Dr Shikha Jain and Van­icka Arora’s book Liv­ing Her­itage of Me­war: Ar­chi­tec­ture of the City Palace, Udaipur, doc­u­ments a mas­ter con­ser­va­tion plan for the preser­va­tion and con­ti­nu­ity of the City Palace in Udaipur in a bid to keep this unique her­itage of Raj

Marwar - - Contents - Text Joseph Rozario

Dr Shikha Jain and Van­icka Arora’s book Liv­ing Her­itage of Me­war: Ar­chi­tec­ture of the City Palace, Udaipur, doc­u­ments a mas­ter con­ser­va­tion plan for the preser­va­tion and con­ti­nu­ity of the City Palace in Udaipur in a bid to keep this unique her­itage of Ra­jasthan alive.

A land­mark pub­li­ca­tion, ti­tled Liv­ing Her­itage of Me­war: Ar­chi­tec­ture of the City Palace, Udaipur, was re­cently re­leased at the Taj Ma­hal Palace Ho­tel, Mum­bai, by Dr James Cuno, the pres­i­dent and CEO of the J Paul Getty Trust, USA, and Shriji Arvind Singh Me­war, the chair­man and man­ag­ing trustee of the Ma­ha­rana of Me­war Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion, Udaipur. Au­thored by Dr Shikha Jain and Van­icka Arora, the book is a pre­sen­ta­tion of a decade of painstak­ing ef­forts to out­line a mas­ter con­ser­va­tion plan for the con­ti­nu­ity and con­ser­va­tion of the City Palace in Udaipur, which is a unique repos­i­tory of the cul­ture of Me­war. In this ini­tia­tive, the Ma­ha­rana of Me­war Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion has spear­headed re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion plans, to­gether with The Getty Foun­da­tion, USA, and the Min­istry of Cul­ture, Gov­ern­ment of In­dia. We present a Q&A with Shriji Arvind Singh Me­war, fol­lowed by ex­cerpts from the book.

What is Liv­ing Her­itage of Me­war–Ar­chi­tec­ture of the City Palace, Udaipur about?

Es­sen­tially, it is a land­mark book on the palace ar­chi­tec­ture of Udaipur. As you are aware, ar­chi­tec­ture is a tan­gi­ble facet of our cultural her­itage, em­body­ing the finest and best of Udaipur’s 450-year-old his­tory. We are keep­ing alive this unique her­itage of Ra­jasthan and In­dia at the City Palace Mu­seum in Udaipur. It is an op­por­tu­nity for mod­ern au­di­ences to ex­pe­ri­ence and ‘live the her­itage’. Hence it is a liv­ing her­itage—not a dead or soul-less mon­u­ment of the past. It be­longs to to­day. And it be­longs to us all. The book is a cel­e­bra­tion and doc­u­men­ta­tion of our liv­ing her­itage.

Why did you feel it nec­es­sary to doc­u­ment the ar­chi­tec­ture of the City Palace in Udaipur?

We felt it had to be ac­cu­rately doc­u­mented, as we are con­stantly adapt­ing it and putting it to con­tem­po­rary use. With­out the de­tailed doc­u­men­ta­tion, we can­not pro­ceed. The process be­gan in the 1990s. We have utilised ser­vices of com­mit­ted ar­chi­tects, con­ser­va­tion spe­cial­ists and fac­ulty mem­bers of lead­ing ar­chi­tec­ture schools. I am proud of the work Dr Shikha Jain and the DRONAH (Devel­op­ment and Re­search Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Na­ture, Arts and Her­itage) team has put in over the last decade.

What were the chal­lenges faced in for­mu­lat­ing the con­ser­va­tion plan for the City Palace?

Sus­te­nance, I sup­pose. We have done all this with our own re­sources and very lit­tle help has come from the gov­ern­ment. The gov­ern­ment has sup­ported us, there is no doubt about it, but we ex­pect more par­tic­i­pa­tion… be­cause there is so much more to con­serve and share with global and In­dian au­di­ences.

