Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hey guys, hope you are doing gr8 😀 I’m really excited about today’s post, because I’m sure you will be left amazed by the end of it 😀

So, continuing with my travel series on Rajasthan, from my previous post on Umaid Bhavan Palace in Jodhpur – the capital of the erstwhile princely state of Marwar – today’s post will take you to the romantic city of Udaipur – the capital of the erstwhile princely state of Mewar 😀

For my first-time visitors: In my earlier posts, Regal Rajasthan: Chittorgarh Fort and Regal Rajasthan: Kumbhalgarh Fort, I had presented a brief history of the Mewar kingdom. You might want to read the two posts before you continue with this post to get a good idea of Mewar’s rich history 😀

Read my post: Regal Rajasthan Travelogue (Part IV): Udaipur

So, let’s begin 😀 But first, behold the grand sight of this magnificent palace towering on the east bank of Lake Pichola… it’s the City Palace of Udaipur 😀

Watch my video: City Palace of Udaipur  

Home to magnificent palaces, beautiful havelis and lakeside heritage hotels, Udaipur’s focal point is the imposing City Palace, built of granite and marble. The majestic palace complex, the city’s grandest and the largest in Rajasthan and India, was built by Maharana Udai Singh II of Mewar as the new capital of the Sisodia Rajput clan in 1559, after the old capital, Chittorgarh was captured by the Mughal emperor Akbar.

Read my post: Rajasthan – The Incredible State of India 

Legend has it that the king of Mewar was on a hunting expedition, when he came across a hermit meditating on the banks of a lake. The hermit blessed the Maharana and told him that if he built a palace at that very spot on the banks of Lake Pichola, it would be well protected. The Maharana took his advice. And so the ‘City of lakes’ or ‘Venice of India’ , as Udaipur is called, came into being, named after Maharana Udai Singh in 1559.

The City Palace is actually a conglomeration of palaces and gardens, built and extended by various Maharanas over the centuries. Being the royal residence of the Maharanas, who administered their kingdom from here, the huge palace complex is an important historic landmark.

After the Indian independence in 1947, the Mewar Kingdom, along with other princely states of Rajasthan, merged with the Union of India. Later, with the abolishment of the Privy Purse in 1971, the former kings also lost their special royal privileges and titles. The Maharanas, however, retained their ownership of the palaces in Udaipur. Some parts of the City Palace were converted into a museum, which is open for public. Two parts of the City Palace, Fateh Prakash Palace and Shiv Niwas Palace, were converted into luxurious hotels.

Fateh Prakash Palace Hotel…

Shiv Niwas Palace Hotel…

Another part, the Shambhu Niwas Palace is the private residence of the royal family. It’s head, Arvind Singh Mewar, is the 76th custodian of the Mewar dynasty.

Shambhu Niwas Palace, the royal residence…

Beautifully located at the highest point in the area overlooking Lake Pichola on its west and the city on its east, the majestic palace offers a panoramic view of the city and its surroundings, which have several historic monuments. These include two palaces on the two natural islands on Lake Pichola, Jag Mandir and Jag Niwas (the Taj Lake Palace Hotel); and Sajjangarh or the Monsoon Palace high up on a hill towering the city. A major part of the 1983 James Bond film, Octopussy starring Roger Moore, was filmed in Udaipur, at these three palaces and Shiv Niwas Palace Hotel.

Jag Mandir or Lake Garden Palace has been renovated to include a café, an elegant restaurant, bar, and spa…

Jag Niwas has been converted into the luxurious Taj Lake Palace Hotel…

Anchored close to Jag Niwas is the Octopussy boat from the James Bond film…

Hotel Leela Palace Udaipur against the backdrop of Sajjangarh (or the Monsoon Palace), high atop the hill…

Watch my video: View from City Palace

Like all other fort-palaces in Rajasthan, the City Palace has elaborately decorated gates known as “Pols”. Bari Pol, built in 1600, is the main entrance gate to the sprawling palace complex. Beyond it is Tripolia Gate, a beautiful triple-arched marble gate built in 1725.

An overhead view of Tripolia Gate….

Between the Bari Pol and Tripolia Gate stand eight marble arches. It is said that the Maharanas used to be weighed here, and their equivalent in gold was then distributed to charity. Tripolia Gate opens onto the large, main courtyard, Manek Chowk, in front of the palace. The road between this gate and the palace is lined with shops and kiosks owned by craftsmen, book-binders, miniature painters, textile dealers and antique shops.

