October 12, 2014

Mewar (July 2014): Part III. Udaipur.

22-July-2014: Tuesday: Lake Pichola, Jagdish Temple, Gangaur Ghat and Dharohar at Bagore ki Haveli.

I went for a morning walk along NH8 and walked for about 2 km towards Ahmedabad. There were a few dhabas and petrol stations along the road. Finally I found a grocery shop from where I bought bread and some cheese, which we had for breakfast. After breakfast I went down to the hotel pool for a refreshing swim.

We spent the rest of the morning relaxing at the resort. We met Mr.Vinay Shankar and his team of Holiday Consultants and they gave us some information about the new resorts and acquisitions of Mahindra Holidays and Resorts. We had a yummy lunch of 'American Chop Suey' at the restaurant, followed by an hour long siesta in our cool air-con room.

At 4.30 pm we walked down to the rickshaw stand located across the highway. There were only 6-seater sharing rickshaws available, so we chartered one for Rs.100 and he took us closer into town, from where we could hire another 3-seater rickshaw. We struck a bargain with a 3-seater rickshaw driver who agreed to drop us to Lake Pichola and then pick us up at 8 pm from Bagore ki Haveli and drop us back to our resort in time for dinner. He dropped us at the Lake Jetty at 5 pm. We exchanged our cellphone numbers and parted company.

After strolling for a while along the lake shore we started walking towards the famous Jagdish Temple. We walked along the street lined with artifact and curio shops, for about 2 km, till we reached Jagdish Temple. Geeta did some real shopping, while I did the window shopping.

Jagdish Temple appeared at the end of a stiff climb in the road, and was located at the top of a steep flight of stairs. The entrance gate was flanked by two carved marble elephants, and looked very impressive with its beautiful wall carvings. The Jagdish Temple is located very near to the Tripolia Gate of the City Palace. It can be seen rising high above the surrounding buildings.

Entrance to Jagdish Temple

We took off our footwear after ascending the steps and left them in the free shoe racks provided there before entering the sanctum. Many devotees leave their footwear at the roadside at the bottom of the steps. 

There are many exquisite carvings on the temple walls, among which is the black stone image of Lord Vishnu as Jagannath, Lord of the Universe. Facing the entrance, in an enclosed shrine is a bronze winged statue of Garuda, who was the steed of Lord Vishnu and carried the God on his back.

Wall carvings

Wall carvings of Jagdish Temple

The musical bhajans and prayers being sung within the temple gave us the feeling of peace and harmony.

The temple is open from 4.15 am to 1 pm in the morning, and 5.15 pm to 8 pm in the evening. There is no entry fee, but photography is prohibited inside the sanctum. A water cooler is provided for cold drinking water just outside the sanctum.

After darshan at the temple we walked down to Gangaur Ghat and had a drink of hot chocolate at 'Jheel's Rooftop Restaurant', which was located at the water front.

We had already visited the renowned City Palace of Udaipur during an earlier trip so we decided to skip it this time, although it is the most famous landmark and tourist attraction of Udaipur. You can read my review of the City Palace on TripAdvisor by following the link: City Palace, Udaipur.

We entered Bagore ki Haveli at 6.45 pm. This heritage home was built in the 18th century by a former nobleman of the Mewar state. It is a short walk from the Jagdish Temple at Gangaur Ghat on the banks of Lake Pichola. It is open for viewing from 10 am to 7 pm and there is a small entry fee.

Bagore ki Haveli

Entrance to the haveli
Courtyard in haveli

The Haveli has been diligently restored. The 138 rooms set around courtyards depict how the Rajasthani noblemen used to live in the past, and exhibit the traditional arts and crafts of the region.

Impressive folk dance performances in the Mewari and Rajasthani style, called ‘Dharohar’ are held at ‘Bagore ki Haveli’ every evening from 7 pm to 8 pm, and are worth witnessing. The word ‘dharohar’ means inheritance, and these artistes have taken it upon themselves to preserve the colourful culture and tradition of the region in a very beautiful way, in one of the courtyards of their old but restored Haveli.