Through this doc­u­men­ta­tion and plan­ning ex­er­cise, we have been able to un­cover au­then­tic de­tails of our ar­chi­tec­tural her­itage. The challenge to­day is to match the ex­cel­lence of the past with to­day’s tech­nol­ogy, ma­te­ri­als and hu­man re­sources.

What kind of as­sis­tance have you re­ceived in your con­ser­va­tion ef­forts for the City Palace and from whom?

We have re­ceived grants from the Min­istry of Cul­ture, Gov­ern­ment of In­dia, and I look ahead to more pro­duc­tive in­ter­ven­tions from them. The first ma­jor grant we re­ceived was from the J Paul Getty Trust, USA. Ac­tu­ally, it was this trust that fa­cil­i­tated the prepa­ra­tion of the mas­ter con­ser­va­tion plan for the City Palace; the book pro­vides the de­tailed story. We have also re­ceived three match­ing grants from the Min­istry of Cul­ture—they match our con­tri­bu­tion with their grant. So it’s not a do­na­tion; you’ve got to match it. One of these grants is be­ing dis­bursed and the oth­ers are in the pipe­line.

You have been quite ac­tive in Me­war’s her­itage con­ser­va­tion ef­forts...

Well, it has been a long and ar­du­ous road since 2006-07, when we con­cep­tu­alised the ‘Eter­nal Me­war’ brand, with its in­com­pa­ra­ble and unique po­si­tion­ing. Udaipur’s City Palace is dynamic and liv­ing, un­like a mon­u­ment or a me­mo­rial. It has many facets.

Our her­itage can­not be iden­ti­fied with only one as­pect. While Rana Pratap and Haldighati are iconic land­marks in our his­tory, I am proud to say that to­day sev­eral other facets of Udaipur’s liv­ing her­itage is be­ing talked and writ­ten about. The City Palace Mu­se­ums and its col­lec­tions are one of them. We are open­ing our doors and ex­hibit­ing more of what used to ex­ist. There is so much to of­fer!


In this pream­ble my hum­ble at­tempt is to write about the spirit and ethos of Me­war, what has been termed as our ‘in­tan­gi­ble her­itage’. It also car­ries a host of mes­sages for new au­di­ences who will be read­ing this book. I hope they will con­nect with the con­cept of cus­to­di­an­ship as a form of gov­er­nance and with ‘liv­ing her­itage’ as a move­ment which is bridg­ing the past with the fu­ture. Both these con­cepts have the power to mean­ing­fully im­pact our worlds; and are keep­ing alive value sys­tems that have been in­te­gral to our way of life, our In­dian civ­i­liza­tion, in fact. Cus­to­di­an­ship is a unique value sys­tem re­ceived in trust from Ma­har­ishi Harit Rashi by the found­ing father of our House of Me­war, Bappa Rawal, in 734 AD. We, as de­scen­dants, are proud to be up­hold­ing this cher­ished and time-tested prin­ci­ple of gov­er­nance in ev­ery age.