The palace facing Manek Chowk…

A sprawling edifice made up of separate, interconnecting palaces, built over a period of nearly three centuries, the City Palace exhibits an interesting blend of Rajput and European architectural styles.

Watch my video: Front side of City Palace 

Darikhana Ki Pol, the royal entrance to the palace. Above the doorway is a shield embossed with the insignia of the sun-descended Mewar dynasty…

The insignia consists of Sun, Bhil warrior, Rajput warrior, Chittorgarh fort and a Sanskrit text “Jo Dridh Rakhe Dharm Ko Tahi Rakhe Karta” (Those who protect the faith are protected by the God).

The open hall was most likely used for watching public ceremonies in the Manek Chowk…

Gleaming sun-face emblems of the Sisodia dynasty, are a common sight in the palace complex…

The Mewar rulers had great faith in the power of the Sun god. It was customary for them to pay obeisance to the Sun facing east, every morning before breakfast.

The City Palace is a popular venue for fairy-tale weddings. An overhead view of Manek Chowk, being decorated for a wedding, from Tripolia Gate to the extreme left end…

To the extreme right end…

Just opposite the gate in the centre of the above picture is Toran Pol, the main entrance gate to the City Palace Museum (not seen in the picture). The arena in front of the Toran Pol is where elephant fights used to be held to test their prowess before starting on war campaigns.

Today besides hosting weddings, Manek Chowk serves as the venue of the annual Maharana Mewar Foundation Awards, honouring students, national and international personalities.

Toran Pol…

Toran Pol is so named after a traditional wedding ritual, where the groom getting married to the Mewar princess would touch the decorative toran tied on the entrance gate.

The historical significance of City Palace as the royal residence of 24 generations of Mewar kings, brings in an air of romance and wonder as you pass through its numerous beautiful chambers and courtyards. Many of the chambers are former living quarters of the Maharanas, each representing a particular king’s style, needs and hobbies. Some are lavish, others simple and sparse. One such simple room belonging to Maharana Bhopal Singh (1930-1955) who was paralyzed from waist down since the age of 16, is equipped with an elevator.

Among the set of palaces, the most significant are Mardana Mahal (palace for the royal men) and Zenana Mahal (palace for the royal ladies). These are the main parts of the City Palace and are open as a well-preserved museum, which houses a large and varied collection of rare paintings, antique furniture, crystal and porcelain figures, fabulous Mewar miniature paintings, murals and wall paintings, weaponry and personal belongings of some of the rulers. The numerous palace rooms and courtyards have lavish décor and breath-taking delicate glass, mirror and ornamental tile work. And there is a beautiful central garden palace on the highest level.

The 30-rupee entrance ticket to City Palace allows you to enter only the front arena. The City Palace Museum requires a separate ticket which costs 250 rupees for Indians above 18 years. There is a separate ticket for photography (for non-commercial use only), which has to be attached to the camera during the museum tour. It costs 250 rupees. Videography fee is twice the cost of the photography fee. You have to purchase a separate camera ticket for your phone if you use it for taking pictures, even if you have purchased one for your camera. The museum staff is very strict. If you do not purchase a camera ticket for your camera, you have to deposit it at the lockers at the entrance. But the 250-rupee ticket is worth it. Besides, the proceeds go towards charity, to the Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation. Audio-guide tour is available. The many guides around charge around 200 rupees or more for a quick one-hour tour. (All given rates are as on November 2015, so there maybe changes as of today.) The museum is open from 09:30 am to 05:30 pm (last entry at 04:30 pm) on all days including Sundays and public holidays except on the day after Holika Dahan festival in March. Another attraction of the City Palace is the Mewar Sound and Light Show held every evening at Manek Chowk.

The City Palace complex with its many wonderful palaces is so vast that it will take around 4-5 hours for a detailed tour of the entire complex.  It can get quite crowded during weekends and public holidays, and on all days during winter, when thousands of domestic and international tourists descend on Rajasthan.

