This week’s theme “ambience” instantly reminded me of the elegant interior of the City Palace, Udaipur that creates a warm, inviting ambience. I thought I should dedicate these pictures to this week’s photo challenge.
Udaipur was once the capital of Mewar Rajputana kingdom in southern Rajasthan. King Udai Singh II of Sisodia clan constructed this city in 1559 and shifted his capital from Chittorgarh to Udaipur as he felt the former was vulnerable to enemy attack. He needed a more secure location which he found near Girwa Valley, along the Aravalli Hills. This new capital city of Mewar was named after him. With the beautiful Lake Pichola on the backdrop Udaipur is now a romantic destination dotted with exquisite medieval Rajput architecture. The city is built around huge lakes, namely – Fateh Sagar (‘sagar’ meaning lake in vernacular), Swaroop Sagar, Udai Sagar and Pichola to lend its popular names such as the “City of Lakes” or “Venice of the East”.
Where to Stay
As I have already mentioned in my previous post that we were destined to Udaipur from Pushkarvia Chittorgarh. It was a long, tiring drive under the scorching sun of Rajasthan, even in late November. After a few hours of Rambling in Ruins of Chittorgarh we were headed towards Udaipur. It was almost 9 pm when we reached HotelDimple International. From my experience I would suggest everyone to avoid this hotel. The door locks were defective. Inside the room the bed linens and bathroom were dirty. We asked the staffs to change the linens and what we got in exchange were similar dirty stuffs. This was the only hotel where I had such bad experience in my entire Rajasthan tour. Our tour was operated by a travel agency. Should I booked hotels myself I would never choose this hotel based on only two reviews on TripAdvisor. However, there are a number of budget hotels in Udaipur that offer satisfactory service. You’ll get a decent accommodation within Rs 2000.
Things to Do and See in Udaipur
Udaipur is a historical place full of royal palaces and architecture to explore and admire. The lakes and gardens add to its historical charm while offering additional options for tourists to spend quality time there. Sahelin-Ki-Bari (Garden of Maidens), Chetak Smarak (Memorial of Chetak, the famous horse of Rana Pratap, the King of Chittor), Sukhadia Circle and Nehru Island Park are such places in Udaipur.
Chetak Smarak is a landscaped garden with a magnificent life-size bronze statue of Rana Pratap astride his horse, Chetak. You must be wondering why they built a memorial for a horse. Well, Chetak was not an ordinary horse. He was a very big, powerful horse. He saved Rana Pratap’s life in the battle of Haldighati. When Mughal army, under the command of Marwar king Man Singh, outnumbered Rana Pratap’s army and Rana Pratap had to retreat a severely wounded Chetak (with one leg chopped off) carried Pratap away to a secure place and breathed his last. Since then he has become a legend. By the way, entry fee to the garden complex was Rs 45.
Boating in the Lakes
This was my second best experience in Udaipur. First is obviously visiting Udaipur City Palace. 🙂 Boats here are large motorboats where the boatman took a group of 15-20 people at a time. Twenty minutes boat ride in Lake Fateh Sagar cost Rs 100 per person. You can also enjoy a royal boat cruise to Udaipur Lake Palace in Lake Pichola.
Nehru Island Park
Nehru Island Park is an artificial island garden situated amidst Fateh Sagar. Our boat went close to the garden. Close enough to take pictures but not enough to disembark. So, I only have this for your eyes. 🙂
Sahelin-ki-Bari or the Garden of Maidens is a beautifully decked garden with lush plantation, lotus pools, fountains and canopy of trees. The guide told us that the garden was created for the princess (the daughter of Maharana Sangram Singh) as she wanted a cool place to spend summer with her maiden attendants (‘saheli’ in local language), hence the name Sahelin-ki-Bari (‘bari’ refers to ‘place’). The garden complex also houses a museum.
The specialty of the fountains in this garden is that they are continuously flowing without the use of any pump or machine. The fountains are fed by the water of Lake Fateh Sagar which is situated on a higher plane than the garden. Due to the difference in surface level the waters naturally cause pressure when directed through channels down to the garden. Amazing…isn’t it! 🙂
Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandal
Rajasthan and puppetry are inseparable. Stringed puppet dance is an integral part of Rajasthan’s culture since ages. It was one of the popular modes of entertainment in olden days. The traditiona is still alive in rural Rajasthan. In Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandal, a governmental institution of art and culture, you can watch puppet shows and get an idea of Rajasthan’s rich tribal art and crafts. We enjoyed a short 15-20-minute puppet show which was really very amusing.
