About LAKES of Udaipur, Water Conservation ahead of its time

  • By Maharana Mewar Historical Publ
  • July 25 2020
Aerial view, Pichola Lake.
  • Know about the contribution of the Maharanas of Mewar towards water conservation, preservation and distribution, which they achieved by building numerous lakes.
  • They implemented traditional techniques of water conservation by using their self-created water bodies.
  • Merging of canals with rivers and inter linking of rivers are some innovations.

A significant tradition of the ‘Suryavanshis’ (Solar Dynasty) comprises long lineage of being ruled by famous Rulers who have contributed immensely towards human welfare on Earth.


The social order established by Manu proved beneficial for the entire human race. Scriptures hail Ikshvaku, son of Manu as a glorious and righteous monarch whose grandeur dominated all four directions on Earth to an extent that for centuries to come the Solar Dynasty was popularly referred to as Ikshvaku Dynasty.


One of the descendants of Ikshvaku Dynasty was the legendary King Bhagirath, son of King Dilip. Bhagirath performed penance and worshipped Goddess Ganga with the purpose of providing salvation to his ancestors and welfare of the entire Universe. This practice led to the descent of Goddess Ganga from Heaven to Earth in the form of the sacred River Ganges. Emergence of the Ganges on Earth was a boon resulting in all round development and progress of the entire Universe.


Picking up from here the kings of Solar Dynasty of Gohil lineage, who forever continued to serve society. Various important projects related to human welfare were started by them. The efforts of the Solar Dynasty flourished, commanding respect from contemporary rulers all around, thus they managed to make Mewar as one of the strongest and most powerful states of the era.


Rulers of Mewar, during their respective reigns, made individual efforts to undertake, implement and successfully complete activities of sustainable management of natural recourses of fresh water to meet their current and future demands.


Udaipur, which is world famous as, ‘The City of Lakes’ is one of the finest examples of  protection of hydrosphere where the lakes of the city are interconnected  to form a lake system which supports and sustains ground water recharge, ensuring availability of water for the purpose of - consumption, industries, agriculture and tourism.


Apart from this, the Maharanas of Mewar have contributed immensely towards universal unity, patriotism, independence, dedication, devotion, sacrifices and issues of social and economic welfare for the betterment of common man. The unparalleled contribution of the Maharanas of Mewar for the continuous service, development and all round progress by meeting the day-to-day requirements of people in different parts of the state placed them on a high pedestal.


Traditional methods of conservation and management of water by the Maharanas of Mewar has set an unprecedented global example presenting themselves as role models in the field of water conservation and management. The Maharanas not only guarded and protected the territories of their state from invaders but also contributed largely towards governance of rain water to meet the essential requirement of water supply during war and drought.

Note that all dams were made for irrigation and water supply not for beautification. Also, dams were always made between two hillock's at either end.

Maximum  methods of  natural water harvesting and harnessing in Mewar region is in the form of lakes, ponds, dams, step-wells and canals, built by the Maharanas of Mewar.


Format is title of lake, who built in, period of rule by Maharana, picture of lake and below that information about lake. Major lakes title in purple, smaller in blue.


1. Lake Udai Sagar built by Maharana Udai Singhji, ruled 1537-1572.


He established Udaipur as the new capital of Mewar. Along with that he also got a dam constructed on River Ayed that resulted in a lake that was named after him. The completion of this lake took approximately 5 years, between (1569-1564 CE).


Flowing 6 miles east of Udaipur this lake is 2.5 miles long and 2 miles broad. The first time it reached its full capacity was in the year 1564.


The prime reason for the construction of this dam was the security of the newly instated capital, Udaipur as well as to ensure substantial water supply for irrigation and personal consumption.


2. Lake Rajsamand  built by Maharana Raj Singhji, ruled 1653-1680. 


Raj Samudra also known as Lake Rajsamand is an exquisite example of a water body. While still a bachelor, Maharana Raj Singhji went to Jaisalmere for his wedding and saw the possibility of lake at this place.


In 1661, he made a halt to worship Shri Roopnarayanji, when he conceptualized the idea of constructing a huge water reservoir near village Kankroli as a relief project for the common man. Its enormity can be imagined by the fact that it embraces the boarders of almost 12 villages in its circumference.

In 1662 CE the excavation for the foundation of this enormous lake started simultaneously in square formation at different places. Various departments were appointed to monitor this mammoth task. On April 17 1665 CE, Ranchod Rai son of the royal priest Garibdas laid its foundation stone along with five gems.


