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eirekay Udaipur - A travel report by Eire
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Udaipur,  India - flag India
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eirekay's travel reports

Udaipur-The City of Lakes Will Drown You in Beauty

  20 votes
Page: 1 2
Often referred to as the “Venice of the East" or the "City of Lakes", Udaipur is a glorious example of Rajput opulence at its height. The Maharajas maintained three separate Palaces within the City limits, each designated for a different season.


Exterior of the City Palace from Lake Pichola
Exterior of the City Palace from Lake Pichola
For me, Udaipur was the most romantic city in Rajasthan. It is no wonder that this stunning city inspired dens of artists, working in the miniature style that Rajasthan is so famed for. Nestled in the Girwa Valley, surrounded by the green, rolling Aravillas Hills, just getting there is a feast for the eyes. The lush countryside is filled with camel herders and family farms. Monasteries top many of the hillsides. Much of the beauty of Udaipur is visible long before you reach its boundaries. As you drop into the valley, you will see three of Udaipur’s beautiful manmade lakes, Fateh Sagar, Lake Pichola and Swaroop Sager. A drive up to the first of the Maharaja’s three Palaces, the mountain top Monsoon Palace, yields panoramic vistas in all four directions. From here you can take in all the lakes as well as the surrounding hills. The Palace has been used as a Police Station, but is in the process of being renovated, and has been designated a wildlife preserve.

The largest palace in all of Rajasthan, Udaipur’s City Palace is a vast arrangement of 16th and 17th century Mewar structures, filled with European touches. The 7 gated entrance was where the Maharani used to be publicly weighed, their weight being distributed in gold and silver on their birthday. Mati Mahal (Pearl Palace), a traditional Mogul mirrored mosaic hall, has moving prayer room filled with wall paintings detailing the life of Krishna. Close by, the Chitra Shali is lined with delft blue tile while the Manak Mahal (Ruby Palace) is trimmed with porcelain figures and Belgium colored glass. The rooftop Chini ki Chitra Mahal has finely detailed Chinese and Dutch tiles interspersed with more mirror mosaics. Most amazing is the aptly named Crystal Palace, filled with extraordinary cut crystal including a canopied bed and bedroom set ordered for Prince Albert’s visit and a throne studded with gemstones. The Palace’s collection of painting provides a glimpse of the pageantry that once filled these halls.

Favourite spots:
Famous City Palace Peacock
Famous City Palace Peacock
CITY PALACE PEACOCKS: Take time to truly marvel at the Surya Prakash wall, with its famed Peacocks, within the City Palace. These beautiful mosaic panels are 6 feet tall and incredibly detailed. Each feather in the peacock’s tail is cut individually cut silvers of glass. The background of each mural depicts a different season (Winter, Spring and Summer - no Fall). Once set with real precious gem stones, rubies, saphires and emeralds, as well as lapis, aquamarines and tourmalines, the work is amazing. The three separate peacock murals, each flanked by two baby peacocks, sit in a courtyard. Rising above them is a viewing copula, enameled in stunning shades of aqua blue, yellow, coral and green. On each side of the copula are marvelous mosaic frescoes, set in silver, of 6 Maharana, further elaborated by a series of sculpted stain glass window on either side. The whole setting is one of such amazing opulence that it defies description.

What's really great:
Jag Niwas Pleasure Palace
Jag Niwas Pleasure Palace
CRUISE ON LAKE PICHOLA: a boat cruise on the lake is a must! Sit back as the boat slowly cruises along shores lined with the many ornately carved Havelis or mansions, passing bridges filled with the comings and goings cattle and other trimmings of daily life, then circles the opulent Lake Palace before landing at Jag Niwas, a pleasure palace built of entertaining, is a must. Walk around the small island palace, and inside its art gallery, then order up a sweet lassi and slowly sip in shoreline Pavilion while gazing out on the calm waters of the Lake.

Jag Niwas has had some unexpected guests over time ~ Shah Jahan, the builder of the Taj Mahal, was given refuge here as a young man, when he revolted against his father. Years later the Maharaja provided sanctuary to European ladies and their children during a mutiny. A late afternoon cruise provides for a beautiful sunset over the lake on the return trip.

