Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Udaipur - The Lake City

Arriving in Udaipur

Udaipur has good connectivity with other cities in Rajasthan by road and railway. You can also reach from Ahmedabad by road in around 4-5 hours.

We arrived in Udaipur at around noon and found the city to be welcoming and friendly. Truly speaking, in a new state, in a new city, with a different language, you are kind of lost. When we stepped down from the bus, we weren't sure where to go. A rickshaw driver offered us to take us to our hotel and we were apprehensive if he would take us where we wanted to go. But we could reach safely and our adventure started.

Where to Stay?

Our room in The Little Garden guest house in Udaipur
We stayed at a little guest house called The Little Garden. It is a small haveli owned by the descendants of the royal poetto the king of Udaipur, Mahadeo Rao Singh. Two rooms in the haveli are converted to first-class hotel rooms with all amenities. Because it is owned by the family, the setup is quite friendly and not commercialised. Mostly, foreigners have stayed there, and we were told that we were just the second Indian guests to stay there. We came upon it by chance and were extremely happy with the rooms and the service. They do not server lunch or dinner, because the rooms are really a bed-and-breakfast accommodations.

Apart from such small guest houses, there are innumerable hotels where you can find good accommodations.  They also usually have their own restaurants which are good enough.

If you are planning to go in the peak tourist season, it is better to book hotels well in advance.

What to See in Udaipur

There's so much to see in Udaipur. Do not attempt to cover everything in a day. You need at least two days to see the various attractions in Udaipur. Here are some of the things that you can see:
  • City Palace
  • Lake Palace
  • Jag Mandir
  • Jagdish Temple
  • Lake Pichola
  • Lake Fateh Sagar
  • Saheliyon-ki-Bari
  • Gulab Bagh and Zoo
  • Shilpgram
  • Bagore-ki-Haveli
  • Karni Mata Mandir and Ropeway
Out of all these, we covered only the Lake Pichola and City Palace. We were there only half a day and didn't get enough time to cover anything else.

History of Udaipur

Before I proceed to talk at length about the City Palace, it's better to know the history of Udaipur.

Udaipur was founded in 1559 by Maharana Udai Singh II as the capital of the Mewar kingdom. Udai Singh was the father of the famous Maharana Pratap. Maharana Pratap fought the Mughals and defeated them in the Battle of Haldighat. Maharana Udai Singh II built the City Palace and subsequent generations have added rooms and other structures to the palace.

Udaipur dynasty is one of the longest running dynasty in the country. The current king, Maharaja Arvind Singh Ji is 68 years old, and still stays in the newer wings of the palace.

City Palace, Udaipur

Udaipur Palace as seen from Lake Pichola
The Udaipur Palace was built by Maharana Udai Singh II in 1559 when he established the city of Udaipur as his capital. The palace is located on the banks of Lake Pichola. The palace has been built by 76 generations of the Sisodia dynasty over 300 hundred years. The palace has a facade of 244 meters in length and 30.4 meters in height. There are 11 separate small palaces in the complex. The architectural design is a rich amalgamation of different styles of architecture. The palace complex is built in granite and marble.

Windows of the palace
The interiors of the palace complex has balconies, towers, intricate mirror work, carved marble work, murals, paintings, and windows of coloured glass. The intricately carved windows with support from below present a beautiful picture to the eyes. The whole palace presents the grandeur and royalty in which all Maharanas and their families lived in.

The palace has gateways or big entrances called Pol. As you enter into the palace from the Bara Pol, you enter the courtyard. The courtyard has numerous shops and kiosks lined up owned by craftsmen, miniature painters, cloth dealers, and antiques. The huge courtyard was a place to alight from and climb elephants, and view elephant fights. From this courtyard, you can get a beautiful view of the city of Udaipur.

From the Ganesh Deodhi you can enter the main palace. Here again is a courtyard that leads you up to the rooms of the kings and queens. It's here that you can enter the palace museum which contains a showcase of armoury, Sheesh Mahal, and Rang Mahal along with other rooms and attractions. There is a nice courtyard called the Mor Chowk that has peacocks depicting three seasons made out of coloured glass and fitted into jharokhas.

The museum starts with the display of armoury, takes you through the different private rooms of the Maharanas, and then through the Zenana Mahal, the dwellings of the queens. It is an interesting walk through the past and definitely enjoyable.

I would also recommend taking the audio tour of the whole palace. It gives a lot of information about the architecture, history, and use of the different rooms of the palace. The audio tours are made with full sound effects and transport you back in time.

One of the hotels in Lake Pichola
The Lake Pichola houses two more palaces now converted into heritage hotels run by the Taj group and the HRH group. The HRH group is the His Royal Highness group that is owned by the Maharaja of Udaipur. The current king owns 13 such heritage hotels across Rajasthan.

From the lake, if you take a boat ride, you can see the breathtaking view of the palace along with the shore line. Because those are heritage hotels, the prices even in the restaurant are exorbitant and it's better not to buy any food items there.

Once you come back to the shore, do make a point to enjoy the beautiful sunset on the lake. I have experienced one of the most beautiful sunset there. You'll certainly enjoy it.

Sunset at Udaipur
The only thing that I was unhappy about the Udaipur palace is the money that they ask you to pay. A boat ride before 3 p.m. costs you Rs. 300 each person. After 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. (closing time,) it costs you Rs. 500 per person. The palace entrance is Rs. 25 per person, while you need to shell out Rs. 100 per person for the entrance to the museum. If you want to take pictures, you must pay Rs. 100 per camera. This is really too much considering how much the Udaipur Maharaja already earns through his 13 heritage hotels, and the exorbitantly priced in-house restaurants.

The timings of the palace are 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Do make sure of checking the timings before you go.

Despite the money that you shell out, the palace is extremely beautiful and enjoyable.

Vintage Car Collection, Garden Court Restaurant

I think this is again owned by the HRH group. The Udaipur Maharanas owned a fleet of old vintage cars. Although we saw the current Maharaja being driven in a Jaguar, the vintage cars they own are really beautiful and in working conditions. You can see different models of Rolls Royce, Cadillac, Mercedes Benz, and a cute car called Pebbles.

Again, the entrance fee to the car collection is Rs. 150 per head (no wonder!)

Around 15 cars can be seen in working conditions. The cars are attended by specialised mechanics who have a whole workshop set up there for each of the car. The cars are really beautiful if you are interested in vintage cars.

Other Attractions in Udaipur

Other than this, you can visit the Bagore-ki-Haveli that stages a dance show every evening at 7 p.m. You can also visit the Karni Mata Mandir using the ropeway. Other places that you can visit are the Jagadish Temple, other lakes, Shilpgram depending on how much time you have.

Bye, Udaipur!

Where to Eat?

If your hotel has a restaurant, you should go for that. Just outside the City Palace is a nice restaurant called Gateway where you get decent Punjabi and Continental food. There are other restaurants too that you can try, especially if you want to try out the Rajasthani Thali.

Saying Goodbye

So much to cover and so little time...that's what you might feel in Udaipur. It is really a beautiful city and I took a liking to it. But our Rajasthan tour had just started and we were ready to head to our next destination of Jodhpur.

1 comment:

  1. I loved all the pictures. Thanks for sharing this post. If you visit the Haveli in the daytime, you can see the rooms of this 18th century haveli furnished in the traditional way. Some rooms have interesting cultural displays, including one gigantic turban that is touted as the world's largest. Check out all best places to visit in Udaipur also.