INDIA, Jan. 2009

= UDAIPUR =

Photos © Ruud Leeuw

Our very first visit to India... At the airport of New Delhi we were met by a chauffeur and he drove us through Rajasthan. After visits to Jaipur and Pushkar, our next stop was at Udaipur. It was the first stop where we stayed two nights instead of one.

The city of Udaipur falls on the Golden Quadrilateral, lying midway between Delhi and Mumbai on National Highway (NH) 8; it is around 650 kilometres from either metro. The roads in this part of the country are paved and fit for private vehicles. But then you have to be able to read the roadsigns for directions if you drive yourself...

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Upon arrival in Udaipur, we were face by roadblocks. Our driver attempted three routes to get to our hotel, but each time was met by the indifference of police and military at these roadblocks. How to get to our hotel at the lakeside and what was the reason of all this...
At first it looked like we had to walk with our suitcases and try to find our hotel 'Mewar Haveli' without a proper citymap, without a clue how far we needed to walk. But to our immense relief our driver arranged a tuktuk (auto rickshaw) for us, which was able to negotiate the narrow alleys for a backroad to our hotel.
The reason for all this was another religious festival. At that time we felt like India represented hell in religion, upturning common life in a major way.

Udaipur
The room we had been issued was small considering the large bed. And while the temperature outside was pleasantly warm, the room was cold. Such are the cooling effects in buildings here, the temperature will rise considerably in the next few months. This hotel, the Mewar Haveli, was probably the one we enjoyed most this vacation! That was mainly due to very helpful and friendly staff, as well as the nice rooftop accommodation.

 

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The view from...

Udaipur
... the hotel's rooftop restaurant


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Our neighbours across the road..

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Fellow travellers show the lounge area of the restaurant, ideal for reading, enjoying a beverage or just chilling out..

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View on a rooftop restaurant next to our hotel.

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The restaurant of the Mewar Haveli actually has two floors. The rooftop has seats and this nice spot, but in january the afternoons can get chilly after 16:00, so we took ourselves one floor down most of the times, in the dining area.

Udaipur

Udaipur

Particularly famous is the Lake Palace, which covers an entire island in the Pichola Lake. Many of such palaces have been converted into luxury hotels.
At night we had this beautiful view from the rooftop restaurant.
Lake Palace is a luxury hotel, with 83 rooms and suites featuring white marble walls, located on a natural foundation of 4 acres (16,000 m2) rock on the Jag Niwas island in Lake Pichola, Udaipur. The hotel operates a boat which transports guests to the hotel from a jetty at the City Palace. Maybe we should have taken a trip to have a quick look, but we were too lazy!
It was built in 1743 - 1746 under the direction of the Maharana Jagat Singh II (62nd successor to the royal dynasty of Mewar) of Udaipur, Rajasthan as a royal summer palace and was initially called Jaginwas or Jan Niwas after its founder. The Maharana, ruler of Jaipur from 1628 to 1654, was very friendly with Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and encouraged his craftsmen to copy some of the glories of his incomparable buildings at Agra.


Udaipur
During the afternoon we walked in the immediate vicinity of the hotel; we found a secondhand bookshop across our hotel and purchased a few books. Like the proprietors of the hotel, the owners of the bookshop advised us to stay indoors (in the hotel) and not venture out in the streets when the festival took place. It was a muslim festival and there just might be someone who could lash out to a westerner... We heeded the advice. We did see several westerners in the streets during the procession but as far as I know nothing harmful take place.
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Udaipur
Udaipur

Udaipur
This part of town enjoyed a blackout during the procession, as the homebuilt items in the procession were often of such height that they would touch the hi-voltage cables. The ropes which people held enable them to move them left and right and negotiate corners and obstacles. Drums were played in a frantic manner but very monotonous, it wasn't about music. And these towers of religion were dumped into the lake, where they would float the next day in a rather unceremoniously way and slowly disappear below the surface.
It pleased us no end that festivities were ended by 22:00, we had been worried we'd been looking at another disturbed night by religious fanatics.
Udaipur
Udaipur
     

Udaipur
On this photo one can see how high these 'things' (name?) could be.
It was magnificent to witness this procession, we arrived at Udaipur at the right time, plain luck!

