Rajasthan has been on our joint lists for a while now, so after an early morning flight in late December we reached Udaipur from Bangalore to our stay in the old city on the first floor of a charming 70-year-old home. Since it was already 3pm we just about managed to find a restaurant a short walk away, that was open but forgettable. After picking up our rental bike and being in the City of lakes, it was only apt that our very first stop was the Fateh Sagar Lake.
It turned out to be just the right spot to enjoy an evening walk and our first pretty sunset in Rajasthan while munching on chana chaat and corn with the locals.
Just a little ahead was the Maharana Pratap Park which boasted of a museum and a sound and light show. Curious, we bought tickets for both. The museum had an interesting set of paintings of kings and ministers of the era but an overarching theme was the Battle of Haldighati- whether it was the large model of the battleground or blow by blow accounts of how the battle came about. You couldn’t but feel like you were immersed into the history of the place with Maharana Pratap and his famous horse Chetak who met their end during the battle against King Akbar. In addition to the museum itself, the park is a calm, green space to wander around and towards evening affords a lovely view of the Fateh Sagar Lake from atop the hillock.
Now well-informed of the history of the place, we were eager to witness the sound and light show. If you remember one thing from this entire post it should be this- DO NOT spend your time or money at this show. It was easily the worst performance we’d ever seen and we are quite tolerant in general. It was pretty much a pre-recorded audio file playing snippets from the history of the city with lights focusing on bewilderingly random parts of the really small fort ruin and a single plant in the lawn(!) in front of the audience.
Just to recover, we decided to treat ourselves to dinner at a restaurant that seemed to have regal furniture custom made for someone at least thrice the size of the average person. A quick meal and walk around the old city later, we called it a day.
Early the next morning we were all enthused to visit the Karni Mata mandir more to experience the sunrise from the hilltop – however, we were up for another surprise when we completely lost our way despite following maps and were presented with a maze of narrow alleys and lanes. Each of the very few people outdoors at that time seemed to lead us into an entirely different labyrinth. After quite some time of going in circles, it was a Muslim family getting their kids ready for school who were able to give us the right directions to the temple. Much later we finally also saw a board with directions to the temple but also that it would only open at 9AM so the sunrise was pretty much out of the question.
However, it was to our delight that we happened upon the pond Dudh Talai with almost no one around but us and the chirping birds flitting about the lake. We also joined the locals on their morning walk next door at the Lake Pichola for a jaunt of our own.
We had a heritage walk planned in the morning, so quickly went to a small stall that and wolfed down hot parathas and joined the group at the entrance of the Jagadish Temple from the 1600s with intricate hand-carved stonework dedicated to Lord Krishna. Entrance to the temple requires a climb up 32 steps- so this may not be the best place for folks with knee aches.
After our time in Uttarakhand, Udaipur seemed to have plenty of Ghats mostly around the freshwater Lake Pichola that was built by a banjara(tribal) in the 14th century. Artificial lakes in cities are not new, but in this case, the city was intentionally built around the lake by Maharana Udai Singh who was impressed by it. All around the lake are hotels catering to both higher-end and budget travellers- the Lake Palace is one of the former and is built into the island of Jag Niwas within the Lake Pichola.
We first headed to the Gangaur Ghat, named after the festival celebrated even today representing the Goddess Parvati’s return from her maternal home to her husband Lord Shiva. Today it’s celebrated by fasting- by both married and unmarried women for 18 days praying for the longevity of their husbands and to be blessed with a good husband respectively. It’s mind-boggling the number of festivals in several parts of India dedicated to just this noble cause! The festival celebrations also include processions of women decked up in their very best carrying idols of Gan(Shiva) and Gaur(Parvati) to be immersed in the Lake Pichola.
While wandering around the old city on foot you’d pass through the Chandpole bridge one way or another. It lends itself to vantage views of the Lake Pichola and its surroundings.
Our next stop was the Hanuman Ghat that seemed to be a favourite of photographers instructing couples on how to pose for the most candid images for their pre-wedding shoots.
Udaipur is known for its miniature paintings made with colours from stones occurring in nature. The artwork is visibly demanding due to the level of perfection in such minute detail. If you plan your time accordingly you can even sign up for a class for everything from a few hours to a few weeks to learn to paint it too.