The City Palace Museum is so vast that it is difficult to trace the route of the tour and chart out even the main attractions that are breathtakingly beautiful. So, let’s take a look at some of them 😀

Entering through Toran Pol, we come to Ganesh Deodhi, dedicated to Lord Ganesha. This marble idol of Lord Ganesha with superb glass inlay work around it was built by Maharana Karan Singh in 1620…

Next, we enter the Raj Angan (Royal Courtyard), built by Maharana Udai Singh II in 1559. It is the oldest part of the palace. The Maharana carried out his proceedings from here. Legend says this was the very spot where Rana Udai Singh II met the sage Goswami Prem Giri Maharaj, who suggested this location for his new capital, and that the first thing he built here was the Dhuni Mata Temple.

Surrounding this courtyard are exhibits on the genealogy of the Mewar rulers. Mewar’s most famous Maharanas were Maharana Udai Singh II, founder of Udaipur and the City Palace, and his legendary son, Maharana Pratap Singh, who spent his life in the jungles, fighting against the Mughals and trying to fulfil his dream of regaining Chittorgarh Fort from them.

There are several historical paintings, which include some fascinating ones by reputed local artist, Chaturbhuj (1895-1975). His paintings include the Battle of Haldighati, in which a small number of Mewar forces led by the great Rajput hero, Maharana Pratap Singh, gallantly fought the large, well-equipped army of Mughal emperor Akbar to a stalemate. This famous battle was fought on June 18, 1576. And there is one of Maharana Pratap on his favourite horse, Chetak, riding to the battlefield.

The Silehkhana (or the Armoury Room) houses a wide collection of weaponry like guns, swords, spears, armours, pistols, cartridges etc. used by the Mewar rulers and their armies.

Then, there are statues of the great Maharana Pratap and his favourite horse, Chetak, who saved his life in the battle of Haldighati and died from injuries after bringing him to safety.

Maharana Pratap Singh‘s legacy was in guerrilla warfare and light horse tactics which he perfected to regain most of Mewar that was lost to the Mughals.  He disguised his horse in elephant costume and fake elephant trunk. This was designed to terrify an opponent’s steed and to protect the horse from the enemy’s war elephants, assuming that elephants would not harm their younger ones.

Armoured statue of Chetak with fake elephant trunk…

Original armour and weapons of Maharana Pratap Singh (who ruled from 1572 to 1597). The total weight of the exhibited items is 25 kilos…

A full body armour…

Moving on to another area, there is a shrine dedicated to the hermit, Goswami Prem Giriji Maharaj, who advised Maharana Udai Singh II to build the Udaipur City Palace at this location…

The mail room with cages of pigeons, who were used as messengers in ancient times and were the fastest mode of communication…

Mementos of the British kings …

As per the signboard: On 12th December 1911, King George V during his visit to India held Darbar (Court) at Delhi to which all the ruling princes of India were asked to attend. A special chair (the empty chair in the photo) for each ruler according to his status was placed in the Court. Maharana Fateh Singh defied the directive and did not attend the Darbar.

As per the signboard: King Edward the VII of England sent two thoroughbred horses  (paintings behind, to the left and right of the photo) as a present to Maharana Fateh Singh on 1st September 1909, as a mark of great regard for him.

Badi Mahal is a delightful 17th century central garden palace built of marble, nearly 90 feet above ground. It has a square, central pool where the Maharanas would sprinkle coloured water and play with the royal ladies on Holi festival…

The beautiful garden has flowering shrubs, trees, water basin and fountain and arched pavilions. It provides a quiet, shaded spot to rest during the museum tour.

Situated at the highest point in the palace, it also offers fine views of the city. It may be on the highest level, but actually is at ground level, as it is built on a natural rock formation. There are 104 intricately carved marble pillars and verandas on two opposite sides.

Watch my video: View from Badi Mahal 

Beyond this lies Dilkhush Mahal (Palace of Joy), originally built in the 1620s, with two fabulous chambers, Kanch Ki Burj and Chitran Ki Burj.

Kanch Ki Burj, which is made of glass and mirrors is a breath-taking Sheesh Mahal with elaborate grey and red mirror-work walls and ceilings, set off by a carved ivory door…

Watch my video: Sheesh Mahal 

Chitran Ki Burj the other chamber of Dilkhush Mahal has walls decorated with paintings of life in the City Palace and city during the reign of Maharana Bhim Singh (1778-1828).

It has a rich collection of miniature paintings made of silk with real gold and natural colours portray royal processions, festivals and games of the Maharanas and are fine examples of Mewar Art style.

