A picture perfect city on the southern end of Rajasthan, under the shade of whispering Aravali hills, and mirrored on the azure waters of its five lakes. That is what Udaipur, the City of Dreams or 'Venice of the East looks like.
Udaipur City PalaceFascinating Udaipur, famous as the city of lakes, arose from the deep waters of Rajput history. It owes its origin to Akbars infamous sack of Chittor (1567), which brought Maharana Udai Singh to the Girwo valley of Aravali, where he founded Mewars new capital beside the Pichola Lake. Isolated from the heat and dust of Rajasthan, Udaipur floats like royal oasis upon its lakes. Reminiscent of the gallantry of Maharana Pratap, Udaipur was adjudged Asias 2nd Best City by Travel and Leisure Magazine in 2007.
A picture perfect city on the southern end of Rajasthan, under the shade of whispering Aravali hills, and mirrored on the azure waters of its five lakes. That is what Udaipur, the City of Dreams or 'Venice of the East looks like. 'Most beautiful among the beauties, the grandest even amidst all grandeur of Rajputana, its snowy white palaces and pavilions, its flower gardens, shady groves, with its wooded islands, and exquisite lakes, it seems to the visitor a fitting framework for a dynasty of immemorial age,' exclaimed Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India, on visiting Udaipur in 1902.
The city situated on a hillock has a wall of solid masonry. It originally had 11 gates of which five now remain. Lakes viz. Pichola, Fateh Sagar, Udal Sagar, Jiyan Sagar, Doodh Talai, and Jaisamand (52 km south-east) are the distinctive elements of Udapur. "The beautiful Pichola Lake" - said Prince of Wales George V during his 1905 India visit - "hemmed in by forest covered sepia-tinted hills, is an exquisite oasis in the brownness of much of southern Rajputana". The two royal palaces located on Jag Niwas and Jag Mandir isles of Pichola Lake have been converted into heritage hotels by Taj Group.
Udaipur is 'infinite riches in a little room' and 36 hours is critically insufficient to get 360° view of Udaipur. Dev Nath Purohit, the master of ceremonies of Udaipur, writing a visitors' guide in 1938 had provided a five day model. Pichola lake circuit is enough to keep one waking day occupied. Begin by visiting City Palace, Udaipur's most visited architectural marvel, beside Lake Pichola. It has 11 wonderful palaces built across centuries. The Manak Mahal (Ruby Palace) has crystal and porcelain figures. Bhim Vilas has a rich collection of miniature paintings on lore of Radha-Krishna. Sheesh Mahal is adorned with thousands of tiny mirrors. Chini Chitrashala is renowned for its Chinese and Dutch ornamental tiles.
Lake PalaceRelax and unwind for a while at Sajjan Niwas Grden, or Gulab Bagh Rajasthan's largest garden sprawling 100 acres Get up to brow through Victoria Albert Museum whose formidable collection of antiques, curios, royal household items and relics would cheer you. Catch up, if time permits, with Saraswati Bhawan library that has an impressive collection on history, archaeology, Indology and old manuscripts.
Evening is a long time in India's west. It's the best time for a motorboat cruise through breathtaking vistas of hills, palaces, temples, bathing ghats and embankments. The marble Lake Palace on Jag Niwas Island rises like a fantasy fiction edifice amidst Pichola. Legend ascribes holds Jag Mandir, three-storied palace built in yellow sandstone and marble, on southern island, as the inspiration behind Taj Mahal. It had been a hideout for Prince Khurram (later Emperor Shah Jahan) in 1620s when Maharaja Karan Singh ruled over Mewar.
The half-day on the morrow is best kept for Fateh Sagar Lake. Excavated by Maharaja Jal Singh in 1678, as a perennial water tank, the lake harbours three islands. If you have interest in astronomy, then visit Udaipur Solar Observatory (USO) located on an island. If there is time, one can visit the small western island with fountain jet. The nearest from the city is Nehru Park, the large wooded island. It has a boat shaped café, hot favorite amongst visitors. Were time in short supply, a boat ride by the eastern bank of the Lake would suffice.
Bhartiya Lok Kala Mandir
Bhartiya lok Kala mandal was founded by Padma Shri Devi Lal Samar in 1952. The main objective of the Institute is to conduct studies on the folk art, songs and festivals of regions like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh etc and to revive a vanishing folk culture. The institute has a puppet unit that trains children, teachers and other artists in the art of puppetry, as this is a very powerful non-conventional educative medium.
