A breath of fresh air in the western deserts of India, Udaipur is also famously known as the Venice of the East. It is a bustling city, which used to be the capital of the Mewar kingdom for many years, and is dotted with lakes and palaces.
Udaipur makes for a perfect vacation with family, friends or even alone, where one has the luxury of not only visiting heritage sites and scenic lakes, but live in and around them and experience the grandeur of the Rajputs of Rajasthan.
1. Lake Pichola
One of several interconnected artificial lakes in and around the town of Udaipur, Pichola stretches over 1,720 acres and houses four islands. The lake is not only a vast scenic water body, where one can have long boat rides, but has been improvised upon consistently since its construction in the 14th century. Several palaces, temples and bridges have been built, each more fascinating than the last.
Lake Pichola is also famous for the curse of the Natini. In the 19th century, a street performer is said to have been tricked by the Maharana of Udaipur and lost her life by drowning into this lake as a result. Her last, haunting curse came true, and the Maharana clan never again saw a direct descendent.
2. City Palace
Built in the 16th century by the Rajputana clan, the City Palace has since been added upon by consequent rulers, and today stands as an interesting mixture of architectural styles of the Rajputs and Mughals. The Palace offers a panoramic view of the city Udaipur, with all its glorious lakes, islands and palaces.
Built with the city of Udaipur itself, the City Palace was once intended as the residence and ruling seat of the Maharana. This palace has seen much history and strife, including changing over to Emperor Akbar after the defeat of Maharana Pratap Singh in the legendary battle of Haldighati.
3. Lake Palace
Now a luxury resort by the Taj Group, and set in an island in the middle of the vast Pichola Lake, the Lake Palace has been called one of the most romantic holiday destinations in the world. It is accessible only by ferry and stretches over 4 acres. Built in the 18th century as Jag Niwas, the lake palace has also seen a lot of history and has even served as refuge during the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, besides being a scenic holiday resort. In an interesting architectural feat, the Palace is built in such a way that it receives the very first rays of sunlight at the break of dawn.
4. Bagore Ki Haveli
Built in the eighteenth century, Bagore Ki Haveli is a palatial residential building of the President of Mewar, Amar Singh Badwa that is truly a visit into the lifestyle of the Maharajas and Maharanis of Udaipur. Perfectly restored in 1986 by the Western Zone Cultural Centre, the Haveli has 138 rooms, of which one can even see the ladies’ private quarters, their dressing rooms, the courtyards, grand halls etc. Visitors to this Haveli have been amazed by the beauty of the architecture and the decorations such as the painted glass windows and the view of the nearby Pichora Lake.
5. Kumbhalgarh Fort
Close to Udaipur, this Fort is a mark of the valour of the Rajput clan. This was the birthplace of the great Maharana Pratap. A highly fortified area, the fort also boasts of one of the largest walls in the world, second only to the Great Wall of China, as well as being the second largest fort in Rajasthan.
Another notable legend linked with this fort is that King Udai, who went on to form Udaipur city, was smuggled here as a baby from Chittaur, and grew up in this fort.
6. Monsoon Palace
Also known as Sajjangarh Palace after Maharana Sajjan Singh, the Monsoon Palace was built on a hilltop by the Fateh Sagar Lake in the late 19th century as a monsoon retreat, where the Maharana could view the monsoon clouds over the city of Udaipur, and also have a breathtaking view of the sunset. It has an interesting feature as an underground water harvesting structure, with the capacity to hold 195500 litres of water, a commendable achievement for those times.
The palace is considered a dedication to the great by short lived king Sajjan Singh, a farsighted man, under whose rule Udaipur had become a financial and industrial giant.
7. Sahastrabahu Temples
Often known as Saas Bahu Temples, these ancient structures are dedicated to Lord Vishnu (The One with the Thousand Arms). Although in partial ruins, most of the temple still stands strong despite having been built as far back as the 10th century. With intricate designs depicting Vishnu and his various legends, these are one of the relics of ancient India.
Udaipur is a well known destination in popular culture and is famous site for Hollywood and Bollywood movies that are shot in these majestic palaces.
However, it is more than just that. It is a celebration of the culture and history of the Rajputana clan, who were known for their valour, honesty and pride.