Friday, April 27, 2018

Northern Sojourn Day IX: Chittorgarh – Fort, Sieges, Maharanas and Mirabai,

@Chittorgarh Railway Station

It’s only a couple of hours journey from Udaipur to Chittorgarh. Train was crossing the desert like terrain the night. While I was approaching the limits of Chittor, stories of multiple sieges and other battles Chittor witnessed came to my mind. So as the valor and sacrifice of thousands fought and died for Mewar kingdoms during those bloody sieges. Was that the sound of numerous women of Mewar who committed Jauhar? Thinking about Jauhar itself brings lot of terrible images to the mind.

Unlike all other places I visited previously in this journey, my train reached Chittorgarh on time. Irony is, I desperately wanted this train to be late. Problem is my room booking at railway station starts from next day morning!!! To much time left for morning. I walked towards sleeper class waiting room and found an empty chair. Next train came and went. On the other end of the room, so one just vacated a chair structure having three seats. I went there and tried to sleep. Night slowly passed by; it was no a place for comfortable sleep. In between I woke up adjusted mu pose and slept again. By 7.30 I woke up from the chair, took the bag and went for retiring room.

After having a brief sleep and bath, I went outside to start my literary. I got a shared auto, from railway station entrance which took me close to fort. Driver showed another auto going to the fort. I went there and got in. There was one more couple in that auto going to visit the fort. Along with them I also started my journey to one of the most illustrious fort in Indian history – Chittorgarh Fort.

Chittorgarh - History

It is believed that, Chittorgarh was originally called Chitrakuda and was founded by king Chitranga from local Mauryan dynasty. Located on the banks of Gambhiri and Berach rivers, this city served as the capital of Sisodia Rajputs until they shifted their capital to Udaipur.

Chittorgarh Fort (UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Located on top of a hill, this fort covers an area of approx. 700 acres. This is one of the biggest fort complexes in Asia. Seven gateways built using giant stone structures provided entry to this fort. Main gate is known as Ram Pol (Ram refers to Lord Ram and Pol means gate). Other gates are, Hanuman Pol, Ganesh Pol, Jodla Pol, Laxman Pol, Padan Pol, Bhairon Pol. These massive gates had its own defence mechanism to fend of enemy elephants; parapets on these gates also provided ideal location for archers to aim and shot arrows towards invading army.

We entered the fort through a road which have some sharp turns. From the top (sunset view point), one can see the bird’s view of modern day Chittorgarh blow. As the fort covers a lot of area, one might need a vehicle to cover all the land and see monuments.

Mewar kingdoms controlled the fort from 7th century onward. By 9th century, fort passed to the hands of Paramara dynasty. They ruled it till the end of 13th century.


During its heydays, Chittorgarh witnessed multiple sieges. Blood flowed like water during those sieges. Probably the earliest one was from Delhi.

1303 - Aladdin Khalji

Aladdin Khalji came here and laid siege to the fort. After an eight month long struggle he conquered the fort by defeating Rana Ratan Singh. It is believed that, after the conquest around 30,000 people were massacred in the fort. Aladdin gave the fort to his son Khizr Khan (or Khidr Khan) and returned to Delhi. Chittor fort was renamed as Khizrabad, a name which didn't stick for long time. Khizr Khan controlled the fort for 8 years and it went to Maldeva. He ruled Chittor for another 7 years. Later Hammir Singh took control of the fort and established his dynasty - 'Sisodia dynasty' - as the rulers of Mewar.

Rana Kumbha

One prominent king who came later in this dynasty is Rana Kumbha. He built numerous forts and ruled the kingdom for 35 years. As per some accounts, he built as many as 32 forts including the famous - Kumbalgarh. He is also credited for Kumbalgarh's 36 km long wall making it one of the lengthiest walls in the world. Unfortunately, he was assassinated by his son Rana Udaysimha (Uday Singh I). In later power struggles, Kumbha's another son Rana Raimal defeated Udaysimha and ascended to the throne of Mewar. After Raimal's death in 1509, his son Sangram Singh (famously known as Rana Sanga) came to power.

Rana Sanga and First Battle of Panipat

Rana Sanga achieved significant victories during his reign. He defeated combined forces of Sultan Muzaffar of Gujarat and Sultan of Malwa. He conquered some districts of Malwa after a victory over Ibrahim Lodhi in Battle of Khatoli (Gwalior). In this battle Rana Sanga lost his left arm and suffered significant injuries in one leg. Mewar was also successful in Battle of Dholpur against Lodi.

During this time, Sanga offered to join Babur in his attack against Lodi. Plan was to attack Lodi together.  Sanga would attack Agra and Babur will attack Delhi. Babur went ahead and attacked Delhi but Sanga didn’t made any moves. Babur conquered both cities. Unlike his grandfather Timur, he decided to stay in India. Victory in first battle of Panipat (April 21, 1526) against Lodi made Babur as a force to recon with. His cannons were one of the most powerful weapons northern India ever witnessed.

