Udaipur, the ‘City of lakes’ sprawling picturesquely on the slopes of a low ridge along the banks of Pichola and Fateshsagar lakes was founded by Maharana Udai Singh in 1559. It became the new capital of the Ranas of Mewar, after the death of Maharana Pratap in 1597. The beautiful city is surrounded by an amphitheatre of low hills and studded with placid blue lakes, white marble palaces, graceful gardens and sacred shrines. The amazing city is indeed a perfect blend of natural beauty and history, offering a great vacation to tourists with varied interests.
WHAT TO SEE & DO
If your idea of a holiday is lying by a pool with a good book, only visits to the City and Lake palaces (see “Top Attractions,” below) need top your list of things to do in Udaipur proper. The city is the ideal base for a number of day trips, however. The most highly recommended is a round-trip through Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary and Fort, taking in the temples of Ranakpur along the way, and possibly stopping at Eklingji on the way back (see “Top Excursions,” below). The lovely, scenic drive passes picture-postcard rural hamlets and fields of mustard, scattered with boys tending cattle and women clad in bright saris tilling the soil. For those who are interested in seeing more of the city, the following day tour—to be tailored to your needs—provides an overview of the top sights in and around Udaipur. Start your day by exploring the City Palace, which usually towers over the city’s raison d’etre, Lake Pichola. Two more palaces can be seen on what would be the islands of Jag Niwas and Jag Mandir (see “Top Attractions,” below). Exit through Tripolia Gate to explore the Old City of Udaipur, which sprawls north of the palace. Jagdish Temple , the largest in Udaipur, is its chief attraction. Despite some lovely exterior carvings (including hidden erotic pieces your guide will point out), the temple itself is rather ordinary (if you’ve seen a number of them elsewhere, that is), but its attraction lies in its massive popularity. The temple has seen a constant stream of people who come to worship Lord Jagannath, an aspect of Vishnu (the black stone image enshrined within), since it first opened its doors in 1652. Arti takes place at around 10am, 7:30pm, and 10pm—try to time your visit for when the bhajans (prayer-songs) make for a most atmospheric experience. (Remove your shoes before entering, and an attendant will look after them for a Rs 5/10¢ tip; no photography inside.) The bronze half-man, half-bird statue of Garuda outside is the vehicle of Vishnu. From Jagdish Temple you can wander the mazelike streets of old Udaipur, admiring the whitewashed havelis and popping into tiny shops before reaching the clock tower that marks the northern edge. If you haven’t picked up a bicycle from Heera Cycle Store (86 Gangaur Ghat Rd., near Jagdish Temple), catch a taxi from here (or have your driver waiting) to Bharatiya Lok Kala Museum (Panch Vati Rd.; daily 9am–6pm; entry Rs 35/65¢, Rs 10/25¢ camera, Rs 50/$1.15 video). This is unofficially known as Udaipur’s “Puppet Museum” (Rajasthan being the birthplace of this favored Indian storytelling medium), where you can watch a good show, staged almost hourly throughout the day. The best is held each evening at 6pm (Rs 30/70¢) with traditional songs added on (though note that most hotels have a puppet show as part of their evening’s entertainment). The folk museum also contains models, instruments, and photographs documenting other local traditions and crafts, but for this you’re better off visiting Shilpgram. This rather faux rural arts-and-crafts “village” is located 5km (3 miles) out of town; follow the road that runs along the north of Fateh Sagar Lake (& 0294/243-1304; daily 11am–7pm, folk dances 11am and 7pm; Rs 25/55¢, Rs 10/25¢ camera, Rs 50/$1.15 video; camel ride Rs 20/45¢). Created to “promote and preserve the traditional architecture, music, and crafts of the tribal village of western India,” Shilpgram has a distinctly artificial feel but interesting cultural performances; you can also ride a camel and browse for tribal knickknacks that the “traditionally” attired craftspeople will be only too delighted to finally off-load. If you’re in a particularly touristy mood, you can dress up in a traditional Rajasthani outfit and have your picture taken. Along the way, you can stop for a brief wander through Saheliyon-ki- Bari (Garden of the Maids of Honour) north of Bharatiya Lok Kala Museum—turn left at Sukadia Circle. Hours are daily 8am to 7:30pm; admission