Neermahal at a glance
Neermahal literally translates to Water (Neer) Palace (Mahal), which according to me is the most practical name ever given to a palace. The milky white building with a red coloured base looks magnificent and is quite aptly the pride and honour of Tripura.
The last ruler of the princely state of Tripura, Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya commissioned Neermahal in the year 1921 as a summer residence for the royalty. The king used the services of the British company Martin & Burn Co. to design and build the palace, which took around 9 years to complete.
How to Reach, Tickets & Timings:
|How to Reach:|
|Neermahal is located 53 KM away from Agartala, the capital of Tripura. Agartala is well connected to some major cities in India like Kolkata, New Delhi and Guwahati by both Rail and Air.|
From Agartala you can book round trip via cab that will cost around Rs.1500 or you can take a bus to Melaghar from Nagerjala Bus stop at Agartala. From Melaghar bus stop, Neermahal is not far, and rickshaw are available all the time.
|Tickets and Timings:|
|Motorboat Ticket: Rs. 30 per head (or Rs. 1000 for entire boat).|
Ticket to Palace: Adult – Rs. 30, Minor – Rs. 20, Camera – Rs. 50.
Best Time to visit: September to November when monsoon has just finished pouring.
Entry Time: 9AM to 6 PM (Mar to Sep), 9AM to 5PM (Oct to Feb)
Duration of visit: Ideally 1 hour is needed to fully explore the palace, however the boats stay for 45 mins, so you need to hurry. You can decide to stay further, but that would cost an additional Rs. 150 an hour.
Our trip to Neermahal Palace
Looking across the water we caught our first glimpse of the fascinating palace, gleaming white building with red coloured base, followed by the blue sky on top and water in the bottom. It seemed to have popped straight out of a fairytale.
Also known as ‘The Lake Palace of Tripura’ my first brush with Neermahal was at a Durga puja pandal in Kolkata. The pandal was grand, keeping up with the legacy of Kolkata’s larger than life durga puja celebration, however looking at the palace in real was a completely different experience. At 400 mtrs long, this palace has grandeur written all over it.
Boat Ride on Rudrasagar Lake:
“When will you start?”, that was me waiting for the boat to start.
“A few people more” declared the boatman to much of my dismay.
I had boarded a boat to reach the palace, which was refusing to start as some seats were still empty. The ticket costs Rs. 30 and the boat accommodates around 20-25 people. Until the boat is filled, the boatman wont start the journey. The feeling of being so near yet so far, was making me anxious.
Finally, after waiting for 5 more minutes the engine of the boat was started and with the sound of ‘duk duk duk duk..’ the boat left its shore. As we were on the water I could then experience the enormity of Rudrasagar lake. At 5.3 sq km, the lake looks imposing especially when you are on a boat sailing through it.
The whole boat ride lasted for around 10 mins, and by each passing minute I was getting a better look at Neermahal. I could now make out more features of the building like the frescos and latticed windows, a clear Mughal influence. The red base which from the banks looked like a plain surface showed more elaborate designs as we inched closer to the palace.
Our boat pulled up to the dock of the palace, which was a wooden plank a few feet wide. A small piece of land lead from this plank to the stairs that leads into the palace complex. During the monsoon when the water level rises, some of these steps get drowned in water, making the boat land tourists right on the steps itself. I was there in the winter, hence water level was low.
The king never used these steps as all royal boats used to dock inside the palace. During those times the water level was much higher in the lake, allowing for boats go sail underneath the small bridge on the side of the current entry and dock inside the palace. Now a days the unchecked human habitation around the lake has reduced the waterlevel, making it impossible for the boats to sail that far. Only a handful of monsoons in the recent past has allowed for waterlevel to rise so as to submerge the land under the bridge, still it wasn’t enough for boats to sail through.
After taking the ticket I entered the palace and landed up inside a garden. A titled pathway circumvented around this garden to the next level of the palace. A balcony also ran along the garden providing view of the lake. There are two parts of the palace, the eastern and western. The western part is called Andarmahal and houses the king’s bedroom and various amusement rooms whereas the eastern side is where the soldiers and servants used to stay.
The Western Side (Andarmahal)
A flight of few stairs lead me into the visitors room, this is the first room of the Andarmahal. This is where visitors used to wait for an audience with the king. There are some windows, a balcony and a pathway leading into the inner chambers.
The next chamber is a combination of a few rooms, some were bed rooms and other were rooms where the royalty used to enjoy cultrual programs. The rooms had balconies in all of them which provided for an uninterrupted view of the Rudrasagar Lake. This design makes sense as this was a summer palace and getting fresh air is paramount for a summer residence.
Next to the bedroom is a circular hall called the Dancing room, which obviously means the royalty used to enjoy dance and cultural programs here. The lack of furniture or illustrations made it difficult for me to visualise how the hall looked during the time of the king. May be royal chairs adorned the floor circling the walls and the dancer danced in the middle. I can only imagine.
A circular staircase leads to the terrace of the palace from the dancing room. I must say climbing up and down the staircase was a bit terrifying as I am not used to such stairs. The terrace is open with minarets around it, with the lake visible from certain points. From the terrace one can soak in the full atmosphere of the palace’s surrounding and also get an amazing view of the courtyard and garden underneath it.
The Eastern side
After crossing the small bridge I ended up in a small garden, which had small ornamental plants. There are a few watch towers here. The board in the garden revealed that there are a total of 10 such watch towers entrusted with the safety of the palace from intruders.
A few narrow bridges connected the rest of the eastern half with the palace. There were guard towers and guard rooms at various points on the bridge. Servant’s quarters are also located in the eastern side. Going through the bridge I landed up in room called generator room, which provided electricity to the palace during the time the king used to stay here. The palace was built in 1930, electricity was available around that time, however the supply was scarce hence generators were installed in the palace to illuminate it in the night.
After visiting all these places I got to see the point where the king’s boat used to dock inside the palace. It is called the Boat ghat. Now a days with receding water levels, the place is dry almost all round the year except for the monsoon. Stairs lead up and down the ghat, allowing for easy access to it.
A tale of resurgence
Unfortunately Neermahal had been neglected for a good chunk of history and was in a derelict state up until a few years ago. Add to that there was hyacinth outburst in lake, which further reduced the appeal of the palace.
Thanks to a recent push for renovation of the palace and lake clenup, Neermahal has salvaged some of its lost glory. Now a days some migratory birds are also seen flocking in the rejuvenated Rudrasagar Lake.
Neermahal is nowhere near its pinnacle but still, the beauty that has been restored is enough to satisfy a tourist’s urge for grandeur. Open courtyards, spiral staircases, spacious terrace and the gardens, everything comes together to spell bind anyone who visits the palace.
Tripura doesn’t rank as high on the touristy map of India as it deserves to be. This lack of tourist’s exposure has also prevented Neermahal from demanding as high an apeal as its cuterparts in Rajasthan. So next time you have a chance to visit the North East, add Neermahal to your itinerary and visit the small and quint state of Tripura. Neermahal’s legacy cannot be allowed to vanish in the sands of time once again.