New Delhi, India
September 11, 2011
Abheda Mahal, according to the (only in Hindi) sign outside, is named "after abheda, a corruption of the word abhyaaranya" (park). Prior to the founding of the Kota dynasty, this area was jungle; in 1346 AD, however, the Maharaja Dheer Deh had it cleared and got an artificial watertank created. Several centuries later, probably in the 18th century, a small palace was built on the bank of the watertank. During the 1800s, the watertank was home to a large number of crocodiles that had been trained to come out of the water on to the bank and ‘entertain’ visitors. (I’m quoting this from the sign – it didn’t explain how the crocs entertained people!)
We bought our entry tickets (Rs 10 per person, and Rs 30 for a camera) at the small gateway, and were shown the way in. You step in from the gateway, and you’re in a walled garden, divided into plot of lawn, bordered with flowering shrubs and with large trees dotting the garden. All very pretty. Off to our left, the wall was decorated with huge colourful murals depicting Rajasthani warriors in procession, with horses and elephants and whatnot. Through the wall, a couple of doorways led into an adjacent plot of land, on which stands the three-storied pavilion that overlooks the watertank. The pavilion is painted cream, with cusped arches and red sandstone railings. On the land side, it overlooks a strip of grass and a small medieval well that is now home to some (very shy!) turtles. On the water side, it is bounded by a square pool, with paved walkways and benches enclosing a section of the tank. Beyond, separated from this enclosed pool, lies the main stretch of water – lots of fish here, and dragonflies buzzing about, iridescent in the sunshine. The enclosed section was, despite the lotuses flowering in it, rather dirty and scummy.
There’s not much to see at Abheda Mahal. You can admire the turtles and the dragonflies and any lotuses in bloom; or you can have a little picnic in the garden. You can, if you want, climb up to the top of the pavilion – we found it offered a good view over the surrounding area. But the pavilion, though freshly painted and in surprisingly good condition, turned out to be a little boring. If you come here expecting vivid paintings and carving and mirrorwork like that which you’ve seen at the City Palace, you’re going to be disappointed. Come here to relax and get a breath of cool river air, and you might like it.
From journal Kota: More than Saris and Stone