The City Palace museum in Udaipur, India is reporting that 2016 saw a million visitors pass through its 450-year-old gates for the first time, with Britons forming one of the largest groups of overseas visitors.
The spectacular 200,000 sq ft museum is rated as one of the world’s most significant heritage sites and is one of the finest examples of the living heritage of India. Sitting on the banks of Lake Pichola, the museum houses exceptional collections of paintings, photography, silver, armoury, textiles, besides vintage cars and crystal.
The City Palace Museum, which is still owned and curated by the former royal family of Mewar, said visitor numbers had also doubled in the last ten years, with consistently high numbers of heritage tourists from the UK as well as Europe, Australia and North America. Domestic tourists made up the largest number of visitors.
Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar of Udaipur is the 76th Custodian of the House of Mewar and the Chairman and Managing Trustee of Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation (MMCF) and has managed the Museum since 1969. He said the growth in popularity is the result of a careful campaign of curation of the priceless 1400-year heritage of the former Princely State of Mewar.
“Visitors are coming from India and all over the world for an authentic heritage experience, that is the key to understanding our present success and future plans,” he said. “My family has for centuries seen it as our moral responsibility to serve the people of Udaipur and preserve their heritage and create sustainable income for our city. It has not been easy.”
“We recognised after Independence in 1947 we would have to find new ways to support our city and heritage tourism was the route chosen by my father, High late Highness Maharana Bhagwat Singh. Udaipur is now one of the prime tourism cities in India and the magnet for visitors remains the City Palace Museum as these new figures show.
Shriji said the challenge is to keep improving the museum to global standards while staying true to his family’s ancient values of selfless service to the people of Mewar and Rajasthan.
“We are custodians of our heritage, the living heritage of Mewar,” he said. “We have always put the interests of the people before ourselves. It is the reason why we are attracting huge number of visitors. We have continuously reinvested our resources into revitalizing the museum.”
The City Palace Museum is collaborating with some of the leading global and Indian heritage agencies to maintain and improve itself including The Getty Foundation, USA, Oxford University’s eResearch centre the Domaine national de Chambord, the Ministry of Culture of the Government of India and UNESCO’s India Office. Investment in information technology, the services of professional consultants and heritage management experts have also given the museum its distinctive growth trajectory.
MMCF CEO Vrinda Raje Singh said the big push in 2017 will be to raise awareness of the City Palace Museum with cultural tourists in Europe and America.
Udaipur, also known as the “Venice of the East” and was voted the world’s best city for travellers in 2009 in an online poll by Travel + Leisure magazine.
The City Palace has hosted the World Living Heritage Festival thrice since 2012. Instituted by MMCF and jointly organized with UNESCO India Office, the Festival explores the concept of ‘living heritage’ to support the development of heritage-cities like Udaipur covering the natural environment, historical spaces, traditional skills and knowledge of its people.
Galleries within the City Palace include:
Bhagwat Prakash Gallery: Mewar Miniature Painting Exhibition – The museum holds a unique collection of more than 200 Mewar court paintings that depict the art, architecture and culture of Mewar from 18th century to the early 20th century.
Fateh Niwas Gallery: Long Exposure – The Camera at Udaipur 1857–1957 – The museum’s photographic gallery has a collection of 30,000 photographs and glass negatives dating from late 19th to the early 20th century.
Amar Mahal Gallery: Splendour of Silver – Reflecting the Finest of Silversmithy, home to a fascinating collection of silverware.The gallery contains everything from utilitarian silver pots used to store and cook food, through to religious vessels, incense holders and items of jewellery. The gallery includes a 1939 custom-made silver buggy manufactured in Birmingham, UK part of the current monarch’s late mother Rani Shilakumariji’s dowry.
- Saraswati Vilas Gallery: Symphony of Mewar – A Royal Collection of Musical Instruments – A collection of musical instruments are on public display within the museum. All belonged to members of the Mewar Family and some are more than 100 years old.
