Udaipur, Rajasthan

The joy of a lost traveler discovering an oasis in the heart of an arid desert,
The epiphany experienced by the Sadhus meditating on the Ghats,
The brilliance marked by the sunset silhouette of the solitary folk musician,

The regality of the white marbled palaces and
The revolting walls in colors which can easily defame a kaleidoscope,

The soothing persona of the calming lakes and
The rugged demeanor of the Aravalli reciting stories of the Rajput bravery

Udaipur is a thousand warm emotions and a mighty piece of art, all sewn together in ageless Mewari yarn.

Our 4th wedding anniversary made us an offer we could not refuse. Elegant palaces and boat rides during the day and romantic candlelight dinners by the lakeside?
Well, who says No to that ?!

Day 1 – 5th Feb 2021: Anniversary Day! We made our way to Delhi Airport for an early morning flight.
Waving hello to the rising Sun on the aerobridge, we boarded our flying machine and looked out of the window to see a hazy blur and the sun rays fighting its way through it.

The fog and winter mornings in Delhi share an extremely loyal bond that all of us need to learn from!

Take Off, Breakfast and Touch Down wrapped up our quick 1 hour flight. Udaipur, has an unbeatable warm and cozy appeal, making you feel right at home. It was almost as if it was trying to sing to us the Rajasthani signature song “Padharo Mhare Desh” (translating to Welcome to my Land).

We booked a cab and off we went to our hotel Radisson Blue, by the Fateh Sagar Lake.

With some time to spare before check-in, we decided to explore the hotel premises. The newness of the property did not dampen the palatial charm which the heritage hotels of the city possess.

Rajput intricacies like arches, colorful tiled and marbled floors, beautiful gardens and elephant statues embraced every nook and corner. Clearly these minutiae must have been a red marked bullet in the architectural blueprint.

The finishing touch to the grandeur was made by the Fateh Sagar Lake, which the hotel wore around it like an exquisite piece of necklace.

We checked into our room and headed for a quick shower. Later, we marveled at the view of the lake while sipping on some masala tea. Time suspiciously stands still, in moments like these.

And here we were thinking about spending an entire weekend in the city of seven lakes. There are hiccups down the road for you, Time!

As the clock hit lunch ‘o clock, the sudden surge of the imaginary aroma of Mewari recipes, trapped us under its spell. Next minute, we found ourselves seated on a mattress with colorful bolsters at Khamma Ghani restaurant, by the lakeside!

The unique mix of spices and the smoky flavor of “Dhunghar Mutton” flirted with our taste-buds, the same way the lake breeze teased the fluttery curtains.

Our next stop was the early 17th century Bagore Ki Haveli, nestled right next to Gangaur Ghat. The idea was to purchase tickets well in advance for the popular Darohar show scheduled at 7 PM. This traditional Rajasthani folk dance and puppetry show runs the risk of being sold out, specially on an evening coinciding with the weekend.

Having secured our seats for the show, we spent some time in Gangaur Ghat bidding adieu to the retreating Sun and absorbing the sublime tales vocalized by the reflections in Lake Pichola.

The spiritual ambience infiltrated deep within us sedating the mind, as the mellifluous tunes of sarangi floating in from the lone musician blended with the atmosphere.

A flock of pigeons, who looked like frequent visitors, created art by flying multiple rounds in pre decided circular trajectories over the lake before settling down on the banks.

The sun, still looking like a ball of bright golden resham zari, slowly started smudging at the outer edges like stray threads on a heritage loom.

While our incorrigible fondness towards the play of colors during dusk made a strong argument to hold us back, at this point we made a tough but wise choice. Promising ourselves a date with the setting sun the next day, we made our way to the Jagdish Temple through narrow veins of Udaipur old city.

Hardly 5 mins away and home to Hindu God “Jaganatha”, this ancient place of worship exhibits fine craftsmanship, with intricate figurines and sculptures carved into the temple body. We reaffirmed our faith and felt gratitude to be able to witness the prodigious powers of Indian artisans.

While walking back towards Gangaur Ghat and Bagore ki Haveli, we dropped by a cute little café Brew Villa for some coffee, and the interesting graffiti on the wall won our hearts. The café owner was very humble and told us about the must visit spots of Udaipur as well as his struggle of survival in a post covid era for a tourism-dependent business.

