Its one of the most popular tourist destinations in India—for domestic and overseas tourists alike. Udaipur, better known as City of lakes is truly special, calm and beautiful. It has lot many things to offer to the tourists from temples like Eklingji and Nathdwara to historical places like Haldighati. So much so that you can’t probably do a justice to it in a short trip. It is also a perfect place for shopping a lot of traditional items. From all those things to do in this historical city, here is a top 10 list for you lest you don’t miss something big once back home. A few of them are guaranteed to be missed, if you wouldn’t know.
A boat trip to Jagmandir
A visit to Udaipur is incomplete without a boat cruise in Lake Pichola, the historic 14th century lake made by a local banjara (gypsy) that was extended in the 16th century by Rana Udai Singh II to establish Udaipur. The picturesque boat ride on Lake Pichola not only provides the best scenic view of the lake and the mountains in the city, but also presents some of the most important historical monuments dotted along the lakeside or submerged within the lake. Beginning with the monumental lakeside facade of the City Palace, the boat ride moves to the picturesque ghats with their distinctive steps, still used by the locals. The lake-side is lined with the havelis of the nobles, most prominent being the Bagore ki Haveli. The Gangaur Ghat with the triple-arched Tripolia stands as a magnificent piece of architecture at the end of Bagore ki Haveli. One can also relish the beauty of the small island structures in the midst of Lake Pichola i.e. the Mohan Mandir and the Arsi Vilas. Mohan Mandir was built by Rana Jagat Singh II as a dedication to Lord Krishna. Arsi Vilas is an island structure that has three rooms and an open courtyard at the rear. It was built by Rana Ari Singh II in the late 18th century. The most resplendent sights on the boat ride are the island palaces. The 17th century Jagmandir Island Palace is one of the oldest and most grandiose palace that is legendary as place of refuge to Prince Khurram (later Emperor Shahjahan). The other island palace of Jag Niwas, now the Lake Palace Hotel is an 18th century creation of Rana Jagat Singh II. Beyond the lakeside history and the beautiful island palaces, the boat ride provides a fantastic view of the distant monsoon palace perched on the hills.
An irresistible garden of the maidens
A must-visit for every tourist coming to Udaipur, this Garden of the Maidens (Saheliyon-ki-Bari) was built by Sangram Singh II in 1710. This small, quaint ornamental garden was laid out for the enjoyment of 48 women attendants who came as part of a princess’s dowry and has beautiful, well-maintained fountains (water shortages permitting), kiosks, marble elephants and a delightful lotus pool. As per the legends, the garden was designed by the king himself and he presented this garden to his queen. The gardens set below the embankment of the Fateh Sagar Lake have beautiful lotus pools, marble pavilions and elephant- shaped fountains. These fountains are fed by the water of the lake gushing through ducts made for the purpose. Each water channel has its distinct sound and the mingling of these sounds complement the ambience of the place. This patterned garden used to be the popular relaxing spot of the royal ladies. The queen with her maids and female companions used to come here for a stroll and spend their time in leisure. Due to this fact, the garden got its name. There is also a small museum here. The museum exhibiting the huge collection of royal households is another attraction of this garden.
A glorious view from the Monsoon Palace
The Monsoon Palace, formerly known as the Sajjan Garh Palace, is a hilltop palatial residence in the Udaipur city. Perched on top of a distant mountain like a fairy-tale castle, this melancholy, neglected late 19th-century palace was constructed by Maharana Sajjan Singh. Originally an astronomical centre, it became a monsoon palace and hunting lodge. It is named as Sajjangarh after Maharana Sajjan Singh (1874–1884) of the Mewar Dynasty, who built Sajjangarh Fort in 1884. It offers a panoramic view of the city’s lakes, palaces and surrounding countryside. It was built basically to watch the monsoon clouds; hence, appropriately, it is popularly known as Monsoon Palace. The Monsoon Palace provides a beautiful view of the sunset. High in the Aravalli Hills, just outside Udaipur, the Palace is illuminated in the evenings, giving a glow of golden orange. At the foot of the hill you enter the 5-sq-km Sajjan Garh Wildlife Sanctuary. Bird watchers too flock here.