Sanga built a big confederacy. Almost all Rajput kingdoms joined him in his battle against Babur. Afghan owing allegiance to Mahmud Lodi - numbering close to 10,000 also joined with Rana Sanga. Later during the battle, Silhadi of Raisen deserted Rana's camp and joined with Babur with his strong contingent. Though he was able to save his life, Rana Sanga lost the battle and his confederacy collapsed. He tried to continue his fight against Babur. It is believed that, fearing another battle (which might become suicidal) with Babur his nobles poisoned him to death.

1532, 1535 - Bahadur Shah (Sultan of Gujrat)

In 1532 forces of Bahadur Shah laid siege to Chittor fort. Chittor paid him off with large ransom and he went back only to come again 3 years later. In 1535 he again besieged the fort. This time Bahadur Shah conquered and sacked the fort. It is believed that, around 13,000 women committed jauhar this time. Bahadur Shah's was not able to hold on to the fort for long as he was soon defeated by Humayun at Mandasur, Mandu and later at Champaner. During this time, Sisodias regained control of Chittor.

1567 - Akbar

Last siege of Chittor was started by Mughal Emperor Akbar on 20 October 1567. It is believed that, Akbar wanted an easy access to important seaports of Gujrat and Malwa. Amber already came under him. UdaiSingh II of Mewar was ready to accept Mughal suzerainty and pay tribute. However, he was not ready to lower his head in front of Akbar.

Before siege, Udai Singh placed the fort under the command of Jaimal and Patta and left 8000 soldiers and 1000 musketeers for the defence of Chittor. Akbar's army captured the fort in February 1568. However, he was not able to capture Maharana Udai Singh II.

During this time, Mughal army under Asaf Khan and Wazir Khan captured Mandalgarh. One contingent under the command of Asaf Khan went to Rampur another one under the command of Hussain Quli Khan went to Udaipur and Kumbalgarh to conquer Rana's territories. Next year Akbar's forces conquered Ranthambor fort as well.

Maharana Pratap and Battle of Haldigati

Rana Udai Singh died four years later. His son - Pratap Singh (Maharana Pratap) took over the reins and fought against Mughal army. Despite losing to Mughal forces in the Battle of Haldighati he continued his fight against Mughal forces.

In 1615 son of Maharana Pratap - Amar Singh I - accepted Mughal suzerainty. As a goodwill gesture, Jahangir (Akbar's son and then Emperor) gave Chittor fort to Amar Singh I. There was a condition for this transfer – damages suffered by the fort during the siege should never be repaired. Shift of Mewar capital to Udaipur and end of military significance for Chittor rang the death bell for more than 800 years of Chittor’s position.


For any fort to face siege successfully, it is important to maintain enough reserves of food and water. On some accounts, Chittor had close to 84 water bodies with a combined capacity of 4bn liters.

My Journey

After having a bird’s view of Chittor city in the plains the first place I went was Kalika Mata Temple

Kalika Mata Temple

It is believed that, this temple was built in 8th century for worshipping Sun God. Later in 14th century temple was dedicated to Goddess Kali. This is an active temple with daily poojas. After climbing and array of steps I reached the sanctum.

Rani Padmini's Palace

Next in line was Rani Padmini’s palace. This palace is one of the earliest structures in fort complex and believed to be the home for Rani Padmini. One need to buy separate tickets for visiting this place. Centuries of wear and tear took its toll on this structure. What you see now is a worn-out remnant of a majestic structure from past.

Earlier this palace was surrounded by water, making it one of India’s early such palaces. Probably in rainy season it may again get surrounded by water. Currently water is low and only covers two sides.

Kirti Stambha (Tower of Fame)

From Rani Padmini’s palace we went to Kirthi Stambha. This big tower with artworks is dedicated to Adinathji (1st Jain Tirthankara). Built by a wealthy Jain merchant (Jijaji Rathod) in 12th century, Kirthi Stambha has a narrow stairway till 6th floor. Top pavilion was added later. Currently staircase is closed to visitors. I spent some time looking at this beautiful tower and then went to Jain temple.

Jain Temples

There are multiple Jain temples in fort complex. The only one I visited was located next to Kirthi Sthamba.


Next destination was one of the majestic gates of Chittor fort. From is bad shape one can conclude that this part of fort suffered heavily probably during the last siege. Some reconstruction was done. One local tour guide was explaining to their group that invading armies were camped and attacked the fort from the vast plains below. Currently those plains are largely covered in greenery.

Vijay Stambh (Tower of Victory)

After a while I reached Vijay Stambh.