We requested him if we could charge our dying phones to which he happily obliged. That was indeed as important to us as the taste of coffee (if not more) since it was getting time for the folk-dance show and having an additional set of eyes (read phone cameras) is a better deal.

When we reached Bagore ki Haveli, we still had 10 minutes to spare.

Peeking through the arch of Gangaur ghat gate was a pink streak of light, and we got drawn towards it like a moth to a candle.

It was a regal potrait, with the sky adorning deep royal blue and pink shades and the waters shimmering with a golden glow cast by the heritage hotels from across the lake.

With our hearts full, we entered Bagore ki Haveli, totally unaware of the explosion of emotions our heart was yet to experience. We got ourselves seated on the mattress spread out on the Haveli courtyard (called Neem Chowk).

The lighting, Ghaghra Cholis of the folk dancers, Rajasthani Puppet Dolls on display – the ambience was brimming with colors. Prismatic, Psychedelic and Pure hues in every variant imaginable.

Add to that, music and dance with props like knife, fire, crushed glass, massive tower of earthen pots and all your senses will thank you for the rhapsodic ride!

(Event Names: Chari Dance, Terha Taal Dance, Gorbandh Dance, Ghumar Dance, Bhavani dance and Puppet show)

After the show, we went for a refreshing stroll on the sidewalk by the Fateh Sagar Lake reminiscing our journey together and counting our blessings for everyday and today.

As our tummy started feeling goofy, we examined our tiredness levels and decided to have dinner at our hotel restaurant. When we walked into our room, we found a beautiful bouquet and cake waiting for us from a family member. And if that was not enough, the sweet guy who was serving us our dinner, also surprised us with his humble effort to wish us. (almost at the nick of the closing time of the restaurant. )

We should have waited till dinner to count the blessings. We quickly added 2 brownie points and that wrapped up our special day!

Day 2 – 6th Feb 2021: Sunrays broke into our fortified room without permission and landed on our eyes, through unevenly drawn curtains. Grumpy from the daylight robbery, we went to the hotel restaurant by the poolside – Neel Mahal. The fresh air and delicious buffet breakfast uplifted our moods quicker than the making of 2 mins Maggi masala noodles.

Soon afterwards, we were on our way to explore the most beguiling masterpiece of Udaipur – the City Palace. Perched on the banks of Lake Pichola, this palace complex has
inherited the beauty genes from the Rajputana clan and is a grand treat to the eyes, apart from being a 3D encyclopedia on the imperial way of life.

Maharana Udai Singh II laid the foundation stone and commenced the construction which was constantly upgraded over 400 years by his successors. Each visionary leader introduced their artistic and intellectual taste and what resulted was the confluence and enriching symphony of Rajasthani, Mughal, European, Medieval and Oriental architectural styles.

Bright pigments with artistic murals blended with the walls, while mirror, silver, marble, tiles, colored glass threw themselves in abundance to luxuriate in the glory of this monument that would live for years to come.

Zigzag narrow corridors and steep stairs with low lying ceilings served dual purpose.
In the event of an attack, it would diminish the possibility of the tall and stout soldiers of the enemy’s army bolting into the inner Mahals. And of course, it was considered a good practice for the commoners to have their head bowed down in respect of the ruler while inside the premise.  

It took us 2 hours for the tour, including the short breaks to gape at the grandeur of this fine creation which comprised of – Suraj Gokhda (public address facade), Mor-chowk (Peacock courtyard), Dilkhush Mahal (heart’s delight), Surya Chopar, Sheesh Mahal (Palace of glass and mirrors), Moti Mahal (Palace of Pearls), Krishna Vilas, Shambhu Niwas, Bhim Vilas, Amar Vilas (with a raised garden) and the Badi Mahal (the big palace) 

Next up, our tired feet, gurgling bellies and fluttery butterfly hearts found its nectar at the famed lakeside café – Upre by 1559 AD.

We ordered Safed Murg, Garlic Naan and some refreshing banana lassi to go with it.

The moisture laden cool breeze from the lake and a mammoth umbrella tricked the fierce desert noon sun from showing its wrath.

Add to that, unparalleled views of the lake, floating water palaces, the ghats and the mountains at the backdrop. The calm and the stillness was only sometimes intruded by flying cranes and parrots against the clear blue-sky reflecting colors from the layer down below.

