Udaipur, Rajasthan


Udaipur palace
We went through narrow lanes lined on both sides by numerous shops selling marble sculptures, leather bags, etc. and arrived at the main gate of the City palace. We got down and were directed to the ticket booking office. The charges are quite high at Rs. 250/- per person and Rs. 250/- if you want a guide. Audio guide was also available but we preferred to go with a guide. But at the end of the palace tour we realized that the expense was well worth it.
After buying the tickets and along with the guide, one Mr. Rathore, we then approached the main huge gates of the palace complex. From the narrow lanes outside to the wide and open expanse inside, it was a total surprise for us. On one side is the majestic palace whereas on the opposite side, is a beautiful manicured lawn. We could also see the lake Pichola beyond the lawn. Few more shops selling antiques, marble sculptures, etc. were inside too and our guide informed us that previously during the period of the Maharanas, these used to be horse stables which have now been converted into shops. We then entered the main palace through a beautiful arched gate. This entire area, where we were now entering, was where the Maharanas used to stay along with their families but the current Maharana Arvind Singhji has now thrown open and converted this part into a Museum where the common folk like us can get a glimpse of the Royal life.
Immediately on entering, we were shown the total genealogy of the Suryavanshi Sisodia dynasty from the very first Maharana Hamir Singh right down to the current Maharana. The most well known Maharanas were Hamir Singh, Rana Kumbha, Rana Uday Singh and of course, the greatest of them all, Maharana Pratap. The Bhosale clan from Maharashtra, to which Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj belonged to, claims its descent from a branch of this very Sisodia dynasty.
On going further inside, we saw the heavy armour worn by Maharana Pratap during battles as also the statue of the loyal horse, Chetak. One intriguing thing was that the statue of Chetak was having a trunk like an elephant which was fitted on its nose. We were most surprised by this, but our guide explained that this was a very ingenious idea. During those times, the elephant carrying Emperor Akbar’s army general, Raja Man Singh, was trained to fight with a sword held in its trunk. It used to thrust the sword, everytime an enemy soldier or horse came in front of it. A horse with a trunk confused it and it stopped thrusting its sword. This allowed Rana Pratap precious moments to mount an attack on Man Singh who escaped by ducking inside the palanquin. In the meanwhile, the mahout had again instigated his elephant to start thrusting the sword once again. This time the sword hit the leg of Chetak but in the meanwhile, in trying to kill Man Singh, Rana Pratap had killed the mahout. But the injury to Chetak made him slow on the battle field, but he carried Rana Pratap to safety by jumping over a river in spate, to cross over to the opposite bank and thus save the life of Rana Pratap.
The doorway to go further inside the Palace was deliberately kept very narrow and short in height. This is a safety mechanism so that in times of war, if the enemy is successful in breaching the outer defences and tried to enter inside, then only one enemy soldier at a time can enter. This allowed the defenders inside to take an offensive position , since due to the short height, the enemy had to bow to enter which enabled the defenders to decapitate the entering enemy.
Many other rooms were shown where the royalty used to stay and then we were on the terrace. We were very surprised to see fully grown trees on the terrace. Our guide then satiated our curiosity when he told us that there are no rooms under this terrace and actually the terrace is built in such a way on a hill, which has been made a part of the main palace building, that it is impossible to even imagine that there is a hill beneath.
In the olden times, Belgian glass was very famous and it has been used extensively to decorate the bedrooms. One bedroom is fully made up of mirrors, again Belgian. Dutch and Chinese tiles, which were quite expensive in those days have been used in windows, bathrooms, galleries, etc.
The space where courtesans used to dance is very beautiful and adorned with magnificently decorated peacocks. Must see!
The Maharanas belonged to the Suryavanshi dynasty and it is a tradition that the Maharana will eat after bowing to the Sun. A beautiful gold plated Sun is mounted in the dining room of the Maharana so that he could now bow before him, during the rainy season, when the Sun is not seen for days together.
There were many such interesting things to see and a special mention must be made of the Silver room, where many silver artefacts are displayed.
Finally the palace tour was over and we returned back to our hotel, after a day well spent. Certainly a place not to be missed when you are in Udaipur.
Lake Pichola
You wind your way through narrow lanes as you head towards lake Pichola. It is called so because it is situated behind the city palace and also because of the nearby Picholi village. It is an artificial lake created in the 14th century to meet the demands of a growing city. It boasts of some of the greatest landmarks in Udaipur, the Jag Mandir, the Jag nivas, Mohan mandir. The Jag Nivas has been converted into a heritage hotel and I think it is managed by Taj group of hotels. In the evening all the lake properties shine like jewels. A must visit if you are in Udaipur.