The ori­gin of the Siso­dia Ra­jputs, the rulers of Me­war dates back to 734 AD. Bappa Rawal of the Guhil lin­eage founded the Me­war Dy­nasty. As the founder, Bappa Rawal made a solemn prom­ise to his Guru, Ma­har­ishi Harit Rashi that he and his de­scen­dants would pro­tect and ful­fill the sa­cred trustee­ship of Shree Ek­ling­nath ji (a man­i­fes­ta­tion of Lord Shiva) who would be the real ruler of Me­war. As di­rect de­scen­dants of Bappa Rawal, all the rulers of Me­war are hered­i­tary cus­to­di­ans of Me­war on be­half of Shree Ek­ling­nath ji. The shrine of Ek­ling­nath ji is lo­cated about 22 km north of Udaipur, the last cap­i­tal of erst­while Me­war, This shrine is pro­tected and wor­shipped by the royal fam­ily and peo­ple of Me­war re­gion till date. This prin­ci­ple of ‘king­ship’ as ‘trustee­ship’ formed the ba­sis for gov­er­nance of the state of Me­war and con­tin­ues to re­flect in the main­te­nance and pro­tec­tion of the City Palace at Udaipur to­day. The first cap­i­tal of Me­war was Chit­tor­garh, which re­mained the seat of power for sev­eral suc­ces­sive gen­er­a­tions un­til 1553 AD, when the new cap­i­tal of Udaipur was founded by Ma­ha­rana Udai Singh II. The City Palace at Udaipur has seen con­tin­ued pa­tron­age; even as its ear­lier ad­min­is­tra­tive and res­i­den­tial role came to an end with demo­cratic In­dia, the cus­to­di­an­ship is con­tin­ued un­der the Ma­ha­rani of Me­war Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion. This as­pect re­flects in the way the site is used, main­tained or taken care of, with the best known con­tem­po­rary ap­proaches as well as a con­ti­nu­ity of tra­di­tional pro­cesses.


The City Palace is a unique ex­am­ple of the 16th cen­tury palace-fortress ty­pol­ogy that emerged in medieval Ra­jasthan. This type evolved from the ear­lier fort struc­tures that were usu­ally spread over a large hill top and housed palaces, in­clud­ing de­fense in­fras­truc­ture and set­tle­ments. Some of these are the ear­lier forts of the Me­war rulers such as Chit­tor­garh and Kumb­hal­garh. The City Palace dif­fers from them as it is more like a palace com­plex on the hill with the city of Udaipur spread be­low within a city wall. The fortress like ap­pear­ance of this palace is achieved by en­cas­ing the hill with a re­tain­ing wall on which the palaces stand so that it seems to rise to a mon­u­men­tal height and has a con­tin­u­ous fortress like fa­cade along the hill.

The City Palace has sev­eral lay­ers of his­toric­ity and ar­chi­tec­tural styles. The stylis­tic trends show in­flu­ences from con­tem­po­rary de­vel­op­ments in ar­chi­tec­ture and yet are dis­tinctly in­di­vid­u­al­is­tic to the par­tic­u­lar ruler of that pe­riod. Since few of the royal rulers con­tin­ued to rule and con­struct over the turn of the cen­turies, it is dif­fi­cult to cat­e­gorise the ar­chi­tec­tural styles by each cen­tury. In to­tal, 13 dis­tinct lay­ers of his­toric fab­ric are clearly vis­i­ble in the ar­chi­tec­tural col­lage of the palace that can be pos­si­bly fur­ther cat­e­gorised in five ma­jor phases that link the ge­og­ra­phy, his­tory and so­cial life with the ar­chi­tec­tural evo­lu­tion of the site. Phase 1 - Me­war-Ma­ture Phase (1559-1620 AD) Phase 2 - Me­war-Mughal Early Phase (1620-1698 AD) Phase 3 - Me­war-Mughal Ma­ture Phase (1698-1778 AD) Phase 4 - Me­war-Bri­tish Phase (1778-1930 AD) Phase 5 - Post-in­de­pen­dence Me­war Phase (from 1931 AD)

The Found­ing of a New Cap­i­tal: Me­war Ma­ture Phase

The City Palace at Udaipur has evolved as the seat of twenty-two suc­ces­sive gen­er­a­tions of rulers of Me­war, be­gin­ning with Ma­ha­rana Udai Singh II (1537-1572 AD), the fifty-third ruler of the Me­war dy­nasty cred­ited with the found­ing of Udaipur in the mid 16th cen­tury AD. The ear­lier cap­i­tal of Chit­tor was in a vul­ner­a­ble position, hav­ing suf­fered re­peated at­tacks from the Mughals, the rulers at Gu­jarat, Malwa and even the neig­bour­ing state of Marwar. It was in 1553 AD that work on con­struct­ing a new cap­i­tal was com­menced in the Girwa por­tion of Me­war, which was se­curely po­si­tioned within the Aravalli hills. The pe­riod from the reign of Ma­ha­rana Udai Singh II (r.1537-1572 AD) up to that of Ma­ha­rana Amar Singh I (r. 1597-1620 AD), marks an im­por­tant po­lit­i­cal move in the his­tory of Me­war. It also de­lin­eates a dis­tinct phase in the con­struc­tion of the City Palace at Udaipur, char­ac­terised by the Me­war style of ar­chi­tec­ture.

