India Diaries : Udaipur, 36 hours in 51 pictures!

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Never for any city, did I have as many options to title it as this one! However clichéd, believe me, I have toyed with them all, ‘The City of Lakes’, ‘The Most Romantic City in India’, ‘Venice of East’ and I’ve even heard it as ‘Kashmir of Rajasthan’ or whether it has been the comparison with Greek Cycladic islands!! All of them are apt and therefore used to point of ‘cliché’.

 

Another never. Never in a city in Rajasthan can 36 hours be enough time to ‘see’ it. Consider this a forewarning & don’t ever bring it on yourself! Having to pick out options, to fit in that short time would be a task you wish you hadn’t undertaken. Luckily for us, Udaipur wasn’t a new city and a stopover on the way to Jodhpur. We’ve both been here twice before and have more or less seen it all. But for travellers first time in Udaipur, at least a three day stay is recommended.

 

 

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Udaipur – a sprawling, ever growing city has enough and more to keep one busy & entertained for a good 72 hrs.

 

 

You’ve often seen me pictured in ancient ruins, so there is no point proclaiming my love again for them, that is a given now, but you can only imagine the size of my grin when I discovered a 300 year old building, that I could stay in! 🙂 (bigger than this, for sure).

 

That was a haveli, we stayed in while in Udaipur.

 

 

 

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On the terrace of the ‘haveli’ which is now a boutique hotel, wondering how we found our way to this place through this!

 

 

 

 

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Some crumbling remains of past merging, mixing & become a part of a desultory present.

 

 

 

We reached Udaipur late afternoon and somehow (‘google maps, thats how!’ says Adi) reached somewhere close to Madri Haveli. And that was as far as we could go. The car just wouldn’t pass through the narrow lanes with parking (of bicycles & motorbikes) on either side and a traffic of two wheelers, people on foot and lots of cows!

Adi wasn’t very keen on this to begin with. It was me who coaxed him. And therefore tried my best to avoid looking at him (or looking tired & panting) while dragging our suitcases uphill to reach the haveli! I now get the ‘venice of the east’ simile, somewhat.

 

So here is a tip, if you have a car that might need a covered parking, check it with your hotel first thing.

 

 

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Madri Haveli is 300 year old building that has been renovated over 6 years to its original blend of Rajput & Islamic architecture by a French-Indian partnership.

 

 

 

 

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Okay he was a bit more pleased inside it 🙂
We were the first few guests since it opened its doors to people and it did lack the finesse of a finished product. It still was beautiful in its ‘rawness’.

 

 

 

 

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What I really loved about it is the authenticity of a true haveli that has been preserved and carried through in the new construction. Both outer & inner facades in a haveli have designs that could range from being extremely pretentious to minimal.

 

 

 

 

 

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The architectural features (like a enclosed inner courtyard) of a traditional haveli have striking similarities with a Moroccan ‘riad’.

 

 

 

 

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The warm colours used in decor & stained glass windows made the ambience ‘homely’ & the deep cave style rooms with thick walls blocked the desert heat.

 

 

I’d say my idea of staying in haveli saw only partial success. It had lots in the name of charm but little in the name of comfort. Especially when it stood in direct comparison with our previous stay in Khem Villas (have you read about that already?) or even with the next stay in Jodhpur (ok, you have to wait a bit more for this one).

 

 

 

 

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Further exploration got us here…

 

 

 

 

 

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…to the beautiful views of the city contained in blue Aravalli hills.

 

 

 

 

 

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A bit more cheerful Adi & Lake Pichola in the background.

 

 

 

 

 

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It was going to be a spectacular orangey sunset so we stayed there in haveli, ditching our plans to go out to a fancy restaurant.
This shall do for the day.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sajjangarh Fort or the Monsoon Palace perched on top of a hill, overlooking Udaipur.

 

 

 

 

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Locations wise Madri Haveli was pretty convenient. It was in a typically chaotic ‘mohalla’ with lots of silver trinket shops around.
The City Palace, Jagdish Temple & the ghats were at walking distance.

 

 

 

 

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And a big plus! The views were stunning!

 

 

 

 

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We had dinner here on both nights of our stay! The chaos of the day vanishes into calmness of such a glorious evening.
And now I also get the ‘most romantic city’ part too :)

 

 

A group of french tourists arrived oohing & aahing about the views & the place. As visibly pleased as they were, they couldn’t stop exclaiming ‘C’est magnifique!’ in velvety french accent!

 

Oui, c’est très magnifique!

 

 

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A glimpse of Udaipur through a perfect little ‘jharokha’ in our room.

 

 

 

Any given 24 hours in Udaipur must have City Palace leading the list. It is one of the most flamboyant & most gorgeous & ‘complex’ of palace complexes around the world.

