Udaipur remains a city untouched by modernity and retains a charm unlike any
other city in Rajasthan. The urban sprawl goes beyond the city’s original
boundaries that is best left ignored as the old city engulfs you in a romantic
splendour. Udaipur is an enchanting city full of surprises, with lakes in the
midst of sandy terrain and green forested hills.
The city is centred around the mirror-like Lake Pichola with its
straight-out-of-a-fairytale Lake Palace in the middle. Upmarket hotels,
spectacular palaces and havelis are somewhere around the lake to welcome the
endless stream of international and domestic tourists. Other than the romantic
palaces and rugged fortresses that recount its history, Udaipur’s old city is
on the east of Lake Pichola. All around the old section of the city, there are
narrow streets lined with shops and craftsmen’s ateliers that encourage hours
of window-shopping. It is on these streets that you get the finest and most
colourful of Rajasthani bandhni material and of course lip-smacking jumbo-sized
Beyond the city walls, there are small green hills all around which not only
provide excellent views of the city but also a taste of Mewar’s history.
Explore the surrounding countryside and you will get a first-hand view of the
life of tribals. Just out of the city, there is Shilpgram, a crafts village and
a fascinating place to see performers and village artisans.
Udaipur is a city
of monuments and museums. The most likely reason you are here is to experience
the flavours of its history and culture – against a setting that is inspiring,
to say the least. This is how you can go about experiencing Udaipur. Begin with
the City Palace. It is the largest palace complex in Rajasthan,
rising 30 meters above Lake Pichola. The original structure was built by
Maharana Udai Singh, to which the later rulers made their additions. The 244
metre long palace is partly preserved as a museum displaying a large and varied
collection of artefacts. The museum is open from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm everyday.
There are two possible entrances: the Ganesh Deori, which leads to the Rajya
Angan or the royal courtyard, with entrance fee of Rs. 35 per person (Rs. 25 for
children), and Bansi Ghat, with entrance fee of Rs. 100 per person. Camera fee:
still Rs. 75, video Rs. 300.
Two parts of the
palace have been converted to hotels: even if you do not stay here, a dinner or
high tea will effectively put you in the Udaipur mood. Do the Crystal Gallery
in the same breath as the City Palace. Located within Fateh Prakash Palace
(one of the hotels), it is an astounding collection of over 600 crystal objects
ordered by Maharaja Sajjan Singh in 1877.
has two islands – Jag Niwas and Jag Mandir. Boats to these islands leave from
the City Palace jetty between 10 am and 5 pm and charge Rs. 75 per person for a
30 minutes journey, or Rs. 150 for a 45 minutes tour, that allows a short break
at Jag Mandir. A one hour ride in a solar powered boat costs Rs. 200.
Out of the
palace, the first stop can be Jagdish Temple (1651 vintage). Then walk
down to Bagore ki Haveli and Gangaur Ghat – picking a souvenir
or two on the way. The former is a haveli retrieved from vandalism by the West
Zone Cultural Centre and turned into a museum and art gallery, much worthy of a
walk-through. Evening folk performances are also held here. The latter is where
the famous Gangaur procession culminates (March). Now you may get on a vehicle
to visit the Vintage Car Museum, the Maharana’s personal collection of
exclusive four-wheelers turned into a museum. Bhartiya Lok Kala Mandal is
a cultural museum: a rather decrepit place but with a very good display of
puppetry and folk art, music and dance. Shilpgram, a little away from the
city is a living museum: hutments of different tribal groups have been created
here and real people live in them and sell their wares. Udaipur’s old and new
gardens include Sahelion ki Badi, Pratap Memorial, Sajjan Niwas
and Dudh Talai – all very pleasant for a languid walk, and some
history. For more history, there is Sajjan Garh, the monsoon palace atop
a hill and Ahar – the royal cenotaphs.
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