One of the most formidable forts in India, Chittorgarh Fort is the symbol of the Rajput valiancy and supreme sacrifice. Standing majestically on a steep180 m high hill, the massive Chittorgarh Fort is approachable through a 1 km long zigzag road. The road leads through seven gates to the main gate Rampol. There are various impressive sections inside the fort, namely, Vijay Stambha (Tower of victory), Kirti Stambh (Tower of fame), rana Kumbha Palace, Padmini Palace and Kalika Mata Temple.
City Palace towers over the Pichola Lake. Maharana Udai Singh initiated the construction of the palace but successive Maharanas added several palaces and structures to the complex but retained remarkable uniformity in the design. The entry to the Palace is from the Hathi Pol, the Elephant Gate. The Bari Pol or the Big Gate brings you to the Tripolia, the Triple gate. It was a custom to weigh the Maharaja under this gate in gold and silver, which was distributed to the populace. Balconies, cupolas and towers of the palace give a wonderful view of the lake.
Situated in the Fateh Prakash Palace, it has a breath taking collection of crystals. These were ordered by Maharana Sajjan Singh from F & C Osler England but could not live
to see them because of his untimely death. The crystal items include tables, sofa sets, dining tables, dressers, fountains and even beds besides a whole array of washing bowls, decanters and perfume bottles. There is also an exquisite jewel studded carpet.
Built in 734 AD, it is a complex of 108 temples located 22 kms north from Udaipur. The temples are exquisitely carved out of sandstone and marble and are devoted to Lord Shiva, the family deity of the Mewar rulers. The temple boasts of a striking four-faced idol of Eklingji (Lord Shiva) that is made out of black marble. Its height ranges around 50 feet and its four faces depict four forms of Lord Shiva. The east-facing part is recognized as Surya, the west-facing part is Lord Brahma, the north-facing part is Lord Vishnu and the south-facing part is Rudra i.e. Lord Shiva himself.
This delightful lake, bordered by hills and woodlands was constructed by Maharana Jai Singh to the north of Lake Pichola in 1678 AD. This artificial lake was reconstructed by Maharana Fateh Singh (1884-1930 AD). A canal links the two via Swaroop Sagar and Rang Sagar Lakes. The beautiful Nehru Island as well as an islet bearing a solar observatory rise from the lake.
Govt.Museum in city Palace
The main part of the palace is now preserved as a museum displaying a large and diverse array of artifacts. The armoury museum exhibiting a huge collection of protective gears and various kinds of weapons. Manak Mahal or the Ruby Palace has a lovely collection of glass and mirror work while Krishna Vilas displays a rich collection of miniature paintings. Moti Mahal (the pearl palace) has beautiful mirror work and the Chini Mahal has ornamental tiles all over. The Surya Chopar (the sun square) depicts a huge ornamental sun symbolising the sun dynasty to which the Maharajas and their ancestors belonged. The Bari Mahal is a central garden giving a view of the city. Some more beautiful paintings can be seen in the 'Zenana Mahal' (the ladies chamber). .
Jag Mandir Palace
This is the other island palace on Lake Pichola, which was constructed by Maharana Jagat Singh I in the year 1620 AD. It is also said that Shah Jahan [Prince Khurram] derived some of the ideas for building the Taj Mahal from architectural beauty of this palace when he stayed here during 1623-24. The island has some striking carvings including a row of elephants that look like guarding the island. The exquisitely carved chhatri in grey and blue stone also attracts the visitors.
Jagdish Temple is one of the famous temples of Udaipur. Located in the City Palace complex of Udaipur, this temple is made in the Indo-Aryan style of architecture. In 1651, Jagdish temple was built by Maharana Jagat Singh, who ruled Udaipur during 1628-53. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu (Laxmi Narayan), the preserver of the Universe. It is celebrated for being the largest temple in the city of Udaipur. The gateway of this temple can be sited at a distance of 150 meters from the Bara Pol of the City Palace.
Cradled in the cluster of thirteen mountain peaks of the Aravali ranges, the formidable medieval citadel - Kumbhalgarh stands a wary sentinel to the past glory. Rising from a prominent ridge, 1914 meters high from the sea level, the fort was built in 15th century A.D. by Maharana Kumbha and is the principal fortification after Chittaurgarh, lying 90 Km north-west of Udaipur. The massive fort, encompassed by a 36 Km long wall, has seven majestic gates and seven ramparts, one within the other. Rounded bastions and soaring watch towers strengthen the crenellated walls of the fort making it an impregnable structure.