This tower was constructed by Maharana Kumbha in memory of his victories over Mahmud Shah I Khalji, then Sultan of Malwa. It’s a nine-story building and bigger than Kirthi Stambha. Built using red sandstone and white marble this tower is decorated with sculptures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Here also a narrow staircase is built to reach the top. As in Kirthi Stambha stair cases are closed for visitors. If so many visitors used that staircases, then the tower is not going to last long.

Next to Victory pillar there is an elevated platform. It is believed that Johar was committed at this place.

Samadisvar Shiva Temple

This temple is located next to Johar place. This is an active temple and daily poojas are going on here. I went inside. This place was too much crowded. A big tour group from a school almost filled each inch of vacant space. Next to Shiv temple it is Gaumukh reservoir

Gaumukh Kund

This was a deep tank located at one side of fort and fed by a spring which emerges from a rock in the shape of cow’s mouth (therefore the reservoir is known as Gaumakh Kund. This pool served as one of the main source of water during sieges. There was a big queue to reach the rock. I also join the queue.

By the way one thing with queues in India is, it is totally useless. People hardly form queue. Even if someone forms there will always be someone who break it and go to the front. People who are in the queue, not interested in picking up a fight hardly object. Now behind that guy another will come and soon there will be a second queue. Then a third queue. Then a struggle to see who goes first. This is not without exceptions, some of the most efficient queue systems are also in India. No, it is not the queue in front of temples, but the queue in front of Kerala’s beverages shops!!!

Just between the goumukh and rest of the place there is a narrow path. Those who go to Gomukh to touch the rock and water must come back through same way. I was patiently waiting, and people were jumping from behind on both sides. Finally, I reached the kund and then came back. On a near by stone wall someone carved a lady’s figure which is believed to be rani Padmini’s.

Meerabai Temple

This is one of the most famous temples in fort complex.

Meerabai is one of the most famous poets of Bhakti movement and complete devotee of Lord Krishna. She was born in a noble family of Merta and later married (probably at the age of 18) to crown prince of Mewar - Bhoj Raj (he was the eldest son of Rana Sanga). From childhood itself she was completely a Lord Krishna devotee. Though Bhoj Raj initially tried to pull Meera to worldly affairs, he later developed a relationship of friendship and understanding with Meera. Probably in 1526(years are contested) Bhojraj died due to battle wounds.

There are stories of multiple assassination attempts on her.

Stories suggest that, she later left Mewar kingdom and went on pilgrimage and lived in Dwaraka or Vrindavan and finally merged in to an idol of Krishna.

One of her poems,

"My Dark One has gone to an alien land.
He has left me behind, he's never returned, he's never sent me a single word.
So I've stripped off my ornaments, jewels and adornments, cut my hair from my head.
And put on holy garments, all on his account, seeking him in all four directions.
Mira: unless she meets the Dark One, her Lord, she doesn't even want to live."

— Mira Bai, Translated by John Stratton Hawley

When she came to Chittorgarh fort, she asked a Krishna temple for personal use. Her father in law, Maharana Sangram Singh built a small temple next to existing Kumbha temple. This temple was later known as Kumbha Shyam Temple. She continued her worship of Lord Krishna there.

Jain Swethamber Temple

This is a beautiful Jain temple located next to Fateh Prakash Mahal. I went inside; spent a little time there and came out.

Rajastan Hasthkala Centre

While coming back auto driver took me to Rajasthan Handicraft emporium. As per them all those saris are made from different fruits etc by local artisans. As per them one specialty of these saris is it will produce a nice fragrance whenever it was pulled from water. That guy even demonstrated it to me, and the fragrance was there. Price ranges from 400 to 3000. I paid for two and they sent it over VPP. After some days, saris finally reached home. Irony was, I was not able to demonstrate any scent at home!!! I specifically asked how long the smell will last he told 2 years or so. In any case saris looked good. In case you are buying don’t expect fragrance and try it there itself. Its width may not be enough for you.

Gambhiri River Bridge

While going back to Chittor railway station, we reached Gambhiri river bridge. This bridge was built using stone and she has nine slightly pointed arches and one semi-circular arch. It is believed that, this bridge was built by Kizir Khan (son of Aladdin Khilji) after the conquest of Chittorgarh in 1303. Striking some bells? Well, if it was built during that time then this Gambhiri bridge is more than 700 years old.  Built mainly for moving horses, animals, humans in that era; this bridge withstood all wear and tear, continuous water flow and still good enough for motorized vehicles.

By afternoon - around 2.30 - I reached railway station. I was very much hungry by this time. After searching for restaurants, I finally reached Dominos and ordered Mexican green wave pizza. Day long walk made me very much tired and I slept. By the time I woke up it was 6.30 in the evening. Still close to four and half hours for train to Indore. Finally, it came, and I reached Indore by next day morning 9.30am.