Watch my video: Exquisite Mewar paintings 

It is also called Krishna Vilas, named after Maharana Bhim Singh’s beautiful daughter Krishna Kumari, who was forced to drink poison to protect the honour of Mewar and to resolve a dilemma caused by two rival princely suitors from Jaipur and Jodhpur threatening to invade Mewar, if she wasn’t married to them.

Vani Vilas…

On 10th February 1875, Maharana Sajjan Singh established the first special library in Udaipur and Kaviraj Shyamaldas sat here and wrote Veer Vinod, the history of Mewar.

Madan Vilas…

Built by Maharana Bhim Singh (1778-1828), this gallery is dedicated to Col. James Tod, English-born officer of the British East India Company and writer of ‘Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan’.

View of Lake Pichola from Madan Vilas…

Chini Chitrashala (Porcelain Painted Gallery) with its striking blue Dutch inlaid tile work exhibits European influence in the otherwise Rajput style of the rest of the palace…

It has two big coloured glass windows, while its large balcony offers a good view of the city and the Manek Chowk below. Hence it’s a very popular spot for taking photos.

Watch my video: Overhead view of Manek Chowk

The splendorous Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace), another Sheesh Mahal with magical walls that are decorated with plates of mirror-work and coloured glass…

Bhim Vilas, a small prayer room with fine murals depicting scenes from the life of Lord Krishna and Radha…

Below these apartments is the most spectacular courtyard of the City Palace, the 17th century Mor Chowk (Peacock Courtyard)…

This elaborately designed hall has walls covered with magnificent glass mosaics of peacocks, the national bird of India, which abounds in Rajasthan.

The exceptional peacock mosaics, built into successive niches in the wall area, are modelled in high relief and topped with 5,000 pieces of coloured glass.

The three peacocks in the hall…

At the upper level, there is a beautiful balcony (probably for the king), flanked by inserts of coloured glass…

On the ground level, the reception centre wall has this huge, ornamental Sun emblem, Surya Chaupar, which is moulded in copper with gold polish…

Watch my video: Surya Chaupar and Mor Chowk in City Palace of Udaipur

Manak Mahal (Ruby Palace)…

Watch my video: Manak Mahal 

Yet another Sheesh Mahal, this fabulous chamber built in 1716, is made of several red-coloured glass and mosaics of mirrors. Manak Mahal is an enclosure for formal audience for the Mewar rulers. It was built as a dining room. It has walls inlaid with ornate mirror-work and coloured glass. Inside are mosaics of 18th century Englishmen being served wine by Rajput maidens.

The southern end of the City Palace comprises of Zenana Mahal, former palace of the royal ladies, built in the early 1600s. It has witnessed innumerable royal weddings in the past and today hosts fairy-tale weddings, events and musical soirees. In 1974, this place was converted into a gallery. There are several paintings depicting royal hunting scenes. Nearby is the palace that used to contain royal treasure, and there are temples of Lord Krishna, Meera Bai and Shiva.

The Zenana Mahal’s central courtyard, Laxmi Chowk…

Watch my video: Courtyard of Zenana Mahal (Queens’ Palace) 

Other galleries in the City Palace include displays of royal bagghhis (horse-driven carts), palanquins, elephant howdahs, precious silver objects, old general household and kitchen items, etc.

A beautiful statue of Maharana Pratap Singh’s horse, Chetak…

The City Palace may have a simple exterior, but once inside, there is grandeur everywhere. For the benefit of its visitors, arriving from far and across the world, the palace offers facilities of post office, bank, travel agency, numerous craft shops, etc. The entire complex is the property of the Mewar royal family with various trusts maintaining the structures.

Besides the City Palace Museum tour, there are other fascinating tours too, for which tickets are available at payment counters in the palace complex. Two of the nearby palaces, Shiv Niwas Palace and Fateh Prakash Palace, were originally used as guest houses for the personal guests of the Maharanas. Now they are luxury heritage hotels, not open for general visitors. However, visitors can take a tour of the Crystal Gallery and Durbar Hall inside the smaller Fateh Prakash Palace Hotel.

Built in the early 20th century, Fateh Prakash Palace served as an exclusive venue for royal functions, where the Maharanas of Mewar held court. The interiors are decorated with royal artefacts, miniature painting, unique crystal and crockery collections, exquisite chandeliers and the armoury of the Mewar dynasty.