There is an entry fee of Rs.60 per person (Rs.100 for foreigners) and Rs.100 for any type of camera. After you enter you have to find yourself a suitable place to sit around the neem tree in the courtyard, just as you would do in a Rajasthani village, and settle down for the show to start. The earlier you arrive the better your chances of getting a good vantage point to capture all the action.

Welcome to 'Dharohar'

The speaker welcomes you to his Land, and explains what each of the dances signifies, both in English as well as Hindi. The dances are indeed performed very well and keep you spellbound. The bright and ornamental costumes also serve to highlight the colourful traditions of the region.

The Musicians

The dancers

Mesmerising dance
There’s one slot for a puppet show in which some kids from the audience are selected to take part, making it more interactive and humorous.

Puppets for sale at Bagore ki Haveli
This is one show you must not miss, to get an insight into the culture and traditions of Rajasthan.

After watching the show we called our rickshaw man, Hyder Ali, who turned up as promised, to drive us back to our resort in time for dinner.

There was a good buffet spread at the Club Mahindra resort restaurant. We had a choice of chicken 65 (starter), dum gosht gravy, salads, biryani, raita, malai kofta, dal, and a pasta dish. There was a variety of sweet dishes, but we settled for the ice-cream.

23-July-2014: Wednesday: Hathi Pol, Gulab Bagh, Lake Pichola, Dudh Talai, Karni Mata ropeway, Lake Fateh Sagar, Sukhadiya Circle, Saheliyon ki Bari.

We had a long day ahead as we had to check out by 11 am, but our train was scheduled to depart from Udaipur at 9.30 pm. I booked a cab through 'Falcon Tours' to pick us up at 11 am and drive us round Udaipur's remaining tourist attractions.

Our first halt was at Hathi Pol where Geeta did some shopping for Rajasthani dresses, mojris and trinkets. After finishing the shopping we had some coconut water and pineapple juice, and got back into the cab to go to Gulab Bagh.

Victoria Hall in Gulab Bagh
Sajjan Niwas Garden is a large garden situated immediately below the embankment of Pichola Lake. It is more commonly known as ‘Gulab Bagh’ because a small part of the garden is dedicated to growing roses (gulab). The gardens were laid out by Maharana Sajjan Singh in the 19th century.

There is a small zoo and a toy train running around the periphery, hence it is an ideal outing with your little kids. We were more fascinated by the numerous squirrels playing around and feeding at our feet.

Friendly squirrel in Gulab Bagh
‘Victoria Hall’ is a building in the garden which houses a reading room and library. The vast open gardens, huge trees and shady pathways make these gardens an ideal place for a peaceful morning and evening walk as well.

After a leisurely stroll in Gulab Bagh our cabbie, Mr.Firoj Khan suggested that we have lunch at the rooftop restaurant of Hotel Padmimi Palace, since the other rooftop restaurants around Lake Pichola are open only in the evenings, being off-season now. This restaurant was air-con and had an aerial view of haveli rooftops, but not much of the lake. The food was quite tasty and reasonably priced.

After lunch we decided to take a boat ride on Pichola Lake, from the jetty near Dudh Talai. The charges for a 20 minute boat ride was Rs.100 per person. We saw the City Palace, Lake Palace (Jag Niwas), Jag Mandir, The Oberoi Trident and other lakeside hotels and havelis from close quarters while riding around the lake.

Some haveli hotels on Lake Pichola

Lake Palace Hotel (Jag Niwas)

Jag Mandir Palace

The City Palace viewed from the lake

After the boat ride we went to Dudh Talai for a cable car ride up to Karni Mata mandir. Dudh Talai (Milky Lake) is a small lake sandwiched in between Lake Pichola and Machala Magra (Fish Hill). It is very close to the south end jetty of Lake Pichola.