     

 

Udaipur

Udaipur is also where the James Bond film 'Octopussy' was filmed over 20 years ago (IMDB.com) and you cannot venture anywhere in the walled city without forgetting it! Many hotels and guesthouses have a sign featuring a nightly "Octopussy" filmshow. Several Indian people featured in this film, such as Kabir Bedi and tennisplayer Vijay Amritraj.

Udaipur
This women earns a few rupees by selling flowers to the visitors of the temple. Life is religion here in India. Hinduism is the predominant religion of the Indian subcontinent. Hinduism is often referred to as Sanatana Dharma, a Sanskrit phrase meaning "the eternal law", by its adherents. Among its roots is the historical Vedic religion of Iron Age India, and as such Hinduism is often stated to be the "oldest religious tradition" or "oldest living major tradition."

 

Standing on the east bank of Lake Pichola is a massive series of palaces built at different times from 1559. The balconies of the palace provide panoramic views of "Jag Niwas" (the Lake Palace Hotel), Jag Mandir on one side and on the other the city of Udaipur. Its main entrance is through the triple-arched gate - the Tripolia, built in 1725.
The way now leads to a series of courtyards, overlapping parations, terraces, corridors and gardens. There is a Suraj Gokhda, where the maharanas of Mewar presented themselves in the times of trouble to the people to restore confidence.
There are numerous other palaces such as Dilkhush mahal, Sheesh mahal, Moti mahal and Krishna vilas - in memory of a princess of striking beauty who poisoned herself to avert a bloody battle for her hand by rival princes. Now the palace contains many antique articles, paintings, decorative furniture and utensils and attracts thousands of visitors every day.The former guesthouse of the city palace, Shiv Niwas Palace and the Fateh Prakash Palace have been converted into heritage hotels.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Udaipur
Udaipur

 

Udaipur
We had a guide booked for a city tour. Our first stop was the Shree Jagdish Temple.

The temple is situated in the middle of the city and is a big tourist attraction, as it is also very close to the City Palace.
It is raised on a tall terrace and was completed in 1651. It attaches a double storeyed Mandapa (hall) to a double - storied, saandhara (that having a covered ambulatory) sanctum. The mandapa has another storey tucked within its pyramidal samavarna (bell - roof) while the hollow clustered spire over the sanctum contains two more, non - functional stories.
Lanes taking off from many of the sheharpanah (city wall) converge on the Jagdish Temple.
It was built by Maharana Jagat Singh Ist in 1651 A.D. It is an example of Indo - Aryan architecture.
[Wikipedia]

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Udaipur

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Udaipur
Udaipur

 

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View from the temple into the streets

 

 

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City Palace: A majestic architectural marvel towering over the lake on a hill surrounded by crenallated walls, it is a conglomeration of ourtyards, pavilions, terraces,corridors,rooms and hanging gardens.
Udaipur

 

Udaipur

 

Udaipur
The architecture has so many fine details, but Indians have a way to add further decorations.
I found the City Palace here in Udaipur much more interesting than the one in Jaipur, or maybe the guides made the difference. This time we did visit the armoury.
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Udaipur
Udaipur

Udaipur

Lovely walled garden, high up in the palace.
The palace is actually built on a hill, which causes considerable differences in height.


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Partytime, Maharaja style... Tug of war by elephants. This was done at the palace.


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Magnificent decorations, but I felt both in awe as well as disgusted by these lavish luxeries, knowing the Maharaja's people outside the palace walls were left with their dismal fate.
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I would not have expected 'Delft Blue' earthware in an Indian palace; but then again: why not?!
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Udaipur

Udaipur

 

Udaipur

 

 

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A view from the Palace onto the Lake Palace Hotel.
Udaipur




Ganesha has become one of the commonest mnemonics for anything associated with Hinduism.
The son of Shiva and Parvati, Ganesha has an elephantine countenance with a curved trunk and big ears, and a huge pot-bellied body of a human being. He is the Lord of success and destroyer of evils and obstacles.
Ganesha is also worshipped as the god of education, knowledge, wisdom and wealth. In fact, Ganesha is one of the five prime Hindu deities (Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and Durga being the other four) whose idolatry is glorified as the panchayatana puja.

