Rajasthan is one state I am yet to visit in India, and it is on my priority travel wish list. In fact, we had planned a trip for October since my son has a week off, but had to postpone it due to various reasons.
But that did not stop me from exploring the WWW to make a list of what I’d like to see there. So, for the moment, let me live vicariously through the info I am gloating on. After all, travel broadens the mind even when it is via the keyboard.
Udaipur, the city of lakes
Set in the Aravalli Ranges of Rajasthan, India, Udaipur, the capital of Mewar, is a majestic city on the banks of the Lake Pichola. One must visit it at least once in a lifetime. It has just about everything a visitor could wish for—picturesque lakes, palaces, forts, temples, museums, gardens, historic monuments, festivals, natural beauty and an aura steeped in fascinating history.
Udaipur is also called “the city of lakes”, “Venice of the East”, “city of Dawn” and the “jewel of Mewar”.
Getting there is easy, since Udaipur is well-connected by air and road and the best time to visit is from September to March. Sigh.
Must-see places around Udaipur on my list
This overwhelming architectural marvel looms up over the lake atop a hill with never ending courtyards, terraces, corridors, pavilions and of course, rooms. In fact, there is a series of palaces that were built at different times right from the 16th century. The hanging gardens are a treat. At the main entrance to the palace, there’s an arched gate “the tripolia” with marble porticos. Legend has it that under this arch, gold equal to the king’s weight was distributed among the people.
The City Palace has a fabulous view of the “Jag Niwas” now converted into a resplendent hotel called the Lake Palace.
So, on one side it has the Jag temple and the city of Udaipur spreads across the other side. One can spend all day here just gazing at the sheer beauty of the place—the glass mosaics in the Peacock courtyard and the wall paintings at the Chini Chitrashala.
Saheliyon ki bari
The Saheliyon ki bari or the garden of the maids of honor is a gorgeous garden in the north of Udaipur, on the banks of Fateh Sagar Lake, where the royal womenfolk strolled. Abundant with fountains, there are also lovely pools and marble elephant sculptures. One can catch a puppet show at Bhartiya Lok Kala Mandal which has a great collection of exhibits, preserving Udaipur’s culture and art. You can see a lot of folk clothing, ornaments, puppets, deities, paintings, etc.
Near Udaipur, about 3 km away is the Shilpgram village, a rural arts and crafts complex, where you can see ethnic art and culture from the neighboring states as well. Besides buying the artisan’s wares, you can also watch folk dance performances, and enjoy horse and camel rides. The village has an arts and crafts fair in December each year.
This intricately carved temple is right in the middle of lake Pichola and surrounded by beautiful gardens. This temple is a shrine to Jagannath Rai or Jagdishji and the interesting thing is – there are many paths from the city wall that end up here at the temple. There’s a rock garden called the Dudh Talai from where you can feast your eyes on the sunset over lake Pichola. On the east of the Lake Pichola is the rose garden and a zoo worth visiting. Oh, best way to wrap up your day is a boat ride on Lake Pichola.
Ranakpur, about 45 kilometers from the Kumbalgarh fort and 110 kilometers from Udapur, has the biggest Jain temple in Asia built in the 15th century.
It is wonderfully maintained with 1000 unique carved pillars, and also houses two more Jain Temples. Nearby is the sun Temple or the Amba Mata Temple.
Nathdwara, Chittaurgarh is where you will see the Shrinathji temple rich with paintings and sculpture and a majestic black marble statue of Lord Krishna.
Approximately 35 km away, Gogunda is a breathtaking hilltop garden off the Fateh Sagar Lake and is located close to Haldighati, the site of the famous Battle of Haldighati.
While planning the itinerary, I had a dilemma over whether to visit Chittorgarh Fort of Kumbhalgarh Fort. Obviously I want to see both. But while Chittorgarh lies in one direction, Kumbalgarh is in another and can be clubbed with Ranakpur and Haldighati. Let’s see.
Reminiscent of our history class in school and located about 125 kilometers from Udaipur, the historic Chittorgarh fort, is also one of the largest forts in India. It represents the Rajput pride and spirit, and is known for Maharana Pratap’s heroic exploits, Krishna’s ardent devotee Meera Bai who drank poison, the Jauhar fire into which Rani Padmini and others jumped to protect their honor, and the place where Panna Dhai sacrificed her son. The fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Set amidst dense forests and hills, the 15th century Kumbhalgarh fort, about 90 kilometers northwest of Udaipur in the district of Rajsamand, Rajasthan, is the birth place of Maharana Pratap.
The fort is a part of the 578 square kilometer Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary around Kumbhalgarh and Ranakpur. There are several palaces and temples inside the fort. It is believed that this fort has the second longest continuous walls, after the Great Wall of China.
There is a light and sound show at Kumbhagarh Fort that is said to be gorgeous.
Nearby is Haldighati and Khamnore famous of their variety of special roses, that are used to make natural sherbets and fragrances.
A special note about Haldighati
Located approximately 40 kilometers from Udaipur, and 17 kilometers from Nathdwara, Haldighati is a mountain pass in the Aravalli Range that connects the districts of Rajsamand and Pali. It is an important historical site in Rajasthan. The name Haldighati comes from the yellow colored soil in the area that resembles the golden yellow of turmeric—In Hindi, Haldi is “turmeric”, and “ghati” is valley.
This is a great site for history buffs and tells the stories of historic battles fought by brave soldiers. Of these, the most significant is the battle of 1576, a ferocious battle between Maharana Pratap Singh of Mewar and Raja Man Singh of Amber.
Using guerilla warfare, Maharana Pratap and his army swiftly drove away the Mughal commander Man Singh and his forces when they attacked the royal camp at Badshah Bagh, into Rakt Talai, the plains at Village Khamnore. When Pratap fought with Man Singh and killed his mahout, his loyal horse Chetak was wounded. In spite of this, the horse managed to carry Pratap through the mountains, after the battle, to safety, after which it died.
About 4 kilometers from the battlefield is a pure white marble cenotaph or “chattri” dedicated to Chetak, the valiant mount of Rana Pratap Singh. Each year, on Rana Pratap Singh’s birth anniversary, cultural programs are held to celebrate his greatness. The Chetak Horse Festival is also celebrated to promote the Marwari breed of horses.
Two kilometers from the Chetak memorial is the Maharana Pratap Haldighati Museum that visually depicts scenes from the Battle of Haldighati and life of Maharana Pratap.
Close to Haldighati is the Balicha village famous for its terracotta crafts. Another place known for its special roses, the chaitri-gulab, is Badshahi Bagh. Here you can find original rose water and ‘Gulkand’, a jam made from Rose petals, believed to have great medicinal value.
A heritage run is being organized by Royon Samajik Sansthan, an NGO in association with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on Sunday, October 9, 2016 starting at 6 a.m., as part of the Vedaan Run to Breathe Run series. The trail will cover four ASI heritage sites—the Haldighati Pass, Chetak Memorial, Rakht Talai and Badshahi Baug. The heritage run includes four categories: Dream Run (2.5Kms & 5Kms), Heritage Run (10Kms), Half marathon (21Kms).
For details about registration, please visit the Vedaan Run to Breathe Haldighati Heritage Run website.
Depending on the time of year one visits, Udaipur offers two major festivals.
- Gangaur festival—a traditional festival between March-April is great fun when we can see plenty of dancing, singing and fireworks at Lake Pichola.
- The Mewar festival, which welcomes the spring.
Udaipur can be a 3-day trip, a weeklong trip, or more, depending on how much time one can spare. I am aiming for a week, since it is on my priority travel wish list. Who knows, maybe later this year!