Ex­pan­sion of the Palace: Me­war-Mughal Early Phase

The pe­riod ex­tend­ing from 1620 to 1698 AD saw the con­tin­u­ing ex­pan­sion of the City Palace and the grad­ual in­cor­po­ra­tion of Mughal ar­chi­tec­tural in­flu­ences. The ar­chi­tec­tural plan­ning, form and de­tails are rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the cor­dial re­la­tion­ship es­tab­lished be­tween the rulers of Me­war and the Mughals, and show an in­ter­est­ing amal­ga­ma­tion of the ear­lier Me­war styles with newly gath­ered Mughal ideas of ar­chi­tec­ture. At the same time, there was lin­ger­ing re­sis­tance to for­eign styles and struc­tures that were purely char­ac­ter­is­tic of the Me­war style, such as the to­rans near the Badi Pol, con­tin­ued to be built. Dur­ing this phase, the court­yards and their palaces were gen­er­ally planned on a much larger pub­lic scale, for in­stance, Manek Chowk, Lak­shmi Chowk in Ze­nana Ma­hal, and Moti Chowk which were all con­sid­er­ably larger than the pre­ex­ist­ing Rai An­gan and Bhan­dar Chowk.

Blend­ing of Styles and Ideas: Me­war-Mughal Ma­ture Phase

Even though the ad­di­tions and al­ter­ations to the City Palace in this phase do not com­pare in scale to the ear­lier phase, some of the most ar­chi­tec­turally out­stand­ing struc­tures and spa­ces within the palace were added dur­ing this pe­riod. This phase is char­ac­terised by a dis­tinct stylis­tic change of ar­chi­tec­tural ele­ments such as the dome and the arch, with the amal­ga­ma­tion of ideas with the pre-ex­ist­ing Me­war style. By the 18th cen­tury, the plan­ning prin­ci­ples and un­der­ly­ing ge­om­e­try of the Mughal ar­chi­tec­ture were fully in­te­grated with Me­war style, es­pe­cially in the City Palace. A clas­sic ex­am­ple of this amal­ga­ma­tion is the Baadi Ma­hal, con­structed on top of the high­est point of the hill.

Colo­nial In­ter­ac­tions and Fi­nal Phase of Ex­pan­sion: Me­war–Bri­tish Phase

The fourth phase in the devel­op­ment of the City Palace ex­tends from the reign of Ma­ha­rana Bhim Singh (r. 17781828 AD) to that of Ma­ha­rana Fateh Singh (r. 1884-1930 AD). The po­lit­i­cal al­liance of Me­war with the East In­dia Com­pany was ac­com­pa­nied by the adap­tion of cer­tain Bri­tish ideas of plan­ning and ar­chi­tec­ture within the ex­ist­ing styles, ex­am­ples of which are best seen in the ad­di­tions made to Mor Chowk within the Mar­dana and the in­te­ri­ors of the new rooms added in the Ze­nana Ma­hal. The Bri­tish influence on the palace is ev­i­dent in ar­chi­tec­tural de­tails such as the semi­cir­cu­lar arch in­te­grated with the ear­lier Me­war arch. The new palace struc­tures in the vicin­ity of the palace com­plex such as the Khush Ma­hal, Shiv Ni­was, Shambu Ni­was and Fateh Prakash Palace are of Me­war Bri­tish vo­cab­u­lary. The in­te­rior set­tings also show

sig­nif­i­cant fea­tures of this pe­riod such as chan­de­liers, chairs, toi­let seats and an el­e­va­tor of this time. The court­yards in­cor­po­rated foun­tains that worked with piped wa­ter sup­ply and had land­scape fea­tures rem­i­nis­cent of the English gar­dens.


