Our biggest regret with regards to Udaipur was that we had just one day in this magnificent city. This beautiful erstwhile capital of Mewar deserves much more than that. However, am hopeful to see more of Udaipur when we make a trip to Chittod some time later.
It was early morning when we arrived in Udaipur. We had booked a Guest House on the lakeside and it was a pleasant surprise to find that it was a 200 years old Haveli of some Thakur (noble) of Mewar in the old city, overlooking the lake. The window of our seemingly ancient room opened in the lake and exactly, in front of it was the Hanuman Ghat. The window was quipped with a raised platform on which the Guest House folks had very thoughtfully arranged mattresses and pillows. So all one had to do was sit there doing nothing, while having a look at the people as they went on with their daily chores on the ghat on the other side.
After spending some time on the rooftop of our guest house, we freshened up quickly and got ready for exploring the city. We were told that Auto Rickshaw was the best option to go around the city, so we hired one and started through the narrow lanes of the Old city.
Maharana Pratap Memorial
Our first stop in Udaipur was obviously a trip to the memorial of the most illustrious son of Mewar, Udaipur. Perched on a small hillock, there is a statue of Maharana Pratap on his equally legendary Chetak. There was a small garden surrounding the statue and from here, one could have a good look at the Udaipur city. A little downhill was a small museum about the Mewar. What I vividly remember from this museum are the portraits displayed in the gallery, of the brave Rajputs loyal to their Maharana who laid down their lives in the battle of Haldi Ghati. Being a Rajput myself, I have always been secretly proud of them, even though they lost the battle, and looking at their faces was an emotional experience.
Udaipur is also cheekily called the Venice of the East, and not for nothing. It has three big lakes interconnected together with canals and lots of old and new bridges built over them. Our first destination among these lakes was Pratapsagar. Named after Maharana Pratap Singh, the lake has an island with a garden, reachable by a ferry which plies from the bank. However, the island as well as the fairy was a usual affair, not much to talk home about.
Next on cards were the City Palace and Sajjan Garh. We decided to see the City Palace first and then go towards Sajjan Garh as it was far from the city, but before that our stomachs needed refueling. Our auto driver took us to an eatery which served delicious unlimited Rajasthani meals ,for just Rs 70 a plate! So a few phulkas, missi rotis and daal baatis later, we were ready again to face the world.
The traffic in Udaipur is crazy. People do not care much about traffic rules and double triple parking on the road is a common thing. The Police is either non existent or they decide to look the other way. It was a total chaos at the street leading to the City Palace and we reached its gates by 3 in late afternoon. The tickets were costly, Rs 100 per adult and Rs 200 for a camera ! Adding another Rs 225 for the Audio guide, it was a substantial amount by Indian Standards. However, as soon as we entered the Palace through the Tripolia Pol, we knew that the experience was paisa vasool. The Palace is breathtaking to say the least.
The Royal family of Mewar draws their lineage from Sun, and call themselves as the representatives of the dynasty of the Sun. Their pride has been evident with the tenacity with which they fought for their freedom and it was evident in our tour of the Palace also. As the Audio guide informed, once during the visit of the British Emperor, the King of Mewar was invited to attend his welcome ceremony. When he found that he was given less preference than the Nizam of Hyderabad, he immediately returned back. However the guide did not explain why Mewar accepted the supremacy of the British in the first place.
Politics apart, we found the Palace a very beautiful place. There is a special touch when it comes to royalty, very much like the glitter of gold, and it can not be missed even by unaccustomed eyes. Even though I had already seem the splendor of Jaipur, this bastion of the Sisodias was class apart. Built in 1559, this magnificent complex can fill the best architects of today with as much awe as it did to us. For two hours, we wandered through galleries, courtyards beautiful rooms decorated with carvings and motifs and getting amazed seemed to be the most normal thing to do there. From my memories of the Palace, what I remember most is a cortyard where the Royals used to play Holi, a view of Udaipur and Lake Pichhola from the jharokhas and the long seemingly endless corridors as we crossed one beautiful room after another. The Palace is very well maintained the Rana of Mewar Trust and it’s a pleasant experience throughout. We were actually so lost in our explorations that the driver had to call us to remind us that we would loose Sajjangarh if we stayed there any longer.
Sajjangarh was our last stop in Udaipur before nightfall. Also known as the Monsoon Palace, Sajjangarh is located on the top of a hill, higher than most other hills in the region and is accessible by a mountain road which passes through a wildlife sanctuary. Built in 1884, the palace was built by Rana Sajjansingh for watching the monsoon clouds (yes, some people are rich enough to build houses for such purposes too), and has its claim to fame by featuring in the 1960s Bond movie, “Octopusy”. Our first impression of the palace was that it looked like those we used to see and imagine in fairy tales. It was not hard to imagine how this place would be during a monsoon evening. While on the East, we could have a panoramic view of Udaipur and the country side, on the west were rows and rows of mountains, shrouded in the mist of the dusk and dwarfed by this giant mountain. We spent a lot of time there, taking photographs and watched as a red sun went down the mountains leaving behind a beautiful sky with all the shades of the magic hour. Some of those images will last forever …
As a result of our lazy day long expeditions, we did not get the time to see some of the most famous landmarks of the city, Lake Pichola, Jag Mandir Palace and the Lake Palace. We finally went to the banks of the Lake at night and could see the palaces built on two islands in the middle of the lake. Their lights made them seem like two giant ships in the sea, casting royal reflections on the water.
This was the last photograph we took, of the glowing palace during the night, from our guesthouse. We loved Udaipur …
Udaipur, a set on Flickr.