Udaipur was my last stop as part of a 10-day trip of Rajasthan that took me through sandy Bikaner and Jaisalmer, arid and rocky Jodhpur, and mountainous Kumbhalgarh. And when I arrived in the cool, green lake city of Udaipur, I was in for a bit of a shock. A pleasant shock, I must hasten to clarify. Part of the shock was how different it was from the image that comes to mind when one imagines Rajasthan, and part of the reason was how much Udaipur looked like the pictures I had seen of the city. :-)
Udaipur was established in 1559 by Maharana Udai Singh as the new capital of Mewar as Chittorgarh, the previous capital, was deemed too vulnerable due to repeated attacks by the Mughals. The next 400 years saw Udaipur fighting for independence from the Mughals, repelling their attacks, signing peace treaties with them, facing attacks from the Marathas, alternately supporting the British or rebelling against them; and finally agreeing to join other Rajput kingdoms in forming the state of Rajasthan after Independence.
The 400 years also saw the city developing into one of India’s prettiest cities with artificial lakes, royal palaces for every season and weather, mansions, gardens, and what not. Having visited it now, I can understand why many foreigners consider this city as a wedding destination. Surrounded by hills on all sides, plenty of lakes, palaces on hire, and a salubrious climate, this is a just about as perfect a location as one can get. Add to this the allure of royals and local Rajput history and you have the perfect exotic quotient that appeals to many.
I spent a couple of days exploring Udaipur, wandering in the alleyways of its old city, touring the famous City Palace (which deserves a post of its own) on the banks of the Lake Pichola, visiting memorials and gardens, stuffing myself with sweets, picking souvenirs and bandhini dupattas, going on boat rides… Presenting some images from my wanderings in Udaipur :-)
Udaipur is a nice, cozy size for a city and exploring it at my own pace was entirely possible. And the locals were friendly and ever ready for a chat — be it shopkeepers or rickshawalas or chaiwalas — and an opportunity to share nuggets of their city with me. It was a shopkeeper who pointed me to shop selling the best sweets I have ever eaten. Similarly, it was a rickshawala who took me to a small shop selling bandhani dupattas in unimaginable colours and shades.
Udaipur is a city that is used to tourists from all over and is therefore a very tourist-friendly city. It was a city that felt safe and woman-friendly as well. This was also the only city in Rajasthan where I was not asked “Which country I was from?” In fact, once they got to know I was from Mumbai, I got bombarded with questions about my city and what life was like there. And surprisingly nobody asked me about film stars or films.
Travel fatigue had set in by the time I arrived in Udaipur and while I enjoyed my stay very much, I was glad to be returning home as well. I wonder if my Udaipur experience would have been different if it had been the first place I visited in Rajasthan, instead of the last !
Have you visited Udaipur? If yes, what was your experience like?