is Rs 5 (10¢). Created by Sangram Singh in the 18th century for the ladies of his household (some say to re-create the monsoon climate for his sickly daughter), this is billed as Udaipur’s finest garden, but it suffers from neglect, with none of the fountains operating. Still, it’s a peaceful place, and the array of established indigenous trees may interest keen botanists. If the monsoon has been good and lake levels in Udaipur have risen, from Saheliyon-ki-Bari make your way to nearby Fateh Sagar Lake, passing Moti Magri on your left, atop which is the statue of Maharana Pratap and his beloved horse, Chetak (largely missable, but the views from here are lovely). Fateh Sagar, the large lake that lies north of Lake Pichola, has a small island garden of its own: The rather neglected Nehru Park, though currently closed, is usually reached by ferry, but at press time the severe drought had decimated the park. An excellent place to view the sunset is Sajjan Garh (Monsoon Palace), built by the Maharana Sajjan Singh as an observatory in the late 19th century. You can enter the palace building by tipping the guard (though it’s a restricted security area). Head to one of the alcoves from where views of the surrounding mountains are breathtaking. If this sounds like one stop too many after a rather exhausting day, head straight for one of the rooftop or garden restaurants in the city; get a table on the Sunset Terrace (near the Dovecoat lobby of the Fateh Prakash hotel); or sit on the “deck” at the Lake Palace, where you can relax with a drink as the sun sinks behind the distant jagged outline of the Aravalli Hills.
Udaipur is a part of the royal Indian state of Rajasthan, extending from latitude 27°42' in the North to longitude 75° 42' in the North to longitude 75°33' in the East. It is well connected through air, rail and road links to other important cities of India viz., Jaipur, Delhi and Mumbai.
The climate of Udaipur is tropical with the mercury staying between a maximum of 38.3°C and a minimum of 28.8°C during summers. Winters are a little cold with the maximum temperature rising to 28.8° C and the minimum dipping to 11.6°C. The total annual rainfall is about 61cm. Winters are the best time for visiting Udaipur.
Udaipur is the jewel of Mewar, a kingdom ruled by the Sisodia dynasty for 1200 years. According to an interesting legend, Maharana Udai Singh, the founder, was hunting one day when he met a holy man meditating on a hill overlooking the Lake Pichhola. The hermit blessed the Maharana and advised his to build a palace at this favorably located spot with a fertile valley watered by the stream, a lake, at an agreeable altitude and an amphitheater of low mountains. The Maharana followed the advise of the hermit and founded the city in 1559 AD.
Udaipur Tourism Information
The “City of Sunrise,” often described as the most romantic city in India, was built around four lakes, the placid blue waters reflecting ethereal white palaces and temples, beyond which shimmer the distant Aravalli Hills. Udaipur has a real sense of space and peace, and the city is mercifully free of the kind of intense capitalist hucksterism that so marks the Indian street experience. This may have something to do with its proud Hindu history, for the city is not only known for its gracious palaces, temperate climate, and beautiful views, but for maintaining a fierce independence from even the most powerful outside influences. It fought bloody wars to repel Turkish, Afghan, Tartar, and Mongol invaders and rejected allegiances with the Mughals, only to acquiesce in 1818, when the state grudgingly came under British political control. Capital of the legendary Sisodias of Mewar, believed to be direct descendants of the Sun (an insignia you’ll see everywhere), Udaipur was built on the shores of Lake Pichola by Udai Singh II in 1559, who returned here after the third and final sacking of the previous Mewar stronghold, Chittaurgarh (see “Top Excursions,” later in this chapter). Udai Singh’s son, Pratap, kept the Mughal invaders at bay for a further 25 years and is said to have been so disgusted by Man Singh and the Jaipur raja’s obsequious relations with the Mughals that, after one historic meeting, he had the ground where Man Singh had walked washed with Ganges water in order to purify it. Maharana Fateh Singh was also the only Rajput prince who refused to attend the Delhi Durbar held for King George V in 1911, despite the fact that the British had acknowledged him as the head of the princely states of Rajputana.
