Thursday, April 19, 2018

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment