“The Venice of the East” is easily one of the most beautiful cities not only in Rajasthan, but the entire nation. It was founded by Maharana Udai (get used to it already!) Singh of the Sisodia clan from the Rajput dynasty in 1553. It is also well known for its cornucopia of zinc and copper mines. Here’s my record of our last days in the princely state and this flamboyant city.
We first visited Moti Magri or the Pearl Hill which houses the memorial of the dauntless Rajput hero Maharana Pratap (son of Maharana Udai Singh) and his steadfast horse Chetak. The hill overlooks the Fateh Sagar Lake and the entire location has a really belligerent feel to it once you see the grand, life-sized bronze statue of the king and his horse. The story goes that Chetak was extremely devoted to his master and strove to protect him till his last breath in the battle of Haldighati. There is also an attractive Japanese Garden as well as the remnants of the incomplete Udaipur Fort which promotes to the reflective aura of this place. The Fateh Sagar Lake is named after Maharana Fateh Singh (sigh). It is an artificial lake connected to Lake Pichola, which is another popular lake located in the city by a canal.
Marking the end of one week of our stay in Rajasthan, we decided to begin with Gulab Baugh. It is spread over 100 acres and is known for the innumerable varieties of roses it comprises of. Sadly, we weren’t able to spot a lot of blooming roses, probably owing to the season we visited in. We walked through the garden for hours, spotting different kinds of birds and a lot, “a lot” of squirrels as well. It a pleasant walk all through the place along the now deserted railway tracks of a toy train, a library and a lake.
We then visited Bharatiya Lok Mandal which is an institution dedicated to studying the culture, art, and festivals of the Indian states of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. It parades a number of artifacts belonging through ages to the Rajasthanis. We were shown a puppet show after which we were allowed to take a stroll through the exhibition. There were a number of old age weapons, various types of puppets, paintings, photographs, musical instruments that leave a mark on the mind of the evolution of man and all the progress he has made. Our next spot was Saheliyon ki Bari meaning Garden of Maidens which was built by Maharana Sangram Singh (father of Maharana Udai Singh) for his Queen and her forty eight women attendants for leisure. It is full of lotus ponds, elephant shaped fountains and marble pavilions. The legend goes that the king took personal interest in the building of this garden in order to present it to his Queen and her maidens for the sake of their recreation away from all the kingdom’s political maneuvers.
We saved the prime spot of Udaipur: the City Palace, the Lake Palace, and “the Lake” Pichola for last. The magnificent City Palace towers at the edge of Lake Pichola. The balconies and windows give a splendid view of the lake which in itself is a pristine sight. Both put together, the entire feel of the sight is absolutely divine! The palace is made up of four major and several minor parts and essentially forms a complex. Most of his palace is a museum that displays various aspects of life during its era. The palace was built by Maharana Udai Singh. The legend behind this king’s life has it that after the death of his father Rana Sanga, Ratan Singh was declared ruler of the dynasty but he was soon assassinated and was succeeded by his brother Maharana Vikramaditya Singh. Sadly, Vikramaditya was assassinated too and his assassin tried to kill the infant Udai Singh too, but his dutiful nurse Panna Dai sacrificed her own son to save him from the murderer who also happened to be his own uncle. She then took him to Kumbhalgarh in secret where he was made to live disguised as the nephew of the governor Asha Shah Maheshwari. Panna Dai continued living in Bundi and never asked for anything in return from Udai Singh. On the contrary, she didn’t allow him to go meet her out of further concern. In the end, by 1540, Maharana Udai Singh was crowned the king of Merwar by the nobles in Kumbhalgarh itself. This was the same year he had his elder son Maharana Pratap. We were also told that all in all he had 22 wives and around 56 sons and 22 daughters!
Right in the middle of the lake is the Jag Niwas or The Lake Palace. It used to serve as a summer palace. It has now been converted into a hotel but is still a wondrous sight to behold. Pichola was the name of the village that was submerged and the name was then lent to the lake when it was expanded. A boat ride around this lake provides one with a striking view of the city palace as well as the lake palace. And I must say the sunset at this spot is one of the most breath taking sights I’ve ever experienced.
And that concludes my visit to Rajasthan, the spellbinding Rajasthan! It is a land that has stirred me along with countless others. It was a visit that shall remained etched in my mind for years and years to come, with all its colors and diversity and royalty. I saw passion, I saw adventure. I experienced culture, history and breathtaking art and mouth watering cuisine. And it feels amazing to embark on sharing my travel experiences on this platform with Rajasthan.
Until next time,