We ended our heritage walk at the Ambrai Ghat which was the most spacious and well maintained of the ghats we’d been to in Udaipur and afforded a view of the Jag Mandir, City Palace and Shiv Niwas. We’ve every single time in the past had a very good experience with heritage walks but we wouldn’t recommend this one. Hopefully, you can find a better one.
After a yummy lunch at a modest restaurant just opposite our place of stay, we headed to what’s referred to as the City palace also on the lake Pichola. This palace is the largest in Rajasthan and named after Maharana Udai Singh who the city also gets its name from. The term palace is misleading if it gets you to imagine a single structure. This one comprises of 11 palaces within built over 400 years by different rulers each with its own adornments with everything from paintings to ornamental tiles and mirrors. One aspect of the palaces in Rajasthan we’d notice over time is that the exteriors are kept very simple while the interiors are ostentatious.
The images below are in no particular order but more to be enjoyed as a snapshot of what the palace has to offer.
Manak Mahal: was used as a space for an audience with the rulers and therefore has a raised recess lined with mirror work.
Bhim Vilas : having miniature paintings from mythological stories of Radha-Krishna with paintings of scenes from royal celebrations and processions.
Sheesh Mahal: a crowd favourite is a whole room made of mirrors up to the ceiling providing for a trippy experience.
Mor Chowk: with glass mosaics of, as the name indicates, peacocks representing the Indian seasons with glass mosaics in green, gold and blue.
After enjoying that kaleidoscopic experience in the City palace,w e headed to the nearby Saheliyon ki Bari which we’d recommend for a visit more as a garden than for its historical significance. It was made especially for the queen’s 48 maids and understandably provided respite from the searing Rajasthan heat. A personal favourite was the lotus pond but the fountains in them sure could do with some maintenance.
One doesn’t think of lush green mountains when thinking of Rajasthan but we made our way through the snaking roads over the verdant Aravalli range of mountains to the Sajjangarh Palace.
The palace is also referred to as the Monsoon palace since it was used by the king to watch the approaching monsoon clouds over the Aravalli hills. Continuing our sunset chasing experience track in Rajasthan we found a vantage point among the other tourists and did just that.
We decided to spend the later part of our evening at Shilgram Mela a cultural fair for artisans from all over the country. While enjoying the colours, fabrics, handicrafts as we strolled around, we made good work of the variety of local snacks available: sweets made of freshly ground sesame seeds, several of pure milk and butter, rabdi, onion pakodas and corn. We were also treated to dance performances from different states and tribes of India, even managing to get a seat despite the crowds, and cheered the artists on. A round of conversation and egg burji from a local vendor and we headed back to our stay for the night.
Early the next morning, we headed to a café by the Lake Pichola for a slow breakfast. The voices of the musicians by the street evocatively singing “Padharo humare des…” in the distance reach to our ears as we silently watch everything that makes up Udaipur- the palaces, the narrow lanes, the music, the ghats and the still waters of the lake standing witness to it all.
In a fun contrast, we then made our way through the city to the extremely dusty bus that would take us to Jodhpur. With nothing much else to do, the heat within the bus from the warm mid-day sun lulled us into sleep. On intermittently awakening, we’d see endless open-air stores selling large slabs of marble of every shade under the sun(quite literally) and at one instance a store selling Kadaknath black chicken promising the very best of health.
By the time we reached our homestay in the blue city, it was evening and we hurried to get ready for the reception of the wedding that had in fact set off this whole trip. We were warmly welcomed by my friend who I was meeting after a whole 12 years and his lovely bride and family.
We quickly realized that autos in Jodhpur are not only sell-your-soul expensive to hire but were also very hard to come by- especially where we were staying in the “old city” and trying to return after an event at 10PM. We managed one after significant effort but were glad we had hired a bike for the next day.
Early the next morning, we realised our stay also had a charming mosaic floored terrace that provided a view of the Mehrangarh Fort and the entire old city of Jodhpur. A quick breakfast and then we headed to the beautifully moving, traditional Sikh wedding ceremony with us dressed at our Sikh-est best. An elaborate lunch and a quick nap later, we got to the Mehrangarh fort.
The 15th century Mehrangarh fort seems to have disturbing beginnings – from being built by forcefully displacing a hermit- Cheeria Nathji – the ‘lord of birds’ on a hill that was then called Bakurcheeria(the mountain of birds); to burying a “volunteer” Raja Ram Meghwal on the site for good luck; to having handprints of women who immolated themselves as per the horrific practice of Sati.
In our blissful ignorance of this distressing background at the time of our visit, this fort named after the sun (Mihir) was a favourite. The all exteriors in reddish-brown with intricate work, the paintings, the stained glass, the palanquins, elephant howdahs in the museums were all fun to discover as we strolled into each new corner.
Within the 4 large gates, some built for more commemorative purposes were the palaces
As it was close to sunset we rushed to the Chamunda Devi temple within the fort that yielded an expansive view of the blue city bathed in the orange of the setting sun. We just about had a view of the sun quickly disappearing into the horizon.
But what for a moment, will take your breath away amidst the arid terrain of Rajasthan, bathed in the colours of the ocean, a city dyed in blue.