The city of Lakes, Udaipur is a lovely land around the azure water lakes, hemmed in by the lush hills of the Aravalis. A vision in white drenched in romance and beauty, Udaipur is a fascinating blend of sights, sounds and experiences - an inspiration for the imagination of the poets, painters and writers. Its kaleidoscope of fairy-tale palaces, lakes, temples, gardens an narrow lanes strewn with stalls, carry the flavour of heroic past, epitomising valour and chivalry.
Udaipur is a popular tourist destination in India. The lakes, palaces and lively workspaces and culture attract foreign and domestic visitors. Udaipur have three interconnected lakes - the Fateh Sagar Lake, the Lake Pichhola and the smaller Swaroop Sagar Lake; along with forts, palaces, temples, gardens, mountains and narrow lanes lines withdrawn with stalls, relives the reminisces of a heroic past, valor and chivalry.
Once the capital of Mewar, Udaipur was founded by Rana Udai Singh after the fall of Chittor to Akbar in 1568. Although the Rajputs were thrown out of their capital they never gave up their sense of freedom, choosing to give up their lives for dignity and honour instead. The foundation of the city has an interesting legend associated with it. According to it, Maharana Udai Singh, the founder, was hunting one day when he met a holy man meditating on a hill overlooking the Lake Pichhola.
The hermit blessed the Maharana and advised him to build a palace at this favourably located spot with a fertile valley watered by the stream, a lake, an agreeable altitude and an amphitheater of low mountains. Maharana followed the advise of the hermit and founded the city in 1559 A.D. The Maharana built a small shrine, Dhuni Mata, to mark the spot which is now the oldest part of the City Palace. Overlooking the aquamarine expanses of the Lake Pichhola stands the splendid City Palace - a marvel in granite and marble. Of the original eleven gates of the Udaipur City, only five remain. The Surajpole or Sun Gate on the eastern side is the main entrance to the city.
The architecture of the City Palace of Udaipur represents a beautiful fusion of the European and Chinese architectural styles. Each of the numerous palaces, courtyards and gardens of the edifice seeks to exude a distinct charm. City Palace is made up of granite and marble and its main entrance is provided by Hathi Pol, the Elephant Gate. Coming into the view next, are the Bada Pol (gate) and the Tripolia Gate. It was at the Tripolia Gate that the kings used to weigh themselves in gold and silver and later distribute the same amongst people.
There is also a Mor Chowk (Peacock Square) inside the palace, where beautiful glass mosaics of peacocks adorn the walls. These peacocks represent three different seasons, namely summer, winter and monsoon. The Krishna Vilas of the City Palace houses a rich collection of paintings, which illustrate varying events and moods in the life of the Maharanas. Then, you have Manak Mahal, which is known for its amazing collection of crystal and porcelain figures. The Bhim Vilas Palace stands festooned with splendid paintings of Radha-Krishna.
There is also a Janana (ladies) Mahal inside the complex of the City Palace of Udaipur. The palace of the ladies and Dilkhush Mahal are popular for the marvelous frescoes that beautify their walls. The Chinese and Dutch ornamental tiles that decorate the Chini Chitrashala lend it a timeless charm. If the Sheesh Mahal boasts of thousands of sparkling mirrors, the Laxmi Vilas Chowk has a luxuriant assortment of Mewar paintings. Do not forget to visit the Amar Vilas, which has beautiful hanging gardens with fountains, towers and terraces.
The edifice also provides a breathtaking view of the not only Lake Pichola, but also the entire city of Udaipur. Some time back, the Shiv Niwas Palace and the Fateh Prakash Palace were converted into luxury hotels. Still, these palaces are definitely worth a visit. The Crystal Gallery of Fateh Prakash Palace is especially popular, as it houses a rare collection of Osler's crystal items. These items were ordered from England, by Maharaja Sajjan Singh, but he passed away before they could be delivered.
Rulers of Udaipur - The Sisodia dynasty
In 1568, Chittor was attacked by the Mughal emperor, Akbar and to ward off this danger, Udai Singh shifted the whole kingdom to Udaipur. Udaipur was naturally safe under the fortifications made by Aravalli Hills. Since that time, Udaipur developed into a full-fledged city. Slowly when the Mughal Empire undermined, the Sisodias reasserted their freedom. They recaptured most of the parts of Mewar with the exception of the Chittorgarh Fort.
Udaipur continued to be the capital of Mewar, till it became the princely state of British India in 1818. When India got independent in 1947, the Maharaja of Udaipur granted the place to the Government of India. At that time, Mewar was merged into the state of Rajasthan. In the present date, Udaipur enjoys a favorable position on the maps of Rajasthan. Udaipur is known for its picturesque surroundings and its royal past. Various ancient monuments, massive palaces, architectural temples and beautiful lakes fascinate people to visit the ancient land of the Royalty.
The valour and honour of the Sisodia clan is known everywhere - from the pages of history books to the folklore of Rajasthan. "O mother, give me only unto the house of the Sisodias, if you must" says the lines of a popular folk song. The Mewar dynasty is the world's oldest surviving dynasty with a time span of 1,500 years and 26 generations and has outlived eight centuries of foreign domination. Extremely possessive about their culture, tradition and honour, the Sisodias have played an important role in medieval Indian history as tireless upholders of Hindu traditions.
It was in Udaipur that legendary Maharana Pratap was born. Rana Pratap who fought against Emperor Akbar in 1576 is remembered throughout India for his bravery on the battlefield. The rulers of Udaipur never gave any of their women in marriage to the Mughals unlike some of the other royal houses of Rajputana. Maharana Pratap Singh once refused lunch with Raja Man Singh because he had given away his sister in marriage to Prince Salim, later Mughal Emperor Jahangir. Man Singh avenged this insult by defeating Pratap at the battle of Haldighati. Pratap's son Amar Singh made peace with the Mughals but unable to accept his humiliation, he gave up his title in favour of his son Maharana Karan Singh. Amar Singh left Udaipur never to see its landscape again.
Maharana means Great Warrior, and the one from Udaipur is the acclaimed head of all the 36 Rajput clans. The title of Rana was adopted in the 12th century when the Parihara prince of Mandore awarded it to the Prince of Mewar. The Mewar dynasty descends from the sun family and is hence known as Suryavanshi (descendents of the Sun) with the sun as its insignia. The central shield on the coat of arms depicts a Bhil tribal, the sun, Chittor Fort and a Rajput warrior with a line from the Gita saying 'God helps those who do their duty'. The Maharana of Udaipur is crowned only after being annointed with blood drawn from the palm of a Bhil chieftain, who then leads the Maharana to the throne of Mewar.