Wednesday, 23 April 2014


File:Udaipur palace night.jpg
City Palace
Courtesy Wikipedia

         I remember turning around a bend with the Aravalli range for company and suddenly finding myself in this pretty city. It was like we had discovered a glittering jewel in the middle of the arid region after a long drive from Jaipur. It stood welcoming the tired traveller into it's folds with many lakes shimmering in the scorching sun and palaces that bespoke of a rich royal history. Udaipur has earned a few of sobriquets for itself " Venice Of East", " City of Lakes" and " White City".

       The undulating land, vestiges of the old Aravalli mountain, is a pleasant surprise for those expecting Rajasthan to be a desert area. One of the first things that we did, as any other excited tourist, was to visit the City Palace - a well conserved treasure of a rich royal Rajputana past. It is a palace that has grown over a period of time with successive generations of royalty adding to it's many complexes. The amalgamation of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture with European accessories speak of the confluence of different culture. Our guide delighted in presenting the famed Jag Niwas or the Lake Palace rising from the middle of the lake Pichola, from the many ornate balconies of the city palace. The Sheesh Mahal, Rang Bhawan, Amar Vilas, Badi Mahal, Dilkhusha Mahal,  Moti Mahal, Krishna Vilas, Bhim Vilas and others. It was interesting to note that although they were built at different times the city palace does not look like an haphazard installation. It emerges as a homogeneous structure interlinked by the many courtyards, gardens and zig-zagging corridors. The last part was to delay and thwart enemy intrusion. The collection of murals, paintings, artefacts, inlay work, mirror work within the palace are evidence of a rich aesthetic taste. There are some miniature painting artists just outside the palace whom you can watch at work and also buy.

     Another place that quite fascinated me was the "Saheliyon Ki Bari", a garden that was laid out for the 48 women attendants who came as  part of a princess's dowry. It took a while for it to sink that a king would get a garden made for the attendants and a breath taking one at that. Beautiful ornate gates, a lotus pool for the ladies to frolic around, elephant fountains as befitting royalty, pathways edged with green plants and pretty flowers, marble pavilions to rest the tired limbs,  trees under which they probably gossiped and giggled... My imagination was running away with me trying to visualise the rich life of the past. This place is definitely a must visit everyone. The water for the pools come from the Fateh Sagar Lake  through the many ducts. Saheliyon Ki Bari is as romantic as it can get.

    Enamoured by royal resplendence  we next visited Shilpgram 3 kms away from Udaipur near Havala village. It is a vast complex that brings together the lifestyles, arts and crafts of the many tribal people of the western zone. What struck me was the educational value of Shilpgram. There are prototypes of houses typical of the tribal people living in the member states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa. The approach to this whole concept was pretty interesting. A village was said to be self sufficient if it had a potter, a blacksmith, a carpenter and a weaver. This basic unit was taken up and elaborated  not just to showcase the homes but also to exhibit how environment, climate and  profession moulded their requirements. It also helped to compare the lifestyles of people of the same profession belonging to different regions. This is one place I would recommend to all visiting Udaipur and preferably the lean season so you have the place to explore at your own pace. This is where I took my first camel ride and have sworn never to bother that desert ship anymore with my weight. I can still never get over the lurches with every stride the camel took. I thought I was going to make a spectacle of myself when the camel got off it's haunches or sat down. There were also exciting moments like the one when I suddenly realised the folk song the Manganiyar artiste was belting out lustily was the original of the "Nimbuda nimbuda..." from the movie Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.

   And with that haunting folk song from the desert we left Udaipur for the elevated place Mount Abu. Udaipur stayed on in my memory for the romance it weaved with the palaces, lakes, gardens nestled in the Aravalli hills. It's little wonder that most celebrities  have chosen this for their nuptial vows.

This post was written for the A to Z Challenge.



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