Pichola Lake was built in 1362 AD by Banjara, a gypsy "Banjara" tribesman who transported grain, during the reign of Maharana Lakha. Later, Maharana Udai Singh, impressed by the charm of this lake with the backdrop of green hills, founded the city of Udaipur on the banks of the lake and also enlarged the Lake by constructing a stone masonry dam in the Badipol region on the shore of the Lake.
The lake's surroundings and the several islands within the lake have been developed over the centuries, with palaces, marble temples, family mansions, bathing ghats or chabutaras (a raised platform, normally within a courtyard); some of the famous ones are the Lake Palace (now converted into a heritage hotel) in the middle of the lake also called the Pichola Palace (pictured) or Jag Nivas located on the Jag Island, the Jag Mandir, the Mohan Mandir (in the northeast corner of the lake built by Jagat Singh between 1628 and 1652), the City Palace of Udaipur (Bansi Ghat) from where boats ply to all other parts of the Lake, the Arsi Vilas Island, which is a sanctuary for birds and the Sitamata Game Sanctuary on the western shore of the Lake.
At several locations where the lake narrows, ornamental arch bridges have been built to span the waterway between the banks.
Prince Khurram who rebelled against Jahangir, sought refuge of the Mewar King Maharana Karan Singh II in 1623 and was housed in the partially completed Jag Mandir. Price Khurram later usurped the Mughal Empire, took the title of Shah Jahan.
The Natini Chabutra, is a raised platform in a courtyard, built to commemorate a "natani" (tightrope walker) legend. Maharana Jawan Singh (1828-38), in an inebriated state, is stated to have assured a "natani" that half the kingdom of Mewar would be gifted to her if she crossed the lake over a tightrope stretched across the lake from a village on the west bank of the lake to the City Palace on the east bank. It is said that she was tricked since the rope got cut off before she was to reach the other end of the rope. The girl plunged into the lake and drowned. Before she died, it is believed that she cursed that the Maharana's family, who from then on would not have any direct descendents or heirs. This curse is claimed to have come true, since six Ranas out of the seven succeeding Jawan Singh were adopted sons.
Octopussy, a 1983 James Bond film, was filmed in the precincts of the Lake Palace and other two palaces in Udaipur (Shiv Niwas Palace and Monsoon Palace).
Hydrology and technical details
The Sisarma stream, a tributary of the Kotra River, drains a catchment of 55 km2 from the Aravalli Mountains and contributes to the flows in the lake. The average annual rainfall in the lake basin is 635 millimetres (25.0 in). The lake has a surface area of about 696 ha. It is 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) long and 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) wide, and has depth varying from a minimum of 4.32 metres (14.2 ft) to a maximum of 8.5 metres (28 ft). In the heart of the Lake, a palace called the Lake Palace was built, which is now converted into a heritage palace hotel. This palace built in marble in 1746 by Maharana Jagat Singh II, 62nd successor to the royal dynasty of Mewar, spreads across the 1.6 ha (4 acres) island and is claimed to be as impressive as the Taj Mahal. At the southern end, a dam was built across the major tributary to facilitate the Banjara tribesman to ford the stream with animals carrying grains. After 1560, Maharana Udai Sing II strengthened the dam (to a height of 15.24 m) when he established the city of Udaipur around the picturesque Lake. Machchala Magra hill, to the south of the city palace complex, is part of the old city wall and the small fort of Eklinggarh and the temple. The fact that the Pichola lake was built by nomadic gypsies testifies that the rulers of Mewar encouraged people to build water harvesting structures.
During drought conditions because of lower rainfall & degradation of the catchment the lake becomes dry (pictured). During the years 1998 to July 2005. the Lakes of Udaipur were reportedly dry.
As per a study carried out by the "Centre of Advanced Study in Geology", Punjab University, the water quality of the lake has a high sodium and Bicarbonate content, which is attributed to the continental weathering due to anthropogenic pressure (tourist influx), intense development activities in the basin area and untreated effluent from municipal and domestic sewage into the Lake. The semi arid conditions of the area, saline and alkaline soils/groundwater conditions and weathering of the silicate rock exposed in the drainage basin are assessed as the reasons for the supply of major ions. The report infers that :
- "The increase in phosphate loading and consequent depletion of silica suggests biological consumption of the latter. The observed chemical data of the Pichola Lake was used to predict the mineral assemblages in the carbonate and aluminosilicate system. It demonstrates that calcite and dolomite are the possible minerals that are in equilibrium with the lake water system and that the lake water chemistry is in the range of stability of kaolinite".
