Fast-tracking through Udaipur, The Venice of East
Meandering through the narrow crowded streets of this gorgeous old city, negotiating the sharp turns, taking in the little glimpses of people and their way of life we rode around in a black and yellow auto-rickshaw bumping at obscure speed-breakers and protruding stones our bones rattling in silent protest….we avoided a cow here, a bunch of dogs there, an on coming scooter, a child running aimlessly, a woman who washed the tiny verandah, and in bargain, splashed water on who ever dared to walk past the house, another man who trashed his garbage right there on the street side……
We thanked profusely, our auto-rickshaw wallah, for depositing us in one piece at the gates of City Palace finally….
We had only little more than half a day in the City of Lakes, Udaipur that lies ensconced in the safe and abundantly fertile Girwa valley on the southern slope of densely forested Aravalli Range.
Named after its founder Maharana Uday Singh II, Udaipur also is referred to as the Venice of East because of the many lakes in the city. Just as one peeps from Mehrangarh Fort at Jodhpur and gets a glimpse of blue houses, similarly Udaipur has white houses all over and is known as White City.
I had, as a twelve-year-old, visited the beautiful city and heard tales of its grandeur. I wanted to visit again but I couldn’t have chosen a more bad time. Not only I had to skip seeing some important landmarks of the city for lack of time but also because I was completely exhausted since last few days.
Travel usually perks me up and so it did this time… I was all excited to experience the land of Rajputs of Mewar….the body however was not responding, signalling instead to rest and recuperate. But my fascination to visit historic monuments won and we hired an auto-rickshaw for the city palace.
The entrance, a large but plain gateway known as ‘Badi Pol'(Big Gate) for the palace, surrounded by shops, people and more people and more shops made it difficult to imagine that it could be an entrance to a huge grand palace complex. I was little worried that we had reached a wrong place …
Once we entered the gate, however, we got the real glimpse of royalty with ornate and huge gateway leading to the largest palace of its kind in Rajasthan. We spent an hour or so in the palace marvelling at the huge collection of paintings, silver ware, carriages, furniture, wall murals, sculptures, architecture of the huge palace, the courtyards, the mirror halls… and yet we were able to see only a part of the palace.
As our tour ended we were definitely hungry but I stopped for a quick shopping just outside the palace complex and bought some block-printing wood stencils. Instead of immediately gorging on food, we made a trip to nearby Jagdish Temple only to find it full of devotees and afternoon arti (prayers) was on in full tempo..
Though it was difficult to step inside past all those who sat on the floor but the exterior of the temple was equally ornate and exquisite example of stone art.
With only few hours in beautiful city of Udaipur, we had to prioritize what all to visit before retiring for the day. We were sure we wanted to go for the light and sound show at the city palace later in the evening which however we missed because of misinformation of timings. By the time we finished a delicious Rajasthani Thali for lunch, it was already late noon and we settled for boat trips in Lake Fatehsagar and later Lake Pichola as to-do things while in city.
The boat ride at Fateh Sagar lake was a flop show with the Nehru park a mess because of excessive flood like rains in earlier months. We returned to the boat deck instead of wet lawns to wait for ferrying back.
Lake Pichola was next on our to-do list for another boat ride.
An hour went by sailing at the lake, the skies changed from red yellow to greys and so did the distant hills. The time seemed like it was on fast track as were we. The day was over and we missed out on many other worth visiting palaces of Udaipur.
I think I need to go again to Udaipur soon…
Udaipur is well-connected by air, road and rail from all major cities. We drove from Barmer and reached in about 7 hrs. Roads were almost good with some very rough patches in between.
Almost all luxurious high-end hotels give their services in this beautiful city but there are home-stays, resorts and budget hotel options as well. We stayed at Shree Vilas:Vilas by Lake.
With less time at hand we settled for City Palace, Jagdish Temple and boat rides at Fateh Sagar and Pichola Lakes. If I knew better, I would have spent more time at Lake Pichola. A boat ride at Pichola Lake is not to be missed. Visit Jag Mandir at Lake Pichola and dine at the restaurant which caters all kinds of cuisines. Monsoon Palace or the Sajjangarh Palace atop the hill is where kings spent time during the rains and is worth visiting. Jagdish temple, Gulab Bagh, Shiv Niwas Palace, Shilpagram, Saheliyon ki Bari are other important touristy spots. Bagore ki Haveli arranges for evening traditional dance which is one of the best. Take the rope-way to Karni Mataa temple while at the Pichola Lake to see the panoramic view of the city and enjoy the view when gradually city lights up. There is a vintage car museum too , a private collection of he current regent.
We ate a delicious Rajasthani thali at Santosh Bhojanalay recommended to us by the locals for its dal-baati. There are many restaurants catering local cuisine, just pick and choose according to the looks of it.