Udaipur, Oct 11 (IANS) Housed in one of the largest palace complexes of Rajasthan is a quaint museum that artfully records the life and times of a kingdom that proudly claims it never “bowed down to the Mughals, or to the East India Company”.
The private museum, inside the imposing white-masonry edifice of the City Palace here, has single-handedly shouldered the responsibility of preserving and propagating the heritage and culture of the erstwhile Mewar kingdom of south-central Rajasthan (covering the present-day districts of Bhilwara, Chittorgarh, Rajsamand, Udaipur, and some parts of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh).
The museum, set up in 1969 by Maharana Bhagwant Singh Mewar, the then scion of the royal family, entices with its inspiring architecture, polished artefacts, intricate glass-work, vintage wall-art and the priceless armoury of Mewar’s most famous king — Maharana Pratap (1540-1597).
The museum is in what used to be a part of the palace’s ‘Zenana Mahal’, or the Queen’s Chamber, and a visitor stepping into it is reflected in the hundreds of mirrors on the walls, making him or her one with the paintings, of which there is a rare and huge collection from the Rajput era.
Stand in front of the spectacularly detailed one depicting the historic Battle of Haldighati (1576) — where Maharana Pratap took on a Mughal army despatched by Emperor Akbar that was twice the size of his own — and it is as if the battle is unfolding before your very eyes in each of the artist’s brush strokes.
Also of considerable interest are the armouries of Maharana Pratap that are still well preserved, all these hundreds of years later. Even the elephant trunk leather noseband for his famous horse Chetak is on display.
Today, the museum is under the care of Bhagwant Singh’s grandson Lakshyaraj Singh, who is now on the board of the Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation (MMCF) which looks after the museum.
Lakshyaraj has worked hard to transform the visitor-experience of the museum so that the story of Mewar practically tells itself. “This rich culture of Mewar is part of India and has survived time. This edifice breathes and speaks history. And I feel proud of my rich heritage,” he told IANS.
His efforts, buttressed by an army of workers cleaning and maintaining every artefact, tile, structure, miniature, carving and corner, has seemingly paid off. “On an average, the museum gets around 3,000 footfalls per day,” a City Palace spokesperson told IANS.
Of course, a visit to the museum does mean you get a chance to walk around the City Palace itself. As you step out from the museum into the Rai Angan, or the royal courtyard, you become part of a bygone era, for it is at this very place that Udai Singh — the Mewar king after whom Udaipur is named — met a sage who asked him to build a city here in the 15th century.
The palace offers a spectacular view of the modern city. And from the towers and terraces of Amar Vilas is available a breathtaking view of Lake Pichola that surrounds the palace.
(Anand Singh’s visit to Udaipur City Palace Museum was arranged by the MMCF. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)