Other main places in and around fort complex are,

1. Fateh Prakash Palace
Located near Rana Kumbha Palace, this palace was built by Maharana Fateh Singh in Rajput style. This was Fateh Singh's residence as well.

2. Rana Kumbha Palace
This place - now only ruins - is located near Vijay Stambh. It is believed that this palace had underground cellars. It is believed that, Rani Padmini and others committed Jauhar here. Founder of Udaipur, Maharana Udai Singh II, also born here. Rani Meera, the famous poet saint, also lived in this palace. Royal Treasury was also located nearby.

3. Suraj Pole
4. Vidyanath Mahadev Temple
5. Sardeshawar Mahadev Temple
6. Ambey Mata Temple
7. Hanuman Temple
8. Lakshmi Temple
9. Shanidev Temple
10.Rana Ratan Mahal etc.


1. Wikipedia
2. Chittaurgarh’s 700-year-old bridge (

Thursday, April 19, 2018

One evening in Pottery Town

Located in Cantonment area – just behind Featherlight School - pottery town is a small zone where families/small units make products using clay and other materials. If you like to buy clay pots of different types and shapes, Ganesh idols for festivals, diyas for Divali then pottery town is the perfect place to go.

Me and Nandan planned to visit this place long back. But due to some reason which I hardly recall we postponed the journey. When Jaseer asked about a place to go for weekend this was my suggestion. By the Bangalore palace is not so far. We decided to go there on a Sunday evening, which later turned out a bad idea. Sunday is a holiday for the town. We met at the side of Ulsoor lake and drove towards the town.

Pottery town was smaller than expected. We started walking from one end to other. One the narrow lanes there were multiple houses. There were lot of pots freshly made from clay. On the other side, lot of Ganesha statues of different sizes looking at pedestrians. Further down the lane there were a lot of Tandoori ovens. Soon we reached other end of the area. Hardly anyone was working on making pots. Everyone is sitting calmly here and there and talking with their friends and family members.

There was nothing much to do, so we continued or journey to Bangalore Place. In case you are planning to visit this area go on a weekday or Saturday.


1. 4-5 km from MG road, Bangalore.
2. Best time to visit: Weekdays and Saturdays

Northern Sojourn Day VII, VIII: Udaipur - Siting on Aravalli's Lap

MY train from Jaipur reached Udaipur station at 6.35am. Station looked almost empty, except for those who came along with me in train (Khajuraho - Udaipur). My hotel was a couple of kilometers away from station. After checking Google maps, I walked towards second gate and then another 2kms to reach my hotel at Savina. After having breakfast, I went to nearby junction and waited for an auto. In most northern/central/western Indian cities, its economical to go for shared autos. By the way, you should know exactly where you need to go!!! My first destination was Jagadish Temple. Unfortunately, driver didn't recognize that name. Instead he told me some 5-6 other place names. One of that was Suraj Pole; I recognized that name and went to Suraj Pole (aka Sun Gate).

That was a big auto, two people can sit along with driver. At back there was two rows of seats, facing each other.  One guy was sitting along with driver. I sat in a row just behind driver but in opposite direction. There were seven people in that auto. From next stop one vegetable vendor came in. He had two big plastic sacks. One was filled with brinjals and the other one with Cauliflowers. Oh no; there was a third one, full of green chilies. Old guy sitting opposite to me was eating samosas, probably his breakfast.

Udaipur History

Udaipur (aka 'City of Lakes') is a major city in Rajasthan. Surrounded by Aravalli mountain ranges, which also separate Udaipur from harsh climate of Thar desert, is home for five major lakes - Pichola, Fateh Sagar, Swaroopsagar, Rangsagar and Dooth Talai. Located 650+ kms from Delhi, Udaipur was founded in 1550s by Maharana Udai Singh II. 

Udaipur served as capital of Mewar till 1818. 

Before Udaipur came in to existence, this area had a trading town known as Ayad. In 16th century when Maharana Udai Singh II (during his exile in Kumbhalgarh) realized that Chittorgarh Fort is highly vulnerable to advanced long-range artillery aided warfare, he decided to build a new capital in the middle of mountains. Especially in a place where it would be difficult for enemy to bring in heavy artillery. Ayad was right place for new capital, but threat of floods always loomed around Ayad. Hence, he selected a ridge east of Lake Pichola for his new capital city. Udai Singh II also built a 6km long wall to protect new capital from external attacks. This wall had seven gates - Brahmpole, Hathipole, Surajpole, Chandpole, Udiapole, Ambapole.

