Popularly known as the ‘City of Dawn’, Udaipur draws its beauty from the numerous lakes set amidst the green Aravalli Hills in the desert state of Rajasthan. The clear blue waters of Lake Pichola, the 17th century palaces of sandstone and marble, adorned with amber, colored glass, fountains, Japanese-style gardens, and a string of canals connecting the various artificial lakes, make Udaipur a quintessential royal city amidst a gorgeous natural setting. Come and find out why it is dubbed the ‘Venice of the East’.
Udaipur was the capital of the Rajput kingdom of Mewar, ruled by Ranawats and other 23 branches of the Sisodia clan. The founder of Udaipur was Rana Udai Singh. The ancient capital of Mewar was Nagda, located on the Banas River northeast of Udaipur. Legend has it that Maharana Udai Singh came upon a hermit while hunting in the foothills of the Aravalli Range. The hermit blessed the king and asked him to build a palace on the spot and it would be well protected. Udai Singh established a residence there. In 1568 the Mughal emperor Akbar captured Chittaurgarh, and Udai Singh moved the capital to the site of his residence, which became the city of Udaipur. As the Mughal empire weakened, the Sisodia Ranas, and later Maharanas, reasserted their independence and recaptured most of Mewar except the fort of Chittaurgarh . Udaipur remained the capital of the state, which became a princely state of British India in 1818. After India's Independence in 1947, the Maharaja of Udaipur acceded to the Government of India, and Mewar was integrated into India's Rajasthan state.
Sisodias, or the Guhilots (Suryavansh) have ruled the Mewar region since V.S 191, were against Mughal dominion, and tried to distance themselves from them. Being a mountainous region and unsuitable for heavily armored Mughal horses, Udaipur remained unmolested from Mughal influence in spite of much pressure. Maharana Fateh Singh of Udaipur was the only royalty who did not attend the Delhi Durbar for King George V in 1911. This fierce sense of independence earned them the highest gun salute in Rajasthan, 19 against the 17 each of Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bundi, Bikaner, Kota and Karauli. Rosita Forbes, who passed this land during the decline of the British Raj, described it as "like no other place on earth”. The land area of the state was 33,543 mi², its population in 1901 was 14,73,759. It enjoyed an estimated revenue of £20,29,000.
Most of Udaipur’s attractions are centered around Lake Pichola and can be explored on foot. You would need a rickshaw or taxi for viewing more of the surrounding areas such as the nearby wilderness park and Monsoon Palace - which provides a nice view especially at sunset. Bargaining is a must with the rickshaw drivers for the cab fare: Rs 150 is the usual price for the round-trip from City Palace including the wait time. The rickshaw drivers may sometimes be overly courteous, especially to single female foreigners, so use your better judgment while traveling to distant locations alone.
Udaipur is known for its hospitality, and locals go out of their way to help guests. Do not hesitate to ask local folks for directions and tips. However, try to avoid seeking information from souvenir/handicrafts shop owners. You can easily visit Udaipur in car, as there are many car rental companies available which provide world class services. A small scooter for three hours can cost you around Rs 150. Fuel is priced separately, but is relatively cheap.
A stronghold of the Mewar kings of yore, the lake city mesmerizes you with its hues – of the local market, the mirror-still waters, the palaces and the sunset sky. A day of browsing the local market takes you past myriad small shops, big showrooms and roadside stalls that offer an extensive display of handicraft, pottery, traditional garments, jewelry, wooden toys, furniture, antiques and traditional paintings. If you intend buying one such painting, make sure you purchase it from a government showroom where you can be assured of its genuineness, albeit at a higher price. The local shops also do an impressive array of puppets, wall hangings, pen stands, cloth lanterns, handmade papers, painted wooden box, greeting cards and oddball antiques.
Udaipur’s marble creations are much sought after among the wealthy. Furniture made from this pure white material is striking. Regal in appeal, these heavily carved designs are very popular with foreigners and big business families. Marble is also extensively used here for making many a gift and decorative item.