Audio guides are available in many languages as are the human ones, in many languages, of course (French, Italian & Japanese are the ones that fell on my ears)!

We hired a guide to show us around. I’ve come across some really fascinating ‘story tellers’ for guides during my past visits, who would not just tell stories and interact but some funny ones do crack me up. Plus some of them are ace photographers. So there, that’s a good deal and is recommended, highly so.

 

 

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It was a third visit & I was no less excited.
Behind me a triple entrance gate known as ‘Tripolia Gate’.

 

 

 

 

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The best time to visit is said to be early morning when sun is a bit less harsh & the palace bit less crowded.

 

 

 

 

 

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Also at the entrance, are eight of these marble arches at the entrance known as ‘Torans’ where the kings would weigh themselves in gold & silver!!
So, I never take  the phrase ‘live life king size’ lightly.

 

 

Udaipur was the ancient capital of Mewar region of the Rajput Kingdom and takes its name after the great warrior Maharana Pratap’s father, Rana Udai Singh.

 

 

 

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The coat of arms of Udaipur. Featuring a royal warrior and a tribal warrior, both of whom were equally responsible for the victory of Mewar Kingdom.

 

 

City Palace was built over a period of 400 long years!!

 

 

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The successive rulers kept adding to the original structure and what stands today, imposing & impressive, is a blend of Rajasthani, Medieval, Chinese , European & Mughal architecture.
Too many cooks don’t always spoil the broth!

 

 

 

 

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The beautiful exterior facade of the granite & marble edifice.

 

 

 

 

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You do not need a big imagination to hear a jingle-jangle of trinkets or see a veil fluttering from those charming balconies.
All you need to do, is be here.

 

 

Stories of war and valour echo in all the halls, corners & corridors of this palace. One such is of a horse called Chetak.

What Chetak wears on his mouth here is an artificial trunk! This was made to protect Chetak and his patron Maharana Pratap from being trampled by elephants during war. The Moghuls, predominantly used elephants as war animals, who mistook Chetak as a baby elephant and left him & Maharan Pratap unharmed!

 

 

 

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A figurine of Maharana Pratap & his faithful companion Chetak.

 

 

 

 

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Symbols of bravery & power form the architectural details of the palace.

 

 

 

 

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Fine latticework or ‘Jaali’ for the ladies of the house.
The queens’ palaces are perforated with these jaalis but however exquisite & intricate the jaalis are, the ladies had to train their eye for a view broken into a mosaic!

 

 

 

 

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I can never tire of these ‘Jharokhas’ for the framed views they offer, for the songs they revive from the memory, for their sheer beauty.
They can never be one too many for me! :)

 

 

 

 

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One of the many narrow & dark passages in the palace.

 

 

 

 

 

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An airy corridor with cusping arches of marble yellowed with age, in Badi Mahal.

 

 

 

 

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Badi Mahal or Garden Palace is at a height of 30m from ground. It has trees and small gardens & a marble pool. And lots of serenity.

 

 

 

 

 

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So that the garden is never without the chirping sounds! And if a stroll in a garden makes you want to send a message to someone :)

 

 

 

Maharana Fateh Singh of Kingdom of Mewar was the epitome of Rajput pride. He did not want to submit to British reign and was the only King who refused to attend the Delhi Durbar. To appease him, a specially made chair was kept beside King George V & Queen Mary to seat the proud King. But the Maharana stood unwavered. However, the chair he was meant to be occupying, during durbar meeting was sent by the British official to the king, as an invitation & a mark of respect. They say, you can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

The Maharana never sat on it.

 

 

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The chair still sits here, empty as ever.

 

 

 

 

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Whether it was Dutch & Portugese tiles or Belgian glass, the kings had it all!

 

 

 

 

 

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Bright & blazing Krishna Mahal is associated with a legend of a beautiful princess who poisoned herself here while trying to avert a battle between two rival suitors!

 

 

 

 

 

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So now we know where to go for some inspiration for prints! However it is a relatively newer art work in palace.

 

 

 

 

 

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A beautifully adorned swing. I can only imagine the finery the queens & princesses must be wearing to outdo these beauties!

 

 

 

The city palace courtyards & jharokhas (small window) open to some truly breathtaking views that made the kings & queens dream of summer!

 

 

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The Lake Palace.
This was the summer palace for the rulers of Mewar, now it is luxury hotel for those seeking a taste of aristocracy.
I also get the Greek islands comparison too :)

 

 

 

 

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View of inner courtyard of the Palace.

 

 

 

 

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I’m often worried about the clash of colours in such palaces .
But they not just know how to work the colours, they’ve mastered it!!