After the death of Udai Singh in 1572, kingdom passed to the hands of his son - Maharana Pratap (one of the most iconic ruler of Sisodia dynasty). However, at the battle of Haldighati (1576) he was defeated by armies of Akbar and Udaipur came under Mughal rule.

After the death of Akbar his son and then emperor Jahangir gave Mewer back to Sisodias. Maharana Pratap’s son Amar Singh I came to power. However, peace only came after a treaty between Sisodias and Mughals.

Decline of Mughal empire brought another enemy to the borders of Mewar kingdom - Marathas. This forced Maharana Bhim Singh to sign a treaty with Company and accepted their protection agreement. After independence Mewer kings lost royal privileges and titles, but they could retain the ownerships of palaces. Many of these palaces were later converted to heritage hotels.

After a while I reached Suraj Pole. From there, I decided to walk all the way to Jagadish temple. Though walking takes a lot of time, there may not be a better way to explore city and its inhabitants’ daily life. After walking for close to one kilometer I reached Sajjan Nivas hotel; opposite to that stands Vintage Car Museum. Eager to look inside, I bought tickets and went in.

Vintage Car Museum

Inside there was a small collection of old luxury cars, other vehicles and related equipment. The items, which only a small percentage of Indians could afford in those days. By the way ticket charge was 300. 

After going through the collection and taking photos, I went outside and walked towards City Palace. 

In case you are spending time in Udaipur city, place keep enough cash in hand. I didn't see any ATM in old city areas, especially near city palace.

Udaipur City Palace

This palace was built along with Udaipur city by Maharana Udai Singh II. His successors made considerable additions to palace complex. It is believed that while searching land for a new capital, Udai Singh II met a hermit who advised him to build a new capital there. Royal courtyard (Rai Angan) was built at that place where king met hermit.

Several maharanas came after Udai Singh added new structures to place complex. There are at least 11 small palaces with in this complex. Entire complex was built either using granite or marble. Interiors of place had balconies, paintings, mirror works etc. From palace terrace one can view the majestic lakes, Aravalli ranges and Sajjangarh monsoon palace.

Main entry point to palace from Udaipur City is through a gate known as Badi Pol (Big gate - built in 1600). This on leads the visitor to triple arched Tripolia gate (built in 1725). Between these two gates, there are 8 marble arches known as Toranas. An arena in front of Toran pol was used to stage elephant fights.

Inside the palace there are gallerias depicting armors used in old days; another gallery had a lot of pictures – paintings of Rana Pratap, scenes from Haldigati battle etc.

Amar Vilas, Badi Mahal, Bhim Vilas, Chinni Chitrashala, Choti Chitrashala, Dilkusha Mahal, Durbar Hall, Fateprakash Palace (currently a luxury hotel), Krishna Vilas, Laxmi Vilas chowk, Manak Mahal, Mor Chowk, Rang Bhawan, Sheesh Mahal, Zenana Mahal (currently museum) are other main portions of City Palace.

At first it was interesting to walk through city palace. However, going up and down through so many staircases and endless verandahs sucked all energy out of me. After reaching the top, I simply sat there. I don't remember how long. There were many foreigners, Indians from various states came to visit the palace. Majority of them spend little time in looking at painstakingly carved pillars, mirror works, colored windows, architecture etc. Most of them simply took selfies and moved from one place to another. I don’t know how it is going to work out. I believe, if one has a chance to see something great, he/she should enjoy it with naked eyes, touch it with naked hands, feel it with full heart. Its ok to take selfie, and photos. But along with that, have some real moments as well. If you only need photos, then its available in internet. I strongly believe, most than photos it’s the experience that counts; the one which creates a long-lasting experience.

At one corner in terrace a family was taking their group picture. But, there was a small rebel. That poor little chap didn't want to walk any further; his dad persuaded him to come with him to take a photo. He didn't. At the end of Sam, dhan, bhed; dhand came. He forcefully took him to that corner and took family picture.

There was a place in that palace which used to house carrier pigeons. One mother standing next to it, explained to her son that pigeons learned how to read and write from that place. Was there any pigeon in history which could read and write? Anyway, an interesting explanation.

There were several tour groups roaming in City Palace, many had their own tour guides. I was standing close to one such group. Their tour guide was explaining them about Rajput valor and chivalry. Suddenly he started telling the story of Rani Padmini; remember I visited Udaipur at a time when many organizations were trying to block the release of Hindi movie - Padmavati (later renamed as Padmavat). He told, Alauddin Khalji saw the reflection of beautiful rani in mirror and became unconscious!!! It’s hard to believe that Alauddin Khalji, a battle-hardened Sultan who fought numerous bloody wars against multiple Indian kingdoms and Mongol ones, became unconscious after seeing the reflection of a beautiful queen.

Lake Pichola

City palace lies on eastern banks of Pichola Lake. A good boat ride from City Palace jetty will give you great view of City Palace.

