Often referred to as the ‘Venice of the East’, the lake city of Udaipur is known as the centre for performing arts and crafts. The famous Lake Palace, located bang in the middle of Lake Pichola is easily one of the most beautiful sights of Udaipur. Udaipur is also home to Jaisamand Lake, the largest artificial lake in Asia. The beautiful City Palace and Sajjan Garh (Monsoon Palace) add to the architectural beauty and grandeur of the city. The city is also known for its profusion of zinc and copper mines. The solar observatory in Udaipur is known as one of the best in Asia and has been modelled after the Solar Observatory at Big Bear Lake in Southern California. Udaipur is also renowned for is miniature paintings. The Shilpgram festival, held sometime around the New Year manages to pull in great crowds of people interested in arts and crafts.
Udaipur was founded in 1559 by Maharana Udai Singh II as a new capital of the Mewar kingdom. It is located in the fertile, circular Girwa Valley to the southwest of Nagda, which was the first capital of Mewar. Until Udaipur was built, the capital of Mewar was Ahar, a flourishing trade town.
Attractions & Places to Visit and Explore in Udaipur
Udaipur City Palace
The City Palace stands tall over Pichola Lake, having served as an abode for the ruling royalty. Construction was begun by Maharana Udai Singh and was continued by successive Maharanas who incorporated several palaces and structures to the complex. Interestingly, each addition preserved the original style of the design. Visitors enter the palace through Bari Pol (the Big Gate) which leads one to Tripolia (the Triple Gate) where it was once a custom to distribute the Maharaja’s weight in gold and silver to his subjects. It now serves as the main ticket office. The palace has numerous balconies, cupolas and towers that overlook Pichola Lake. The structure is just as beautiful inside as it is spectacular from the outside. Each palace is designed in a unique way, and decorations like mirrored tiles, paintings, glass work and ornamental tiles bring to life the opulence of the era. Today, the main section of the palace has been converted into a museum that houses a large collection of artefacts.
Now a hotel, The Lake Palace was originally called Jag Niwas Palace and served as a summer palace. Built between 1743 and 1746 on the island near Jagmandir Palace in Lake Pichola, the palace, which faces east, is a wondrous sight to behold. The walls made of black and white marbles are adorned by semi-precious stones and ornamented niches. Gardens, fountains, pillared terraces and columns line its courtyards.
Jag Mandir is a palace built on an island on the Lake Pichola. Also called the ‘Lake Garden Palace’, the construction for this began in 1551 and was completed around 1652. The royal family used the palace as its summer resort and for hosting parties. Interestingly, Prince Khurram – later Emperor Shah Jahan – was given shelter here when he rebelled against his father Emperor Jahangir. The palace had such an impact on Emperor Shah Jahan that it went on to become the inspiration for one of the most magnificent Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal.
Located just outside Udaipur, this 18th century palace was built by Maharana Sajjan Singh of the Mewar Dynasty and is also named after him. Situated on top of Bansdara Mountain of the Aravalli range at a height of 3100 feet, the Maharana had initially commissioned it as a five-storey astronomical centre. However, his premature death brought the plans to a halt. It was then turned into a monsoon palace and hunting lodge. The elevation of its site means the majestic palace towers over the countryside while offering panoramic vistas to visitors. The palace belonged to the Mewar royal family for a long time and has only recently been handed over to the Forest Department of the Government of Rajasthan. It is now open to the public, who throng to the palace to soak in the beauty of the white marble structure with its high turrets, massive central court and exquisitely carved pillars. Beautifully illuminated at night, the Rajasthani architecture of this magnificent palace inspires awe.
Ahar Museum is in close proximity to an impressive cluster of cenotaphs of the Maharanas of Mewar. The museum has a small, but rare collection of earthen pottery. You can also browse through sculptures and archaeological finds, a few dating back to 1700 BC. A 10th century metal figure of Buddha is a special attraction here.
An example of the Indo-Aryan style of architecture, Jagdish Temple was built in 1651 and continues to be one of the most famous temples in Udaipur. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the structure is an architectural marvel with carved pillars, graceful ceilings and painted walls. This three-storied temple was built by Maharana Jagat Singh.
