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Possibly no city in Rajasthan is quite as romantic as Udaipur, even though the state is replete with fantastic hilltop fortresses, exotic fairytale palaces and gripping legends of medieval chivalry and heroism. The French Impressionist painters, let along the Brothers Grimm, would have loved this palace and it’s not without justification that Udaipur has been called the ‘Venice of the East’. Jaisalmer is certainly the ‘Beau Geste’ of the desert and Udaipur is the ‘Versailles’.
Founded in 1568 by Maharana Udai Singh following the final sacking of Chittorgarh by the Mughal emperor, Akbar, Udaipur rivals any of the world-famous creations of the Mughals with its Rajput love of the whimsical and its superbly crafted elegance. The Lake Palace is certainly the best late example of this unique cultural explosion, but Udaipur is full of palaces, temples and havelis ranging from the modest to the extravagant. It’s also proud of its heritage as a centre for the performing arts, painting and crafts. And, since water is relatively plentiful in this part of the state (in between the periodic droughts), there are plenty of parks and gardens, many of which line the lakeshores.
Until recent times, the higher uninhabited parts of the city were covered in forests but, as elsewhere in India, most of these have is, however, a movement afoot to reverse this process. The city was once surrounded by a wall and, although the gates and much of the wall over the higher crags remain, a great deal of it has befallen such a historic place but the essence remains.
In common with all Indian cities, Udaipur’s urban and industrial sprawl goes beyond the city’s original boundaries and pollution of various kinds can be discouraging. This will be your first impression of Udaipur if you arrive at the railway or bus stations. Ignore it and head for the old city where a different world is waiting for you. 

The old city, bound by the remains of a city wall, is on the east side of Lake Pichola. The railway and bus stations are both just outside the city wall to the south-east.

 Lake Pichola
The beautiful Lake Pichola was enlarged by Maharana Udai Singh after he founded the city. He built a masonry dam, known as the Badi Pol, and the lake is now four km in length and three km wide. Nevertheless, it remains fairly shallow and can actually dry up in severe droughts. At these times, you can walk to the island palaces from the shore. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen often. The City Palace extends a considerable distance along the east bank of the lake. South of the palace, a pleasant gardens runs down to the lake. North of the palace, you can wander along the lake, where there are some interesting bathing and dhobi (laundry) ghats.

Out in the lake are two islands- Jagniwas and Jagmandir. Boat rides, which leave regularly from the City Palace jetty (known as Bansi Ghat), are pleasant but expansive.   

Jagniwas Island (Lake Palace Hotel)
Jagniwas, the lake Palace island, is about 1.5 hectares in size. The palace was built by Maharana Jagat Singh II in 1754 and covers the whole island. Today, it has been converted into the ultimate in luxury hotels, with courtyards, fountains, gardens and a swimming pool. It’s a magical place but casual visitors are discouraged. It’s magical place but casual visitors are discouraged. It used to be possible to visit the palace for afternoon tea but now non-guests can only come over for lunch or dinner – and then only if the hotel is not full, which it often is. Hotel launches cross to the island form the City Palace jetty.

 Jagmandir Island
The other island palace, Jagmandir, was commented by Maharana Karan Singh, but takes its name from Maharana Jagat Singh (1628-52) who made a number of additions to it. It is said that the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, derived some of his ideas for the Taj Mahal from this palace after staying here in 1623-24 while leading a revolt against his father, Jehangir. The view across the lake from the southern end, with the city and its great palace rising up behind the island palaces, is a scene of rare beauty.

 City Palace & Museums
The huge City Palace, towering over the lake, is the largest palace complex in Rajdhani. Actually a conglomeration of buildings added by various maharanas, the palace managers to retain a surprising uniformity of design. Building was started by Maharana Udai Singh, the city’s founder. The palace is surmounted by balconies, towers and cupolas and there are fine views over the lake and the city form the upper terraces. The palace is entered from the northern end through the Bari Pol of 1600 and the Tripolia Gate of 1725, with its eight carved marble arches. It was once a custom for maharanas to be weighed under the gate and their weight in gold or silver distributed to the populace.
The main part of the palace is now preserved as a museum with a large and varied, although somewhat run-down, collection. The museum includes the Mor Chowk with its beautiful mosaics of peacocks, the favourite Rajasthani bird. The Manak (or Ruby) Mahal has glass and porcelain figures while Krishna Vilas has a remarkable collection of miniatures. In the Bari Mahal, there is a fine central garden. More paintings can be seen in the Zanana Mahal. The Moti Mahal has beautiful mirrorwork and the Chini Mahal is covered in ornamental tiles.
Enter the City Palace Museum through the Ganesh Deori which leads to the Rai Angam, or Royal Courtyard. The museum is open from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. There’s also a government museum within the palace complex. Exhibits include a stuffed kangaroo, a scarcely recognisable ostrich and Siamese-twin deer.
The other part of the palace is up against the lake shore and, like the Lake Palace, it has been converted into a luxury hotel- two, in fact, known as the Shiv Niwas Palace and the Fateh Prakash hotels.

Jagdish Temple
Located only 150 metres north of the entrance to the City Palace, this fine Indo- Aryan temple was built by Maharana Jagat Singh in 1651 and enshrines a black stone image to Vishnu as Jagannath, Lord of the Universe. A brass image of the Garuda is in a shrine in front of the temple and the steps up to the temple are flanked by elephants.

Bagore Ki Haveli
This 18th –century is on the lake shore, below the Jagdish Temple. It was built by a nobleman, and was once used as a royal guest house. It was one of the finest examples of its type, and now houses the Western Zone Cultural Centre. The labyrinthine haveli houses a graphics studio, art gallery (which occasionally has exhibitions by local artists), and some fine coloured glass and inlay work. Its open daily from 9:30 am to 6 pm.

 Fateh Sagar
North of Lake Pichola, this lake is over-looked by a number of hills and parks. It was originally built in 1678 by Maharana Jai Singh but, after heavy rains destroyed the dam, it was reconstructed by Maharana Fateh Singh. A pleasant lakeside drive winds along the east bank of the lake. In the middle of the lake is Nehru Park, a popular garden island with a boat-shaped café. You can get there by boat from near the bottom of Moti Magri Hill.               

Pratap Samak
Atop the Moti Magri, or Pearl Hill, overlooking Fateh Sagar, is a statue of the Rajput hero Maharana Pratap, who frequently defied Maharana Pratap, who frequently defied the Mughals. The path to the top traverses elegant gardens, including a Japanese rock garden. The park is open from 9 am to 6 pm.

Bhartiya Lok Kala Museum
The interesting collection exhibited by this small museum and foundation for the preservation of folks arts include dresses, dolls, masks, musical instruments, paintings and –the high point daily from 9 am to 6 pm. Regular puppet shows are held daily from 6 to 7 pm. 

Saheliyon Ki Bari

Saheliyon ki Bari, or Garden of the Maids of Honour, is in the north of the city. This small ornamental garden, with its fountains, kiosks, marble elephants and delightful lotus pool, is open from 9 am to 6 pm.

Shilpgram, a crafts village three km west of Fateh Sagar, was inaugurated by Rajiv Gandhi in 1989. It’s an interesting place with traditional houses from four states-Rajasthan, Gujarat, Goa and Maharashtra- and there are daily demonstrations by musicians, dancers, or artisans from the various states. Although it’s much more animated during festival times, there’s usually something happening.
The site covers 80 hectares but most buildings are in a fairly compact area. It’s open daily from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm

Ahar Museum
Three km east of Udaipur are the remains of an ancient city. Here, you’ll find a small museum and the cenotaphs of the Maharanas of Mewar.

Other Attractions
Patel or Sukhadia Circle is north of the city. The huge fountain in the center is illuminated at night. Sajjan Niwas Gardens have pleasant lawns, a zoo and a children’s train. Beside it is the Rose Garden, or Gulab Bagh. Don’t confuse the Nehru Park opposite Bapu Bazaar with the island park of the same name in Fateh Sagar. The city park has some strange topiary work, a giant cement teapot and children’s slides incorporating an elephant and a camel.
On the distant mountain range, the gleaming white edifice visible from the city is the former maharaja’s Monsoon Palace. Now deserted, the views from the top are incomparable. The round trip takes about three hours.

Things to Buy
Udaipur has countless small shops and many interesting local crafts, particularly miniature paintings in the Rajput- Mughal style. There’s good cluster of these shops on Lake Palace Rd, next to the Rang Niwas Palace Hotel, and others around the Jagdish Temple.