For me this was the most coveted part of our Udaipur sightseeing tour. The 400-year-old iconic City Palace was built by King Udai Singh II as his royal residence and administrative office. Later his ancestors made addition and extension of the main palace building to give it the present look and volume.
The palace architecture is a combination of Rajput and Mughal styles. The City Palace offers a spectacular panorama of the entire Udaipur city from its porches. As you step inside, you find a series of glamorous mahals (palatial residences) that are maintained as they were in time of Rajput monarchy. For your information, entry charges to City Palace was Rs 115 per person and Rs 225 for camera (optional). Remember that you need a guide to explore the palace. Guide’s charges for a group of 21-30 people was Rs 350/- in total.
Built by Rana Kumbha in the 15th century Kumbhalgarh Fort is one of the six famous ‘Hill Forts of Rajasthan’ and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This spectacular fort is located 82 km northwest from Udaipur. The entire fort perimeter is surrounded by a thick, strong brick wall stretching 36 kilometers along the hills. This is said to be the world’s second longest wall after the Great Wall of China.
Sajjan Garh Palace
Sajjan Garh Palace, also called ‘Monsoon Palace’, is a royal residence nestled on top of Aravalli Hills overlooking the Lake Fateh Sagar. Named after its creator Maharana Sajjan Singh this palace was built in 1884 to watch the arrival of monsoon clouds in the region. The place offers breathtaking panoramas of Udaipur’s lakes and neighboring countryside.
Well, that’s not all. There are much more to see and experience in a versatile, culturally rich place like Udaipur. On our way back from the City Palace we visited Jagdish Temple, which is located in the vicinity of the palace.
Shopping in Udaipur
I saw several textile and art and crafts shops lined up the streets leading to the City Palace. But if you want to but authentic Rajasthani artifacts, especially exclusive jewellery and decorative items made of oxidized metals Rajasthali is the place to go. This is the only handicrafts emporium in Udaipur owned by the Rajasthan Government. After a long, tiring day of sightseeing in Udaipur we came back to hotel. That night I couldn’t sleep well because the next day was meant for a journey to famous Mount Abu viathe historic battlefield of Haldighati.
Haldighati, only 40 Km from Udaipur, houses a museum where you’ll see large statues of Rana Pratap and Raja Man Singh, right in front of the museum building. Inside, an array of life-size clay models depict the various incidents of the historic battle and chivalry of Rana Pratap, the eldest son of Rana Udai Singh II. The museum also exhibits Rajasthan’s rural life using clay models.
So, that’s all about Udaipur from me. While I had seen some of its main attractions many were left behind as we didn’t have enough time. But Rajasthan is a place where I would love to come back again and again and it will never cease to amaze me.
Jaipur – the first time I heard about the ‘Pink City’ I was only eight or nine. My tender mind instantly drew a vivid picture of a city where everything from the houses to walls to streets – is tinged pink, which is also my favorite shade. I cherished that picture deep in my heart and dreamt of seeing it all someday in my life. I cherished that picture until I visited Jaipur in November 2013. To my surprise, I hardly found any trace of pink in the city. The City Palace area is left with antique stone edifices which looked more orange than pink. And it is not just my perception; my co-travelers also expressed the same opinion.
A few hours later that morning, when we entered Jaipur City Palace with a guide accompanying our group I came to know that in time of Rajput monarchs it was a strict order from the administration that all houses in the city have to be painted in pink, hence the name ‘Pink City’. There is another story I found on the web on why Jaipur is called the Pink City. Later the government lifted the restriction and now citizens paint their houses as they wish. That’s why we didn’t see much of pink that will do justice to the city’s popular name.
We boarded Howrah-Ajmer Express from Kolkata on November 22 at 11:20pm and reached Jaipur on 24th at around 3:30 am. Our travel agent arranged a bus for transportation of the group. It was a short and convenient drive from the station to the hotel through the neighborhoods still in their predawn deep sleep. The bus dropped us at Hotel Mangal, a budget hotel with clean rooms and attached bathroom with hot and cold water. Though I was not very hopeful about this hotel from its TripAdvisor reviews, but I found it is quite okay if you are looking for a moderate accommodation at cheaper rate for one or two nights.
Things to See in Jaipur
The capital city of the state of Rajasthan, has many things to offer even the most discerning traveler. On one hand, it is a modern, organized and clean city and on the other hand it exudes a quaint charm with old city palace and classic edifices dotting the cityscape.
We started for Jaipur sightseeing early in the morning. Our first stop was Jaipur Birla Temple.
