Situated at the northern end of City Palace and Jai Niwas, Talkatora is an artificial lake, south of which is Badal Mahal, and is surrounded by broad sandbanks. The lake used to be home to a gorgeous garden known as ‘Paal ka Bagh’, on which the festivals of Teej and Gangaur culminated with the immersion ceremony watched over by the royalty. With Badal Mahal and two eight-cornered ‘chabutras’ (platforms) at both ends, one bow-roofed ‘chhatri’ in the centre and two flat-roofed ‘chhatris’ enclodsed by architectural latticed windows right between them, the lake was a focal point in the celebration of these festivals. There would be song and dance in the adjoining Mahal, and this beautiful sight became iconic to Jaipur.
Before Jaipur was settled, there existed a big lake in place of Talkatora and the pond of Rajamal, where the kings of Amber used to go for hunting, Sawai Jai Singh developed the Jai Niwas Bagh and constructed his palaces within it. Talkatora was given the shape that we see today, and the pond of Rajamal was left outside the boundary at the City Palace for use by the general public. This lake was called Jai Sagar in the documents of that era.
During the time when the Rajmal pond touching Bharmpuri and the walls of Madho Vilas surrounded Talkatora on three sides, the name ‘Talkatora’, meaning a bowl floating in a big lake, appropriately depicted its topography.
The lake has a rich and vibrant story which signifies its importance in Jaipur’s history. Since it touched the palatial grounds, the king took a special interest in it. The lake once drowned in the calls of ferocious alligators, and it was these reptiles which added to the grandeur of the lake. The king ordered these reptiles to be well fed and taken care of, watching them slowly evolving into quite the lovable pets. On special occasions, there was a huge fanfare around feeding these alligators.
Such was the splendor of the Talkatora Lake before it was wrecked by rapid and uncontrolled urbanization. Once a national treasure, this lake was surrounded by dilapidated houses which tarnished the scenic beauty the lake once offered to the residents of Jaipur. Extensive commercialization had ruined the grandeur of the lake, and contributed to most of the pollution around it. The lake which was earlier seen as an icon of Jaipur was seen as a beacon of disrepair. Drowning with mosquitoes, the terrible surrounding odor, water darker than coal, the Talkatora Lake needed major revamping.
The Jaipur municipality along with volunteers undertook the restoration of the lake and its surroundings. What used to be the dumping grounds from the city garbage a few years ago has been refurbished completely, and all the lost glory has once again been restored. Now a vibrant tourist spot, albeit without alligators, once again the residents of Jaipur and all visiting guests can picnic on the surrounding gardens while enjoying the colorful fountains which reach the stars.