On June 30 1671 CE proved to be the year of drought. ‘Pakhals’ (leather water pouches) were used to collect water from various nearby places to fill the lake. Thereafter, an auspicious time for boating was announced.


By 1673 CE reasonably good rainfall was registered that managed to raise the water level of the lake to about 8 feet. Skilled artisans from Lahore, Gujrat and Surat prepared water boats that were cast in the lake on July 27, 1674 and the inaugural celebration of the lake commenced in 1675. 


The Maharana observed fast on ‘Ashtami’ (eighth day of the lunar calendar) and on ‘Navmi’ (ninth day of the lunar calendar) he reached the ‘mandap’ (covered structure with pillars temporarily erected to perform prayer ceremony) near the lake to worship Lord Varun (Rain God) along with his family, feudal lords, statesmen, other nobles and priests.


9 ‘kunds’ (a center place in the mandap where fire is lit and oblations are made) were made in two separate mandaps and the ‘yagna’ (Vedic sacrifice or ritual worship) – ‘havan’ (sacred fire) were performed.


Next day, the Maharana accompanied by his family set out bare feet to take ‘parikrama’ (ritual of moving clockwise around an object of devotion as an indication of reverence) of the lake; led by the royal priests and Brahmins chanting the Vedas. Distance of 14 kos, (equal to about 44.8 kms), was covered in 5 days that culminated on ‘Purnima’ (full moon day).


The lake was formally inaugurated by offering ‘purnahuti’ (ceremony symbolizing of complete offering away of oneself).


Thereafter, the Maharana performed gold ‘tula-daan’ (a ritual where a sacred donation is made by weighing it against the weight of the person performing it) in which he also weighed his grandson, Amar Singh with himself. Total of 12,000 tolas (approximately12 kgs.) of gold was donated that day. 


As per Rajsamudra inscription ‘Saptsagar’ was also donated on the same day. Queens, accompanied by priests joined in to offer silver tula-daan. The Maharana then presented 12 villages to the royal priest Garibdas; to the other Brahmins he presented - villages, gold, silver etc. Priests Charan and Bhatt (bards) were given Elephants, Horses, clothes etc.


This significant occasion was commemorated by the presence of kings and nobles of various states. Valuable gifts of Elephants, Horses etc. were exchanged between them and the Maharana, as a mark of friendship.


About 46,000 Brahmins and locals were fed and clad that day. Total expenditure was approximately Rs. 1,05,07,608.


On the Nauchoki dam of this magnificent lake embankment, 25 artistically carved and engraved colossal rocks bear inscription of 25 ‘sarg’ (cascade) of the great genre- ‘Rajprashasti, describing the glorious past of Mewar. These stone inscriptions are believed to be the longest engravings in the history of the country. This extraordinary masterpiece was created by Ranchod Bhatt, a Teleng by cast from Kathodi lineage. Credit for getting it engraved on the rocks goes to Maharana Jai Singhji, r. 1680 – 1698. 

Names of the architects who made Rajsamand Lake are Mukund, Dalpati Maha Singh, Mokum Singh and Vyaghra. There were four architects because it took twelve years to make, in between some died.


3. Lake Jai Samudra or Jaisamand  built between 1686-1691 CE by Maharana Jai Singhji.

 Pic gives a sense of lake size.

32 miles to the southeast of Udaipur is located the world famous man made, sweet water lake, Jai Samudra.


When full, it covers an area of more than 7 miles in length and 6 miles in width. There are 3 islands on the lake, two are known as Baba ka Magra while the third one is known as Pairi.


A marble dam approximately 1,000 feet long, 95 feet high and 50 feet broad at the base, exists between two hillocks. A similar dam measuring 1,300 feet exists behind this dam. Six exotic cenotaphs flank the lake bank. Beneath the cenotaphs, are six graceful Elephants carved from a single stone. 

Lake Bank. Early morning.  


On May 22 1691 CE, Maharana Jai Singhji laid the foundation of the lake and the occasion was celebrated by donating gold after a tula-daan. The dam also houses Narmdeshwar Shiva temple, the construction of which was started by Maharana Jai Singhji but he could not complete it during his lifetime. Seeing the deluge of CE.1875 Maharana  Sajjan Singhji, (ruled 1874 – 1884) spent Rupees 2 lakh to fill just about 2/3rd of the vast area between the two dams with stone, mud and lime. The hill to the south of the dam was dotted with Palaces of Maharana Jai Singhji which were later restored by Maharana Sajjan Singhji. With dense forest area all around it, Jaisamand is an enormous, charismatic lake.


