Udaipur city and the palace. The wall divides the frame in two halves – one is the courtyard of Udaipur City Palace cast in the shadow of the palace in the afternoon and the other half is the city, shining bright in the golden light. It can also be interpreted differently – one half of the picture belongs to the imperial and the other half is for the commons. But together they formed a kingdom around five hundred years ago. Most importantly, one half denotes present and the other belongs to the past – a bygone era of valor, success and grandeur.
Pushkar in the twilight. The following picture is one of my favorites, because it exudes the essence of the place. It was a beautiful evening by the holy lake. The reflection of the temples and edifices in the stagnant water of the lake made the vista picture perfect.
It was a warm, sunny morning in Udaipur. We were boating the calm waters ofFateh Sagar Lake. The sky was blue and the sprawling water reflected the shade of the sky so beautifully that it was difficult to understand where the sky ended and the water began until I saw the range of hills in the horizon which split the blue frame in two halves.
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.