Sadly, water—or the lack thereof—is proving to be the undoing of this proud and gracious city. A prolonged drought, combined with unbridled construction in the outlying catchment areas, has caused Udaipur’s lakes to run bone-dry, and what was once the chief attraction of this city is—at least for the moment—absent. (At press time, however, there was hope: A 2005 monsoon filled the lake with about 3 feet of water!) Still, Udaipur’s palaces, temples, and culture justify a visit, though you may choose to base yourself outside the city. It’s worth checking with local authorities or the hotels before deciding where and how long to stay. Much of Udaipur, particularly the old part located on the shores of Lake Pichola, is where you’ll find the city’s most striking landmarks—the towering City Palace and Lake Palace—and it still feels remarkably like a 16th-century Rajput stronghold, with the benevolent Maharana still treated like a reigning king by his devoted and loyal subjects. You can witness this firsthand by attending the temple at nearby Eklingji on a Monday evening, when the Maharana—the 76th ruler of one of the world’s oldest surviving dynasties—often joins his subjects to pay his respects to Shiva. Try to spend at least 3 to 4 days in Udaipur, whether you spend them aimlessly wandering its mazelike lanes, taking a slow cruise on Pichola Lake, exploring the giant medieval fortress and palaces that rise from its shores, or setting off to see the intricately carved Jain temples of Ranakpur and the ancient fort of Kumbhalgarh—or whether you do nothing but loll on a comfortable divan overlooking the lake. You’ll find the City of Sunrise the most relaxing part of your sojourn in Rajasthan.
Udaipur Tour Information
This largest palace complex of Rajasthan is perched majestically on a low ridge, towering above the placid waters of Pichola. The construction of this 30.4 metres high and 244 metres long structure was initiated by Udai Singh and was built over a span of over three hundred years. It is a conglomeration of eleven palaces, numerous courtyards, pavilions, terraces, corridors, rooms and hanging gardens. The complex is approached through ‘Hathi Pol’ or the ‘Elephant gate’, along the main street of theold city, near the famous Jagdish temple. The ‘Bara Pol’ or the ‘Great Gate’ brings you to the first courtyard which leads to the ‘Tripolia Gate’, with eight carved marble arches or torans. Located insie are various attractions like, the Suraj Gokhada or the ‘Balcony of Sun’, Bada Mahal, Sheesh mahal, Bhim Vilar, Mor Chowk or ‘Peacock courtyard’ the Zenana mahal or ‘women’s quarters’ and Chini Chitrasala, Fateh Prakash, Durbar Hall and Shambhu Niwas etc.
Picturesque Pichola surrounded by hills, places, temples, bathing ghats and embankments is about 4km in length and 3 km wide. The main attractions are its two island palaces Jag Niwas and Jag Mandir, set splendidly amidst the turquoise waters of the lake. The majestic city palace sprawls along the eastern bank of the lake. Visit Bansi Ghat (City Palace Jetty), for a boat ride.
Lake Palace or Jag Mahal
The magnificent white palace on the jag Niwas island is one of the most beautiful palaces of the world. It was built in 1754, by Maharana Jagat Singh II and has now been converted into a luxury hotel.
The construction of this island palace of Pichhola was initiated by Maharaja Karan Singh and several additions were made by Maharana Jagat Singh. Prince Khuram (Shahjahan) took refuge here when he rebelled against his father.
This magnificent temple of Lord Vishnu was built in 1615, by Maharana Jagat Singh I. The shrine is approached through a step flight of 32 steps, flanked by stone elephants. The external walls and the plinth are adorned with bas reliefs friezes. The main sanctum has a black marble statue of Lord Vishnu.