The average of the pollution parameters recorded at random intervals during 2005-2006 as reported by the Rajasthan State Pollution Control Board in 2006 are :
* Dissolved Oxygen 6.33 mg/L; pH Value No.8.27; BOD 2.66 mg/L; Nitrate 0.11 mg/L; Nitrite 0.0045 mg/L; Fecal Coliform 16 MPN/100; and Total Coliform 110 MPN/100.
The assessment of quality status determined that water is polluted and needs remedial measures to be implemented to rectify the situation.
Studies conducted by Jheel Sanrakshan Samiti (Udaipur Lake Conservation Society) - JSS - a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) set up in 1992 for Ecological, Limnological and Hydrological Conservation of Udaipur Lake System, has found growth of Water Hyacinth, the lake bottom is also covered with a thick mat of submerged vegetation, presence of floating micro algae which are detrimental to the public health, and also harbor varieties of harmful organisms. This degree of pollution makes chlorination and treatment by other chemicals ineffective to render the water potable.
Threats to the lake
Some of the issues identified as causes for deterioration of the Lake environment are :
* Polluted due to disposal of sewerage directly into surface drains or surface water body
* Large-scale and uncontrolled mining of marble and other minerals leading to heavy deforestation of hill slopes.
* Catchment area degradation and soil erosion causing deposition of sediments in to the Lake and disturbance to the eco- system of the area.
* Dumping of solid, liquid waste, destruction of submergence areas and over exploitation of water
* Poor governance, and
* Lack of citizens and stakeholders participation in management of the Lake
* Due to deteriorated water quality, out of 42 species of fishes including Mahseer and all major carp fishes only 17 species of fishes have survived.
Lake restoration works
Steps undertaken to restore the lakes by the NGOs, such as JSS and concerned government organizations are :
* Water hyacinth has been eradicated
* Biological measures undertaken
* Sewerage plan has been partly implemented.
* Catchment area conservation of the Pichhola Water shed project of Rs 34.2 million covering an area of 12702 ha under funding of the Government of India is under implementation.
It is one of the several contiguous lakes, and developed over the last few centuries in and around the Udaipur city. The lakes around Udaipur were primarily created by building dams to meet the drinking water and irrigation needs of the city and its neighborhood. Two islands, Jag Niwas and Jag Mandir are located within Pichola Lake, and have been developed with several palaces to provide views of the lake.
Three of the numerous lakes found in the vicinity of Udaipur which connect with the Pichola lake and the Saroop Sagar Lake connected by an arched bridge built by Maharana Swaroop Singh (1842-1861) which in turn connects to the Fateh Sagar Lake, the crystal watered lake in the midst of tree lined hills and the smaller Arsi vilas.
The Lake Pichola is approachable by road from the Udaipur City. Local buses, Tongas, auto-rickshaws and taxis provide the needed transport. Udaipur, in turn, is well connected through the Golden Quadrilateral road network, and it lies equidistant, at 650 kilometres, from Delhi and Mumbai on the National Highway (NH) 8. Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan is 6 hours by road and 3.5 hours drive from Ahmedabad to Udaipur. Rajasthan Tourism operates regular bus service from Delhi. It also falls on the East West Corridor which starts from Porbandar and ends at Silchar and intersects the Golden Quadrilateral and a part of this is the stretch from Udaipur to Chittor. 25 km from the lake is the Dabok Airport which connects to Delhi and Bombay. Udaipur Railway Station and Maharana Pratap Bus Stand are both 3 km away from the Lake.
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10.00 am - 17.00 pm from Bansi Ghat
- (1/2 hour cruise) Adult : Rs.75, child : Rs.40
- (3/4 hour trip) Adult : Rs.150, child : Rs.75
- (1 hour solar boat): Rs.1200 up to 8 persons.