Lake Palace (Jagniwas)

Jagniwas is a summer palace located on an island in Lake Pichola. One can see this palace, built using marble, from City Palace itself.

By the time I came out of City palace it was afternoon.

Jagadish Temple

It was by accident I saw Jagadish temple located close to palace.

One must climb numerous steps to go inside. Jagadish temple was built by Maharana Jagat Singh way back in 1651. Lord Jagannath's idol worshiped inside the temple was carved out of single black stone. Four smaller temples of Ganesha, Surya, Shiva and Shakti are located around the main temple.

By the time I came out form Jagadish temple, I was too tired to walk. My temperature was raising slowly, all indication for a possible fever. I slowly walked towards main road. Outside there were numerous vendors selling many items. I thought of buying something as a memento. However, there was hardly any cash left with me. There were couple of ATMs in that lane but all were empty. Well, maybe next time.

A police man on duty told me to take a small narrow road to reach the main road. Another long walk. It was a narrow street with so many small roads going here and there. Finally, I reached main road. No more walking; took an auto to reach hotel in Savina.

Monsoon Palace

Next day, I woke up early and packed everything. It was my last day in Udaipur. After vacating the hotel I went to railway clock room and placed all my bags there. Next destination was Monsoon palace. From railway station I got an auto to Malla Talai. We crossed Gulab Bagh, Brahmpole and reached Malla Talai. As auto was going further in the direction of monsoon palace I asked the driver to drop somewhere close to Monsoon Palace. He dropped me at a junction in Ram Pura road, from where Monsoon palace road starts. There were hardly any shared autos at that time; hence I walked all the way to Sajjangarh wild life sanctuary entrance. From here prepaid vehicles are available to reach the top.

After buying ticket, I boarded a jeep. Technically speaking we were going to the top of a hill in Aravalli mountains. But Aravalli range is not a traditional mountain range, it looked like a desert except for numerous small shrubs and its green leaves. Atmosphere was very dry and semi hot dry wind was blowing outside. 

Built by Maharana Sajjan Singh, on top of Bansdara hills, Monsoon palace was used as hunting lodge during maharaja’s era. When I reached there, only ground floor was accessible for visitors, rest were closed for maintenance. There was hardly anything to see inside. However, from that height one can see multiple hills in Aravalli ranges. After spending half an hour there, I boarded another jeep to reach the bottom.

I think, as the name indicates, it might be better to visit Monsoon Palace during rainy season.
After coming back to the gate, I went to Udaipur zoo.

Udaipur Zoo

Until entering he zoo, I though Monsoon palace was the biggest disappointment of Udaipur journey. But no, it was the zoo.

There was some animals and zoo authorities provided battery powered vehicles and cycles for visitors. However, the atmosphere, high temperature, limited number of birds and animals, distance from Udaipur City were all some strong discouraging factors for any prospective visitors. At zoo I met a guy from Bengal, he too was equally disappointed. After walked for a while, the only thing we were looking for was an exit gate. That zoo should be moved to some other area. It’s not right to keep those tigers, lions, bears, birds etc there.

From zoo, we took an auto to town. This time, I got down at Udaipole and had a nice lunch from nearby restaurant. As per multiple forms in net, the best place to by sari was Hathipole. Well, I thought of buying something for mom and went there. After buying two saris from a store in Hathipole, I took an auto back to railway station.

Four girls and a guy was already there in that auto. After a while girls got down at a junction and gave 100 INR to driver. He gave 20 INR back (20/person). Girls didn’t agree. As per them driver told 10 rupees when they got in. After much arguments, driver gave 20 INR back and tried to settle for 15/person. But no, girls were not ready to cave. They insisted on 10/person. 

I was sitting next to driver, in between him and girls. Both were shouting to each other. It was a fight which the driver was going to lose. Four against one. Finally, he gave in and give 20 more rupees back. 

Remaining guy got down at next junction and gave 10 INR to driver. Driver got angry and another shouting match started. This time driver insisted on 15 and yes, he got it. I am seeing all this; from that point to railway station he started a non-stop conversation blaming those girls for not paying him properly. 

At station entrance a father and his kid - around 10 – was flying a kite. He was wearing an old, torn shirt and equally old mud covered dhothi. His son was wearing a dirty old white shirt and a small not fitting black pant. I looked at the kite, it was flying high in the sky. Father son duo was so happy and gave all their attention to the kite. Watching them flying the kite was probably the best thing I saw in Udaipur!!!


Other main places to visit in Udaipur are,

Ahar Museum

Houses some rare collection of earthen pottery. As per some articles a few of sculptures and archaeological items dates to 1700 BC. 10th century metal figure of Buddha is another important item here.

