Neermahal: India’s largest water palace

Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur engaged British firm Martin and Burns to erect what is now India’s largest water palace in the middle of Rudrasagar Lake in Tripura. This architectural masterpiece is also a popular tourist destination

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Neermahal floating in the middle of Rudrasagar Lake in Tripura

Neermahal floating in the middle of Rudrasagar Lake in Tripura

Standing amid the waters of Rudrasagar Lake in Melaghar, Tripura, Neermahal Palace has been a quiet witness to history in the last almost hundred years. Also referred to as Twijilikma Nuyung (meaning Water Palace in the local Kokborok language), it is the former royal residence of the Tripura Kingdom.

India has only two water palaces -- Neermahal in Tripura and Jal Mahal in the Man Sagar Lake in Jaipur, Rajasthan. Neermahal is much bigger than Jal Mahal.

Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur commissioned Neermahal in 1930. The Maharaja, who ruled from 1923 to 1947, engaged the British firm Martin and Burns to erect a distinctive water palace in the middle of Rudrasagar.

With meticulous guidance from the Maharaja, the palace amalgamated Hindu and Mughal architectural styles, predominantly crafted from marble and sandstone. Its distinctive features include numerous balconies, towers, pavilions, and bridges, with dome-shaped minars which give it the appearance of a fortress. The  jaali or latticework shows a strong influence of Mughal architecture. The construction spanned nine years and was concluded in 1938. It served as a summer retreat for the royal family.

architecture neermahal
Neermahal is a mix of Hindu and Mughal architectural styles. Pic: Flickr

The palace was named Neermahal by Nobel laureate and poet Rabindranath Tagore.

A man of refined tastes, King Bir Bikram was a fan of the poet and organized a special programme in May 1941 to celebrate Tagore’s eightieth birthday.

Also Read: Assam’s Rang Ghar: Asia’s oldest amphitheatre

Bir Bikram is also credited with planning the kingdom’s capital, Agartala and building Tripura’s first airport. He also set up one of India’s first municipalities and built schools besides starting Tripura’s first University.

Unique to Eastern India, Neermahal comprises two sections: the Andar Mahal on the west, reserved for the royal family, and an open-air theatre on the east, hosting cultural events. The palace boasts 24 rooms and two stairways leading to Rudrasagar Lake.  

boating at neermahal
Boating in the Rudrasagar Lake. Pic: Flickr

NeerMahal features two internal staircases that descend to a platform above the waters of Rudrasagar Lake. Historically, Maharajas accessed the palace via hand-powered boats. Adorning the ceiling, the palace boasts one of India's most enchanting terrace gardens.

The palace remains a focal point for the famous Neermahal Water Festival held annually in August. It features boat races and swimming competitions besides other events. The lake also attracts migratory birds during winter. In modern times, Neermahal echoes a glorious past where the royal family revelled in its beauty and cultural significance.

Also See: Lesser-known UNESCO World Heritage sites in India

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