The Crystal Gallery in the Fateh Prakash Palace Hotel is probably the largest private collection of crystal in the world with beautiful crystal works including crockery, decanters, perfume bottles, crystal chairs, tables and sofas, sculptures and crystal beds. There is also a unique jewel studded carpet here. These rare, masterpiece crystal collections was specially created by F&C Osler & Co. of London for the young Maharana Sajjan Singh, who began his reign in 1874. But unfortunately after a decade, before these crystals reached the palace, the king died and these crystals were packed away in boxes.  It is said that they remained unopened for more than hundred years, and when they were finally re-discovered, the present custodian of the Mewar dynasty, Arvind Singh Mewar, decided to display it to the public in 1994. In the princely days, the present Crystal Gallery was used by royal ladies to observe the court proceedings in the Durbar Hall below.

The Durbar Hall…

The main attraction of Fateh Prakash Palace Hotel is the glorious Durbar Hall. Built in 1909 as a venue for official functions like State banquets and meetings, it has a luxuriant interior with large chandeliers. Weapons of the Maharanas and some of their portraits are displayed here. The foundation stone for this hall was laid by Lord Minto, the Viceroy of India, in 1909, during the rule of Maharana Fateh Singh and was then called Minto Hall. Today, the hall is used as a banquet hall and hired out for special functions.

Watch my video: Durbar Hall in Fateh Prakash Palace

The Crystal Gallery and Durbar Hall tour costs 550 rupees (for 18 years and above) and includes Audio Guide. The visitor’s identity card is retained by the palace staff before issuing the ticket. Cameras are allowed inside the Durbar Hall, but not inside the Crystal Gallery. Cameras as well as phones have to be deposited for safe-keeping prior to entry. The tour is open from 9:00 AM to 6:30 PM.

View of Lake Pichola from Fateh Prakash Palace…

Watch my video: View from Fateh Prakash Palace 

Another spectacular tour is the sunset boat cruise on Lake Pichola. The picturesque 4-km long and 3-km wide lake is surrounded by hills, palaces, temples, bathing ghats and embankments. The 40-minute boat ride starts from the jetty in the palace complex.

Sprawling lawns on the way to the jetty…

The boat ride is a fantastic way to see the beautiful heritage structures along the riverbank…

First, it proceeds towards Brahmpol bridge at one end…

Offering a good view of Sajjangarh Fort…

And then, it turns around, moving past the Jag Niwas Island – home to the royal summer palace converted into the world-famous Taj Group-run luxurious Lake Palace Hotel – on the way to Jag Mandir at the other end…

The visitors are dropped off at Jag Mandir Island, where they can look around the palace and have food or refreshments.

The city look picture-perfect from the water…

Watch my video: Sunset Boat Cruise on Lake Pichola

The Sunset Boat Cruise costs 700 rupees for adults & children above 12 years. Its timings are 3:00 PM onwards during winter and 4:00 PM onwards during summer.

So, for those of you visiting Udaipur, bear in mind that a trip to this beautiful lake city is incomplete without a tour of the City Palace and a sunset boat cruise in Lake Pichola 😀

 

Coming next # Rajasthan – The Incredible State of India

 

 

 

I hope you enjoyed reading this post 😀 While you’re here, check out my three e-books on Mexico and my romance e-book.

You can read my travel experiences and learn more about the many beautiful destinations in Mexico in my ebook (PDF format):

1 discovering mexico

Discovering Mexico  US$ 16.97 (or the equivalent value in your currency)

To know all about Mexico, here’s my ebook (PDF format):

2 Mexico book

Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World  US$ 7.97 (or the equivalent value in your currency)

For Mexico’s food history, detailed information on Mexican food & drink and a few recipes, buy my ebook (PDF format):

3 mexican cuisine book

A Guide To Mexican Cuisine US$ 5.97 (or the equivalent value in your currency)

If you love reading romance novels and are a big fan of Mills & Boon novels, you will love my romance ebook (PDF format):

0 Love book

The Blue-Eyed Prince of Natlife US$ 4.99 (or the equivalent value in your currency)

Your feedback is highly appreciated. Your “Like” and comments are greatly valued. And let me tell you that I just love reading the warm words of appreciation that I receiver for my work from my readers through the Contact Me Page 😀  So be generous with the feedback 😀

Thanks for stopping by, I hope to see you back 😀

 

Advertisements