Thur Talab (Pond) Maharana Jai Singhji got Thur Talab constructed near village Thur, approximately 5 miles northwest of Udaipur. The foundation of this talab was laid in 1687 CE. 

Today the lake provides drinking water to Udaipur and is used for irrigation also. So what was made around 1686 continues to be useful even 330 years later.


4. Lake Pichola built by Maharana Lakshya Singh, ruled 1382-1421.

Sunset view Lake Pichola, behind City Palace.


Approximately 625 years ago, between 1383-85, Maharana Lakha, ruled 1382-1421, (Lakshya Singh) got a lake constructed by getting a temporary dam built between Machala Magra and Rana Magri, (on the hill on which present day City Palace is built).


Lake Pichola got its name from a nearby village, Picholi.


Later Maharana Udai Singhji was instrumental in providing it a grand look by replacing the ordinary, temporary structure with a more concrete one. The bank of the lake is dotted with beautiful temples, bridges, old ‘havelis’ (mansions) and the magnificent City Palace.


When this dam collapsed in 1795 Maharana Bhim Singhji, ruled 1778-1828, got it repaired in a much sturdier manner for it to withhold floods in the future. Glorious structures such as Jagmandir and Jagniwas stand tall within this lake.


The lake was further strengthened and beautified by Maharana Jawan Singhji, ruled 1828-1838, and Maharana Swarup Singhji, ruled 1842-1861, during their respective reigns making it world famous for its beauty and strength.


To the east of Lake Pichola is Doodh Talai, a small pond which was constructed to meet the water requirement of animals of a Banjara, a trader. Today it presents itself as a renowned tourist spot.


In 1668 Maharana Raj Singhji I established Lake Rang Sagar in memory of his son Rajkumar Sultan Singhji ‘Surtran’. Foundation of Rang Sagar was laid by Kunwar Jai Singhji, currently it is part of Lake Pichola.


Udaipur city was founded by Maharana Udai Singhji II during his reign when Kumariya Talab was also created for the Kumhar community, (makers of bricks and earthen pots).

During Maharana Sajjan Singhji’s regime in 1874 it was connected with Lake Rang Sagar. Similarly Maharana Sajjan Singhji, in the year 1874, got two ponds-Pond Kumariya and Pond Amar Kund – which were constructed during the reign of Maharana Ari Singh, ruled 1761-1773, merged into Lake Rang Sagar thus expanding and giving it a grand form.


5. Jana Sagar  built in 1668 CE by Maharana Raj Singhji I.


The Maharana got this water body created in village Badi situated 10 Kms away to the west of Udaipur in memory of his mother Rajmata Janade (Karmitiji).


The primary reason for the creation of this water body was to meet the irrigation requirement of village Badi and other close by villages as well as to ensure that Lake Fateh Sagar and Lake Dewali would have adequate water all year round. This dam was strong enough to withstand the floods of 1795.


A silver tula-daan was performed during the creation of this lake and priest Garibdas was gifted village Gunhand (Gilund) and Depura. Rs. 6,88,000 was the total expenditure on the construction of this water body. Name of architect for this lake was Jassa.


The farsightedness of Maharana Raj Singh I.

Maharana Raj Singh I pioneered the technique of changing the course of water flow to give it a permanent form. The course of water flow of River Obey Var flowing from Ubeshwar, the famous pilgrim site of Mewar was turned to join River Morwani between the years 1652-80. Thus, this water started entering Lake Jana Sagar and Lake Fateh Sagar. Prior to this water from River Ubeshwar would enter Lake Chota Madar. 


The 350 year old dam created on this river is still functional. 


Lake Swarup Sagar

Constructed during the reign of Maharana Swarup Singhji, this lake is situated in place of Kalalya Shivsagar Pond, which was named after the Shiv temple of Kalal community.


In the year 1845 Maharana Swaroop Singhji gave this pond the form of a lake and so it came to be known as Swarup Sagar.


Swarup Sagar is interconnected with Lake Pichola, Lake Rang Sagar and Lake Kumariya.                                                                                 


6. Lake Fateh Sagar  built by Maharana Fateh Singhji, ruled 1884-1930.


Approximately 1.5 miles north of Udaipur was a small pond called Dewali ka Talab, built by Maharana Jai Singhji. It derived its name from village Dewali where it was initially constructed by Maharana Jai Singhji in the year 1680. The dam on this pond was not very high.