Haldighati (Haldi means 'turmeric')

This famous mountain pass in Aravalli Range got its name due to yellow colored soil. This pass located 40kms away from Udaipur and connects Rajsamand and Pali districts.

Dooth Talai Lake

This lake along with its park and garden are some good places to visit in Udaipur.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Northern Sojourn Day VI: Jaipur - The Pink City

AFTER getting down at Jaipur bus stand, I went to railway station and placed my luggage in clock room. Previous day, I had booked a 'Royal Enfield Classic 350' bike for one-day ride through a website. Bikes were parked at metro station's parking lot. Though metro station was just opposite to railway station, it took a while to find out its parking space. After showing driving license, I took the bike. Unfortunately, metro work was going on across Jaipur city and main roads were very crowded. Nothing compared to Bangalore roads, but it consumed a lot of time and killed any interest in driving through the city. After spending some 30 minutes in Jaipur roads, I left the city for my first destination - Amber Fort.

Jaipur History

Jaipur is the capital and largest city in Rajasthan. Located 240kms from Delhi, Jaipur is part of Golden Triangle tourist circuit whose two other legs are Delhi and Agra. This city was named after her founder Jai Singh II. Construction of Jaipur was planned and started in 1726 based on Vastu shastra and Shilpa Shastra. Vidyadhar Bhattacharya was the chief architect. It took four years to complete construction of roads, palaces and offices. Out of nine blocks, two were reserved for official buildings and palace, rest were available for public.

During the visit of Edward VII (then Prince of Wales) in 1876 king 'Sawai Ram Singh I' painted the city in pink, and thereafter Jaipur is known as Pink City. Two UNESCO World Heritage Sites located here - Jantar Mantar and Amer Fort

Amber Fort

Amber fort (pronounced as Amer fort) is located 11kms from capital Jaipur. Amer town was originally built by Meenas and there were some small structures. Later, Rajputs captured it and built Amber fort and palace on this harsh terrain on top of Aravalli range. Construction was started by Raja Man Singh I in 1592 AD and completed by Mirja Raja Jai Singh. Constructed using red sandstone and marble, this palace also hosts vibrant works in precious stones and glass.

Overseeing Maota lake - primary source of water - Amer fort and palace is divided in to six parts; each with its own entrance and courtyard.

Entrance to this majestic structure is through a gate in the east known as Suraj Pol (Sun gate). Other main areas are, Sila Devi Temple, Ganesh Pol (Ganesh Gate), Suhag Mandir, second courtyard (which houses Divan-i-Aam - Hall of public audience), third courtyard (which also houses Maharaja's private quarters, gardens, Jai mandir, Sheesh mahal, Sukh Nivas - Hall of pleasure), palace of Man Singh I, central courtyard, fourth courtyard (with multiple living rooms for women of royal family).

Amer palace is connected through a subterranean passage to Jaigarh fort situated nearby; hence both are part of same complex. This passage was an escape route for royal family and others during war.

Amber served as capital of Kachwaha Rajputs until the capital was moved to Jaipur.

To Amber

Once I left Jaipur city, roads were less crowded; one can see harsh, shrub covered hills of Aravalli range were close from here. After driving some 11 kms, I reached the fort. I was late; hence there were no parking space left at the bottom or nearby. So, I went ahead and drove through some narrow passages to reach the parking space on top. As I reach closer, four wheelers were blocking the way. However, there were some space – enough or a bike to pass - available on either or both sides four wheelers ahead of me. Problem was, the high gradient of that stone paved road. Driving without stopping was ok, but if stop, then start moving again was difficult. Close to top my bike slid and almost touched the bonnet of a car. Luckily escaped. Someway, I took it forward and safely reached some empty space at top. It was not parking area, nevertheless, it served the purpose.

After buying tickets I went inside. Unlike many forts I visited before, buildings inside were in good shape. It was very much crowded. Indeed, it’s not without a reason Amber fort is named among the best forts in India.
Capturing Amber located in desert like area with harsh climate on top of a hill, with good view of any movement for miles might have been very tough; even for a battle-hardened enemy. By the way, elephant safari is available to reach the top; in case you parked your vehicle at bottom and don't want to walk. After spending some time there I went back to the city.

@Back to Jaipur city

My plan was to spend two days in Jaipur. But due to train delays I lost 1 day at Ludhiana, and 12 hours of not so comfortable sleepless journey made me very much tired. Rather than seeing some places I just wanted to eat and sleep!!! But, Jaipur is far away from my base locations - Bangalore and Kerala. After going all the way here, I won't be doing justice to myself if I simply eat and sleep.

Jal Mahal (Lake Palace)
While coming back, I stopped at Jal Mahal. There were couple of decorated camels walking through road side. There was a small road going through one side of Jal Mahal, I took that one and parked bike at the end. Apart from couple of ladies selling some eatables, two girls taking lot of selfies and numerous monkeys there weren't many people. However, at the side of main road there was a huge crowd to view Jal Mahal.