Eklingi & Nagada
The interesting little village of Eklingi, with a number of ancient temples, is only 22 km and a short bus ride north of Udaipur. The Shiva temple in the village itself was originally built in 734, although its present form dates from the rule of Maharana Raimal between 1473 and 1509. The walled complex includes an elaborately pillared hall under a large pyramidal roof and features a four- faced Siva image of black marble. The temple is open at rather odd hours-5 to 7 am, 10 am to 1 pm and 5 to 7 pm.

    At Nagada, about a km off the road and a km before Eklingi, are three old temples. The Jain temple of Adbudji is essentially ruined, but its architecture is interesting and it’s very old. The nearby Sas Bahu, or Mother and Daughter-in-Law, group has very fine and intricate architecture and carvings, including some erotic figures. You can reach these temples most conveniently by hiring a bicycle in Eklingi itself.


This site, 40 km form Udaipur, is where Maharana Pratap valiantly defied the superior Mughal forces of Akbar in 1576. The site is a battlefield and the only thing to see is the chhatri to the warrior’s horse, Chetak, a few km away.



The important 18th –century Vishnu temple of Sri Nathji stands here, 48 km from Udaipur, and it’s an important shrine for Vaishnavite devotees. The black stone Vishnu image was brought here from Mathura in 1699 to protect if from Aurangzeb’s destructive impulses. According to legend, when an attempt was later made to move the image, the gateway vehicle, a wagon, sank into the ground up to the axles, indicating that the image preferred to stay where it was!

 Kankroli & Rajsamand Lake
At Kankroli, Dwarkadhish (an incarnation of Vishnu) has a temple similar to the temple at
Nathdwara and opening hours here are similarly erratic.
Nearby is a lake created by the dam constructed in 1660 by Maharana Raj Singh. There are many ornamental arches and chhatris along the huge bund (embankment).

 Kumbhalgarh Fort 
Eighty four km from Udaipur, this is the most important fort in the Mewar region after Chittorgarh. It’s an isolated and fascinating place, built by Maharana Kumbha in the 15th century and, due to its inaccessibility on top of the Aravalli range of 1100 metres, it was taken only once in its history. Even then, it took the combined armies of the Mughal emperor, Akbar, and those of Amber and Marwar to breach its defences. It was here that the rulers of Mewar retreated in times of danger.
The walls of the fortress stretch some 12 km and enclose many temples, palaces, gardens and water-storage facilities. The fort was renovated in the last century.
There’s also a game reserve here, known for its wolves. The scarcity of waterholes between March and June makes this the best time to see animals. Other wildlife includes antelope (a rare four-horned species), leopard and bear, and it’s good area for walking.
There’s a PWD Rest House, or the upmarket Aodhi Hotel where double rooms.

One of the biggest and most important Jain temples in India, the extremely beautiful Ranakpur complex is well worth seeing. Sixty km from Udaipur, it lies in a remote and peaceful valley of the Aravalli range.

The main temple is the Chaumukha Temple, or Four-Faced Temple, dedicated to Adinath. Built in 1439, this huge, beautifully crafted and well-kept marble temple has 29 halls supported by 1444 pillars, no two alike. Within the complex are two other Jain temples to Neminath and Parasnath and, a little distance away, a Sun Temple. One km from the main complex is the Amba Mata Temple.
The temple is open to non-Jains from noon to 5 pm. Shoes and all leather articles must be left at the entrance.

The attractive town of Ghanerao can make a good base for explorations of the various attractions around Udaipur. The Ghanerao Royal Castle’s helpful owners can arrange a trek from Ghanerao to Kumbhalgarh with an overnight stay at their hunting lodge, Bagha ka Bagh, en route. They offer very expensive horse safaris or reasonably priced excursions by jeep.

Situated about a km out of town, the Ghanerao Royal Castle is a red sandstone castle with 20 well-kept rooms.

Jaisamand Lake
Located 48 km south-west of Udaipur, this stunningly sited artificial lake, created by damming the Gomti River, was built by Maharana Jai Singh in the17th century. There are beautiful marble chhatris around the embankment, each with an elephant in front. The summer palaces of the Udaipur queens are also here and a wildlife sanctuary is nearby

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