During the reign of Maharana Bhim Singhji the earthen dam got washed away in floods; later in 1889 Maharana Fateh Singhji, got it restored and renovated to form a lake. Its foundation was laid by Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, Commander of The Bombay British Army, and the third son of Queen Victoria, hence it was originally named Connaught dam. Later the Duke suggested that the enlarged and restored water reservoir be called Fateh Sagar hence the lake was renamed Fateh Sagar.

Prior to the construction of Jana Sagar (Badi Lake) water from river Morwani would flow into Fateh Sagar; because of Jana Sagar the lake was and continues to be fed by river Hathi Dhara and Chikalwas canal that overflows to Jana Sagar enters Fateh Sagar. Apart from this, the overflow of Lake Pichola is diverted into Rang Sagar and Swarup Sagar and the overflow of these two lakes is further directed through a controlled inlet canal that leads to Lake Fateh Sagar. The same Dewali Talab is now popularly known as Lake Fateh Sagar.


Chikalwas Feeder Canal

A dam was constructed to the west of Udaipur near village Chikalwas, on river Ayed along with a feeding canal to link it with Lake Fateh Sagar to ensure adequate water supply to the lake.

During monsoons the overflow of Ayed River is diverted through this canal into Lake Fateh Sagar.

This canal was constructed during in 1890 during the reign of Maharana Fateh Singhji. On August 13, approximately 129 years back, history was created by Maharana Fateh Singhji by diverting water into Chikalwas feeder canal and this plan is now referred to as - ‘The world’s first river linking project’. The Engineer in the service of Mewar then was Mr. Campbell Thompson.

Thus, Mewar was then the only state in the world to display examples of inter-linkage of lakes and inter connection and diversion of rivers.


Lake Govardhan Sagar

In 1857 Maharana Swarup Singhji got a lake and a cowshed constructed approximately 3 kms west of Lake Pichola. The same reign saw the replacement of rock walls by a gate that led Lake Govardhan to join Lake Pichola.


Indra Sarovar 

Maharana Mokal, ruled 1421-1433, got Indra Sarovar at Eklingnathji renovated and restored. In order to beautify it Maharana Raj Singhji I got the dilapidated Indraser (Indra Sarovar) dam replaced with a new dam. The water from this lake has forever been used for the worship of the supreme Deity of Mewar, Shree Eklingnathji.


7. Baghela Talab

Situated in the southwest corner of Shree Eklingnathji temple, the Baghela Talab was constructed by Maharana Mokal in memory of his brother Badh Singh.


The incredible strategic micro-management of creation, expansion, preservation, direction of water bodies by the Maharanas of Mewar has taken the world by surprise.

Confined to merely 470 kms, the small Girwa valley boasts of  systematic inter-connection and inter-linking of various rivers and water bodies by the then  Maharanas.

This is considered to be the best example of using available local water resources to systematically conserve and manage rain water.

Since the past 600 years Maharanas of Mewar have continuously demonstrated before the world the importance of water conservation by implementing their traditional techniques of water conservation by using their self-created water bodies which are still the matchless water reservoirs of effective and successful ways of water harvesting and harnessing.

The concept of changing the course of a flowing river by Maharana Raj Singhji I and merging canals with rivers by Maharana Fateh Singhji can be used as examples for water bodies across India to tackle the future water crisis of the country.

Apart from the above mentioned world famous lakes, Maharanas of Mewar have been pioneers in the creation of various water projects such as - dams, wells, step-wells, ponds and lakes.  Small and big water reservoirs such as - Heera Talai, Dewali Talab, Khemli Talab, Chota Madar, Bada Madar, Nela Talab, Rundela Talab and Roop Sagar have been important sources of drinking water and irrigation, spread across the region of Mewar. Currently in the race for development, many of these water bodied have either already lost their existence or are on the verge of extinction.

“The greatest need of the hour is proper management and adequate conservation of water. If the present scenario continues it can eventually lead to the compulsion of importing water in future. Inter-connection of rivers cannot be the only alternative  to meet water scarcity. Each one of us will individually have to take responsibility and inculcate the habit of ensuring creative ways for sustainable management of  available natural resources of fresh water. The ultimate need of the nation is - Water Justice.”- Arvind Singh Mewar

Article by Maharana Mewar Historical Publication Trust, City Palace, Udaipur, Rajasthan. Pictures 3, 3a and 4 by Sanjeev Nayyar, rest by author.  


1. Vir Vinod

2. Udaipur Rajya ka Itihaas

3. Raj Prashasti Mahakavyam

Also see

1. Pictures of Jaisamand Lake

2. Water system Hampi

3. Traditional forms of water harvesting

4. Naul and Dhar – water conservation in the Himalayas

5. Step-wells India


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