After seeing Jaipur, we were eagerly waiting to see other places in Rajasthan. Of course, one thing we were prepared for was to get used to a little bit of stink and dirt. We as usual got most of the details from rough guides and the RTDC (Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation) was of little help (or no help) to us. So, we started from Delhi one fine night. This was probably our first mistake because the journey to Udaipur is a whopping 15 hours! The (supposed) luxury buses are of little consolance and the journey never seemed to end till 12 noon the next day! By then, I was ready to get off even in the middle
of the journey! After this long and tiring journey, there we were in the (supposed) city of lakes.
After reading the pamphlets that we got from the tourism office, we were all excited and ready to explore this wonderful romantic city. But then, didn't somebody say the `expectation is the root of all disappointments?' Anyway, the moment we got off from the bus, and before we could even stretch our limbs, two auto fellows were looking at us and mouthing so many things that it took us a while to understand what they were getting at. And lo! Again they were just trying to get us some hotel accommodation. But since, we had some telephone numbers, we were off dialing and we also got a hotel booking, however our auto fellow had other ideas. He had to show some 'good' hotels and he immediately told us that the hotel room we were inclined to take in 'Mewar Inn' was not a good one as only foreigners stayed there. I still have not understood the "underlying" meaning. Anyway, to satisfy ourselves we looked at some and ultimately decided to take up the room in Mewar Inn. For Rs.250/- per night with no TV it was indeed very clean and good. We got enough hot water and clean sheets.
Our first step that day was to freshen up and get ourselves some good lunch - our first meal for the day. We settled ourselves in RTDC restaurant and for Rs. 50/- a meal the food was not really worth it. We walked later only to be occasionally stopped by autos and six seaters to check if we would like to go somewhere and that very moment we realized that we would get fleeced the moment we took to anybody's words. We walked to the city palace. It is good to walk to this place as the road leading is occupied by sellers eager to sell their ware for exorbitant rates. The city palace is really huge with the King's Palace and the Queen's Palace. Here we could get a brief history of Maha Rana Pratap and we could also eavesdrop as guides shouted to big groups. Things worth looking here is the Sheesh Mahal and we could also get a good view of the lake Palace from here. The lake Palace is a beautiful building in the middle of the lake and getting here is an aristocratic affair. I mean, you could burn a huge hole in the pocket. The Sheesh Mahal in the city palace is good. But, having seen the Sheesh Mahal in the Amber fort in Jaipur, I didn't like it much. But, for my files I took a few pictures and yeah, it was OK. Then, we were going up and down through some dingy stairs and we just followed all instructions not knowing why! When after all this, we yearned for a cup of tea and settled ourselves in the café in the Palace premises, then, sorry , we were the lucky ones to get some tea!
The best sight in Udaipur, is the Jagdish temple. This temple is a few meters away from the palace. The temple has some good carvings and we could spend some time just looking and admiring this magnificent craftsmanship. If only we knew about sculpture, we could have easily spent some hours.
Everyone in Udaipur, talks about this garden - Sahelion ki Bari. This garden is said to have built by the early Kings to entertain the royal ladies. This is a huge garden with many fountains and marble benches. However, for the fountains to function, water is a necessity that is not in abundance in Udaipur. This so-called city of lakes has not seen rain for the last three years and so many lakes are drying up especially the fateh Sagar Lake. When we went here, there was this group with a guide and whenever he blew a whistle, the fountains would work. It almost looked like it was being remotely controlled by a whistle (!) till we saw a man turning some pipes a few yards away from the group. This guide was just truing to show the group how the fountains functioned and probably he was also trying to save water - well, we never can understand the ways of (human) nature!
The Pratap Memorial near the Fateh Sagar lake in Udaipur would make any Udaipuri proud. This is a beautiful place and well maintained (for a change) and gives us a brief history of Maha Rana Pratap and his war against the Moughals. It also tells us about the loyal Chetak ghoda (horse). All the scripts here were written in flawless English (for once) and also written well. The best stop in Udaipur for a good evening is the Lok Kala Mandir (near Chetak circle). This is also a Folk Art Museum. Here we could see some good puppet shows and the traditional Rajasthani Dance and other Folk dances. The puppet show is truly one of a kind. All the artists here were truly talented and could keep the audience spell bound!
About half hour from Udaipur, is Ek Lingji. This is a huge temple area with a main temple and many other smaller temples. This is truly a unique temple as the lingam here has four faces - those of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and Surya! Four faces in one lingam (on four sides) and hence the name Ek Lingji. This is an architectural splendour. Tourists and pilgrims flock here for different reasons and hence this place sees quite a crowd. People gather here in the evenings to sing bhajans in praise of the lord.
Another half hours drive from Ek Lingji is Nathdwar. Nathdwar is a holy place with a truly traditional and beautiful temple of Shree Shrinathji (Krishna). This is a small town and I really liked this place for its simplicity. The temple is a good 15 minute walk from the bus stand. As we god closer to the temple, the roads started narrowing down with colourful shops on either side. The whole settling looked like a mini fair in the village. The temple is open for 15 minutes only every few hours but the hours are not fixed. This is because the idol is that of young Krishna and as the Lord can get tired, the temple is closed after every 15 minutes! There are many guides here wanting to explain, wanting to give prasad and as always it is better to avoid them.
Earlier, I was told, the Fateh Sagar lake used to be a good place to spend time with clean water and a place to go boating. Now, the lake is drying out and is dirty with people bathing and washing clothes - not really a sight to enjoy or to go boating!