Udaipur nestles like a gem in a valley surrounded by the green Aravalli hills, reflected smooth and white in the clear blue waters of Lake Pichola. Located on National Highway 8, it is commonly referred to as the City of Dawn. In the sandy state of Rajasthan, there are numerous lakes in Udaipur. A series of canals connecting the several artificial lakes of Udaipur have dubbed it the Venice of the East. These beautiful lakes surround imperial palaces of marble and sandstone decorated with amber, colored glass and pale jade built in the seventeenth century. Courtyards, fountains, towers and Japanese styled gardens lend the palaces a truly majestic appeal.
History The capital of the erstwhile Mewar State, Udaipur, takes its name from Maharana Udai Singh, who founded the city in 1568 after retreating from the third attack on the city of Chittaur by armies of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. One legend claims that he chose the present location of Udaipur for the capital after a sadhu, or wandering holy man, told him that if he built his capital on the edge of Lake Pichola, it would never be captured. It is likely that the strategic advantages of the surrounding terrain influenced his decision. Raised in the surrounding Aravalli hills, Maharana Udai Singh was familiar with this region. His ancestor and the founder of the Sisodia dynasty of Mewar, Bappa Rawal, had lived here eight centuries earlier.
The capital of the erstwhile Mewar State, Udaipur, takes its name from Maharana Udai Singh, who founded the city in 1568 after retreating from the third attack on the city of Chittaur by armies of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. One legend claims that he chose the present location of Udaipur for the capital after a sadhu, or wandering holy man, told him that if he built his capital on the edge of Lake Pichola, it would never be captured. It is likely that the strategic advantages of the surrounding terrain influenced his decision. Raised in the surrounding Aravalli hills, Maharana Udai Singh was familiar with this region. His ancestor and the founder of the Sisodia dynasty of Mewar, Bappa Rawal, had lived here eight centuries earlier.
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People & Culture
Guru Govindsingh Park
Nehru Island GardenOThis 2.160 square-foot garden, situated in the middle of Fatehsagar Lake, took over three years to construct. There is a restaurant where one can sit and enjoy the coloured fountains, tall trees and the Aravalli hills, which encircle the lake. There is a charge of Rs10 for the boat ride to the island.
Moti MagariOMoti Magari has been constructed around the ruins of an ancient palace. It is pleasant to walk through the lower Japanese style garden to the top, where there is a panoramic view of Udaipur. This vista is also accessible by road.
Sajjan Niwas GardenThis garden was built during the 1850's by Maharana Sajjan Singh and covers nearly 100 acres. It is also known as Gulab Bagh or Rose Garden because of the large rose garden with many varieties from all over the world. There is also a library constructed by Maharana Fateh Singh as well as a small zoo and a train for children.
Bharatiya Lok Kala MandalIt is a museum of folk art. Puppeteers regularly put up shows here. This Folk Arts Institute is helping to keep local and regional crafts alive.
Jagdish Chowk RoadThis bazaar is popular with tourists visiting Udaipur, featuring locally made crafts and jewellery.
Ghanta Ghar RoadFeaturing fabrics made in Udaipur and Rajasthan in general, this bazaar is a fabric-lover's paradise.
Bapu BazaarLocated in downtown Udaipur, one can find carpenters in side alleys making wooden toys in the traditional manner. Puppet makers paint huge eyes and a long Rajput nose on the wooden puppets.
Shil GramThis is a Rural Crafts Development center in the form of an artificial village.
Eklingji and Nagda (22 km)These temples lie to the North of Udaipur. Eklingji is a temple complex with 108 shrines dedicated to the God Shiva. The present 18th century building, built on the site of the original 15th century temple, is chiselled entirely of white marble. The roof temples to protect it from invaders until the king of Mewar took the vow to protect it. There are regular buses from Udaipur.
Jaisamund Lake ( 55 km)
Constructed by Rana Jai Singh in 1691, it is the largest manmade lake of Asia, being twenty-one square miles in area. There are beautiful "Chattris" around the dam each with an elephant in the front. The seven islands in the lake are home to tribal fishermen who still use traditional methods of fishing.
Shri Rishabdeoji (64 km)
This temple is important to both Jains and worshippers of Lord Vishnu. The idol is three feet high.
Kumbhalgarh (84 km)
Built by Maharana Kumbha in the 15th century, it is one of Rajasthan's principal fortifications. The seven great gates lead to Baadal Mahal or the Palace of Clouds.
Art and Craft
A centre for Rajasthan arts and crafts as well as more specifically regional art forms, Udaipur is home to various art and cultural centres, including a functioning artificial village designed to promote and support rural crafts development.
The Meera Kala Mandir has a one-hour daily entertainment programme of Rajasthani Folk Dance and Music performances and puppet shows.
The luxury hotels include the Lake Pichola Hotel, Trident, Lake Palace Hotel, Shiv Niwas Palace Hotel and the Fateh Prakash Palace Hotel. Among the mid-range hotels are Hotel Sai Niwas, Jagat Niwas Palace Hotel, Sang Niwas Palace Hotel, Hotel Raj Palace, and Udai Kothi.
There are a number of budget hotels around the lake, which include Hotel Gangaur Palace, Lalghat Guest House, Jheel Guest House and Hotel Badi Haveli. Apsara Hotel and Hotel Welcome are near the bus stand. Some decent budget hotels away from the heart of the city are the Lake Shore Palace, Hotel Natural, Pahadi Palace and the Mewar Inn.
The paying guest scheme in Rajasthan was pioneered in Udaipur with over 75 families participating. For details one can get in touch with the Tourist Reception Centre.
Places to Eat
Try the butter chicken in Berry's Restaurant. The Gallery Restaurant provides a good continental buffet. The lake Palace Hotel has a variety of cuisines, but a prior reservation and formal attire are suggested. The Sunset View terrace is a good place to try the pizza.. Check out the real percolated coffee at the El Parador. The Maxim's Café is a good place for some inexpensive Indian fare. There are several rooftop cafes for a budget meal as well as many top end hotels that offer excellent meals.
How to Get There
Flights connecting Udaipur to Delhi, Jaipur, Aurangabad and Mumbai are available. The airport is 25 km from the city and one has to take an auto rickshaw or taxi to get to the city.
The Chetak Express is the major connecting link to Delhi. Being meter gauged, it is probably a better option to take a bus. The Mewar Fast Express also does the trip to Chittaurgarh.
Udaipur is well connected by road to Jaipur, Ajmer, Kota/Bundi, Jodhpur, Reception Centre housed in Fateh Memorial Building, less then a kilometre from the Bus Stand is a valuable source of information and handy tips. There are also smaller tourist information centres at the train station, airport and the City Palace Complex.
Editor: Romola Butalia   (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.