A Jain temple with unparalleled architecture
Rajasthan is famous for its rich and prolific art treasures. Some of its architectural monuments are considered among the best in the world. The Ranakpur Jain Temple excels them all as an exquisite work of art and architecture. The Chaturmukha Jain Temple of Ranakpur is in the heart of the remote and enchanting valley of the Arvallis, skirting the rivulet Maghai and enveloped in the solitude of the surrounding forest, stands, in solemn grandeur. Ranakpur village is located in Desuri tehsil near Sadri town in the Pali district of Rajasthan. It is located between Jodhpur and Udaipur. 162 km from Jodhpur and 91 km from Udaipur, in a valley on the western side of the Aravalli Range. The temple is an eloquent testimony to India’s cultural heritage, her unique architecture and the vision and acumen of her past master artists. The temple, with its distinctive domes, shikhara, turrets and cupolas rises majestically from the slope of a hill. Over 1444 marble pillars, carved in exquisite detail, support the temple. The pillars are all differently carved and no two pillars are the same. It is also said that it is impossible to count the pillars.The construction is well documented in a 1437 CE copper-plate record. The construction continued until 1458 AD. The temple was renovated time to time. In spite of the complexity, the vast expanse and the loftiness of the temple, the architectural balance and symmetry are not the least affected. The temple has four artistic entrances.In the main chamber or Gabhara (Sanctum sanctorum) of the temple there are four huge white marble images of Bhagvan Adinath, These four images, which are some 72 inches tall, have been installed facing the four different directions. In the sanctuaries on the second and third storeys also are enshrined four identical Jain images. it is because of these four imaages nstalled together in this temple, that it is popularly known as Chaturmukh Jain Temple. There is still too much to know.
A temple in ruins
This another temple worth visit is rather unknown, so much so that you will rarely fine any visitor there. Although in ruins, still it is of extreme historical and cultural importance. It is close to Udaipur near Nagda town, just offside to NH 8 before Eklingji temple. In the 6th century, Nagda was found by Nagaditya, the fourth Mewar King. Nagda is located besides Bagela Lake. Nagda comprises many small and big temples, but the main attraction is gained by its ‘Sas-Bahu’ temple. Nagda is actually famous for this unusual temple that dates back to the 10th century. The term ‘Sas-Bahu’ suggests ‘Mother-in-law and Daughter-in-law’ respectively. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and it is made in two structures, one by a mother-in-law and another, by a daughter-in-law. The main entrance to the temples is made through a door that has carved lintels and a multi-lobed arch in its middle. Both the structures are laid out on a same plan having an altar, a mandapa (columned prayer hall) with projections and a porch. The temple of Sas is comparatively larger than that of the Bahu. The ‘Bahu’ temple has an octagonal ceiling, which is adorned with beautifully carved eight intricate female figures. The ‘Sas’ temple has a torana (archway) in its front and it is believed that the image of the Lord Vishnu was swung from the torana along with hymns in the praise of lord on ceremonial occasions. Both the temples are constructed on a common platform facing towards the east direction. The temple is accredited for having wonderful carvings. The walls of the shrine are usually plain and not engrossed with much work, but the projection is simply mind blowing with its exquisite sculptures. The sculptures are made in two steps, one encircling the other. On the first step, images of Lord Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu are carved and on the other, there are images of Rama, Balarama and Parashurama. Another temple that captures attention is Jain temple. Dedicated to the Jain Saint Shanti Nath, the temple is said to have been built during the rule of Rana Kumbha. The temple has a strange idol and that how the temple got its name (‘Adbhut’ means strange). This strange idol of 9 feet in height is an attraction for people. These temples were destroyed by the foreign invaders to a large extent, still they boast of their exceptional artistic architecture. Temple here also has some very delicate erotic sculptures as well, akin to Khajuraho.
Take a evening stroll at Lakeside
With the Fateh Sagar lake beside, at one end the Neemuch Mata temple and at another Maharana Pratap’s statue atop the Moti Magari, this is a new addition to Udaipur’s charms. Even the locals throng to this place every evening. The lakeside of Fateh Sagar has always been one of the most famous evening spots for the city of Lakes, bubbling with lots of activities from boating to food and motor sports. Its a meeting point for the city dwellers as well. A part of the road on the barrage has now been closed for vehicles and is now exclusively designed for the pedestrians, walkers and strollers. Evenings here are right out of another world- serene and majestic. Take a stroll on this stretch, sit beside the lake, enjoy the cool breeze with Maharana Pratap memorial to Neemuch Mata temple to Sajjangarh, all illuminated in full view, with lake and its island Nehru Garden in foreground… this is an experience only locals will be able to guide you through.