Birla Temple is situated at the foot of Moti Dungri Fort in Jaipur. Just as any other Birla Temples found in different cities across the country Jaipur Birla Temple, built with white marbles, is a treat to the eye from architectural point of view.
Jaipur City Palace
Built around 1732 by the then king Sawai Jai Singh Jaipur City Palace is a magnificent construction located at the heart of the city. The most interesting point about the palace architecture is that it is a wonderful blend of Hindu (Rajput), Christian (European) and Islamic (Mughal) architectural genres.
The stone detailing on the columns accentuated with touch of colours, the frescos, the painted ceilings, ornate doors and windows will blow your mind with their artistic appeal.
While Chandra Mahal is still the residents of the royal family a large portion of the palace is open for public visit.
The palace houses three galleries. One is for display of weapons used by the Rajput kings and fighters. Another gallery is for the robes and garments of the kings and queens. The third one is Sabha Niwas still maintaining its regal air with its interior decor set as it was in time of the royal dynasty.
There are four gates in the inner courtyard the most notable being the Peacock Gate. Our guide told us that each gate represents a climatic season. The Peacock Gate represents monsoon, the Lotus Gate relates to summer, the Green Gate is meant for spring and the Rose Gate symbolizes winter.
On our way to City Palace we saw Jaipur’s iconic Hawa Mahal or the “Palace of Winds”. The structure was built so that the royal women, whose world was limited within the enclosure of the palace, could watch the festive activities on the streets. The sight of the Hawa Mahal, designed in the shape of Lord Krishna’s crown, swept me off my feet. It was one of the most beautiful instances of architecture I have ever seen. While appreciating its artistic and architectural beauty I was also thinking of the life of those women in the palace around 400 years ago… Was it like living in a golden cage?
Jantar Mantar is an enclosed area with a collection of huge sundials and various other astronomical instruments. Located at a few minutes walk from the City Palace, Jantar Mantar, also built by the king Sawai Jai Singh, is an architectural wonder. These instruments were used to measure the exact time of the day and to observe celestial phenomena such as the position of the stars and planets at a given point of time. The words Jantar and Mantar are derived from Sanskrit ‘Yantra’ meaning instrument and ‘Mantra’ meaning magical. ‘Magical instruments’ … they really are.
Our next destination was Kanak Vrindavan located on the way to Amber Fort.
It’s a beautiful, well-manicured, landscaped garden with classic structures and fountains dotting its sprawling green lawns. Paved walkways are lined with thick red bougainvilleas. Occasional trees amidst the garden offer cool shades for tired travelers (as we were). Kanak Vrindavan was once a favorite shooting spot for Hindi movies. Many film song sequences had been shot here in old days. Now it is a popular picnic spot for locals as well as tourists.
It was already 1:30 in the afternoon – time for lunch. So, we choose a quiet corner and sat down on the grass and ate our meals. It was a wonderful experience sitting right on the ground under a tree and having lunch – it reminded me of good old school days when we used to go for picnics in winter with our teachers and classmates!
This is the first time I have ever visited a fort. I was pretty excited about this exploration and Amber Fort did not disappoint me. In fact, if I try to write everything I saw, heard and liked about Amber Fort it will not fit into one post. Amber Fort, also called Amer Fort, has fascinated me with its royal heritage, its mesmerizing Sheesh Mahal (palace of mirrors), intricate stone carvings on the columns and walls and its intriguing stories about ancient kings and queens. It is a massive stronghold from outside. But inside, it awaits you with wide-open courtyards surrounded with temples, minarets and palaces.
We were lucky this time to get a veteran guide who was knowledgeable and considerate enough to depict the stories of each ‘Mahal’ (palace) slowly and in detail and gave us enough time to explore every section at our own pace, unlike our City Palace guide, who was always in a hurry and demonstrated with the speed of Rajdhani Express! 😉
The guide told us about some intriguing stories about the kings and queens and the royal lifestyle which I am going to share with you in my post on Amer Fort.
Jal Mahal (meaning – ‘palace on water’) is a palace located in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake in the backdrop on Aravalli Hills. Enjoy a boat ride to the palace and explore its ornate foyers and decorated compartments and terrace garden. The credit for the present beauty of Jal Mahal goes to Maharaja Jai Singh II of Amer who renovated the palace in the 18th century. When we reached Jal Mahal it was already dark and the palace looked amazing at night. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take good shots with my Nikon Coolpix P500, so borrowed an image from Wikipedia. 😦