I’m participating in the #AtoZBloggingChallenge 2016 with the theme – Pins on the Map of my Memory – which is about places that bear a special connection with me for reasons mostly personal!
U for Udaipur
Rajasthan has always held an irresistible fascination for me since childhood, having heard those wonderful stories about forts, palaces, sand dunes, camels and adventure from books I had read and stories I had heard from grandmother and parents. Every winter, to escape the plummeting temperatures of Kohima, we would make trips to see different places all over the country. My parents were fond of travel so, brother and I tagged along to see new places every year. Bitten by the travel bug early on in life, I looked forward to these winter sojourns with eagerness. The fact that we had cousins in Jaipur meant we stayed there longer and travelled far and wide to see all the attractions the city had to offer. Udaipur, however, was one city that got left out of these winter travels. Years went by and the cousins moved out of Jaipur. I had moved to Kolkata by then, and often recalled the long winter trips that had all but stopped by then, as Dad approached retirement. Sometimes, a feeble wish surfaced – why couldn’t we all go travelling again?
Years passed by. I got married and came to live in Ahmedabad. A little over a year after our marriage, Jay and I decided to take a short break somewhere, close by. We settled for Udaipur. A five-hour bus ride took us to the beautiful city of lakes. We reached the city at the crack of dawn and had to wait until 7 in the morning to be able to organise transport and check into our hotel.
Over the next two and half days, we explored the city to our heart’s content. It was a gorgeous sight to see the shimmering Lake Pichola and Lake Fateh Sagar with the Aravalli Hills in the background, stretching away in every direction. Unmistakably, as one of the most romantic cities in the country, Udaipur floored me with its’ charm and the magic came through not just in its’ marvellous palaces and monuments, but in its’ matchless setting, the tranquillity of boat rides on the lake, the bustle of its ancient bazaars, its’ lively arts scene, the quaint old-world feel of its’ little lanes and bylanes, its’ tempting shops and some lovely countryside that we were so keen to explore, during our short stay in the city.
The main attractions in Udaipur that we aimed for were the City Palace Complex, the marvellous boat rides on Lake Pichola, the luxurious Lake Palace, that exudes grandeur and opulence, the very famous Jagdish Temple, the charming Bagore ki Haveli, the mysterious Monsoon Palace and the beautifully laid-out Saheliyon ki Badi. We also enjoyed walking down the narrow streets of the old town and discovered an old world charm that was unmistakably its’ own.
The views from the top of the Monsoon Palace – a 19th-century palace constructed by Maharana Sajjan Singh, located atop a hill, were breathtaking. Originally an astronomical centre, it later became a monsoon palace and a hunting lodge.
The 360-degree panoramic view of the surrounding hills and the lakes from the Monsoon Palace with most of the city’s palaces and the key landmarks, seemed to have been laid out for our viewing pleasure! As time was short, we skipped the adjacent wildlife sanctuary at the foot of the hills that is considered to be great for birdwatching and a wide range of wildlife of the reserve forests.
On our second trip to Udaipur, more recently, we did a repeat of all of the above. In addition, this time, we drove down to see the monumental ruins of Chittorgarh, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Chittorgarh has the distinction of being the largest fort, and possibly the grandest in the entire state of Rajasthan! It is a place studded with historical palaces, gates, temples and towers, associated famously with the legends of Queen Padmini and Mirabai and the countless stories of heroism, bloodshed and sacrifice woven around it! This was one trip we all looked forward to, as it touched upon many famous names that we had only read about in our history textbooks so far -the details of which I have covered in one of my earlier posts.
No wonder Udaipur features in many films as a backdrop, being a favourite of many movie makers as well. In fact, the sixties’ classic, Guide and parts of the James Bond movie, Octopussy, were shot in this city.
As we were keen to explore local art and crafts, we came across local shops which offered a huge variety of handicrafts such as paintings, marble articles, silver arts and terracotta. Shilpgram is a great place to source regional handicraft and handloom products and if you are lucky, you might even catch the craft bazaars that are organised with the aim to encourage regional arts and crafts, the handicraft and handloom work. Udaipur is also a shopper’s paradise and worth checking out are the stores Anokhi, Rajasthali and Anmol as the recommended places to shop at. Although, if you’re like me, you might like to try the traditional markets of Bapu Bazaar, Suraj Pole, Nehru Bazaar and Chand Pole to pick up traditional gift items with a little bargaining but a booty to cherish, to gift yourself or family and friends.
On the whole, Udaipur never failed to impress us with its fabulous palaces, temples, havelis, the countless, narrow colourful streets and its’amazingly gorgeous beautiful lakes! No wonder, it remains one of the most sought-after tourist destinations of all times.