We started for Ranakpur from Udaipur quite late in the morning, at 10 am. Ranakpur is at a distance of 97 km. from Udaipur and since our hotel was situated on the outskirts of Udaipur, add another 20 km. We were on the Udaipur-Jodhpur highway for quite a distance, then you take a right turn for going to Ranakpur. On the highway, I was admiring the fold mountains that are the Aravalis and wondering at the tectonic plates movements which caused these mountains to rise. The Aravalis are one of the most ancient mountains which rose, when the Indian sub-continental plate crashed into the Eurasian plate, the same process which is still in progress and due to which the Himalayas continue to rise every year. Due to some reason, the Aravalis stopped rising further but since the process was the same, you see similar features which you see in any Himalayan range.
Once you take the right turn towards Ranakpur, the road suddenly narrows and passes through many Rajasthan villages and you can observe the Rajasthani way of village life. And our driver told us that these villages are very rich, their denizens being spread across mainly Mumbai and Surat where they have made their fortune. Since it was raining quite heavily, lot of water had collected on the road but our driver was very tactful in going over all obstacles. There are many small man-made and natural ponds which line the roads, the rains making them swell with water. We could see greenery everywhere and once you start descending the Ghats, you are actually passing through authentic jungle area. The driver told us about his encounters with tigers resting on the road, especially when he travelled in the early morning time.
Once we crossed the Ghats, we were in a valley and within no time, we were in the parking lot outside the main temple of Ranakpur. Nothing had prepared us for the architectural marvel, which is the Temple. It rises to a great height and dwarfs everything else in the Pali district of Rajasthan. And the profusion of white marble everywhere makes it a sight to behold! Leather objects, mobiles are not allowed inside and wearing of shorts is not allowed. There are lockers where you can deposit mobiles, belts and money pouches. If by chance, you have worn shorts then you are given a full pant to be worn over the shorts. I could see most of the foreigners were wearing these temple full pants. In addition to this there is a useful facility of audio guide where you are given a small device with ear phones which tell about the different facets of the temple in a serial order.
Main temple – The temple honours Adinath, the first Tirthankar and founder of Jain religion. Ranakpur village and the temple are named after Rana Kumbha, during whose domain the temple was constructed. You climb up the stairs to enter the temple. Near the entrance, the temple security do their routine checking under a beautiful carving of Jarasandh vadh, which is mounted in the ceiling. After the routine check, you enter the main sanctum Santorum and the architecture and the scale of the temple is sure to stun you, such is the majesty. There are pillars and pillars everywhere totalling to 1444 and all of marble. There are many idols and at least two idols always face each other. The temple is designed with four faces and known as chaumukha. This symbolises the Tirthankaras conquest of the four cardinal directions. The beauty of the temple is beyond compare and you can marvel the domes on the top, which are carved exquisitely, only when you visit and see with your own eyes. The pillars are set in perfectly straight lines and you cannot see any off set. And since only God’s creation is perfect, one pillar is deliberately built leaning slightly. It is said that exquisitely carved 108 torans adorned the entire temple complex out of which only 3 now remain. The four domes show higher and higher degree of carving intricacy which shows the advancing skills of the temple sculpturers as they honed their skills over the entire period of temple building. I could go on, but the beauty and the architecture of this temple cannot be fully described in words. It is a must visit for all budding architects.
Temple history – it is a well known fact, due to availability of ancient copper plates, that the temple construction was started in 1437 AD by one Dharanka Shah who was inspired by dreams of a majestic celestial vehicle, under the patronage of Rana Kumbha, then ruler of Mewar. One Deepaka was the architect, who converted this dream into reality. From the huge scale of this construction you can make out that it commanded extensive patronage of the general public as well as the rulers of that time. However within 200 years of its construction, it was damaged during the idol destruction phase of Aurangzeb and the temple fell into disuse. For the next few centuries, it was fully swamped by the jungle and became a refuge of wild animals, thieves and dacoits. However the temple was resurrected by the Anandji Kalyanji trust managed by lay Jains which has restored this magnificent temple to its past glory.
The entire mankind is indebted that we are lucky to witness the excellence of our ancestors after so many years.
