Thursday, March 12, 2009


Udaipur - of antique palaces

Yet another palatial city of Rajasthan, but like each one of them, this one too is painted in its own unique hue. The lakes are what gives Udaipur its claim to fame, other then the sprawling Forts and Palaces. And overnighting at an ex-palace and waking up to the chirping of some hundreds of migratory birds - varied and colorful - can be quiet an experience, isn't it? The finery of craftsmanship of Mewar (the Mewar School of Miniature Painting), add another stash of glory to this already proud Rajputana tourist-hub.

Tale of the City

Founded by Maharana Udai Singh in 1568, Udaipur is considered the jewel of Mewar. The Maharana of Udaipur is the highest ranked amongst Rajput rulers and is the head of the Suryavanshi (Solar) Rajput clan. It is also called the City of Sunrise and the Maharana's standard bears an image of the sun.


City Palace: Towering over a serene lake Pichola is one of the most magnificent of Rajasthani palaces built in parts by its legendary Maharana kings, yet exuding a strange uniformity of structure. Today City Palace, as it is called, with with elegantly carved arches, cupolas, romantic balconies, is a regal Heritage Resort. The inhouse Museum has many treats to the vision - the Mor Chowk with its beautiful blue peacock mosaics, the Manak or Ruby Mahal has figures made in glass and porcelain, Krishna Vilas and Zanana Mahal has beautiful paintings and miniatures, Bari Mahal is known for its eclectic garden and the princely Chini Mahal is covered with ornamental tiles.

Lake Pichola: Udaipur's glittering necklace, 4 km long, is the Pichola lake. And like two pretty pendants are studded two palaces on the lake island - Jagniwas and Jagmandir. Jagniwas, now a Heritage Hotel, was the erstwhile summer retreat of prince of Mewar. While Jagmandir was constructed by Maharana Karan Singh to provide refuge to Shah Jehan, the reason being the latter was born of a Rajput mother. It is believed that this palace also provided some inspiration for the Prince's magna carta Taj Mahal. On the east bank is embellished the City Palace and a sprawling garden. A boat ride to the islands is undulating fun.

Jagdish Temple: Neighboring the City Palace is this classic Indo-Aryan shrine of Lord Vishnu, worshiped in a black-marbled image as Lord Jagannath.

Fateh Prakash Palace: An oriental beauty, preserved since the legacy of Maharana Fateh Singh, is this heritage palace-turned-hotel. The reflection of its magnificent turrets in the quiet waters of Fateh Sagar lake as you take a boat ride to the little island with a garden, creates an euphoria beyond words. The cafetaria at the island, serves excellent coffee.

Pratap Samak: The statue of Rajput demigod Maharana Pratap, who held the reigns of his homeland against the Mughals, stands proud atop the Moti Magri or the Pearl Hill, overlooking the Fateh Sagar Lake. Do drop by the interesting Japanese rock garden as you climb uphill.

Bharatiya Lok Kala (Udaipur Folk Museum): Here is where lies the virtual kaleidoscope to the heritage of this princely Rajput city. Look out for paintings, dolls, masks, musical instruments, dresses and the puppet show held almost regularly.
Shilpgram: The literal meaning is the Craftsmen's village and true to its name it is an archipelago of crafts from various Indian states like Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat and of course, Rajasthan. However this ethnic village is is earmarked for its exquisite terracotta work mainly in dark red and dark brown and its wooden carvings. The 26 huts set amidst a sprawling 70 acres bordered by the Aravalli hills add a slush of panoramic beauty to this otherwise shopping joint.

Festivals of Udaipur: The Mewar Festival is celebrated to welcome the advent of spring every March at Udaipur. Co-inciding with the festival of Gangaur, celebrated all over Rajasthan, Mewar Festival is when a procession of chariots carrying idols of the goddess, embellished elephants, camels and men on horseback, women decked up in their best attires, all march their way through the streets of Udaipur to the Gangaur Ghat at Lake Pichhola. The idols are then set adrift the decorated boats at the Lake. And the vista of these boats, with idols, flowers and lights, floating across the pristine lake, create ‘magic’ for the spectators.


Ladling your bags with local crafts is sine qua non for tourists visiting Udaipur. Wooden folk puppets, tie-and-dye sarees, enamel or Meenakari work, colorful turbans, hand painted fabrics, silver jewelery, wall hangings and miniature paintings in Rajput style are the tourist favorites. Chetak Circle, Clock Tower, Hathi Pol, Palace Road and the City Market are some of the best places to go shop-hunting. The shopping festival at Shilpgram, the craft village (mid-December) is not to be missed incase you are there during that season.

Rajasthali (Chetak Circle) the government-run handicraft shop, is a good place to both pick up basic handicrafts for fair prices. Mangalam (Sukhadia Circle) is best for textiles, handicrafts, dhurries (rugs), while at the City Palace Museum shop buy pichhwai paintings (wall hangings painted on cloth or silk, often featuring scenes from Lord Krishna's life). For some quality paintings consider visiting four-time national award winner Kamal Sharma (15A, New Colony, Kalaji-Goraji). Jagdish Emporium on City Palace Road has traditional Udaipur (and Gujarati) embroidery items.


Indian delicacies you should not miss here are the vegetarian delicacies like paneer do pyaja (cheese cooked with onion, tomato and chilies), matar paneer (Indian cheese curry with peas and tomatoes) and traditional non-vegerarian favorites like Afghani murgh malai tikka (creamy chicken kebabs) and the famed fish a la Jagat (local freshwater fish from Jaisamand Lake cooked in a lemon sauce and served with chips).

The Lake Palace Hotel, Udaivilas's Suryamahal and Udaimahal (Udaimahal open for dinner only) sum up for the royal traditional palates. Ambrai (beyond Lake Pichola Hotel), Natural View (atop the Evergreen Guest House), Cafe Hill Park (SW of Sajjan Niwas gardens), 16 Chef Restaurant (16 Gyan Marg) serve good multi-cuisine.

Eklingi (22 km): A little hamlet that has shot to fame in the Hindu pilgrimage map with some of the most ancient temples. The 734 AD Shiva temple with the four-faced image of the lord in black marble looks ethereal. At Nagada, a km before Eklingi, there a flock of three old temples. The Sas Bahu ('Mother and Daughter in-law') temple is as interesting as its name.

Haldighati (40 km): This is where the iconic Maharana Pratap on his charger Chetak, defeated the Mughal forces of Akbar in 1576. The chhatri (umbrella-shaped cenopath) of Chetak, the loyal war-horse, makes this destination an attraction of a different kind.

Nathdwara (48 km): The temple enshrining the black stone image of Lord Vishnu here, as per a legend, sunk into the ground when attempts were being made to move it.

Kumbalgarh Fort (84 km): Ranked next to Chittorgarh, this is one must-see fort with a plethora of palaces and temples within its impregnable ramparts. Check out the horse/jeep safaris from here.

Deogarh (135 km): On the Udaipur-Jodhpur road is this grand castle turned hotel. The interiors are simply fascinating with dexterous carvings.

Jaisamand Lake (48 km): This is one of Asia's largest artificial lakes made during the 17th Century by Maharaja Jai Singh. With the marbled cenopaths around, the locale looks beautiful - just right for your photographing spree.

Location :
Southern Rajasthan

Go there for :
Palaces, Lakes, Museums

Climate :
28.8°-38.3°C (Sum); 11.6°-28.3°C (Win)

When to Go:

Local Tongue:
Marwari, Hindi

Literacy :

STD Code :
+91 - 294

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