clouds and longed to see raindrops falling down the valley from the top of the hills. An actual dream palace!
You have to travel approximately four kilometres to reach Sajjangarh. In addition, you can go till the basement of the mountain in a bus or an auto-rickshaw. The next four kilometres are hairpin curves to the top of the mountain. You can drive yourself if you have your own vehicle. Many people trek to the top of the mountain. The trek takes more than an hour to reach the top. There are also two jeeps down the basement for commuting. They were charging Rs. 90 per passenger. However, you will have to wait until the jeep gets enough passengers. Within ten minutes, the jeep was full. The diver took the vehicle after stuffing in some more people. We could see many hairpin curves one after the other before us. The driver’s hands and legs were only inside; rest of the body was out hanging in the air as he had filled the vehicle with as many people as he can. Like an efficient trapezium artist in the circus, he was balancing his body and also driving pretty fast and giving side to the opposite vehicle. The passengers were a bit scared. You can read it on their face. After taking a roller-coaster ride for about 10 minutes, our jeep reached a plateau on the top of a small hill. But, when we looked around, the fear of the roller-coaster ride vanished.
To reach the palace you have to climb up a little more. Though there were enough visitors, emptiness ruled the atmosphere. Once you go ahead of the entrance like building, you can see the stairs to the palace. After seeing the royal Udaipur palace, you may be astonished to see the simplicity of this architecture. Especially when you come to know that this palace was the favourite of the royal prince who had imported glass as well as crystal tables, chairs and other furniture for his main hall, bedroom and dining room. I really feel that this travelogue, as well as the story about the rain cloud palace, will be incomplete if I do not say about Sajjan Singh. He became the king of Mewar at the age of 15. This Maharana who had passed away at the age of 25 was a connoisseur of arts, literature and music and had a deep interest in these subjects. When Maharana Shambhu Singh adopted him from his cousin Shakti Singh of Bagore, the king never thought that his adopted son would achieve so much in a small period of 10 years. Sajjan Singh after coming to power made roads; water tanks an efficient water supply system. He protected the forests too.
The king took enough care the Pichola Lake by cleaning it efficiently. He made his name ‘Sajjan’ true to its meaning by doing good works. The King himself being a poet and a musician established the library named “Vani Vilas” in the Udaipur palace.
When King Sajjan was planning to build the monsoon palace on the top of Banasadhara peak he had two special interests. The first was to see the water-filled clouds touching down the hot desert and the second was to see the palace from his birth home in Chittorgarh. The palace is built in such a way that you can observe the stars and planets from the top of 3500 feet above the hill. The seven-storeyed wonder on the top of the mountain.
It was an effort worth mentioning. However, unfortunately, before completing the two stories of the palace, he passed away. Later, his successor Maharana Fateh Singh completed the works of the palace. But, he did not construct seven storeys as planned earlier. The main attraction of this palace that makes it stand out is its location. Udaipur is just down the valley and flowing green Aravalli Hills just behind lying towards the horizon. If you look down from the parapet of the palace, you can see the deep green valley down. The silent and calm forests wave itself as the wind flows. It is sure that nobody can even think of such a home to know the rains.
The palace is made in such a way that it can reflect the greenery outside. The huge windows, corridors, doors etc helps the wind and light to enter inside without barriers. As this palace is on the top of the mountain, it might not have required that much security and secrecy compared to other palaces.
This dream palace was the abode of a young prince who wanted to keep away the burdens and responsibilities of a ruler/king and enjoy the freedom and fresh air of common man. However, after the death of Sajjan Singh, his descendants completed the unfinished work of the palace, but they never thought of increasing the number of floors of the palace. Though there was enough system to store all the rainwater that was available, the scarcity of water was very high. Because of that, the Royals could not use this palace as their permanent place to stay. For quite a long time this palace was used as a hunting lodge (the place for the Royals to rest after hunting). In 1956, Maharana Bhagavat Singh handed over the rights of this palace to Rajasthan Government. Nowadays, there is also a zoo, which is functioning properly down the valley.
After some time, more vehicles started coming. The silence of the evening was shattered by the mummers of people gathered around and their desire to take selfies from all nook and corners of the palace.
The crowd has increased. We decided that we would come back again to this dream palace one rainy day completely soaked in rains. We would take the steps upwards enjoying the sight of rains touching the valley. We will listen to the music of rains that falls on the marble windowpanes and will watch the rain clouds coming towards Aravalli Hills and breaking down as raindrops. One more journey to see the rains…
Translated by Deepa Menon