If the rising mercury levels dissuade you from a trip to Udaipur and its iconic City Palace, take our comfy armchair trail of its museum ahead of a talk on its conservation efforts
Standing flamboyant by the powder blue Lake Pichola, the 200,000-sq ft City Palace in Udaipur, a part of which now functions as a living museum, can overwhelm you even before you step into the fine celebration of Mewari regalia. Built over four centuries ago by Rana Udai Singh II, father of Rana Pratap, the old palace stands atop a low ridge, Rana’s Hill. “The museum features the architectural narrative of the Rajput Mewar styles since 16th century, borne out of patronage of 22 Maharanas, showing 13 layers of historic architectural fabric with a range of in situ (on site) artworks from different times,” observes Gurgaon-based conservation architect Dr Shikha Jain, director of DRONAH (Development and Research Organisation for Nature, Arts and Heritage), in Mumbai for a lecture at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) this evening.
The glass inlay work from late 19th century in the Mor Chowk (peacock courtyard) of the Mardana Mahal is considered Udaipur’s most iconic artwork
Jain’s lecture will present an overview of the Conservation Master Plan (CMP) for the museum, developed from 2005 to 2009 through grants awarded by the Getty Foundation in the USA, and its phased implementation thereafter. “The built spaces and specific artefacts in the museum are still strongly associated with Mewar rituals and often used in annual festivals by the royal family.
An aerial view of the palace. Pics Courtesy/Media Office/Eternal Mewar/The City Palace/Udaipur
So, the conservation philosophy for the complex goes beyond mere technical restoration,” says Jain, whose organisation was engaged by the Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation, which manages the museum and envisaged the CMP. The plan was prepared with help from a range of experts including archaeologists, historians, art conservators, curators, environmental and landscape experts. “We undertook an elaborate research along with studies of daily records of the rulers called bahidas, archival documents, maps, paintings since 16th century, on-site physical inspections and surveys including photogrammetry conducted by IIT Roorkee,” she adds.
A traditional caparisoned horse in Amar Mahal, a marble ashlar masonry palace converted into the Silver Gallery, featuring silver artefacts used for pujas, about 450 vanity items, royal transport like a buggy and elephant and horse jewellery
So far, the team has completed physical conservation works in several museum areas like Badi Pol (entrance), visitor-orientation space in Moti Chowk, facade conservation of Zenana East Face and other areas. “Several new museum galleries with conservation, cataloguing of artefacts and state-of-the-art displays are in place.
The Som Niwas Gallery presents 47 sculptures (of a total of 308 in the museum collection) of the gods, the Surasundaris, goddesses and the animal motifs/memorial stones from 9th and 10th centuries temples of Nagda in Ujjain. Pics Courtesy/Media Office/Eternal Mewar/The City Palace/Udaipur
These include Silver Gallery, Photography Gallery, Music Gallery, Sculpture Gallery and Photography storage with compactors. Three new galleries are being worked on with the intention of opening up all new collection galleries in Zenana Mahal (half of the museum) by 2018,” informs Jain.
With flowering shrubs, arched pavilions and a water basin, Baadi Mahal features an intricately-carved, Rajput-Mughal style marble palace garden, set atop the hill, offering panoramic views of the town and Lake Pichola. Apparently, it’s a favourite private palace of the Maharanas and associated with recitation rituals, Holi celebrations, etc.
On: Today, 6 pm
At: Auditorium, Museum Visitors Centre, CSMVS, Fort.
Also check out
Architecture: The architecture and in situ (on site) artworks in Mardana Mahal, like Chitram ki Burj — an 18th century painted room that documents the city in miniature-style paintings — and Kanch ki Burj — a domed room with glass inlay work from mid-19th century.
Paintings: A collection of over 1,600 miniature paintings, which is world famous and the largest of its kind (dating 1700 onward). The works document centuries of transformations of the city, its history, political and social life, festivals and rituals.
Photography: The museum features 28,000 photographs, one of the largest collections, over a span of 100 years. They trace the history of photography in India and can be curated in a range of thematic exhibitions to display the changes in fashion, lifestyle, culture and politics in 100 years of Rajasthan/Rajputana. The museum is also famous for its genre of painted photographs, a distinct style prevalent during the period (1850-1950) between miniature paintings and photography trends. Other collections include textiles (not displayed yet), music and armoury including Rana Pratap’s sword and armour from 16th century.
What numbers say
square feet area of The City Palace complex
photographs spanning over 100 years in the museum’s collection
miniature paintings dating back to 1700
>> Keep the museum clean.
>> Use cameras only in the access areas. Check at the entrance gate for permissions.
>> Keep at least half a day in your itinerary for this museum.
>> Don’t touch/tamper with restored art or areas under conservation.
From Mumbai 760.4 km
Overview: The former capital of the Mewar Rajputs, the city faces Lake Pichola and is surrounded by several other artificial lakes and palaces with the Aravalli mountains in the distance. The City Palace is its centrepiece. Kitschy bazaars, chaos and overpriced silver jewellery will greet the visitor.
Don’t miss: Gangaur Ghat and Jagmandir Island inside the city, and outside, the marble work at Ranakpur’s temples and the massive Kumbhalgarh fort, believed to have Asia’s second longest walls, after the Great Wall Of China.
Anjani, Haveli Anjaniji 77, Gangaur Ghat Marg.
Amet Haveli, Outside Chandpole.
Jaiwana Haveli, near Jagdish Chowk, 14, Lal Ghat Road.