THI FAIRY-TALE CITY, with its marble palaces and lakes I surrounded by a ring of hills, was founded by Maharana Udai Singh in 1559, and became the capital of Mewar after the fall of Chittorgarh in 1567 . The rulers of Mewar, who belonged to the Sisodia clan of Rajputs, traced their dynasty back to AD 566. Fiercely independent, they refused matrimonial alliances with the Mughals, and took great pride in their reputation as the prime defenders of Rajput honour. The city is dominated by the massive City Palace, which overlooks Lake Pichola with its romantic island palaces. Picturesque havens, ghats and temples line the lake front, with the lively bazaars of the old walled city stretching behind them.
Jag Mandir, with its lush gardens and marble chambers exquisitely inlaid with coloured stone, was built in 1620. Eight stone elephants stand solemn guard at its entrance. Between 1623 and 1624, this island palace provided refuge to Prince Khurram (who would later become the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan) while he rebelled against his father. It is believed to have inspired many of his ideas for the Taj Mahal. Jag Niwas, or the Lake Palace, built between 1734 and 1751, was once a royal summer retreat and is now one of the world’s great hotels. It is also a popular location for film shoots (including James Bond’s Octopusrj Both palaces can he seen on a boat tour of Lake Pichola.
This 17th-century temple, just north of the City Palace’s main gate, has an enormous black stone i mage of Vishnu in’ its profusely carved main shrine. The entrance is flanked by stone elephants, and a superb bronze image of Garuda (the mythical bird who is Vishnu’s vehicle) stands in front of the temple. Nearby, at Gangaur Ghat, is the 18thcentury Bagore ki Saheli , now a splendid museum exhibiting Udaipur’s traditional arts and crafts, costumes, musical instruments and marblework. Folk music and dance performances are held here every evening at 7pm. The old walled city, a jumble of shops and houses, many with beautifully painted façades, lies east of the Jagdish Mandic. In its narrow, lanes are the Bapu and Bara Bazaars, selling wooden toys, puppets, textiles, jewels and pichhwais .
FATEH SAGAR LAKE
Fatah Sagar Rd. North of Lake Pichola is Fate Sagar Lake, with a garden cafe on its island. Overlooking it is Moti Magri Hill with a statue of Udaipur’s great 16th-century warrior, Maharana Pratap, and his valiant steed, Chetah .
This delightful 18th-century retreat in the north of the city (its name means “Garden of the Maids of Honour”) has ornamental fountains, a lotus pool and a rose garden. It was built for a queen of Udaipur, whose dowry included 48 maids.
Udaipur, Ahar has the impressive cenotaphs of 19 Mewar rulers, and a small archaeological museum.
ENVIRONS: Shilpgram, 8 km (5 miles) northwest of Udaipur, is a lively ethnographic crafts village, with artisans, folk performers, and replicas of traditional houses. Camel rides are also available. Iklingji, 22 km (14 miles) northeast of Udaipur, is a complex of 108 temples and shrines, dedicated to Lord Shiva. It marks the site where – the founder of the Mewar ruling dynasty, Kappa Rawal, received special blessings I rom a sage who lived here. lire main temple dates to the 16th century. Built of marble and granite, it includes an impressive pillared hall and a our-faced image of Shiva r crafted in black marble, with a silver Nandi facing it.
Nagda, a short distance away from Eklingji, is worth a visit for the Saas-Bahu Temples (“Mothers and Daughter-in- ugh the finely-carved lorana law Temples”), twin structures dedicated to Vishnu. The 11th century temples are entered through a finely carved torana and are renowned for their elaborate sculptures depicting amorous couples and scenes from the epic Rarnayana. One of Rajasthan’s main pilgrimage sites is the 18thcentury Shrinathji Temple at Nathdwara, 48 km (30 miles) northeast of Udaipur. The main deity is Lord Krishna, known locally as Shrinathji. His black stone image was brought here from Mathura to save it from destruction by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in the 17th century. Beautiful painted cloth hangings known as pichhwafs are hung behind it. Non-Hindus cannot enter the temple, but Nathdwara town’s picturesque bazaar, with its pichhwafs painters at work, is worth a visit. Pichhwais, one of the most vibrant forms of Indian painting, are done on stiff cloth in vegetable and mineral colours. They depict 24 scenes from the Krishna legend, each linked with a particular festival or holy day.
At the centre of each painting is a stylised image of Lord Krishna, with dusky skin, slanting eyes and intricate jewellery, set against a background of verdant foliage, birds, animals and skyscapes. Around the deity are cows, milkmaids and devotees.
UDAIPUR CITY TOUR
Udaipur’s City Palace is a fascinating combination of Rajput military architecture and Mughal-style decorative techniques. Its stern, fortress-like facade, topped by a profusion of graceful balconies, cupolas and turrets, has been aptly described by one writer as a massive plain cake topped with fabulous icing. The City Palace is actually a complex of several palaces, built or added to by 22 different maharanas between the 16th and 20th centuries. Much of it is now a museum, and parts of it are luxury hotels. Read More