Post lunch, we were back at the Palace site, this time for another exhilarating escapade –
Sunset Boat Cruise. Walking on the curvaceous lane hugging the palace building, we reached Rameshwar Ghat and with bated breath waited for the clock to strike 5 PM.

A low humming tornado of emotions started gaining momentum in our sunset fanatic mind.

Soon we boarded our boat, secured our life jackets and whizzed into the dark blue waters. At this point, the sun was like the lowest hanging orange of the tree, ripe and ready to take the plunge. We had been lucky to get the front seats in the boat, and the breeze brushed against our faces creating ripples of soothing sensations, as did the melody of water playing with the surface of the gliding boat. Occasionally lake mist greeted us, much like rose water sprayed on the royals.

As we drifted past innumerable Ghats, we awed at the intricate arches and domes adorning them. Then came the floating wonders, which elevated the architectural landscape and our heartbeats to a notch higher.

Leaving the Oberoi Udaivilas palace to the right and the Taj Lake Palace to the left, we bobbed towards yet another levitating marvel and our destination – Jag Mandir Palace. Our boat dropped us off and retreated to Rameshwar Ghat.

Obliging to the orders from the invisible forces of nature, I asked my husband for a coffee date on this island palace, around sunset and the answer was a resounding YES!  We grabbed the corner seats as the ambience gently took dominance over our mind and relaxed us, almost akin to the effects of an authentic Ayurvedic massage.

Google insisted Sunset time was  6:04 PM, and while we were engrossed in the magnetic beauty of the landscape and in our fluid conversations, we were also keeping a close tab on our watch. At 6 PM sharp, we made our way to the other side of the palace, where beautifully manicured gardens added another layer of charm. And then the magic begun.

The golden enigma hid behind the waves of low-lying foothills, leaving behind a strain of golden aura, much like the halo of angels.

Almost immediately a pill of orange was popped in the sky by invisible hands which spread like the blush on a new bride’s cheek.

Soon afterwards the boat returned to pick us up and the return voyage was equally intoxicating. The orange sky, lit fire on the waters, the silhouettes added contrast to the sky and the now chilly breeze made us cuddle up.

As we approached towards the Rameshwar Ghat, we got to witness a different glamourous attire of the City Palace which was now completely lit up and looked breathtaking.

Udaipur has a budding eco-friendly handloom industry and we agreed to explore it on reaching back to the city. Items included sarees made from Jute, Bamboo, Pineapple Crown, Lotus Stalks, Banana fibres, Custard Apple to name a few! This was new and exciting to us, and of course the earth-friendly angle got rid of any strains of guilt involved in the shopping spree.

That night, we dined at Tribute restaurant by the Rang Sagar Lake. The restaurant is a tribute to Chetak, the legendary horse of Maharana Pratap. The chill by the lakeside called for some steaming hot soup which we teamed with some spicy Lal Maas – Butter Naan combo.

Hot Gulab Jamuns scripted the flawless ending to a perfect day in one of the most romantic cities of the world.

Day 3 – 7th Feb 2021:

Our last day in the city of lakes, took an adventurous spin as we headed out for a little trek.

Around 12 kms away from the city, the Badi Lake wears a sarong wrap of the meandering Bahubali hills, adding another layer of topographic allure to this Lake Land.

It was an easy 20 mins trek to the viewpoint and the constant companionship of the mesmerizing views of the blue-green waters, made us as efficient as the Road Runner. Once at the top, the 180-degree panoramic views made a postcard perfect painting.

A rock formation shaped like a dinosaur, (that is my imagination speaking, it may seem like a crocodile to you) jutted out into the sparkling waters, with an uncanny resemblance to the beauty of Nusa Penida island in Bali.

Desert vegetation – predominantly cacti and its bright red flower beads shrouded the entire landscape, reminding us of our proximity to the sand dunes of the Thar Desert.

The hike had worked up our appetite and that led us to our next stop – Ambrai.

This restaurant at Amet Haveli, with its picturesque setting facing Lake Pichola was the perfect place to have the last meal of the trip. We repeated our favourite order of the authenthic Mewari dish Dhunghar Maas – Butter Naan and appended a kebab platter to go with it. The aroma, the taste and the ambience conspired to keep us hooked, but we had a flight to catch.

We bid our adieu with a promise to return back to bask in the warmth and splendor of this majestic city.

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