The cold December morning was brilliant to be walking in, as we navigated through the market lanes. In about 15 minutes we reached a foot - bridge to cross over to the Eastern bank of Lake Pichhola, which is where the access to the palace was. While the walk over the bridge was fun, spanning the entire length of the lake, it was sad to see garbage and other unwanted flotsam on either side of the bridge.
The city palace is much more than that - it is actually a complex of palaces along the Eastern banks of the lake. The Shiv Nivas, which is visible from Amet's Haveli is just one amongst these! So we bought our entry tickets (some RS. 20 then, which i believe is RS. 30 now), and headed in. Unfortunately there weren't any guides available (weird!), so we decided to make the best of what we had. What we could gather is that the complex of palaces were constructed over 400 years, starting from the middle of the 15th century. Apparently Akbar had made life inconvenient in the existing capital, Chittor, and so Maharana Uday Singh set up Udaipur as his new capital. Location of the new capital, and it's palaces were as advised by some hermit that he had come across during one of his hunting expeditions. Great strategists, all these hermits. Be it the the location of the fort - palace in Junagadh or the defensive merits of Udaipur, they sure knew their stuff! Maharana Uday Singh promptly shifted bag and baggage to his new capital, Udaipur, and built this magnificent city. The palace complex is breath - takingly beautiful. You can look down at the Lake Palace from the highest ramparts of the city palace, and it transports you to a bygone era. Cant help but think how cool it must've been for the Maharana to row across to the Lake Palace whenever it got uncomfortably hot (or get rowed across, as must've been more likely in his case)!
The palace complex itself is massive, and we figured it would take us the entire day to explore and do justice to it. Addy and Ranga had started to flag, and we decided to see the museum before calling it a day. The 'Zenana Mahal', or ladies palace has been converted into a museum (the one strictly 'no go' place for members of the general public during the reign of the Maharanas is now a museum for the general public! Poetic justice?), and was a pretty insightful peek into life in that era. It also has on display some arms and armaments, and in all is worth a look. Apparently, the only time Udaipur hasn't been under Rajput rule was under Maharana Pratap, who lost it to Akbar during the battle of Haldighati, only for it to be retrieved by his son from Emperor Jahangir as part of some treaty. Since then, they successfully staved off adventurous Mughals and rampaging Marathas (who kind of beggared them with their continuous wars) until the 19th century when they came under the influence of the 'Raj'. Interestingly, the entire palace complex is still retained by the descendants of the Maharana (wonder how they managed to swing that under Indira Gandhi's very nose!), and managed by an intricate web of trusts (I guess the answer to the previous question lies in the names of the trustees), and they've converted 2 of these palaces into very successful and frightfully expensive super - luxury heritage hotels, The Lake palace and the Fatehprakash Palace.