Monday, 21 December 2015

Udaipur - City Of Lakes

Sunset at Lake Pichola

This beautiful city, tucked away in the arms of Aravalli hills and endowed with bountiful lakes is the capital of the Kingdom of Mewar(Rajput clan). The place is in simple words "breathtakingly beautiful".

It's a perfect concoction of nature and man. One often get's confused whether to admire the scenic beauty or the beautiful palaces standing proudly within it. And the history of Udaipur is nothing less than the tales of 'Amar Chitra Katha'! Only this is one had a grandeur unparalleled to anything else.

City Palace
View of Palace at night
The city is flourishing around lakes, especially Lake Pichola which is the tourist hub. Standing on the east bank of the lake is a massive series of palaces built at different times from 1559. The main entrance leads to a series of courtyards, terraces, corridors and gardens. The palace now houses a museum with many antique articles, paintings, decorative furniture and utensils from the royal era.

But living an extravagant life, they didn't stick to just one palace but 3 , one for each season - summer, winter and monsoon! Lake Palace which served as royal summer palace is situated over an island in Lake Pichola and is built of white marble. Although, now the palace is under 'Taj Hotels Resorts'.

Lake Palace aka Royal Summer Palace
Monsoon Palace, also known as Sajjan Garh Palace, was built on Bansdara peak of the Aravalli hill range and offers a spectacular panoramic view of entire Udaipur. Apparently, because of it's location the palace acts as astronomical centre to keep track of clouds and during monsoon period is surround by clouds making us common man only sit and wonder what a charming view it would have been in its glorious days!

Monsoon Palace ,Photo:Ryan 

View of the city from Monsoon Palace

Back view from Monsoon Palace
After lot of inner conflicts, I am bound to mention a small glitch in this otherwise paradise. Rajasthan in general is famous for it's hospitality and Udaipur being one of the pioneering tourist destination,we expected the best. Unfortunately, we felt the place was slightly biased when it came to tourists. They give upper hand to outsiders(whites to be specific), at some of the hotels/shops. Hopefully, things would improve with course of time and the place would become even more magical to all alike.

This pic is not from Udaipur but he is here because I like him!
During our visit to City Palace we hired a guide and he was every bit entertaining. He told us lot of anecdotes about Rajputana lifestyle and culture and I still think he was bluffing half the time! At one point we were told that women had to follow ghoongat system(covering the head/face with sari) because lot of times, attack on these kingdoms were to capture their beautiful queens. Of course at that time I thought it was ridiculous, but later when I saw some of the pictures of these queens, I had to agree, they looked stunning! Anyone would fall for their beauty :D

One of the picturesque place - Saheliyon ki Bari is the garden with fountains and kiosks, a lotus pool and marble elephants. It was laid for a group of forty-eight young women attendants who accompanied a princess to Udaipur as part of her dowry!

Saheliyon ki bari, Photo: Daniel Mennerich
Below picture is their version of postal service. Also, as part of dowry a princess brings 25-30 pigeons which she uses to send messages/letters to her parents place.

Below is the original metal armour of Chetak, the faithful horse of Maharana Pratap. During the battle of Haldighati fought against Man Singh I(Commander of the imperial Mughal Army), Pratap's forces were decisively outnumbered. So Pratap charged straight towards Man Singh, who was directing the battle seated on an elephant. Chetak reared high in the air and planted his hooves on the forehead of Man Singh's elephant. And during the chaos of attack received a fatal would on one of his legs. But Chetak died only after he took Pratap safely out of the battlefield, running a distance of about 3- 5 kilometres including jumping across 21 feet wide river(on 3 legs!). Now it makes sense why the name the Bajaj Chetak...

Armour of Chetak

Intricate artwork inside City Palace
When talking about Udaipur one cannot miss out on traditional rajasthani cuisine. The food reflects a lot on their lifestyle and the availability of ingredients in the region. To decrease the use of water in this desert state they use a lot of milk and milk products to cook. We tried everything from the traditional veg thali to exotic laal maans curry! Traditionally, it was made with wild game meat, such as boar or deer and used to be favourite among royalties. Of course, nowadays no exotic animal is used, just a mutton curry prepared in a sauce of curd and hot spices such as red chillies.

Traditional rajasthani thalli, Photo: com4tablynumb

laal maas, photo: com4tablynumb
Udaipur has so many flavors, just like spices, unique on their own but together they blend so well and create something even magnificent. No matter where I live, the impression Udaipur has etched in my heart would remain with me.

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