A few more close ups inside the palace, showing architectural detail,
Udaipur
Udaipur

 

Udaipur

Rajasthan is an impressive combination of royal and tribal India. The region is packed with awe-inspiring forts, sparkling palaces, soothing lakes and gardens, and exquisite temples and shrines. The crafts and folk art produced here are world-renowned. Once called Rajputana ("abode of kings"), this vast land consisted of more than 22 princely states before they were consolidated into modern Rajasthan in 1956. Each state was ruled by a Rajput, an upper-caste Hindu warrior-prince, and the Rajputs were divided into three main clans: the Suryavanshis, descended from the sun, the Chandravanshis, descended from the moon, and the Agnikuls who had been purified by ritual fire.
When they were not fighting among themselves for power, wealth, and women, the Rajputs built the hundreds of forts, palaces, gardens, and temples that make this region so enchanting.
But I found no a reference of a Ruler concerned with economic growth nor education, welfare of his people. While the narcistic pursuit of luxury by the Maharaja's is obvious, I did not encounter any Indian (nor reference of such) harbouring a grudge towards the decadent Rulers.

 

Udaipur

While the rest of India launched their struggle for independence, many Rajput princes ended up defending the Raj. Unwilling to give up their world of luxury and power, they did their best to suppress rebellion outside their own kingdoms by sending their soldiers to help the British forces. When India won independence, the Rajput princes and kings were forced to merge their kingdoms into one state as part of the new nation, but they were allowed to keep the titles to their palaces, forts, lands, jewels, and other sumptuous possessions. Since then, however, the government has taken over much of their land and many of their palaces and forts. Stripped of feudal power, many of the maharajas became hotel owners, while others have turned their properties over to leading hotel chains. A few have become paupers or recluses.

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The Mor-chowk (Peacock courtyard), gets its name from the mosaics in glass decorating its walls.

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The royal reception area I believe.


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Udaipur
I noticed this massive, ancient door and decorations.

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Maintenance with an eye for detail

 

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The streets of Udaipur. We only walked in the close vicinity of our hotel, but found the streetscene not as inspiring as in Pushkar. Then again, our hotel with its friendly staff had a magnetic field drawing us back to (Indian) tea, relaxation and reading. I struggled with a Philip Roth book ( a gift by my son, who obviously overestimated my literary interests), found a Wycliffe detective novel quite the other end of spectre in bookprint and immensely relaxing and delved in the Lonely Planet for unending items of educational interest of a country that started to grow on me. The hotel became a safe haven in a world we had difficulty understanding, a zone to climatize to untold layers of cultural intensity. A welcoming break in a learning experience.

 

Udaipur
Pots and pans, suitable for a large party..

 

 

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The internet cafe.. This place was right next door from our hotel, had a huge selection of books, offered booked excursions and one could place cheap long distance phonecalls. We had found our mobile phones useless and internet very slow.

Our mobile phones depended on Mumbay network, which is notoriously bad. I also read somewhere that one reason is that phonelines are buried without proper insulation, rendering the network prone for faults and breakdowns.

I tried to buy a simcard for my cellular phone, an advise I got from a Finnish traveller. But I couldn't get it to work. It would have saved in costs, but since our stay was only 3 weeks I did not pursue it further.

 


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Another view from our hotel

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Udaipur
Udaipur

 


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Back to the streets of Udaipur

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Udaipur

Udaipur

 

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Udaipur
The Moghuls' influence in Rajasthan is still visible in everything from food to palace architecture, from intricate miniature paintings to new musical styles, and from clothing to the tradition of purdah (the seclusion of women from males or strangers, or the act of covering the head and face with a veil).


Udaipur

Udaipur
Rajasthan is a unique combination of royal and tribal India. We rather rushed through those legendary cities of Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, built by the mighty Rajput warriors. Two nights in Udaipur is really scratching the surface (a temple, the City Palace, some relaxation)..
But it felt good for a visit to India.

 

PUSHKAR to UDAIPUR BACK
NEXT UDAIPUR to JODHPUR

Helpful links:
Indiaonline.nl (Dutch)
www.india-tourism.com
www.bharatonline.com
Lonely Planet
Wikipedia