Bhartiya Lok Kala Mandal
This unique museum of folk art exhibits a rich collection of folk dresses, ornaments, puppets, masks, dolls, folk musical instruments and paintings. Famous puppet shows of Udaipur are also organised here.
Saheliyon ki Bari or the ‘Gardens of the Maids’
The well laid out garden flanking the embankment of the Fateh Sagar lake was built for the forty eight young ladies-in-waiting, who accompanied a princess to Udaipur as part of her dowry. The gardens noted for their discreet and impeccable taste are studded with four lotus pools with dainty kiosks, marble pavilions and elephant shaped fountains. The colourful flower beds, lawns are protected by a series of walls and shady trees.
The memorial atop Moti Magri or ‘Pearl hillock’ commemorates Maharana Pratap, the most distinguished son of Mewar, whose chivalrous deeds have become legendary. A fine bronze statue of maharana Pratap on his loyalhorse Chetak, overlooks the serene waters of Fateh Sagar. Adjacent to the memorial is a Japanese Rock Garden, known as Bhamashah Park.
It was built in 1678, by Maharana Jai Singh to the north of Lake Pichola and the two lakes are linked by a canal. The lake enclosed on three sides by hills is named after Fateh Singh, who undertook renovations of the lake and rebuilt the dam. The beautiful Nehru Park with a boat shaped café is set amidst the waters of Fateh Sagar. It can be reached by boat.
This ancient capital of Sisodias and archaeological site has exquisite cenotaphs of the rulers of Mewar. The Government Museum here exhibits some of the finds like, earthen pots, iron objects and other art items, dating back to 5,000 years.
The ‘palace for monsoon’ is set atop a steep hill and affords fine view of the lake city and its surroundings.
Gulab Bagh or Sajjan Niwas Garden
The well laid out garden built by Maharana Sajjan Singh is noted for its majestic beauty. An elegant building houses a library with rich and rare collection of old books and ancient handwritten manuscripts.
The rural arts and crafts village nestling amidst the Aravali ranges was established as a West Zone Culture. It is dotted with huts built by craftsperson from the members of various states of India and provides a platform for the rural craftsperson representing various regions. The Shilpgram Utsav celebrated here provides a fine glimpse into the multifacets of Indian art and culture.
Nathdwara, 48km from Udaipur, is an important Hindu pilgrim centre. When Aurangazeb embarked on a policy of wholesale destruction of Hindu temples, the custodians of the idol of Shrinathji of Govardhan, near Mathura, left that place with the idol in search of a new haven. While several other princes were diffident, Maharana Rajsingh of Mewar dared to provide refuge. In 1672, Shrinathji was installed in a new temple built in village Sihad, now called Nathdwara.
Jaisamand Lake is a mere 48km from Udaipur. This vast artificial lake, th second largest in Asia, with an area of 15km by 10km is surrounded by the summer palaces of the Ranis of Udaipur dating back to the 17th century. The main attractions here are Hawa Mahal and Tuti Rani palaces. In the lake, there are three islands whose inhabitants use Bhels (boats) to reach the shore. On the top of two nearby hillocks are two old palaces constructed by Maharana Jai Singh.
This is located at a distance of about 98km from Udaipur, and boats some of the most exquisite Jain temples in the country. The main 'Chaumukha Temple' is dedicated to the Tirthankara Adinath and has 29 halls supported by 1444 pillars, all distinctly carved. Two Jain temples dedicated to Neminath and Parsvanath, a little distance away are also noteworthy.
The Shilpgram Festival that goes on for ten days is known for its unique art and crafts. Crafts are also displayed from Gujarat, Goa and Maharashtra.
The Mewar Festival is celebrated to welcome the advent of spring. It coincides with the Festival f Gangaur in Udaipur, and has a unique charm about it. The women folk gather to dress the images of Isar and Gangaur, and then carry them in a ceremonial procession through different parts of the city.
Udaipur Distance Guide
|Udaipur||to||Sawai Madhopur||373 Km|