My room in Udaipur is much better than the one I stayed in at Jaipur. I am glad for it. Arrival into Udaipur had been tought yesterday. The dinner at Chittorgarh had affected my stomach. I had the runs yesterday. I am feeling somewhat better this morning but I don’t think I am in any position to eat much. I am feeling really weak. I need some Electrol.
I walk out towards the City Palace, one of the highlights of any tour of the city. En route I find that many shops are closed. Yesterday I had met school children anointing commuters at bus stands with red tilaks. Apparently yesterday was some sort of a new year in Hindi calendar. Perhaps this is why many shops are closed today. One medical shop is open. I ask him for some tablets and Electrol. He hands me full strips of tablets.
‘I just want four tablets,’ I tell him.
He shakes his head, ‘Buy somewhere else.’
A little later I pass another medical shop and make my purchase. Closer to the entrance of the City Palace I pass a large temple with an impressive shikara. The mandapa is built on two levels with a vesara style shikara crowning it. Small shrines with their own shikaras flank the entrance. It is a splendid temple but I don’t have the energy to walk up the steps and explore it. I settle for the City Palace.
The streets leading to the palace are packed with shops selling paintings, sketches, cushion covers, antiques and local craftwork. The items are pricey. They are clearly meant for foreign tourists. No average Indian will be able to afford these items. These days upper middle class Indians are rich enough to make such purchases. Many of the miniatures are cheap imitations of greater works in palaces and museums. I think they are boring and also a rip off at their prices.
The palace is accessed by an impressive gateway. What’s open to public has been converted into a museum. I wander through the galleries admiring exhibits, studying paintings or simply looking at the architecture. Unlike the rulers of Jaipur, the Rajputs of Udaipur resisted the Mughals and even scorned the British. Among them is Maharana Pratap who fought Akbar’s troops at the Battle of Haldighat. This is a famous battle which the Rajputs regard highly. It epitomized their bravery. One poster claims that this is the longest dynasty in India, from the 8th century to the present with an illustrious list of 76 maharanas.
The palace has a beautiful paintings. A few paintings depict the festival of gangaur which is much celebrated by the royalty here. Some paintings in niches remind me of those of Bundi. There are closed balconies with little windows covered with coloured glass. From here view of Udaipur city is spectacular. Walls bear beautiful decorative motifs and in some places even European tiles. Open courtyard terraces are surrounded by cool corridors of cusped arches, narrow walkways above and shady chhatris. Many rooms suggest richness and splendour. Some courtyards with fountains and pools suggest romance. Old lampshades hang from high ceilings. Mirror and glasswork cover some walls in incredible designs. Stone sculptures are few. The palace is as wonderful as the one at Amber.
I am thinking if I should visit the Lake Palace. I can see it in the distance. The afternoon sun is harsh and does not present the Lake Palace to advantage. Someone tells me that it has been converted into a hotel but visitors may look at it from the outside. Later I pass by the lake. I see pollution on the margins. I lose all interest to visit the palace.
At 3 pm I arrive at the Saheliyon-ki-Bari. It is a pretty garden. Apparently it was built for the relaxation of maidens of some princess. Water channels, fountains and ponds decorate the garden. Water sprouts from the stone trunks of elephants. Trees and plants provide coolness and shade. Bougainvilleas flushed with colour decorate walls over which they creep in profusion. In an inner enclosed garden, I settle myself into a shady pavilion by the wall. Pink and white bougainvilleas overhanging from above provide a cool shade. Little fountain streams ripple the ponds surface. An octagonal chhatri at the centre stands for attention. Corner chhatris in the garden add interest. I take a nap in this garden for nearly an hour. No one disturbs me. It is really a much needed rest.
With nothing else in store, I return to my room and rest awhile. My stomach is feeling much better. I think a little meal is in order. I settle for Sankalp, a nice restaurant serving good South Indian food. I order just rice and rasam to keep things simple. This restaurant has made it to the Guiness Book of Records for making the world’s longest dosa, a whooping 30-foot monster; but I’m in no position to order than today.