Udaipur, Jodhpur: Of grand palaces and grander sunsets

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.IMG_4880

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.


These colours were a favourite despite the grandeur of the other spaces


Sheesh Mahal: a crowd favourite is a whole room made of mirrors up to the ceiling providing for a trippy experience.IMG_4952

Bada Mahal


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. IMG_5008It was made especially for the queen’s 48 maids and understandably provided respite from the searing Rajasthan heat. IMG_5013A 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.

Unreal winter sunsets everywhere in Rajasthan.

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. IMG_9372IMG_5088We 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. IMG20191223073015A 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.IMG_5181

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

Moti Mahal


Phool Mahal


Sheesha Mahal


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.





Udaipur: Of strolling around the old city of lakes

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.IMG_4749 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.IMG_4750

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.IMG_4770

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.IMG_4794

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. IMG_4808Entrance 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! IMG_4823The 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.