Sights:
Intricate Carvings at Jagdish Temple
Intricate Carvings at Jagdish Temple
JAGDISH TEMPLE: this Temple was built in the 16th century and is rumored to have cost 1.5 million rupees back then. The money was spent on the rich carving, amongst the most impressive we saw in India. A pair of Elephants greets you a the top of a long flight of stairs. Mythical beasts, celestial dancers, and Karmasutra images, all carved with incredible attention to detail, line the walls. Inside 50 pillars support three floors, topped by a 79 foot spire. Dedicated to Lord Jagannath, the center altar is occupied by Vishnu; a large brass image of Garuda, the vehicle of Vishnu sits before the shrine while four corner altars are dedicated to Lord Ganesh, Shiva, the Sun God and Goddess Shakti.

Accommodations:
View from our Hotel Room
View from our Hotel Room
Rajdarshan Hotel: This lovely hotel sits on Lake Swaroop Sagar, the smallest of Udiapur's 3 lakes (insist on a lake view room!). It rests right within the walls of the old city, making it convenient for shopping bazaars and local restaurants, as well as a shoreline stroll in the evening or early morning. We had a wonderful experience when the owner of the Hotel hopped on the elevator with me as I returned from the pool. He proceeded to invite us as his guests for a drink. Cocktails turned into dinner, with marvelous vegetarian food and an adventure in Indian wine tasting.

The hotel includes a bar (good wine list!) and restaurant with excellent traditional Indian food, as well as a few continental dishes. Internet service is provided on site with very reasonable rates. The hotel has a nice pool- a necessity in 40c degree weather! Ask for a lake view room - you can watch the vendors and cows crossing the bridge morning and night.

Other recommendations:
Sas Temple on the right and Bahu on the left
Sas Temple on the right and Bahu on the left
TEMPLES AT NAGDA: laying 23 km outside Udaipur, the ruins at Nagda provide a stark but beautiful contrast to the Palaces. The Temples, Sas (Mother-in-Law) and Bahu (Daughter-in-Law) were plundered in the 12th century by Muslim invaders. Set on the shores of a small, peaceful lake, there is a powerful spiritual sense to these temples that belie their abandonment. Built to honor Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu, the carvings that survive are vibrant in their detail. Scenes from the Ramayana are depicted, as well as parts of the Karmasutra. Carvings of demons, surmounted by Elephants (good luck), then horses (power) and topped by celestial dancers cover the walls. Gloriously detailed spires, columns and interior lintels compete for attention. The beautiful Aravillas hills pull closely around, giving the whole setting a very powerful aura.

Published on Sunday November 19th, 2006


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Thu, Feb 01 2007 - 01:29 PM rating by mrscanada

Thank you Eire for the wonderful pictures and information in this review.

Fri, Nov 24 2006 - 12:16 PM rating by adisidh

Hi Great report... Udaipur.............aha .........

Wed, Nov 22 2006 - 01:59 PM rating by davidx

What is there left to say? Simply excellent

Wed, Nov 22 2006 - 07:42 AM rating by marianne

Eire,
Your beautiful description of Udaipur’s City Palace makes me want to go there. It sounds absolutely fascinating. Interesting to read about Belgium glass. They must have exported this a lot as I have seen lots of Belgian glass, especially inAsia. I knew about the Dutch tiles, they were also very popular long time ago.

Wed, Nov 22 2006 - 02:30 AM rating by akhila

Absolutely wonderful, Eire. Was this the Thanks Giving Special?
Warm Regards to you and yours.

Tue, Nov 21 2006 - 11:49 PM rating by ravinderkumarsi

great report on udaipur ,its really nice place in the desert state of rajasthan

Tue, Nov 21 2006 - 08:16 PM rating by skirunner

This sounds to be a really fascinating part of the world - and totally unknown to me. Your description of the scenery and the architecture paint word pictures - very good - and I must put this area onto my travel wish list. Are there many English speaking people? How difficult is communication between travellers and locals?
Joan

Mon, Nov 20 2006 - 10:11 PM rating by downundergal

Another top class report for your collection about India - the peacock just must be sublime to see in real life.
Cheers,
Kerrie

Mon, Nov 20 2006 - 04:02 PM rating by jorgesanchez

You are numero uno in writing good reports!

Sun, Nov 19 2006 - 06:03 PM rating by mistybleu

This report is rich with information, I especially like the picture of the peacock, it must have been incredible to see it up close.

Amanda

Sun, Nov 19 2006 - 07:57 AM rating by rangutan

Another excellent report. One can always see in a report how much time members devote in getting a perfect report together properly. Thanks!

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