One might not expect to come across a lake in India’s arid state of Rajasthan. But with Aravalli hills on both sides, this valley is a natural reservoir for the water cascading off the mountains. And a bandh (dam) ensures that the water stays, in a body of water called Siliserh Lake.
Built in 1845 by the then-king of Alwar, Maharaja Vinay Singh, this lake can spread across nearly 10 square kilometers after a good monsoon. Siliserh is a part natural, part man-made lake. A 15-kilometer aqueduct was built from the lake to the city to cater to the water needs of the people speaks volumes about the thoughtful king and the skillful architects.
In addition to the dam that created the lake, the Maharaja built a palace for his queen Shila, which gave the lake its name, Silierh. Almost like an eagle’s nest, the palace stands on a hill that juts out into the lake, offering an uninterrupted view of the water and its star-shaped island. One of the most surprising things about this particular hill where the palace is situated is that when all vegetation dries up in the harsh and long summers, and all the surrounding hills turn a dull purple, this hill remains luxuriantly green.
Today the palace is run as a hotel by RTDC, the tourism department of Rajasthan. You can enjoy boating the tranquil waters (at the small risk of coming across a crocodile or two, as a notice posted beside the boat-rental warns), but swimming in the lake is forbidden. The overflow of the lake flows into a pond which used to be the main offices of the fisheries department but is now used to cultivate lotus. What still remains to be desired is improvement in the general upkeep and renovation of the garden atop the dam. Up until the 1970s the garden was a popular picnic spot, but it has since fallen into sad disrepair. One keeps hoping that the authorities will someday wake up and bring it back to its original glory.
Know Before You Go
The best time for Alwar is from September to April. December and January can be chilly.