Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Udaipur was founded in 1558 by Maharana (which is one level up from a Maharaja) Udai Singh 11 as the capital of the Mewar kingdom. It's known as the city of lakes, "the Venice of the East", and for its Rajput-era palaces.

We started our tour of Udaipur with a cruise on the main lake, the Pichola Lake. We boarded the flat bottomed boat from the lower grounds of the expansive City Palace, on the east bank of the lake.

The thirteenth James Bond film, Octopussy (made in 1983), was set in Udaipur so some of these buildings may look familiar to afficiandos of that film!!

Under threatening skies we headed north along the lake edge, admiring the weather worn historic buildings along the way.

....and the iconic, domed Oberoi Hotel in its lakeside setting.

We landed at Jag Mandir Island for a short stop over. Shah Jahan (the man who built the Taj Mahal) took refuge here during his extended revolt against his father Akbar. During this time Jag Mandir became a "pleasure island" with fragrant gardens, water features and lots of dancing girls and concubines.

They say this domed structure inspired Shah Jahan in his initial concept for the Taj Mahal.

Back where we started it was a short but steep walk up to the entrance to the City Palace, the residence of the present royal family of Udaipur, and also the site of two heritage hotels and a number of specialty museums.

The series of courtyards, the separate men's palace and women's palace, the meeting areas, the decorative stonework and painting, the mirrored surfaces, the gardens and water features were all familiar to us by now.

This was the Maharana's bedroom - yes that is a mirrored floor!

And a domed roof lined with mirrored tiles.

There was a wonderful collection of silverware in a special display area and this rather amazing palanquin.

And great views of Lake Pichola from the peacock arched window openings - although by now the rain was falling in intermittent heavy showers.

This was my best pic of the famous Lake Palace, built in 1743-1746. Originally built as the royal summer palace it's now operating as a 5 star hotel (under the Taj banner). None of my pics from the morning's boat ride were as good because conditions were so hazy.

We stopped for a light (but quite expensive for India) lunch at the Sunset Terrace Restaurant at the City Palace before stopping to admire the Maharana's Vintage Car Museum (they're all cars belonging to the royal family).  These guys were SO RICH!

Last stop for the day was at the obligatory Arts and Handicrafts Centre. This one was interesting because it had a working studio of painters working on the miniatures for which this region is famous.

These are the raw materials for the paints - ground by hand: zinc oxide, red oxide, malachite, lapis lazuli, sulphur - all ground down fine and mixed to a paste with gum arabic - just as it has been done for the past many hundreds of years.

While we spent some time examining the paintings and choosing more textiles to stuff in our bags Rob and Jurgen sat outside watching Udaipur at work and play - and surviving encroaching cows (with horns) seeking shelter from the teeming rain - right near where Rob and Jurgen were trying to do the same thing.

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