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NoToiletPaper.com: Sanitized Travel Advice & Research - http://www.notoiletpaper.com
Udaipur - A remarkable historical Indian city
http://www.notoiletpaper.com/articles/89/1/Udaipur---A-remarkable-historical-Indian-city/Page1.html
By Malaika V.
Published on 11/2/2007
 
Udaipur is a well preserved classic city. With its white washed onion domes and lattice windows overlooking the glittering lakes, the majestic City Palace and hundreds of crumbling heritage havelis stretching along one of its banks, Udaipur is one of the most remarkable cities in the world. The imposing City palace is magically transformed into a fairyland once the sun sets and pretty fairy lights garland the lakeside buildings, dazzling brilliantly in the water's reflection. It is truly a mesmerizing experience enticing tourists with its exotic beauty.

The city was founded in the mid 16th century after Maharana Udai Singh’s former capital of Chittorgarh was plundered by the Mughal emperor, Akbar. Legend has it that the city was named after Maharana Udai Singh, who on the advise of a holy man, laid the foundation stone of this arrestingly aesthetic location. The Maharana of Udaipur is also the leader of the Mewar Rajputs known to his people as the “Sun King” and has the royal emblem of the sun on his standard.

The Mewar dynasty is one of the oldest in the world. More than seventy six generations have been witness to the grandeur of the Palace which reflects the rich cultural heritage, and the equally impressive traditions of 'royal' regalia.


Udaipur - A remarkable historical Indian city

Udaipur is a well preserved classic city. With its white washed onion domes and lattice windows overlooking the glittering lakes, the majestic City Palace and hundreds of crumbling heritage havelis stretching along one of its banks, Udaipur is one of the most remarkable cities in the world. The imposing City palace is magically transformed into a fairyland once the sun sets and pretty fairy lights garland the lakeside buildings, dazzling brilliantly in the water's reflection. It is truly a mesmerizing experience enticing tourists with its exotic beauty.

Udaipur is a well preserved classic city. With its white washed onion domes and lattice windows overlooking the glittering lakes, the majestic City Palace and hundreds of crumbling heritage havelis stretching along one of its banks, Udaipur is one of the most remarkable cities in the world. The imposing City palace is magically transformed into a fairyland once the sun sets and pretty fairy lights garland the lakeside buildings, dazzling brilliantly in the water's reflection. It is truly a mesmerizing experience enticing tourists with its exotic beauty.

The city was founded in the mid 16th century after Maharana Udai Singh’s former capital of Chittorgarh was plundered by the Mughal emperor, Akbar. Legend has it that the city was named after Maharana Udai Singh, who on the advise of a holy man, laid the foundation stone of this arrestingly aesthetic location. The Maharana of Udaipur is also the leader of the Mewar Rajputs known to his people as the “Sun King” and has the royal emblem of the sun on his standard.

The Mewar dynasty is one of the oldest in the world. More than seventy six generations have been witness to the grandeur of the Palace which reflects the rich cultural heritage, and the equally impressive traditions of 'royal' regalia.

The region of Mewar flourishes with its natural beauty, grand forts and festive fairs, interwoven in its web is a large number of folk stories, thirst for conquest and battles of valour. A tourist who visits this beautiful city would be floored to see the splendor and regality, its royal elegance evident in its vibrant colors. The land paints a romantic picture of days gone by, Lifestyles of yesterday’s feudal aristocracy still preserved in tradition, the forts and havelis. The city of chittorgarh which is close to Udaipur city is the last bit left of the battles fought by the Rajputs the Mughal and a series of other invaders. The fort carries within itself the beauty, mystery, charm and exaltation which would haunt visitors to keep coming back.

The landmark of Udaipur is the Lake Palace Hotel, the maharana’s summer retreat built on a small island in the centre of Lake Pichola. Some scenes from the James Bond film, “Octopussy” were shot here, consequently most budget guesthouses offer free screenings of the film every night in order to draw customers to their rooftop restaurants. So If you've ever watched the two hours of action, drama, and debonair misogyny that is Octopussy, one of Roger Moore's least cringe-worthy outings as Britain's favorite spy, you'll probably be familiar with Udaipur and it's picturesque lakes. The Maharana still lives in a section of the City Palace Hotel.