Deen Dayal Upadhyay Park
For an evening out, the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Park is a great destination. This beautiful garden is built around Doodh Talai and provides a spectacular view of Jag Mandir, Lake Palace, Lake Pichola and City Palace. Musical fountains, a ropeway to the Karni Mata Temple and a sunset spot complete the outing.
Fateh Sagar Lake
Fateh Sagar Lake is a charming lake surrounded by hills and woods. This artificial lake was constructed by Maharana Jai Singh in 1678 AD and it lies north of Lake Pichola. It was later reconstructed during the reign of Maharana Fateh Singh (1884-1930 AD) after the earthen bund (dam) was washed away in floods. The Maharana built Connaught Dam to commemorate the visit of the Duke of Connaught and the lake was renamed Fateh Sagar Lake. Fateh Sagar Lake is one of the four lakes in Udaipur and it houses three small islands. The largest among them, the beautiful Nehru Island, is popular with tourists; the second island has a public park and a spectacular water-jet fountain; the third island is home to the Udaipur Solar Observatory. All the islands can be visited by motorboats. The calm, blue surface of the lake set against the green mountains make Udaipur India’s ‘second Kashmir’.
Lake Pichola gets its name from Picholi village that got submerged when Maharana Udai Singh founded the city of Udaipur and enlarged the original lake. This artificial freshwater lake was created in 1362 AD and was intended to meet the drinking and irrigation requirements of the city of Udaipur and its neighbouring towns. Over the centuries, the area inside and around the lake has been carefully developed and has several palaces, temples, family manors, and bathing ghats (raised platforms usually found within a courtyard). This picturesque lake houses the Jag Niwas Island and the Jag Mandir within its waters. The famous City Palace (now a heritage hotel) is spread along the lake’s eastern bank, while the Pichola Palace is in the middle of the lake. From Bansi Ghat one can take boats to all the other parts of the lake, including Arsi Vilas Island which is a bird sanctuary as well as the Sitamata Game Sanctuary.
Saheliyon Ki Bari
Built by Rana Sangram Singh as a garden for women, Saheliyo-ki-Bari or the Courtyard of the Maidens is a popular tourist destination. Along with a small museum, it has several attractions such as marble elephants, fountains, kiosks and a lotus pool.
Gulab Bagh and Zoo
Gulab Bagh (Sajjan Niwas Garden) is the largest garden in Udaipur. Spread over 100 acres, the garden proudly displays innumerable species of roses, from which it also gets its name.
Sukhadia Circle lies to the north of Udaipur. It comprises a small pond that also houses a 21 foot tall, three-tiered marble fountain. Decorated with beautifully carved motifs, the fountain looks spectacular at night when it is lit up. The fountain is surrounded by gardens, creating a perfect oasis in a city bustling with tourists.
Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandal
Dedicated to the study of folk art, culture, songs and festivals of Rajasthan, Gujrat and Madhya Pradesh, Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandal is a cultural institution in Udaipur. Besides propagating folk culture, it also houses a museum that exhibits various artefacts of Rajasthani culture.
Bagore Ki Haveli
Bagore-ki-Haveli is located by Lake Pichola, at Gangaur Ghat. Amar Chand Badwa, the Prime Minister of Mewar, built it in the 18th century. The massive palace has over a hundred rooms that display costumes and modern art. The glass and mirrors in the interiors are structured in classical haveli style.
Situated 7 kms west of Udaipur near Lake Fateh Sagar is the Centre’s Shilpgram – the Rural Arts and Crafts Complex. Spread over 70 acres, and surrounded by the Aravallis, the Rural Arts and Crafts Complex has been conceived as a living museum to depict the lifestyles of the folk and tribal people of the west zone.
Udaipur Solar Observatory
The Udaipur Solar Observatory is built on an island in the Fateh Sagar Lake. Being surrounded by water reduces air turbulence caused by ground heat and makes the location perfect for an observatory. It is modelled after the Solar Observatory at Big Bear Lake in Southern California.
Udai Sagar Lake
Udai Sagar Lake is one of the five striking lakes situated in Udaipur. Located about 13 kilometres to the east of Udaipur, the construction of this lake was started in 1559 by Maharana Udai Singh. The lake is actually a result of a dam being built on the river Berach to supply adequate water to the Maharana’s kingdom. Udai Sagar Lake is 4 kms in length, 2.5 kilometres in width and about 9 meters at its deepest.