It is one of the most beautiful and picturesque lakes of Udaipur. Located in the heart of the city, it is the oldest and one of the largest lakes of Udaipur. In 1362, it was built by Pichhu Banjara during the ruling period of Maharana Lakha. Talking about the dimensions of Pichhola Lake, it is extended to 3 miles in length, 2 miles in width and has depth of 30 feet. Pichola Lake is enveloped by lofty Palaces, temples, bathing ghats and elevated hills on all its sides.
Maharana Pratap Memorial
An impressive bronze statue of Maharana Pratap on his favourite horse Chetak, stands atop the Moti Magri (Pearl Mount) overlooking Fateh Sagar. Local people climb up the hill to pay homage to Rana Pratap and his faithful charger 'Chetak' who was fiercely protective about its master and stood by him till its last breath. This loyal steed sacrificed its life while carrying his master to safety from the battlefield of Haldighati.
Museum of Folk Art
Bhartiya lok Kala mandal was founded by Padma Shri Devi Lal Samar in 1952. The main objective of the Institute is to conduct studies on the folk art, songs and festivals of regions like Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh etc and to revive a vanishing folk culture. The institute has a puppet unit that trains children, teachers and other artists in the art of puppetry, as this is a very powerful non-conventional educative medium.
In the 6th century, Nagda was found by Nagaditya, the fourth Mewar King. Nagda is located besides Bagela Lake at a distance of 23 kms in the north-west of Udaipur on the way to Nathdwara. Nagda comprises many small and big temples, but the main attraction is gained by its 'Sas-Bahu' temple that dates back to the 10th century. The term 'Sas-Bahu' suggests 'Mother-in-law and Daughter-in-law' respectively. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and it is made in two structures, one by a mother-in-law and another, by a daughter-in-law.
Sahelion ki bari
Maharana Sangram Singh built this in the mid-18th century. The 'garden of the maidens' brings to mind the lifestyle of the ladies of the court. The delightful gardens reflect their discreet and impeccable taste. There are four pools with dainty kiosks. All around are flowerbeds, lawns, pools and fountains protected by a series of walls and shady trees. The fountains of the Sahelion ki bari function solely by water pressure and no pumps are used. The garden has a lotus pool and a sitting room decorated with paintings and glass mosaic.
Literally meaning, "Craftsmen's Village" Shilpgram comprises 26 huts set in 70 acres of natural surroundings at the foot of the Aravali Hills. It is a living ethnographic museum depicting the enormous diversity in crafts, art and culture of various Indian states. But the exquisite terracotta work mainly in dark red and dark brown sand material along with the wooden carvings are the forte of this ethnic village.
Vintage & Classic Car Collection
The collection within the grounds of the Garden Hotel comprises a variety of vintage and classic vehicles like Cadillac, Chevrolet, Morris etc owned by the Maharanas of Udaipur. They used these automobiles as their luxurious modes of transport. However, other models are gradually being added to the collection in order to a unique aristocratic safari for the exclusive guests.
Udaipur is a dam burst of joy for handicraft lovers. Visit any bazaar at Hathi Pol, Bada Bazaar, Chetak Circle, and Palace Road. You will find a good pick of folk toys, puppets, traditional dresses, wooden and metal craft, paintings, matchless bandhani (tie & dye) sarees, painting, etc. Scour the street near City Palace for ethnic miniature paintings.
Accommodation is the least part of problem. With its array of heritage hotels, luxury hotels, resorts, guest houses, and budget hotels, Udaipur offers too many choices.
Ten reasons to visit Udaipur
* Most picturesque city in India. Late British monarch George V acknowledged it
* Asia's 2nd Best City, 2007 according to Travel and Leisure Magazine
* Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur is world's top small hotel for 2007, according to Travel and Leisure
* Pay homage to Maharana Pratap, icon of valour and patriotism
* A Venice away from Venice. Enjoy Rajasthan minus its heat
* Great temples like Jag Mandir, Jagdish Mandir, Eklingaji temple and Nathdwara
* Modern water management in India could have a clue from Udaipur model
* Udaipur Solar Observatory
* Best Rose Garden
* Kumbalgarh Fort, with second longest continous wall in the world, after Great Wall of China, 64-km away