The palace has been continually added to by each successive Maharana which has left it with different types of architectural styles, influenced by the various Maharana’s preferences and the invading Mughal rulers. There are many inner courtyards surrounded by screened balconies from where the women would watch a range of entertainments or covertly inspect visitors. Some courtyards were segregated solely for use by the Maharajas womenfolk, and would be heavily guarded to ensure that the 'Purdah' was observed, the religious law which meant that women should not be seen by male strangers. The palace is a exotic maze of inner patios, courtyards, and marble balconies.

The city palace never ceases to amaze with its fascinating The Mor Chowk (Peacock Courtyard) has glass peacocks made up of thousands of tiny colored glass slivers inserted into the wall and convex mirrors. Krishna-vilas, which contains excellent miniature paintings, is dedicated to Krishna Kumari, a sixteen-year-old princess who was betrothed to two princes and who chose to kill herself in order to stop almost certain war. The Manak (Ruby) Mahal has porcelain and glass figures. Chini Mahal has decorative tiles. Moti Mahal has fine mirrorwork. The Bari Mahal has a beautiful garden complete with lily ponds and streams running through it. There are elephant stables capable of housing twenty elephants. Part of the palace has been made into two luxury hotels: Fateh Prakash Palace Hotel and Shiv Niwas Palace. In the Fateh Prakash Palace there is a remarkable Crystal Gallery. It has a great collection of Maharaja Sajjan Singh’s Osler’s crystal, brought from England in 1877. There are crystal tables, chairs, and beds, impressive chandeliers and portraits of the former maharanas.You can also hire a boat and go for a ride around the lake to get a better view of the city and City Palace Hotel..

North to the city palace lies the Jagdish Mandir, the largest temple dedicated to Vishnu in Rajasthan. Made in 1652 by Maharana Jagat Singh, It was supposedly carved from a single block of marble. Jagannath, Lord of the Universe The temple is one of the most stunning examples of Indo-aryan architecture especially seen in its carvings that are famed for their delicacy and intricate lattice work.

Located to the right of the Jagdish Temple towards Gangaur Ghat is The Bagore-Ki-Havali, a bewitchingly beautiful haveli, now restored to its former glory. The138-room haveli was built in 1751 by Mewar Amachand Badwa

The stunning Monsoon Palace overlooks the city, with a spectacular view of the Aravelli range. Winds soothe the chambered halls of the palace built for the former maharana to escape the stifling humidity of the monsoon. It was abandoned due to the insufficient water supply in the mountain. 

Sixteenth century architectural style is most evident in the Jain temple at Ranakpur, one of the largest in India and the most important to Jains. The main temple is a series of 29 open halls supported by one thousand four hundred and forty four intricately carved pillars of which no two are alike.

The imperial Kumbhalgarh Fort is right out of a fairy tale. It sits perched on a mountain over 3700 feet above sea level. Built in the 1400's the fort offers a breath taking view of the magnificent mountains and the scintillating lakes.

Udaipur is a wonderful place to sit and relax. Lounge on a chair, in the sun atop one of the many rooftop restaurants, which face the shimmering lakes with a book in one hand and a cold drink in the other or dine under the stars watching the sun set. The brilliance of the luminous lake lit by fairy lights gives it a surreal, almost mystic manifestation. Similarly you can spend your afternoons in the shady courtyard of a haveli learning the art of Rajasthani miniature paintings. These exquisite paintings, created from the hair taken from the tail of a squirrel, are amazing works of art. Walk around the narrow streets of the old town. Tiny backstreets and alleyways, old shops and hundred year old havelis crammed side by side make the towns a great place to explore on foot.

There are a lot of excellently preserved Havelis with beautiful jali screens and mosaic paintings around the stained glass windows, their doorways and balconies delicately carved out of sandstone.

Food in Udaipur has its own unique flavour and the most basic of ingredients go into the preparation of most dishes. The best known Rajasthani food is the combination of dal, bati and churma but for the adventurous traveller, willing to experiment, there is a lot of variety available. Besides spicy currys, popular sweet like Ladoos Malpuas, Jalebies, Rasogullas, Dil Jani are part and parcel of rajasthani thalis. In Udaipur Natraj and Bawarchi are one of the more popular Thali joint and serve delicious hot food for a pittance. Enjoy a sumptuous candle lit meal under the starry nights, lounging on the sprawling terraces of the Lake Palace or the many rooftop restaurants lining the Lal and Gangaur Ghats.

Sunset terrace at the Fateh Prakash Palace is famous for its Laal Maans or red meat, a rajasthani delicacy. Similarly Shilpi and the Ambrai Restaurant serve lip smacking, delicous Tandoori dishes. Cafe Edelweiss is very popular for its cakes, ice creams, coffee shakes, freshly baked breads and salads. The Devigarh Restaurant serves appetizing Thai, Lebanese, Mexican and Israeli cuisine.

If you choose to shop, Udaipur is famous for its traditional wall hangings. The art originated at the Nathji Temple in Nathdwar. Miniature paintings inspired by the Mughal style are also found but the market is flooded with copies so check before you buy them.
The Rajasthan Government Handicrafts Emporium offers local handicrafts at reasonable rates. The old city offers fabric mirrored lanterns, varieties of handmade paper books bound in brocade, tribal silver jewellery, fine cotton fabric with block prints, wooden puppets dressed in silks and tissues. The narrow streets and are brimming with local artists and crafts but the golden rule is to bargain hard.

Udaipur is brimming with architectural splendors reminiscent of an era long gone by. Its rich Cultural and historic significance lies in the fact that it recreates the nostalgia of its princely past, when every aspect of it evoked a unique style. This combined with a number of upscale hotels make it very tourist friendly. The hotels are a mixture of luxury resorts with private balconies done up in mirrored mosaic designs. If you want to splurge, the Udaivilas and the famous Lake Palace Hotel located in the middle of the dangerously romantic Lake are the best properties to stay in. They are both tranquil and quite while being luxurious, comfortable and beautiful. Udaivilâs sprawls over 30 acres on Lake Pichola facing Udaipur. It also has a Banyan Tree spa, two large swimming pools and never ending lily ponds. The architecture is inspired by the mughal style with arched halls, intricately carved stone pillars, domes painted painstakingly, gold leaf murals and cascading fountains.

Shiv Niwas Palace Hotel is a cheaper alternative but serves very good Indian food. You can also experience live classical Indian music playing in the background every night. Home stays are very popular and you can choose to live in a restored haveli. A family guesthouse in Lall Ghat, run by the Soni Family called Krishna Niwas Guesthouse, is run by experts in the famous Rajasthani technique of miniature painting. You can choose to live in one of the smaller less luxurious guest houses overlooking the lake. With minimal decoration, it's a clean and basic option for the backpack and budget travelers. In the night-time, the most “happening” but very casual dinner spots in the locality are the rooftops at Dream Heaven and Panorama guest houses. At the latter, you may happen upon one of the twice-weekly screenings of James Bond's Octopussy – the one thing never in shortage in Udaipur. For a romantic candle lit dinner under the endless dreamy sky, two delectable options nearby are Ambrai Hotel and Udai Kothi

This beautiful, serene little town with its regal fort and exquisite lake palace cradled within the imposing surrounding mountains make an impressive picture. Fairy-tale palaces, narrow lanes strewn with stalls, majestic temples and aristocratic havelis heavily influenced by the Persian style decorate the arid landscape. It is easy to lose yourself in this beautiful city of contrasts amidst the vibrant colors of Rajasthan.

Getting There

By Air
Udaipur is well connected by air to Jodhpur, Jaipur, Aurangabad, Mumbai and Delhi. The Airport is 21 km from the city centre from where one can hire a taxi for the main city.

By Rail
Udaipur is on the Western Railway metre gauge network. It is directly connected by rail with Delhi, Jaipur, Ajmer, Chittaurgarh, Jodhpur and Ahmedabad. The railway station is about 4 km from the city centre.

By Road
Udaipur is on National Highway No. 8, the main link between Delhi and Mumbai. Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh Road Transport Corporation buses operate from Udaipur to various places. Some private operators also ply between the main cities. Luxury coaches run at night.