Rajasthan has always fascinated me with its rich cultural history, breathtaking palaces, men of valour, and lots more. The list is endless. My first and only trip to Udaipur was in the summers of 2011. The trip made me long for a time machine that would take me back to the era of kings and queens.
Udaipur was the capital of the former princely state of Mewar in Rajasthan, India. The city has three interconnected lakes – the Fateh Sagar Lake, the Lake Pichhola and the smaller Swaroop Sagar Lake; which gives it the title of ‘the city of lakes’.
The City Palace
This is easily the most alluring piece of architecture Rajasthan boasts of. The City Palace towers over the Pichola Lake. Initiated by the king, Maharana Uday Singh, the palace got several additional features, like palaces and structures, to its architecture from the succeeding Maharanas. Through many changes were made, the complex has retained a certain uniformity to the design.
As we entered the Palace from the ‘Hati Pol’ ot the elephant gate, our guide took us around pointing out the history behind the smallest of the things . Udaipur was so enchanting that it attracted a lot of foreign tourists, who outnumbered the Indians.
Engraved instances of history on the marble stones told us a lot about the significance and purpose of different gates, balconies and verandahs. The Bari Pol or the Big gate brings you to the Tripolia, the Triple gate. It is said that a custom of weighing the Maharana in gold and silver, was practiced under this gate.
Every section of the palace has a name with which it is referred. Though the number of those are countless, I could gasp a few unique names when the guides were narratingthe palace’s history.
Suraj Gokhada or ‘the balcony of the sun’was where the Maharana would meet the pupils in times of difficulty to boost their morale. The MorChawk (the peacock square) gets its name from the vividly beautiful, blue, glass mosaic of a peacock that adorns its walls.The main part of the palace has been converted into a museum for tourists. It has on display a large and diverse array of artefacts. Attached to this museum is another museum housing armoury. It has a huge collection of protective gear, weapons including the lethal two-pronged sword.
The royal courtyard, known as the Rajya Angan, was where MaharanaUdai Singh met the sage ,who told him to establish a city here. The rooms of the palace are superbly decorated with mirror tiles and paintings. The hard work of the labourers in making such pieces of art are worth appreciating. Manak Mahal (Ruby Palace) and Moti Mahal, have lovely collections of glass and mirror work, while Krishna Vilas displays a rich collection of miniature paintings.
The Chini Mahal has ornamental tiles all over it. The Surya Chopar or the sun square depicts a huge ornamental sun, symbolising the sun dynasty to which the Mewar dynasty belonged to. The Bari Mahal is a central garden with the view of the city. Trust me, it is absolutely breathtaking especially in the evenings when you have the backdrop of the sun setting. We were introduced to more beautiful paintings adorning the walls of Zenana Mahal which served as the ladies chamber.
Udaipur rightly features on top of the list of the most preferred marriage destinations. Many celebrities, including film stars, business families, and politicians choose Udaipur to get married or to hold other ceremonies and parties.
After soaking in the beauty of the City Palace, we headed towards the historical site where alegendry battle between Maharana Pratap and the Mughal Emperor Akbar was fought.The place got its name from the colour of the sand found there; the colour of haldi (turmeric).
It was also the place where Chetak, the heroic horse of Maharana Pratap sacrificed its life for its master. A statue of the horse near the Haldighati museum, narrates the significance of the place in history.
If you visit Udaipur, you will realise that the kings of those times felt responsible not only towards their disciples, but also to their surroundings and took strong steps towards ensuring that. Every carving, every sculpture, every corner of the city has a story to tell. Their reflection in the unruffled waters of the Lake Pichhola will make you exclaim, ‘Time has stood still!’ And again, I long for one more trip to the ‘the city of lakes’.