It is early morning. I wake up and occupy the seat near window. My bus is few kilometers away from Udaipur. This is my first visit to Rajasthan. For me Rajasthan has always been about deserts, camels, folk songs and dances. However I am unable to spot any desert or sand. What I see is lush greenery everywhere.
Its seven in the morning. The bus drops me at the bus stand. It is chilling cold. I have a cup of tea on the road side shanty. I enquire at one of the numerous travel booking offices about day trips and sight-seeing packages. “The bus will leave at 8.30 am” He tells me. I abandon the plan to board the bus. I want to freshen up.
I am staying at an artist's place near Amba Mata Temple. No wonders the room though spartan has been done aesthetically. There is painting of haveli adorning the wall. Another one has a framed picture of Srinathji. Colours and palate are neatly placed in the rack. I have hot water bath. As I came out of the bathroom I am still shivering. I had made travel plans for Rajasthan thinking that it would be pleasant in the month of December. But it is chilling cold. I wear layered clothing and hop into the auto which is going to take me around Udaipur.
My auto skirts on the border of the massive Fateh Sagar Lake. Udaipur though in Rajasthan has no dearth of water. The auto comes to a screeching halt. The driver asks me if I want to visit Rana Pratap Smarak. He tells me there is nothing much to see except a small garden. I don't want to miss on anything and I decide to visit it. I am required to purchase a ticket. In Udaipur you have to purchase tickets everywhere. The tickets are priced at the higher end. I am disappointed for the garden has nothing to offer apart from a statue of Rana Pratap and murals depicting his life and times. When I ask a local caretaker as to what connection the garden has with the warrior king, I am being told that he had stayed there for twenty years.
Our next destination is Saheliyon ki baari.
We go to Shilpagram next. The driver tells me that it is a village recreated. He gives me one hour to visit it. It turns out to be just another handloom and handicraft sale displaying wares of different States. Yes there were some folk performances as well. But perhaps I was there at the wrong time.
Monsoon palace was a hunting lodge. It is perched atop Banswara hill. It was built by Sajjan Singh. Hence it is also known as Sajjan Garh. The auto dropped me at the base. I purchased tickets for the palace as well for the conveyance which was to take me to the top of the hill. The trained car driver adroitly manoeuvred through the serpentine path leading to the top. The small journey offered breathtaking views. I came across a group of cyclers who were cycling to the top. I throughly enjoyed this ride. I understood the true meaning of the term enjoy the journey and not the destination.
City palace is a museum which again charges exorbitant entry fees and does not even offer a complimentary guide. It is the largest palace in Rajasthan. It was founded by Udai Singh in the 16th century, after whom the city is named Udaipur. The palace is actually conglomeration of palaces built over a period spread over more than 400 years. Still it looks surprisingly sync, one piece creation. It houses tow hotels – Shiv Niwas and Fateh Prakash. The palace was too crowded with visitors. Its wall paintings have been restored. Narrow passages and steep staircases take you to the terraces and the apartments. But the crowd and the absence of any one to guide you is a huge disappointment. A visit to city palace turns you on and leaves unsatisfied.
Jagdish Temple is at a stone's throw from the city palace museum. It was built in 1651. One has to climb steep stairs to reach the temple. The temple is worth a visit. Black idol of Jagannath it the chief diety of the temple. This temple is built in the typical Mewad style architecture.
Bagore ki Haveli, told our driver, was the place which housed the attendants of the palace, particularly those who looked after the huge fleet of elephants, horses and camels. The haveli has been restored. A room has been kept deliberately unrestored to give the visitor an idea of before and after state of the haveli first hand. Unlike the crowded city palace this haveli gives you solitude and lets the royal architecture seep inside you. It offers beautiful views of the lake pichola from its roof top. It depicts Rajasthani art and culture through the small museum it hosts.
Udaipur – an exotic location seen umpteen times in movies and romantic novels is on everyone's wish list. But to me it was a huge disappointment. May be perhaps I came with too many expectations. Had I been a firang whose country does not have any monarchy and the resultant palaces, I would have been swooned by the palaces and havelis which are now converted into hotels and roof top restaurants.