Do you ever think how it would have been to live in the royal era? In the era of prince and princesses, kingdoms & forts, amidst all the grandeur and galore.
I thought about it a lot, when my mom told me stories about Princesses, and now when I watch movies or series like Game of thrones. There is some seductive sophistication in that world, that allures millions of people to revisit that era see that opulence and unravel the stories of that world. No wonder Historic cities in Italy, Egypt, Greece, etc have highest influx of tourists from all over the world.
India is one such country that boasts of rich history. The first known permanent settlements appeared over 9,000 years ago, in India, and gradually developed into the Indus Valley Civilization. Since then, the country has been ruled by several dynasties, and has seen the rise and fall of many empires – each unique in their own ways of administration, social fabric and cultural canvas. Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism — all have their origins in India.
My trip to Udaipur few months back was a time travel to that historic era. Udaipur is a beautiful town in Rajasthan brimming with royalty. With the backdrop of Aravalli Hills and the serenity of lakes, Udaipur is often regarded as the Venice of the East. This city is the best tourist destination widely known for elegant monuments, stunning location, cultural immersions and sumptuous cuisine
Fun Facts about the city
*King Udai Singh of Mewar dynasty founded the Udaipur city in 15th century. As per the folklore, once when Maharana Udai Singh went hunting near Lake Pichola, he came across a sage who advised king to construct the palace on the same place and assured king that it will be a safe location for his dynasty.
*World’s first man-made micro system of river diversion, linkage and watershed management happened in Udaipur. This resulted in the current system of interconnected lakes.
*Lake Palace or Jag Nivas in Udaipur is chosen as the world’s most romantic hotel. Located in the center of Lake Pichola, it was once a summer palace of Sisodia rulers in 17th century.
I had taken a direct flight to Udaipur and booked an Uber from airport to my hotel. It was 7.30 am and the city was still in snoozy mood. So were my fellow companions who were asleep in the back seat. I on the other hand kept my eyes wide awake, absorbing the sight of place as it morphs from majestic mountains to colorful havelis.
I have come to realize that early mornings are the best time to explore the place especially here in India. Everything is calmer, there are fewer crowds, less commotion and you can actually sense the beauty of the place.
Havelis are huge mansions with large main gates, sprawling courtyards and embellished frescoes. Many of these havelis are now converted into heritage hotels offering ultimate luxurious experience to the visitors
We had opted for glamping in this glamorous place. We reached Raasleela, our boutique hotel located on the banks of Lake Pichola offering a panoramic view of Jagmandir, City Palace & Lake Palace. We were instantly charmed by the regal romanticism of the place.
Raasleela means Dance of Divine in Hinduism. Rasa means aesthetics and Lila means play or dance.
After checking in and checking out the hotel, we went to our first tourist site, City Palace. Often distinguished as the largest palatial complex in Rajasthan and second largest in India, this majestic Palace is the most-visited tourist attraction of Udaipur. This place is an epitome of rich architectural finesse. The palace celebrates a beautiful amalgamation of the Rajasthani and Mughal architectural style.
It has brilliant assortment of towers, domes, courtyards, pavilions, terraces, corridors, rooms and hanging gardens. This place was just spectacular. I was so fascinated with the intricate artwork and fine craftsmanship found in every nook and corner of the palace. Each Mahal (bungalow) in the complex has unique and lavish display of arts and culture through their exquisite decor, which includes beautiful murals, miniature paintings, antique furniture, ornamental tiles and marvelous mirror work.
Fun Facts about the palace
* City Palace comprises 11 wonderful palaces, which were built by different rulers yet they are in sync and resemble each other.
*The palaces within the complex are interlinked through a number of chowks or quadrangles with zigzag corridors and narrow staircase. Ideally, it was built this way to avoid surprise attacks by enemies
*The Royal family still lives in Udaipur and on many occasion, they meet people on a grand cultural unction or a local fest.
I would recommend booking a tour guide or audio guide to better understand the historical significance of this place. Overall, it took us about 5 hours to explore the place.
After the grand tour of the palace, we were eager to try the Grand Thali of Rajasthan. We had lunch at Natraj Restaurant, a classic traditional restaurant in the city serving delicious vegetarian fare at extremely affordable rates.
Thali is a style of Indian dish in which in small portions of a multitude of delicacies is served on a single large plate.
By the time we finished the lunch, it was almost 3 p.m. The heavy meal and the scorching heat out there were insisting me to crawl back into my cozy hotel and surrender to sleep. But the super zealous tourist in me valiantly fought back the laziness and decided to head to the Monsoon Palace instead. The place was almost 2 hours drive from our location, so actually no sleep was harmed during the making of this plan. I slept like a baby in the backseat while my fellow companions stayed awake this time.
Perched on a hilltop, this palace was built by built by Maharana Sajjan Singh to observe clouds and predict rains. He aimed to build the Monsoon Palace as a 9 storey structure in the design of an astronomical hub, but due to his premature death at the age of 26, this project was stalled. Later his successor completed the work.
Unfortunately, when we visited the place, there was some construction work going on and many parts of the palace were shut down for visitors. However, this site was less about the palace and more about the splendid aerial views of the city that it has to offer.
The Monsoon Palace stayed true to its name as it started raining there when we reached. Fortunately there was one resourceful person among us who was carrying umbrellas. No it wasn’t me. I pack nothing but my enthusiasm for trips.
It must be a local hangout spot as we saw many kids and teens with their friends chilling at this place, singing and dancing in the rains. It was so delightful to watch their pure joy. Also, we saw two clouds from opposite direction coming near each other, slowly and gently creating this burst that was just so soothing to watch. We were fortunate to witness the sunset at this place when the city skyline was illuminated with a pale orange glow.
At the dusk, we departed. Ideally we were planning to go boating in the lake Pichola, but to our dismay, the last boat ride available started at 6.00 pm and we could not reach there before 6.30 pm. So instead, we strolled around the bustling markets of old city. The streets of Udaipur are shopper’s paradise with myriad of things to buy like traditional crafts, vintage wares, interesting artifacts, colorful clothes, mosaic lamps, embroidered purses and shoes, handmade diaries and so much more. The vibrant vivacious streets were not merely a feast to the eyes but also a delight to our pockets as these articles were available at quite affordable prices.
After satisfying the shopaholic urges and emptying our purses, we returned to our hotels. By that time it was already dark. The beauty of this place is enhanced in the night, with the magic of moonlight, the starry skies and the shimmering lights. Our resort had arranged a candle light dinner for us by the lakeside. The view, the food and the mood, everything was just lovely.
Next day, we had reserved for Jagmandir. But it started raining the next morning and that kind of hampered our plan. So instead we just chilled at the hotel. However it is okay as is difficult to strictly adhere to the itinerary when you are travelling.
And with happy heart we left the place. That was my trip to Udaipur; surreal, majestic and magical.