The Ma­ha­rana of Me­war Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion (MMCF), Udaipur, was in­sti­tuted by Ma­ha­rana Bhag­wat Singh Me­war in 1969, to which he do­nated a sig­nif­i­cant area of the City Palace and a size­able fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tion. The foun­da­tion was to en­able prac­ti­cal and sus­tained use of the var­i­ous palace struc­tures, and at the same time serve as the seat of time hon­oured and cher­ished tra­di­tions of Me­war, main­tain­ing the con­ti­nu­ity of the cus­to­di­an­ship by the royal fam­ily. The present Chair­man and Man­ag­ing Trustee of MMCF and the 76th Cus­to­dian of the House of Me­war, Shriji Arvind Singh Me­war, has taken forth his father’s vi­sion and the MMCF is com­mit­ted to the long-term con­ser­va­tion and main­te­nance of the City Palace, Udaipur. The foun­da­tion utilises its re­sources in main­te­nance of the City Palace along with other phil­an­thropic ac­tiv­i­ties. The City Palace Mu­seum, the Ma­ha­rana Me­war Spe­cial Li­brary, the Ma­ha­rana Me­war Re­search In­sti­tute, the pub­li­ca­tions divi­sion and the ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tutes are some of the key projects within the City Palace be­ing man­aged and de­vel­oped by the foun­da­tion. From 1969-2004, MMCF had self-fi­nanced all con­ser­va­tion works in the City Palace. In 2004, it was re­alised that though the foun­da­tion gen­er­ated enough re­sources for reg­u­lar main­te­nance of the City Palace, it still re­quired sub­stan­tial funds for de­vel­op­ing a com­pre­hen­sive con­ser­va­tion plan that could sys­tem­at­i­cally pri­ori­tise con­ser­va­tion ac­tiv­i­ties for the palace. Con­sid­er­ing the vast­ness of this his­toric com­plex, the foun­da­tion re­quires match­ing funds and since 2005, it has col­lab­o­rated with na­tional and in­ter­na­tional grant mak­ers for this pur­pose. As the first sem­i­nal step to­wards con­sol­i­dat­ing doc­u­men­ta­tion, anal­y­sis and plan­ning ap­proaches for the City Palace, the prepa­ra­tion of the Con­ser­va­tion Mas­ter Plan was un­der­taken from 2005–2009, through grants awarded by the Getty Foun­da­tion in Los Angeles for as­sis­tance in ar­chi­tec­tural con­ser­va­tion of the palace. The im­ple­men­ta­tion of this plan is an on­go­ing process since 2007, in phases, as per avail­abil­ity of funds. The most re­cent phase (2011–2016) in­volves the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Use and In­ter­pre­ta­tion Plan, set­ting up of the var­i­ous mu­seum gal­leries funded through grants from the Min­istry of Cul­ture, Gov­ern­ment of In­dia. Ex­cerpts from Liv­ing Her­itage of Me­war: Ar­chi­tec­ture of the City Palace, Udaipur

Above: (L-R) Vrinda Raje Singh (CEO-Joint Cus­to­dian Ini­tia­tive, Eter­nal Me­war), Shriji Arvind Singh Me­war, Dr James Cuno (Pres­i­dent and CEO of the J Paul Getty Trust, USA) and Dr Shikha Jain at the launch of ‘Liv­ing Her­itage of Me­war’ in Mum­bai Fac­ing...

Above: Sil­ver Horse Car­riage dis­played in Amar Ma­hal, Sil­ver Gallery, The City Palace Mu­seum, Udaipur, Early 20th cen­tury

View of Manek Chowk dur­ing the Ma­ha­rana Me­war Foun­da­tion An­nual Award Dis­tri­bu­tion Cer­e­mony

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