Friday, November 12, 2010

24 BY CITY - Udaipur

It's not hard to imagine why much of the Bond thriller, Octopussy, was picturised here. There is history in the bylanes and tales of valour in the palaces. Reflection takes on a whole new meaning in the Lake City of Udaipur.
Gangaur Ghat
Most of the sights you will see, overlook Lake Pichhola or one of the many lakes of Udaipur. And what better way to start the day than to step on to one of the banks and absorb the sights and sounds of a city coming awake. Gangaur Ghat is a bank on the Lake Pichhola with an ornate gateway. Rest a while on the banks and enjoy the rippled reflection of the landscape and structures around the lake.
Bagore Ki Haveli
This Haveli or Traditional Residence, located at Gangaur Ghat, on the banks of the Lake Pichhola, runs a museum under the aegis of The West Zone Cultural Centre. On display are every day items used by the aristocracy. The Haveli Museum is otherwise open between 10:00 hrs – 19:00 hrs.
City Palace Complex
If there is one place that will dominate your visit to Udaipur, it would be the City Palace Complex. Originally built by Maharana Udai Singh in 1553, the complex has lofty archways, ornate balconies and resplendent halls built in both Mughal and Rajput architectural styles. The museum (09:30 hours to 16:30 hours) houses a fine collection of miniature paintings, royal clothing, accessories and armour. Do visit the Mor Chowk with its intricate mosaic work featuring peacocks. Thematic trails and registered guides are also available. There is a 4-in-1 special package that includes the City Palace Museum, a boat ride and some refreshments.
There are two more palaces in the complex - The Fateh Prakash Palace and the Shiv Niwas Palace - both luxury hotels now. The former has a magnificent Darbar Hall and a Crystal Gallery (09:00 hours to 19:30 hours) that are open to public and well worth a dekko.
The complex also has The Vintage & Classic Car Collection (09:00 hours to 17:00 hours), showcasing twenty cars owned by the Maharanas of Mewar including a 1924 Rolls-Royce 20 hp.
Lake Palace
Seemingly floating on the Pichhola Lake, the Lake Palace is called Jag Nivas. It was built by Maharana Jagat Singh in 1743. It is now a luxury hotel. Enjoy a meal at their restaurant and relive the grandeur of a bygone era.
Saheliyon Ki Bari
With its lush greenery, fountains, pavilions and walkways, Saheliyon Ki Bari (literally, 'Handmaidens' Garden') is a medium-sized park that brings alive visions of handmaidens at leisure. Don't miss the statue of the standing Indian woman in one of the fountains.
The best meal you can have in Udaipur would be at any of the restaurants that are part of luxury properties that were once palaces. Among Rajasthani delicacies, do try the Daal-Baati-Churma. There are also any number of cafes and eateries serving world cuisine.
Buy Mojris (footwear) - these are tough leather shoes, beautifully embellished with embroidery and zari work. Also pick up embroidered fabric, miniature paintings and antique jewellery. If you are a seasoned bargainer, the shops around the main sights would be perfect to pit your bargaining skills against seasoned shopkeepers who know a gullible tourist when they see one.
Shilpgram is a crafts fair just 3 kms from Udaipur. It showcases traditional architecture of the common people of different regions of India. Crafts from these regions are also on display. 11:00 hrs – 19:00 hrs all days.
Catch the Son et lumiere show at the City Palace. It is called ‘The Legacy of Honour’ and the English version runs from 19:00 hours to 20:00 hours between October and March.
Bagore Ki Haveli hosts a cultural program called Dharohar every evening between 19:00 and 20:00 hours.
There are many festivals celebrated in Rajasthan and chief among them, is the Mewar Festival that is uniquely Udaipur. It is a spring festival and is held around March every year. Do check the RTDC website for the exact dates.
A ten-day annual festival called Shilpgram Utsav is held at Shilpgram in December to celebrate the cultural diversity of India along with an exhibition of regional crafts and folk art forms.
Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC)
Fateh Memorial, Suraj Pol. Tel.: 0294-2411535, 2521971/1364
Dabok Airport. Tel.: 0294-2655433 Tourist Information Counter Railway Station ,
More details on the City Palace Complex here:
(An edited version appeared in Culturama's November 2010 Issue)

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