Neermahal or the water palace stands proudly on a marshy island in Rudrasagar Lake. The palace is no doubt the pride and honour of Tripura, for it is extremely gorgeous. You do not need to enter into the Neermahal Palace in Tripura to admire its beauty. The milky white building with a red coloured base looks striking even from the other side of the lake. Located about 53 km from Agartala, the capital of Tripura in Melaghar, Neermahal was one of our favourite places in Tripura. (yes , yes! We have fallen in love with the place!) We visited Neermahal after our stay in Unakoti and Udaipur. There are quite a number of interesting places to visit in Udaipur as well, mostly temples and lakes. Neermahal is infact only 25km from Udaipur and can be visited while on your stay there.
Who built Neermahal?
Neermahal was built as a summer palace of the luxury of the Tripura royals. It was commissioned by Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya, who was also the last ruler of the erstwhile princely state of Tripura. The state has quite been a princely state and its influence is seen even till date. Most buildings and architecture of Agartala is grand as if belonging to kings. The Tripuri people are also quite aware of their heritage and history.
The Manikya dynasty ruled over Tripura from 1463 to 1949 (when Tripura joined the Indian union) and Maharaja Bir Bikram Manikya was quite a progressive ruler. He had built buildings and infrastructure that is expected from a good ruler and was also quite a favourite among the masses. Neermahal is an example of his taste and aesthetics.
The king used the services of the British Company Martin & Burn Co. to design and build Neermahal Palace. The construction started in 1921 and the Maharaja got his summer residence nine years later. The palace was built right in the middle of Rudrasagar Lake – a perfect place for a summer home. Whether building this palace was an extravaganza, I would not delve into that. But yes, the palace is one of the finest examples of the fusion of Hindu and Mughal architectural styles and definitely a major attraction of Tripura.
It is said that the Maharaja himself took a keen interest in the design of the palace and used to send detailed instructions to the builders in order to get a perfect place to stay. The end result was brilliant. Marble and sandstone were extensively used in the construction of the palace and there is a profusion of bridges, galleries, balconies and towers in the palace. The dome-shaped minars give a fort-like appearance to the palace from a distance. There are flower gardens, beautiful green lawns that enhance the beauty of the place. Everything looks grand at Neermahal Palace.
Our trip to Neermahal Palace, Tripura
We reached Melaghar from Udaipur by bus. We arrived at the busy market area and asked our way to Rudrasagar Lake. There is a small signboard showing the way towards the lake, but you cannot actually see that in the midst of shops and people. Anyways, the road gave way to the huge Rudrasagar Lake. And from the lakeside, the palace appeared as a white and red structure. Boats are available to take you to the Neermahal Palace. So without much delay, we got our boat tickets and got on the boat towards Neermahal. The boat was almost full, had more than 20 people. We took a seat towards an end and off we were to explore the Water Palace of Tripura. As we approached near the palace, the reflection of Neermahal in the water looked beautiful and provided us with opportunities to click some awesome pictures.
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Once we reached the Neermahal, we were told that we had 45 minutes time to explore the palace after which the boat will leave. If we wished to stay more than that time, we have to pay Rs150 per hour. And yes, there is an entry ticket to the Neermahal Palace as well.
Architecture of Neermahal
Neermahal Palace is enormous. We had got the idea when we saw it from a distance. But we were definitely taken aback when we entered the palace. We actually realized the enormity of the place when we saw the open courtyards, spiral staircases, spacious terrace and the gardens. The palace has both the elements of Hindu and Muslim architectures. While the minarets and domes are clearly inspired by Mughal architecture, the balconies, inner courtyards and rooms show Hindu architecture styles.
The palace is divided into 2 parts. The western side of the palace is known as the Andar Mahal (meaning the inner chamber). The eastern side is open and has open-air theatres and other places of entertainment. The palace has 24 rooms in total – visitor’s room, bedroom, dancing hall, amusement hall, dining room and kitchen. It even has a guard room and watchtowers.
Inside the palace is a Boat Ghat, the place where the royal family would arrive with their boats. The ghat is towards the back of the palace. During the king’s reign, the lake was always filled with water and boats would come to this point. But now, water is found here only during the rainy season. When we visited, water had almost dried up.
Once we had a look at the rooms, we went to the upper floor. The terrace is simply amazing. The view of the lake from the terrace is pleasing to the eyes. After exploring the terrace we went towards the other end of the palace crossing the bridges and courtyards. 45 minutes passed in a jiffy. We had to return as the boat was waiting for us.
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Threat to Rudrasagar Lake – a call for responsible tourism
Even a few days back, the palace was not in a bad state. But when we visited, it looked freshly painted and renovated. It was good to see that care is being taken for our heritage sites. However, the same cannot be said for the Rudrasagar Lake. Human activities around the Rudrasagar Lake have increased a lot during the last 50 years affecting the water level drastically. During the time of the Maharaja, there were only 12 families living in the vicinity of the lake. And today, almost 2,00,000 people depend on the lake directly or indirectly. Well, all these have taken a toll on the lake and it has shrunk to almost 40% of its original area.
Rudrasagar Lake is also the home to a number of migratory birds. The lake is a potential Important Bird Area and attracts a large number of waterfowls in the winters.
Lack of public awareness has led to pollution and degradation of the lake. Tourism too has its own negatives. Most tourists are not aware of the environment and they have made the lakeside a picnic spot.
Neermahal Water Festival
Every year during August, a huge festival is held at Melaghar and Rudrasagar Lake known as the Neermahal Water festival. Boat races and various cultural events are held during this festival.
How to reach Neermahal?
To visit Neermahal, you have to reach Melaghar. You can take a bus from Nagerjala Bus stop at Agartala to Melaghar. Otherwise, take a train from Agartala to Udaipur and then a bus to Melaghar. From Melaghar ask your way to Neermahal.
Once you are at the lakeside, get a ticket for boat ride to Neermahal. A ticket in a motorboat will cost Rs20. You can also hire a small country boat. The entire boat will cost Rs300.
Best time to visit and timings of Neermahal
You can visit Neermahal at any time of the year. But I would recommend you to avoid the summer months. Tripura has tropical weather and exploring the Neermahal will require a lot of walking up and down. We had visited in October and I was sweating profusely while roaming around the terrace.
The timings to enter the palace:
March to September: 9AM to 6 PM
October to February: 9AM to 5PM
Entry Fees of Neermahal
Boat ride fee: Rs.20 per head.
Entry Fee for the Palace: Rs.80.00
Places to stay near Neermahal
You can stay at Tripura Government tourist lodge, Sagarmahal Tourist Lodge in Melaghar, the only decent place to stay. It is located by the side of the lake.
You can also stay at Udaipur and then take a visit to Neermahal just as we did. The best place to stay at Udaipur will again be the Government tourist lodge, Gunabati Tourist Lodge, just beside the Kalyansagar Lake behind the Tripura Sundari Temple. There are other hotels and guest houses as well in Udaipur.
Here are a few more pictures of Neermahal Palace
Neermahal is no doubt a place of beauty and opulence. Though not quite famous at its counterpart in Rajasthan, Neermahal palace is no way less. A plaque at the palace says that Neermahal is the second largest lake palace after the Jal Mahal in Udaipur. Rajasthan has a Jal Mahal in Jaipur too. We are not going into comparisons, but Neermahal has not yet got its attention. The palace is strikingly beautiful and deserves all the attention.
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