Haldighati is a famed mountain pass in the hills of the Aravalli Range. The pass, about 40 kilometres from Udaipur, connects the districts of Rajsamand and Pali. The pass gets its name from the yellow-coloured soil of the region (turmeric is called haldi in Hindi). The mountain pass has gone down the annals of history as the site where the Battle of Haldighati was fought in 1576 between Rana Pratap Singh of Mewar and Raja Man Singh of Amber who was the general of the Mughal emperor Akbar. The site of the battle lies at the south-west side of Nathdwara. Maharana Pratap fought a brave war, but his loyal horse, Chetak, gave up his life as the Maharana was leaving the battlefield. In 1997, the Government of India proposed and constructed the Maharana Pratap National Memorial, and it is today dedicated to the spirit and valour of the Rajput King. The memorial, a cenotaph with white marble columns, displays a bronze statue of the Maharana riding Chetak. Besides the battle, Haldighati is known around the world for its charity rose products and mud art of Molela.
Doodh Talai Lake
The road that takes visitors to Pichola Lake has another popular destination – the Doodh Talai Lake. The lake is nestled between several small hillocks which themselves are tourist attractions. The Deen Dayal Upadhyay Park and the Manikya Lal Verma Garden are part of the Doodh Talai Lake Garden. The Manikya Lal Verma Garden gives an amazing view of Lake Pichola and Doodh Talai Lake. It is among the more recent attractions and was built in 1995 by the Nagar Parhisad (Municipal Council) of Udaipur. One can reach the top by climbing steps or by driving up. Locals often go up the hillock to the Karni Mata Temple that houses a white stone idol of the goddess. Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Park is a small garden on the adjacent hillock, developed by the Urban Improvement Trust (UIT) of Udaipur. Its highlight is Rajasthan’s first musical fountain, a popular attraction among the locals and visitors as well. The garden overlooks Lake Pichola and offers a spectacular view of sunset to visitors. A ropeway connects the tops of these two hillocks and takes tourists to the Karni Mata temple. This 4-minute ride is Rajasthan’s first ropeway and offers a panoramic view of the city.
Jaisamand Lake is renowned for being the second largest artificial lake in Asia. In fact, it used to be the largest artificial lake in Asia until Aswan Dam in Egypt was not constructed. Located at a distance of 48 kilometres from the city of Udaipur, it is also known as Dhebar. In 1685, Maharana Jai Singh built this lake during the construction of a dam on the Gomti River. Jaisamand Lake covers an area of 36 square kilometres, it stretches to a length of 14 kilometres and width of 9 kilometres. The massive dam was constructed on this lake also houses a centrally located Shiva temple. The summer palace of the queen of Udaipur forms a perfect backdrop to the Lake. There are six, intricately carved marble cenotaphs on its embankment. Jaisamand Lake comprises seven islands, of which, one is still inhabited by the tribe of Bhil Minas. Graceful marble steps lead to the water and you can enjoy a lovely boat ride in the mesmerizing waters. Jaisamand Lake is close to the Jaisamand Sanctuary which serves as habitat to various types of birds, panthers, leopards, deer, wild boars and crocodiles. It is definitely worth a visit.
Resembling an aggregation of leftover automobile parts, Jugaad is known for its innovativeness. This modified four-seater bike is an example of sheer intelligence by a retired army officer, Tahir Merchant. Amidst the vast expanse of the Thar Desert, Jugaad is surely something you must have a look at.
How to Reach Here
By air: Dabok Airport, also known as Maharana Pratap Airport is the closest at about 25 km northeast of the city centre. There are daily flights from Delhi and Mumbai on Jet Airways, Air India and SpiceJet.
By road: Udaipur is easily accessible by road from every major destination in India, including Chittorgarh, Ahmedabad, Jodhpur, Ajmer, Sawai Madhopur / Ranthambore, Jaipur, Bikaner, Agra, Delhi, Mumbai and Khajuraho.
By rail: Udaipur is connected by rail to several major cities in India including Chittorgarh, Ahmedabad, Ajmer, Sawai Madhopur, Jaipur, Agra, Delhi, Mumbai and Khajuraho.
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