The Lakes of Udaipur

Remember the Lake Palace in Udaipur, the place where James Bond met Octopussy. Now if you go there, you will be able to see the palace, but the lake is slowly disappearing.

The people of Udaipur are only now beginning to understand how the lake is more than just a beauty spot. In fact, it is part of a highly sophisticated rainwater catchment system planned in the 16th century. When the then Maharana of Mewar laid out the city as his new capital, he built dams to create Lake Pichola as part of a series of artificial lakes he constructed around the city. They are strategically placed so that if the monsoon fails over one lake, another will catch rainwater from the other side of the watershed that runs near Udaipur, and the lakes are interconnected.

But the state government is now, at last, taking steps in the right direction, say the people of Udaipur. They have started a major programme of reforestation for the denuded hills. Refilling Lake Pichola has been made the top priority, and the authorities have pledged to remove any villagers’ dams that are blocking the flow of water. They have also pledged to stop pumping drinking water out of the lake until it is restored to its former level.

Riding on horseback over the green lake-bed, Mr Joseph, the executive at the Lake Palace, says: “You know, some guests have told me Udaipur doesn’t need its lake. It still has so much to offer.” He points to the wild horses grazing. “You would never see them if the lake was full. They wouldn’t come down from the hills. The palace still has so much to offer.” And he is right. Even as he speaks, a traditional musical troupe is preparing to use the dry lake- bed as a performance area to entertain the guests. [Heat and dust consume India’s City of the Lakes via India Archaeology]

Udaipur was named so in 1572 in the name of Udai Singh who founded the place. From there the house of Mewar defied the might of the Mughal empire and was the base of the Rajputs. Udaipur is also the home of Bagheera, the panther in Jungle Book.