Rajasthan – a state that was truly royal. A trip to Udaipur and Jaipur left me feeling proud of the heritage we have and increased my wanderlust in exploring more of India.
Udaipur - a charming city with shimmering lakes, ancient architecture, grand mansions and plenty of folklore. We got off the airport and were able to promptly avail taxi services at the airport. Our taxi driver and guide Rais Khan started our trip with taking us to the famous Nath Dwara mandir which is a temple of Krishna and more popularly Srinathji in those parts. We had around two hours to kill before the gates were opened to the hordes of devotees. The area was like any other religious area really. Rows of shops with artifacts to be used for worshipping, plenty of silverware, idols, marble besides the paraphernalia of the photos of Srinathji ofcourse, along with religious dvds etc. We had the most wonderful chai that we have ever had at a little chai tapri there. The chai vendor’s secret ingredient was Mint leaves! I tried it back home immediately, and I highly recommend it! Well, we waited and waited, with the throng of devotees, right upto 15 minutes before the gates opened.. and then, much to Sandeep’s chagrin, I freaked out from the charging crowd, and I actually backed out! Oh well, I tried My Lord! I hope we still have his blessings!
|Near Nathdwara temple|
|Near Nathdwara temple|
|Battle of Haldighati site|
Udaipur and Jaipur, we found were cities replete with plenty of stories. We were told stories of grandeur of the existing royalty of the family owning whole huge palaces, dozens of vintage cars, private jets, and even private airports! We heard stories of how Kokilaben built an entire town around a new temple she built adjacent to the Srinathji building, stories of the many filmstars weddings that now favor the grand Udaipur palaces for venues. Particularly interesting was the tale of the two royal princes of Udaipur in which we were told that the elder heir to throne had been thwarted in ascending the ‘throne’ and hardly received anything from his ancestor whereas the younger brother got all the wealth and title of King. Our driver told us how the people of Udaipur still stood by the wronged elder brother and respected him as King even though he had not received all that his brother had. In Jaipur, the story was of that of the young teenage King whose princess mother had married a driver or commoner, and hence, her King dad, passed on everything not to her and her husband, but to the little prince. These stories were all set in the modern day. Besides these were the stories behind each building, each mansion, and each structure in the forts around these cities. Where Rana Pratap and his loyal horse Chetak, were the subject of stories, memorials, and statues in Udaipur, it was Sawai Mansingh and Jaisingh who left their legacy at Jaipur.
|Rana Pratap Memorial at Haldighati|
|Palace near Lake Picchola|
|Dudh Talai near Lake Picchola|
We boated on Lake Picchola and marveled at the gorgeous landscape with grand palaces, mostly now heritage hotels, in all directions. Particularly spectacular was the lighted up Taj hotel in the shimmering waters of Lake Picchola. Being monsoon, the lakes were full, and it was surprising to note that the desert state of India was probably more verdant than Kerela!
|Taj Lake Palace|
|Bagori ki Haveli dance|
We proceeded the next day to visit the City Palace, still owned by the Maharaja of Udaipur. After a tour of the mansion, we banked for a bit on the shores of lake Fatehsaagar which was close to our hotel, had more chai, and then went to Bagori ki haveil to see some folk dances. As a pointer to future tourists, the show is from 7 pm to 8 pm and is certainly worth a visit! Our last stop at Udaipur was the lofty fort of Chittorgarh which I shall keep for a separate blog. In very few words though, Chittorgarh was one of the most impressive forts I have ever seen. On the downside, it was disconcerting to see the number of cows on most of roads left stray by their owners to fend for themselves in order that they did not have to waste precious space on them. Apparently if the cows got rounded off, the owners were happier since the expensive cattle feed got taken care of at the shelter. Thus, sadly the government stopped catching the cows, and the owners had their own way. It is little wonder that foreigners have this pathetic image of India with cows sitting all major road junctions without batting an eyelid! On visiting Udaipur, I finally see why!
|Rolls Royce at the Vintage Car Museum|
For pointers on where to eat, our driver unfortunately did not take us to the kind of places we would have liked, but the one place I would recommend is the lunch with a vintage touch at the vintage car museum. The Rajasthani thali was delicious and the vintage car collection incredible! We also had an animated guide who quizzed us on Vintage car trivia and made our experience fun! All in all, a wonderful trip, and we left for Jaipur in the convenient night train with memories of the shimmering palaces around the tranquil lake Picchola.