 

 

 

 

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Mirror worked & inlay worked balconies & alcoves of Zenana Mahal are one of the most brilliant parts of the palace complex! Of late, they have been extensively renovated.

 

 

 

 

 

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Mor Chowk or Peacock Square with three peacocks representing summer, winter & monsoon!
Brilliant coloured glass mosaic work, makes it a star attraction at City Palace.

 

 

 

 

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Some aspects in dire need of a face lift!

 

 

 

 

 

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A mural in a courtyard which can be rented for weddings inside City Palace.

 

 

 

 

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The sun emblem at Manak Chowk.
The rulers of Mewar are believed to be descendants of sun dynasty.

 

 

 

 

 

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Facade of Manak Chowk.

 

 

 

 

 

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Guess who else lives in the palace!

 

 

 

 

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And some more pictures against this majestic backdrop rounds off our City Palace tour!

 

 

City palace is a GIANT treasure trove of stories. It has tales of love & separation, drama, war stories, stories of friendship & betrayal. I could go on telling you more about this but my intentions is not to rob you of excitement or surprise or whatever unique emotion you might feel finding yourself there.

 

 

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The City Palace has been a backdrop of not just millions of pictures but many many movies from east & west both.

 

 

 

 

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There is no formally set dress code for the City Palace but all palaces have temples inside them so dressing with that in mind would keep you comfortable & carefree!
Wearing light & loose clothing in summer months is no brainer.

 

 

Udaipur like any other Indian city has its fair share of maze like narrow streets, impossible tangle of electrical cables if you look up (it doesn’t matter from where), speeding motorbikes in those same narrow alleys, food smells emanating from every corner and turn and mixing into sometimes appetising and sometime headache-y infusions, cud chewing cattle taking leisure walks leaving a (fresh & dry) trail of dung behind them!

But such is the beauty & grandiose of the city that you seldom remember or translate that in your story back home.

 

 

 

Some general informations & tips on Udaipur!

For recommendations on places to see & good restaurants, I, by & large, agree with the recommendations here.

My top picks are (in the same order) City Palace > Sajjangarh Fort > Jagdish Temple.

For shopping I would recommend the fair trade shop called ‘Sadhna’ (which is a bit difficult to find) & Rajasthali (the government emporium of handicraft goods). For high end ethnic clothes & jewellery do visit stores in City Palace complex. Another absolute favourite is Soma shop on Lake Palace road!

One can go on shopping for handicrafts, leather goods, jewellery at Bapu Bazar & shops around Jagdish temple.

Close to where we stayed in Udaipur, I found several workshops that makes custom fit wool jackets, if your stay is a bit longer that is. That looked like an option worth trying. However I have no personal recommendations for a tailor.

 

 

 

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So long, Udaipur!
We’ll be back.

 

 

On my previous two visits to Udaipur I’ve pretty much seen the same things. I went for those same places this third time as well. To hear those same stories that every door, passage or room has. For that same incident that a swing reminds of. For the same feeling that returns when peeping through the jharokhas & jaalis.

I don’t remember them all, but then I don’t have to. For these stories can be re-told & re-heard, as they have for generations. And I still listen to them, all ears, wide eyed and with a curiosity of a child.

🙂

 

P.S : Thank you Paridhi & Surabhi for your tips on Udiapur!

Read on our next halt in Jodhpur here

Comments

  1. Hey, nice pics, can you please tell me what was your bargain for the haveli/night?

    • pastlifeseamstress says:

      Hello Tanu, Thanks for being here. You can find the information on rooms and tariff on this link http://www.madrihaveli.com/?page_id=14
      For more info, you can always write to/call them up using the contact info provided on their website.
      You’re welcome again with any more queries on our stay/experience at Madri Haveli. 🙂

  2. I am planning to visit Udaipur next week, so was doing a lil research.. came across ur blog.. awesome 🙂 Great pictures.. Did you travel in July? I hope the weather was fine !

    • pastlifeseamstress says:

      Hello Ananya!

      Many thanks for being here 🙂 We travelled around mid of March and expectedly the weather was pleasant. The afternoons did break a sweat on us and the nights were a bit chilly (I wore a jacket at night!) but it was really fine for the most part of the day. However, it might be hotter now but since you can expect a bit of rain, I’m guessing its going to be more or less fine and a lot greener than you saw in our pictures.
      Do write back if you have more queries. I’ll answer them to the best of my abilities.

      Wish you safe travels and lots of fun!

  3. Hi Nikita, this part of your Indian Diaries is also very interesting n informative. Every nook and corner is a master piece,very beautifully captured .all the pics are very beautiful but sunset scenes are remarkable.Good work ,waiting for the next post.

  4. Anonymous says:

    म्हारो रंगीलो राजस्थान ———————– बडा ही सुंदर,बहोत ही प्यारो