A garden in palace at third floor
Standing majestically on the banks of Lake Pichola, Udaipur’s city place is now a palace museum. If a garden at third floor doesn’t amazes you then, nothing won’t. Udaipur’s The City Palace Museum comprises the Mardana Mahal (palace for the royal men) and The Zenana Mahal (palace for the royal ladies). Since 1969 these two palaces have been preserved and developed as The City Palace Museum. The Museum is in fact a series of palaces, built from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries, spatially divided into royal private areas and public zones. Each of the palaces represents unique architectural styles and materials. Rare murals on the walls and ceilings, glass inlay work, original paintings and artefacts are spread over 20,000 square metres. Weaponry, armaments and personal belongings of the rulers are on display in their original places. Palace courtyards such as the Mor Chowk with peacocks, exquisitely created with glass inlay adoring the walls; Chini Chitrashali with 18h century Dutch and Chinese tile-work; Krishan Vilas, Bhim Vilas, Chandra Mahal and the palace garden of Baadi Mahal at the highest point of the ridge are amazing. The Museum houses an incomparable collection of court paintings of the Mewar School that flourished from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries. These rare paintings are displayed in the Dilkushal Mahal, Baadi Mahal and the west wing of the Zenana Mahal.
A chandelier work unimaginable
This is the world’s single largest private collection of crystal under one roof. Housed in the Fateh Prakash Palace is the world-famous Crystal Gallery; it’s spread across the upper-gallery of the glittering The Durbar Hall Sabhagaar. Crystal Gallery has been hailed as probably the single largest private collection of crystal anywhere in the world. It was in 1877 that Maharana Sajjan Singh (period of reign: 1874-1884) ordered the crystal collection from the Birmingham-based F&C Osler company. The collection includes a bewildering number of objects d’art, dinner sets, perfume bottles, decanters, glasses, washing bowls and even furniture. The Crystal Gallery also houses the only crystal bed in the world! The collection has been customised for the House of Mewar; the Crest of Mewar being delicately etched on the crystal, adding yet another amazing facet. The Durbar Hall Sabhagaar, which adorns the Fateh Prakash Palace, is of historical significance. In 1909, Lord Minto the Viceroy of India, laid its foundation stone and, in his honour, the hall was originally called Minto Hall. Today its opulent interiors – with huge chandeliers and special lights, portraits of the Maharanas of Mewar, royal artefacts and the legendary armoury of the Mewar dynasty – transport you to times past when the Maharanas held forth in The Durbar Hall Sabhagaar.
For the love of vintage cars
Like all kings of their times, the rulers of Mewar too had penchant for cars. They had a many of them. A few of those vintage cars, some of them almost a century old are kept at a museum in Garden Hotel, near Gulab Bagh (Sajjan Niwas Garden). This hotel itself has a slice of history as this heritage hotel was built in 1920 as a haveli. This hotel houses the unique private collection of vintage cars of Mewar State. Most of them are still in perfect running condition. These include magnificent Rolls-Royce, 1939 Cadillac open convertibles, rare Mercedes models, 1936 Vauxhall and 1937 Opel models. The Collection has been curated for the benefit of vintage car-lovers from India and all over the world; it is probably the only collection of its kind in India. The collection is housed in the original Palace Garage, a glorious setting for such a unique and remarkable collection of golden oldies. The semi-circular garage with its forecourt is housed within a greater courtyard, creating a pleasant hideaway from the bustle of the streets. One of the original Burmah Shell petrol pumps is not only still standing, but also in a usable condition. The garage itself was built at a time when the only cars in town belonged to the Royal Family and the present-day surroundings make this garage as wonderfully stylish as it must always have been.
Rajasthani Food and hospitality
Obviously, when you are in Udaipur, never resist any attempt to open up your taste buds. Rajasthani cuisine is perhaps the best one in the northern India and it has a wide-wide range to it. Well you might find many options with a la carte menu for different cuisines but what this part is famous for is its ‘thali’ system. You will be amazed with the number of dishes that are served in a single sitting. Add to it the typical taste and hospitality. Often you will be able to just taste all of them, that itself would be more than satisfying. Hotels like Natraj (old branch inside Bapu Bazar and the new one at station road) are famous for their food for many decades. Not to be missed.