After spending sometime there, I resumed my journey to city centre. Next couple of hours I roamed around the city without any destination in mind. During these rounds I saw Hawa Mahal and parts of City Palace. However, I didn't go inside. By this time, I was hungry and started looking for some restaurant. After searching for a while in internet, I finally identified one, and drove towards that using google maps. Even after reaching the destination in maps, I didn't see that restaurant. This happened couple of times before as well. Even in Amritsar, google maps said, I arrived at destination. However, there was nothing at that place. Well, there was a nice street food vendor nearby. Food was good. By the way, I always like good street food.

Finally, it was time for me to go to railway station. I went to a nearby pump and filled the tank and returned it at Jaipur metro station's parking lot. From there, I started walking towards railway station. Unlike, all other places while leaving Jaipur I felt very sad. The journey was nothing like what I planned. Instead of two days, I could spend only a day here. Public works going across the road killed lot of time. In fact, I missed so many places, in fact the only place I saw properly was Amber Palace (there also I didn't try that underground path to Jaigarh Fort. Well, the journey is not complete, I need to come to Jaipur again...

To Udaipur

Finally, I boarded the train to Udaipur.


Other main places to visit in Jaipur are,

1. City Palace

City Palace Complex, located in northeast part of grid-patterned Jaipur, was built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II. This is a mix of Mughal and Rajput architecture. Palace is still home to
the last ruling royal family which lives in a private section of this palace. The City Palace Complex includes Mubarak Mahal (the palace of reception) and Maharani’s Palace (the palace of queen). Mubarak Mahal now houses the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum. The Chandra Mahal palace now houses a museum, but the greatest part of it is still a royal residence.

2. Albert Hall Museum (Central museum)

Inspiration from 'Victoria and Albert Museum' in London Albert Hal is located in the centre of Ram Niwas Garden. Museum displays wide range of metal objects, wood crafts, carpets, stone and metal sculptures, arms and weapons, natural stones and ivory items. Alber Hall also has a good collection of miniatures from Bundi, Kota, Kishangarh, Udaipur and Jaipur schools of art.

3.  Nahargarh (abode of tigers) Fort

Constructed during the reign of Jai Singh in 1734, Nahargarh fort is located on ridge of Aravalli Hills. Fort was later expanded in 1868. This fort also have a palace - Madhavendra Bhawan - built by Sawai Madho Singh; which act as a summer destination for members of royal family. Palace has 12 matching rooms for queens and a suite for king. All connected by corridors decorated with murals.

4. Jaigarh Fort
Located about 15kms from Jaipur, Jaigarh Fort was built by Sawai Jai Singh II in early 18th century. This fort is situated amidst an arid, dry, rocky and scrub covered hills of Aravalli. Visitors can see world’s largest cannon – Jaiban here.

5. Digamber Jain Mandir

Built using red sandstone, this ancient temple is in Sanganer, 14 km from city. Principal idol in Sanghiji Temple is Lord Adinath in Padmasan (lotus position). The 7-storied temple has sky high 'shikharas' (spires) and its inner sanctum is a stone shrine with eight sky-high shikharas.

7. Gaitore (Memorial of Kings)

Tombs of former maharajas of Jaipur are located in Gaitore, which is located close to Jaipur-Amer road. Chhatris (cenotaphs) are made using white marble. Crematorium is located in the middle of yellow sandstone hills. Depends on status and power of ruler, decor his chattri varies. The most elegant chattri at Gaitor is that of Maharaja Jai Singh with 20 carved pillars.

8. Janthat Mantar (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
Considered to be the largest of five astronomical observatories built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, Janthar Manthar contains sixteen geometric devices, designed to measure time, track celestial bodies and observe the orbits of planets around the sun. It also houses the Interpretation Centre that helps tourists to understand about the working principles & chronology of the observatory.

7. Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds)

Hawa Mahal was built by poet king Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799 using pink sandstone. It was a summer retreat for him and family. Hawa Mahal also served as a place from where ladies of royal family could observe everyday life without being seen themselves. This unique five floor structure is a fusion of Hindu and Islamic architecture, and the exterior, with its small latticed windows (called jharokhas), resembles the crown of Lord Krishna. The windows also serve as an air-conditioner, blowing cool air throughout the palace; which make it suitable for summers. Built from pink sandstone, Hawa Mahal is Jaipur’s iconic landmark and visitors can view its complete magnificence from outside, from across the road. However, it is also possible to climb right up to the top for a wonderful view from the windows. Today, Mahal is maintained by Archaeological Department of Rajasthan Government. An archaeological museum is also there in the courtyard.