Neer Mahal is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful destinations of Tripura. It is also one of the most popular places in this northeastern state. Interestingly, the Neer Mahal is one of the two water palaces found in India, the other being the Jal Mahal of Jaipur, Rajasthan. Though Rajasthan’s water palace is one of the top attractions of India and thousands of visitors throng every day to catch a glimpse of the Jal Mahal, Tripura’s Neer Mahal is the largest of the two. Despite being the largest water palace in India, Neer Mahal is hardly known outside the boundaries of Tripura.
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About Neer Mahal:
Neer Mahal translates to ‘water palace’. It was the brainchild of Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Debbarma, one of the most famous kings of Tripura. The Maharaja used Neer Mahal as a summer residence and a pleasure palace. Built amid the Rudra Sagar Lake, it was named ‘Neer Mahal’ by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. In the local Kokborok language, this stunning palace is called ‘Twijilikma Nuyung’ (which also means water palace).
History of Neer Mahal:
Neer Mahal was a dream project for Maharaja Bir Bikram. He had actively participated in the planning process and provided valuable input. In 1921, he entrusted Martin and Burns, a British Company, to turn his dream into a reality. The construction started in 1930 and was completed within the next nine years.
The style of architecture manifests a happy union of the Hindu and Mughal styles. This remarkable palace was built with marble and sandstone. Its structure is defined by a profusion of towers, minarets, balconies, ‘jaali’ screens, pavilions, and bridges. It further stands out owing to its striking red and white colour.
Tour inside Neer Mahal:
This marvellous water palace looks exceptional both in and out. The palace has two sections. The western part was exclusively reserved for the royal family and was called the ‘Andar Mahal’ or inner chamber. It is composed of 24 rooms such as bedrooms, an audience room, a dancing hall, a dining hall, a kitchen and so on. The members of the royal family relaxed here soaking in luxury.
The eastern side has an open-air theatre where various cultural events are organized for the entertainment of the royal family.
The roof is accessible through two staircases on either side of the Andar Mahal. The roof provides a spectacular panoramic view of the Rudra Sagar Lake. It is also perfect for watching the migratory birds who travel to the lake in the winter.
There is also one ghat called ‘Raj Ghat’ used for anchoring the boats belonging to the members of the royal family.
The Neer Mahal is also adorned with manicured gardens.
Every year, a 3-day Neer Mahal Water Festival takes place here in August. The USP of this event is a boat race, where different kinds of boats participate. It is also celebrated through many cultural festivals.
Where is Neer Mahal located?
The Neer Mahal is located in the middle of the Rudra Sagar Lake. It is situated in Melaghar town of Sipahijala district, Tripura. It lies 50 km from the state’s capital city Agartala and 22 km from Udaipur.
How can I reach Neer Mahal:
There is no direct rail connectivity to Melaghar. If you are planning to visit by train, you need to catch one from Agartala and reach Udaipur. From Udaipur, you can either hire a cab to reach directly to Neer Mahal or take a local bus to Melaghar first and then hitch a ride on the tuk-tuk to reach the palace.
Alternatively, you can catch a direct bus to Melaghar from the Nagerjala bus stop in Agartala.
For convenience, we suggest hiring a cab from Agartala and visiting Neer Mahal on a day trip along with Kasba Kali Temple and Sipahijala Zoological Park. If you are visiting on a weekend, you can club a visit to the Indo-Bangladesh border at Akahura. It will cost you around INR 2,500.
What are the charges for a boat ride here:
Since the Neer Mahal is situated right in the middle of a lake, you need to take a boat ride to reach the palace. The entire boating program is managed by a local fishermen co-operative society.
The ticket counter opens at 9 AM and closes at 5 in the evening.
The regular boat fare per head is INR 50. Around 20 people are taken on a motorized boat.
You can book a country boat for a maximum of 7 persons at INR 350. Please note, there are only two country boats. You need your luck on the side to get a chance with the country boats.
You can also reserve a special boat at INR 2500.
Also, we observed that the men at the ticket counter were quite rude and full of high-handedness. When we visited, they were stalling the sale of tickets on flimsy pretexts and trying to push for the hefty INR 2500 boat ride.
The boat will take you to the gate of Neer Mahal. You will get 40 minutes to explore the palace. On the boat’s signal, you need to return ASAP.
What is the entrance fee of Neer Mahal:
First, you will need to pay a parking charge of INR 50 near the boating ticket counter in case you are visiting by car or bike. After reaching the palace by boat, you have to pay INR 80 per head as the entrance fee.
Where can I stay in Neer Mahal:
There are two options for accommodation here. First, you can stay at Sagar Mahal Tourist Lodge of Tripura Tourism. Secondly, you can opt for Polo Lake Resort. However, we suggest staying at Agartala or Udaipur, and then visiting Neer Mahal as part of a day trip.
Is there any restaurant at Neer Mahal:
You will find one or two people selling salt and pepper sprinkled Hog Plum or ‘Aamra’ (quite popular with the locals) and green coconut. But there is no restaurant per se. However, Melaghar has a few small eateries.
What is the best time to visit Neer Mahal:
Visit in the winter as Tripura is hot and sultry in the summer. We visited in mid-November and the sun was still scorching.