There are two gardens on either side, one is the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Park, with the musical fountains and rock garden, and the other is the Manik Lal Verma Park, which is at an elevation leading up to Machala Magra.

Dudh Talai gardens are the favourite haunts for the locals as well as tourists who like to come and spend a quiet evening watching the sunset over Lake Pichola, between the far hills. One can take a stroll in the beautifully laid out rock garden and enjoy the musical fountains in the evening. Camel rides can be had nearby.

One can take a cable car ride from near Deen Dayal Park, up to the Karni Mata temple situated high up on Machla Magra, from where one can get a bird’s eye view of Udaipur.

Rain clouds were gathering above Udaipur and it started raining while we were up on the hill. We had some good views of the city from atop the hill and I got some stunning photos. The ropeway shuts down if there is heavy rain or wind so we came down by 5 pm and whiled away one hour having fresh pop-corn hot from the machine followed by a cup of tea.
Dudh Talai
Cable car to Karni Mata hill

View from Karni Mata hill

Rain clouds ready to burst over Udaipur

We departed from Dudh Talai at 6 pm and I told Firoj Khan to drive us to Fateh Sagar Lake and Sukhadia Circle.

Fateh Sagar is the second big lake amongst the seven lakes of Udaipur. It lies to the north of Lake Pichola and is connected to it by a canal. It has a small island which has a public park, known as Nehru Garden. Another small island at the far end houses the Udaipur Solar Observatory.

The lakeside is more open and less crowded by buildings than Lake Pichola. There are some food stalls and vendors on one side, where the local people come to spend the evening and enjoy the breeze from the lake. The promenade along the dam wall on the eastern side of the lake is good for long walks and many of the local citizens come here for their morning walks. Some of the locals can be seen jumping into the lake and enjoying a quick swim.

Boat rides, including speed boats, are available which take you around the lake, but there is not much to see except the Nehru Garden in the middle of the lake. The boat ride on Lake Pichola is more interesting.

Fateh Sagar Lake
Sukhadiya Circle
When you are passing Sukhadia Circle in your vehicle you will not realise that there is a nice garden and a large pond encircling a tall and beautiful fountain. You can only see the upper part of the fountain, till you get down from your car and walk into the green enclosure.

Situated in front of the Railway Training School at the junction of Moti Magri Road and the Jodhpur Road, this is a very tall fountain surrounded by a fairly large pond and neatly laid out green parks embedded with beautiful flowers and herbs.

The fountain is lit up in the evening and a many locals come to have a paddle boat ride in the duck shaped boats, or an evening walk around the pond. There are many food stalls where they can be seen enjoying some snacks or ice-cream.

It’s best to visit this attraction during the evening, if you are spending more than 3 days in Udaipur, and are staying near Moti Magri area.

Saheliyon ki Bari

We also visited Saheliyon ki Bari. This is a small but beautiful garden near Sukhadia Circle and Lake Fateh Sagar. There is a nominal entry fee, and it is worth visiting if you are sight-seeing other nearby attractions. We took a short break here, and were truly refreshed by the lovely water fountains, lotus ponds, green lawns, and the exotic plants and flowers.

The fountains are fed by water gushing in from the Lake Fateh Sagar nearby. The elephant shaped fountains are set around beautiful lotus pools and marble pavilions. The garden was built by Maharana Sangram Singh II in the early part of the 18th century for a group of forty eight young women attendants who accompanied a princess to Udaipur, as part of her dowry.

When the fountains are working, the sound of the water flowing and pattering down on the leaves and plants make you feel as if you are in a rain forest, and refreshes you on a hot and sunny day.

There is also a small museum exhibiting some items and artefacts from the royal households.

We reached Hotel Nataraj near the Railway Station by 7 pm and had an early dinner so that we had sufficient time to board our train to Mumbai, at 9.30 pm.

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