Udaipur, ‘Venice of the East’
Udaipur retains the charm of old colonial times in India. Often referred to as the ‘Venice of the East’, the lake city of Udaipur is known as a centre for performing arts and crafts. Although its main palace is almost red in color, it is called the white city of Rajasthan (a large state in northwest India on the border with Pakistan). The blue waters of its four lakes – Pichola, Fateh Sagar, Rang Sagar and Swaroop Sagar – reflect the green of the surrounding hills and the white color of its temples.
Pichola was the name of a village that was submerged and lent its name to the expanded lake. Lake Pichola hosts two islands, each with a palace: Jag Mandir (Lake Garden Palace) dating from 1620 as a summer resort and pleasure palace for the royal family, and Jag Niwas (or Lake Palace), an eighteenth-century granite and marble palace which was a residence for the Maharaja´s guests.
The famous Lake Palace, located in the middle of Lake Pichola is easily one of the most beautiful sights of Udaipur. It is now a hotel with walls made of black and white marble and adorned with semi-precious stones and ornamented niches. Gardens, fountains, pillared terraces and columns line its courtyards.
Along the eastern banks of the lake lies the City Palace. A boat ride in the lake around sunset offers a breathtaking view of the Lake and City Palaces.
Surmounted by balconies, towers and cupolas towering over the lake, the imposing 16th century City Palace is Rajasthan’s largest palace. Through continuous construction, it has become a palace complex with several historic monuments like the Lake Palace, Jag Mandir, Jagdish Temple, Monsoon Palace, and Neemach Mata temple. Nestled within the Aravali mountain range, these landmarks are associated in popular culture with the 1983 James Bond movie Octopussy.
Inside Badi Pol (northern entrance), eight arches on the left commemorate the eight times maharanas were weighed here and their weight in gold or silver distributed to the lucky locals. You then pass through the triple-arched Tripolia Gate into a large courtyard, Manek Chowk. Spot the large tiger-catching cage, which worked rather like an oversized mousetrap, and the smaller one for leopards.
The Mor Chowk (Peacock square) – The elaborate design of this chamber consists of three peacocks (highlights the three different seasons of summer, winter and monsoon) constructed by Sajjan Singh in the 19th century. A total of 5,000 pieces of mosaic of green, blue crystal and gold, as well as concave mirrors evoke the elegant movements of the birds that are the symbol of the Rajasthan.
An example of the Indo-Aryan style of architecture, Jagdish Temple was built in 1651 and continues to be one of the most famous temples in Udaipur. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the structure is an architectural marvel with carved pillars, graceful ceilings and painted walls. This three-storied temple was built by Maharana Jagat Singh.
Chittorgarh Fort is a fitting symbol of the Rajput spirit. Set atop a 180 metre (600 feet) high hill and spread across 240 hectares (600 acres), this majestic fort features in tales of courage, pride and romance that the bards of Rajasthan have been singing for centuries.
The fort houses several magnificent monuments including the beautiful temple of Kalika Mata (an 8th century Hindu temple for Goddess Bhadrakali). The imposing structure takes one back to the days of conquests and tragedies, and its walls continue to ring with incredible tales of extraordinary men and women.
A one-kilometre road weaves its way from the foothills to the summit, taking visitors through seven gates before arriving at Rampol (Gate of Ram). On the road between the second and the third gates, visitors get to see two ‘chattris’ (cenotaphs) built in honor of Jaimal and Patta, heroes, who laid down their lives during the 1568 siege by Emperor Akbar.
Bijolia Temple is actually a complex of Hindu and Jain temples (India is the birthplace of four major religions; namely Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism), as well as the remains of a grand palace.
Bijolia is renowned for its art and architecture, and temples including “Shree Digambar Jain Parshwanath Atishaya Teerthkhshetra”, Bijolia Fort, the Mandakini Temple, a Shiva temple. The Shree Digambar Jain Parshwanath Atishaya Teerthkhshetra is said to be over 2,700 years old.
Sahelion Ki Bari Garden
Built by Rana Sangram Singh as a garden for women, Saheliyo-ki-Bari ( the Courtyard of the Maidens) is a popular tourist destination. Along with a small museum, it has several attractions such as marble elephants, fountains, kiosks and a lotus pool.
Victoria Hall Museum
Victoria Hall was built to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887 by the Public Works Department of Udaipur. The hall originally housed a museum and library.
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