As you enter the holy city of Nathdwara, situated at about 60 km. from Udaipur, everywhere you go, the beautiful idol of Shreenathji welcomes you, in the form of a beautiful painting or sculpture. As the road gets narrower and winds through the town, you know you have reached near to the temple, the moment you see small shops selling assorted items, including the exquisitely beautiful paintings and sculptures of Shreenathji. Beyond a point the car is not allowed and you have to proceed by walking.
As we reached outside the temple, we were welcomed by a huge crowd of pilgrims and the doors to the temple were closed so we waited outside, merging ourselves into the crowd. Before that we had to deposit our mobiles at a counter where they give a token which can be returned after the Darshan. And leather items like belts and wallets are not supposed to be worn inside so we had removed them in the car itself.
Shreenathji is the God Krishna as a seven year old child. Legend has it that the deity’s hand and face first emerged from the Govardhan hill. Under the spiritual leadership of Madhavendra Puri, the local inhabitants started the worship of Gopala deity. This Gopala deity was later known as Shreenathji. In 1672 AD, when Aurangzeb decreed the destruction of idols and banned idol worship, the devoted people decided to transfer the deity to the south. When the chariot carrying the deity was passing through the Rajasthan village of Sihad, the wheels of the chariot got stuck in the mud and could not be moved further. It was taken as a divine sign that the Lord wanted to stay there and the idol was installed in a temple there. This temple is also known as Shreenathji Ki Haveli and Shreenathji is also known as Thakurji as a mark of respect. The idol of Shreenathji symbolizes Krishna when he lifted the Govardhan hill to protect the denizens of Vraj from the rain and thunder God, Indra. Hence the left hand of the idol is raised whereas the other hand is resting on his waist. Its one of the most beautiful idols of Krishna.
There is a daily ritual of 8 darshans, when the devotees can take Darshan of Thakurji and we had reached at @11.30 am. We had reached at the time of Rajbhog, when the Lord is at his most regal and fresh garlands and lotuses are offered to the Lord. By the time the doors were opened, the throng of devotees had increased manifold and fearing a stampede inside, I decided to wait till the crowd had dissipated to manageable levels and was one of the last devotees to enter the sanctum Santorum. The priests managing the crowds were very impatient asking all to proceed faster and faster.
But once I was in the presence of the Lord, I forgot all the little hassles. The image of the Lord is capable of giving inner peace, though the Darshan was for a very short while. The beautiful idol is carved from a monolithic black marble and is adorned with exquisite jewels, some of which date back from pre-Mughal era. Intricately woven silk clothes with beautiful zari and embroidery work , are worn by the Lord.
Once we were outside after the Darshan, we took almost 45 minutes to retrieve back our mobiles and shoes since now the queue was for these worldly possessions!!
A pilgrimage to Nathdwara for the Darshan of Shreenathji is recommended to all Hindus, at least once in a lifetime.
We reached the temple at 4.30 pm.The temple gates were closed. On enquiry with the local shopkeepers, we were informed that the gates will open at 5.00 pm. So we waited there, enjoying the gentle rains. From outside, the temple appeared like any other ancient temple and we were expecting an old dilapidated but regal temple. At exactly 5.00 pm.the temple gates opened and we stood in a line for going in. We were still not fully inside and again there was a waiting of 15-20 minutes. This gave me opportunity to marvel at the architecture and beautiful carvings on the only temple I could see. But the real fun started as we advanced in the line. As we reached near the entrance of the temple, the entire visage of numerous temples in the complex was before us. We were not expecting it and it was as if all the Gods had given us a Darshan. There were so many temples, we lost count. And all were authentic ancient. From outside, you cannot get any idea of the grandeur and beauty inside. The main temple of Eklingji is itself quite an architectural marvel and the main idol of Lord Eklingji, very majestic. Once you have said your prayers and outside this temple, you should take the opportunity to explore the other temples in the huge complex. We were quite impressed with the artistic taste and grand vision of the Great Maharanas of Mewar. After all, Eklingji is considered the Ruler and the Maharanas are the Dewans of The Celestial Godly Ruler. A must visit for Indians and all World dwellers to fully understand the grandeur of an Era gone by.
Bharatiya lok kala mandal
Good place to visit if you are interested in cultural shows. The puppet show is very good but the bhavai dance is the best. Here the bhavai dance was performed by a male and he was very proficient. It is essentially a dance where layers of colourful pots are put, one on top of the other, and balanced on the top of the head and the dancer dances with them. And the degree of difficulty. First the dancer dances on the stage floor then he dances balancing on top of a chopper plate and after that he dances on glass pieces. Mesmerising performance! Go for it!
Yatindra Tawde

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