Waterbeds For Kings
The state has one of most beautiful palaces to visit, where one can steal from memory and make it your own, even if only for a day
King Ludwig II built a palace of beauty par excellence in the middle of lake Chemisee in the Bavarian country. Of the many rooms that he managed to finish, most of them are lavishly decorated and planned with zestful verve. Closer home, Udaipur has a palace in the centre of a lake.
Tripura - the little state in the northeastern part of the country has had a tradition of being ruled by kings from time immemorial. These kings of Tripura are believed to have been mentioned even in the ancient epic Mahabharata.
A part of the history of the lineage is recorded in the "Rajamalas", which literally means the 'Garland of Kings'.
History Behind The Palace
To come to the story of palaces in the centre of a lake, there was a king by the name of Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya. His fantasy too was similar to that of King Ludwig. The two kings are compared because both of them had enough places to stay in without requiring a palace in the centre of a lake and they both built it for the sake of doing so. While Ludwig is said to have planned his palace with an intention to make money by encouraging visitors to his castle, the king of Tripura did not have any such pretext. He was just indulging himself.
The palace in Tripura is called the Neer Mahal where 'Neer' means water. If one travels about 53-km by road from Agartala to a village called Melaghar, one will come to the lake called Rudrasagar. The landscape all along is natural, if one forgets the palace in Tripura and just look around, one will see few imposing structures. The open green fields, the many chirping birds, the fresh air and a clear royal blue sky will grab anyone's attention. And then suddenly, without warning, a huge mansion appears inside a water body - one can never prepare oneself for this sight.
Rudra is the name of Lord Shiva, and it is no surprise that the lake is named after the deity, for Shiva worship is the norm in Tripura. Maharaja Bir Bikram was a man who enjoyed the fine things of life. He looked for fine details in everything around him, and when he relaxed, he listened to nature. One day, as he was passing Rudrasagar Lake, an idea occurred to him. Some laughed after hearing him while others thought he was a visionary. Bir Bikram, however, was nonchalant for he knew how to execute his dreams.
The Building Years
The year was 1930. The British were well within Tripura, not as rulers but as good buddies who had keen interest in the state. Bir Bikram got in touch with a company of architects called martin and burn. The brief he gave them was clear. He wanted a palace of luxury.
Inside The Palace
It took nine years to build a structure that appeared to be a floating castle. With 24 rooms, the palace is 400m long. The palace can be divided into two main sections: the Andarmahal, which is to the western side and the eastern side, which was meant to house the staff of the king. In the main building were two sections one for the king and one for the queen with a huge dancing room is lined with five rooms: a bathroom, a leisure room, a bedroom and treasury room and a room for playing chess. In addition to this, the queen's friends and relatives had a set of six rooms for themselves while the king and his men had another set of rooms of which one is a large meeting hall, where he met the masses.
How can one think that the king and his entourage went from the shore to the island palace? Nunpat, surely, but would you believe that the architecture was so designed that if you wanted to go straight to your bedroom, the boat would take you to the doorstep, and you could step into your room? Each room seemed to have independent access to the waters. Today, the rooms are all connected. However, it seems that earlier there were glass pane partitions and steps that led you to your boat.
There was also a small open area, which according to my guide was once a stage cum open-air theatre. On another side, was a small Ghat where the boats would be parked.
Every year, the government of Tripura celebrates a boat race festival in the lake and a Sagarmahal tourist lodge caters to visitors. The lodge overlooks the palace from the eastern bank. But if one wants an unforgettable holiday, go between the months of October to May, barring the period from June to September, when there will be heavy rains.
Participate in the lives of the fishermen who live in the village. Hear their songs ring through the air early in the morning and late at night. Indulge yourself in different kinds of fish and just live life king size for a few days before getting back to the humdrum.