Prior to moving their capital from Chittor to Udaipur, the Mewar kingdom had flourished initially in Nagda (30 kilometres (19 mi) to the north of Udaipur), established in 568 AD by Guhil, the first Mewar Maharana. In the 8th century, the capital was moved to Chittor, a hill top fort from where the Sisodias ruled for 80 years. Maharana Udai Singh II inherited the Mewar kingdom at Chittor in 1537 but by that time there were signs of losing control of the fort in wars with the Mughals. Udai Singh II, therefore, chose the site near Lake Pichola for his new kingdom because the location was well protected on all sides by forests, lakes and the Aravalli hills. He had chosen this site for his new capital, much before the sacking of Chittor by Emperor Akbar, on the advise of a hermit he had met during one of his hunting expeditions.
Royal Angan the first structure built by Maharana Udai Singh
At his capital Chittor, Maharana Udai Mirza Singh soon faced defeat at the hands of Mughal Emperor Akbar. He soon moved to Udaipur to the chosen location to establish his new capital. The earliest royal structure he built here was the Royal courtyard or 'Rai Angan', which was the beginning of the building of the City Palace complex, at the place where the hermit had advised Maharana to build his Capital.
After Udai Singh's death in 1572, his son Maharana Pratap took the reins of power at Udaipur. He was successful in defeating Akbar at the battle of Haldighati in 1576 and thereafter Udaipur was peaceful for quite some years. With this, prosperity of Udaipur ensued, palaces were built on the shore and in the midst of the Pichola lake. Concurrently art, particularly miniature painting, also flourished.
But in 1736, the marauding Marathas attacked Udaipur and by the end of the century the Mewar state was in dire straits and in ruins. However, the British came to Mewar's rescue in the 19th century and soon the State of Mewar got re-established and prospered under British protection, under a treaty signed with the British. However, the British were not allowed to replace them. Once India got independence in 1947, the Mewar Kingdom, along with other princely states of Rajasthan, merged with the Democratic India, in 1949. The Mewar Kings subsequently also lost their special royal privileges and titles. However, the successor Maharanas have enjoyed the trust of their people and also retained their ownership of the palaces in Udaipur. They are now running the palaces by creating a trust, called the Mewar Trust, with the income generated from tourism and the heritage hotels that they have established in some of their palaces. With the fund so generated they are running charitable hospitals, educational institutions and promoting the cause of environmental preservation.