Som Niwas Gallery: Divine Gesture – The Magnificence of Mewar Spirituality – The City Palace Museum’s sculpture gallery is home to some of the oldest pieces within the entire collection. There are more than 300 sculptures in total, some of which date back to the 6th century.
- Salehkhana Gallery: Arms and Armoury Exhibition – The museum’s armoury is home to a fascinating collection of weapons and armour. Ammunition, pistols and rifles.
About Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation (MMCF)
‘Eternal Mewar’ was conceptualized in 2006 to provide an expression to the vision of the House of Mewar. Eternal Mewar, underlined with the words ‘Custodianship Unbroken Since 734 AD’, expresses, embodies and encompasses the core values, principles and legacy of the House. It covers all initiatives of the House of Mewar, which as an institution is bridging a historic past with a volatile, uncertain future in the 21st century. Today, in the age of globalization, Eternal Mewar is no longer just an established heritage brand but essentially a vibrant catalyst which continues to sustain the living heritage of Mewar and the civilizational ethos of India. The City Palace at Udaipur is a rare and exemplary living cultural heritage under Eternal Mewar.
House of Mewar, Udaipur background
The House of Mewar is the oldest-serving dynasty in the world dating back to 734 CE.
In the 20th century, the House made one of the most successful transitions in modern India: from a Royal House to one that has clearly defined commercial and non-commercial enterprises, comprehensively preserving the its values, legacies and heritage under the laws of India’s democratic republic.
Spiritual precepts of the House of Mewar: Bappa Rawal is the founder of the dynasty’s supremacy. Bappa recognized Parmeshwaraji Maharaj Shree Eklingnath ji, an incarnation of Lord Shiva, as the Supreme Lord of Mewar. He received the State of Mewar in trust from his guru, Harit Rashi. He thus set a tradition of pious humility and the concept of Custodianship or trusteeship as a form of governance begins with him. In April 1955, Maharana Bhupal Singh created the Shri Eklingji Trust to institutionalise the management of this ancient religious establishment.
Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar as the 76th Custodian of the House has demonstrated his commitment, upholding the spiritual precepts as the living heritage of the House. The ambit of the Shri Eklingji Trust has grown and the Temple is now one of the most important pilgrimages of Rajasthan. In honour of Maharishi Harit Rashi, an annual award has been instituted for scholars of Vedic culture and ancient learning by the Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation since 1980-81.
On account of its illustrious history and adherence to values, Mewar was considered the foremost amongst all Princely States of India.Mewar was neither the richest nor the largest of the 565 Princely States of India. In terms of sheer wealth and power, Hyderabad, Mysore, Gwalior, Bikaner and Kashmir were far greater. Yet Mewar was acknowledged as the ‘most respected’ among all Princely States. The respect for Mewar, over the centuries, was the respect for the values and principles it stood for: Honour, independence, self-reliance and a respect for Mankind. The values go back to Vedic times: these are not ‘Indian’ values, as we understand the word ‘Indian’ today. These are ancient values and principles.
Udaipur’s climate: Mild summers (30 degrees C to 40 degrees C); mild winters (11 degrees C to 28 degrees C). Clothing required: Light tropical in summer, carry hats and anti-sun lotions; Light woolen in winter. Accessories: Come armed with cameras and shoot to heart’s content in photographers’ paradise. Languages spoken: English, Hindi, Mewari. Best time to be there: September to April.
How to get there:
Nearest international airports: Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Delhi and Mumbai.
Flights: Daily flights from New Delhi (flight time: 1 hr. 10 mts.), Mumbai (1 hr. 30 mts), Ahmedabad (45 mts.), Jaipur (45 mts.).
Rail: Convenient daily trains from New Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Jaipur.
Bus: Air-conditioned coaches to and from New Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Jaipur.
Road: 637 km from Mumbai, 250 km from Ahmedabad, 405 km from Jaipur, 664 km from Delhi