Sunday, April 12, 2015

Unhurried hurriedness at Udaipur

Unhurried Udaipur!
Nestled between Aravalli hills, laced with lakes, Udaipur is lovely.  No wonder the city has captivated artists, poets, royalty and now a steady stream of tourists from all over the world.

My Udaipur plan wasn’t exactly impromptu.  I always wanted to go to Udaipur, especially after my parents visited this city last summer.  Another draw for me was the prospect of visiting two UNESCO sites, Kumbalgarh and Chittorgarh, the ideal day trips from Udaipur.  Don’t get me wrong; I love slow travel, but a whirlwind 4 day trip was just what I needed to recover from, well, lack of travel! Oddly enough, in spite of a hectic schedule I had enough opportunity to bask in this lake city!

The beginning

I flew to Udaipur on a 5 am flight from Mumbai.  While waiting for my pre-paid taxi I saw the most spectacular sunrise.  

Thereafter, the drive to fortified city of Udaipur (though the fortifications are now ruins and restored in parts) was picturesque, especially as I saw Udaipur wake up to a March morning, among the fog and mist.

Experience Mewari hospitality at a heritage haveli

Udaipur old city, better known as Lal Ghat area, is located around Lake Pichola.  


We stayed three nights at the eastern bank of Lake Pichola in a heritage haveli homestay called “Aashiya Haveli”.  This haveli is predominantly family run.  Satyadev ji (the owner), with a little help from family and staff extends warm hospitality to tourists.


The Haveli has clean homely rooms, no TV (yes, they want you to talk and venture out during vacations!) and sit-outs by the window side.  We had specifically requested for rooms with view of the lake and were promptly so allotted.  Though the haveli doesn’t serve meals, their tea was delicious, perfect accompaniment to enjoy the sunsets with.    

Our stay here was comfortable.  The location was unbeatable, bang opposite the jetty for sunset ferry, a 5 minute steep ascend off the Udaipur palace and Jagdish temple.  I highly recommend staying at Aashiya Haveli/ other haveli(s) for Mewari hospitality at an affordable price.         

A happy lot!

Rooftop/lakeside breakfast and dinners!

Rooftop restaurants are a rage in every major city, more so on tourist circuits.  Udaipur is no exception and the grand views of the lake make for a perfect setting for rooftop/ lake-side eateries/ candle-light dinners!

View from Ashiya haveli rooftop!
We’d head to Aashiya haveli rooftop with our team to enjoy the moods of the sun reflecting on the water in the lake.  

Cheers from rainbow!
We also had a good value-for-money meal at Rainbow restaurant with awesome views of Lake Pichola and Taj Lake Palace.  Luckily for us, as this restaurant catered mainly to foreigners, we enjoyed chilled beer and tandoori chicken for dinner!

Soak in the architecture


I love to walk around cities; aimlessly so. Lal ghat area in Udaipur is choc-a-block with narrow lanes, steep lanes and lanes seeping with heritage architecture and dotted with quaint boutiques/ cafes – mostly catering to foreigners.


One day we walked around the vicinity looking for new places to eat, photographing shops selling silver/ leather artefacts and looking for interesting havelis/ doors to photograph.  

The next day we loitered around the Bagore ki Haveli (museum/ theatre which was shut on that day) area.

Then crossed the pedestrian bridge over Lake Pichola to the western bank.

On the pedestrian bridge connecting eastern and western banks of Lake Pichola
The pedestrian bridge runs parallel to the bridge for automobiles!

And we walked around some more in a bid to find a sunset spot!  


We also shopped some! Great place to buy:

Leather products



Lake Pichola

Lake Pichola is the single most imposing thing in Udaipur.  

City (Lal ghat) around Lake Pichola
The old city is built around it, tourists flock to see the lake and enjoy a boat ride/ sunset.  

Painting Lake Pichola
Others, with more leisurely itinerary have deep rooted conversations sitting by its banks and paint some. 

Lake Pichola, view from Udaipur Palace
For some like me, who chose to stay amongst the grandeur of the lake, a prospect of a sunset boat cruise wasn’t exciting enough.  I imagined a stinky boat and a super short cruise time.  My dad coaxed me into it and I am glad he did, because I was wrong on both counts! 

The boat was fairly good with life jackets for every passenger.  

The cruise lasted a good 45 mins and took us around Lake Pichola. 

The boatman slowed down to show us the Udaipur Palace.

He then slowed the boat to show us and Taj Lake palace.  

Thereafter, the boatman anchored the boat at a lovely spot to watch the sun go down. 

The sunset was enchanting and the air got crisper awaiting moonrise. The next night was graced by full-moon a and the Lake looked magical!

Sunset from the ghat next to Amba mata temple

Amba temple ghat, the other side of Udaipur
The sunset boat cruise wasn’t enough; our hunt for an even more perfect sunset spot ended at a ghat next to Amba mata temple, on the western banks of Lake Pichola after crossing the pedestrian bridge. 

Udaipur Palace view from Amba Temple ghat
The ghat juts out into the lake right opposite Taj Lake palace.  This side not only gives unparalleled views of Udaipur Palace, it is also a ghat open for public to pay homage, bathe or just dip their feet in the water, while the other side has a lattice railing.  

This other side has benches/ stairs to sit on and enjoy the sunset beyond the lake and over the mountain.  

As the sun sets, the domes of The Oberoi Udaivilas come alive with lights and make for the picture perfect after sunset moment. 

Lights will guide you home!

If Udiapur in daylight and sunset is beautiful.  The views at night are unparalled!

On retrospect

As much as Udaipur is commercial, it is serene and beautiful by the day and romantic and dreamy by the night.  

Bidding farewell to Udaipur from Fateh Sagar Lake!
Agreed Udaipur is a done to death tourist destination, but it deserves all this attention, and more! 


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Jain temples of Ranakpur

I love seeing historic places/ temple complexes, especially for their unique architecture.  From my posts, I’m sure you guys already had that figured! On a whirl-wind trip to Udaipur, I just “had to” to include Ranakpur (Pali district of Rajasthan) on the ‘go to’ list.

Ranakpur is approx. 96 kms from Udaipur on the highway connecting Udaipur to Jodhpur.  While Udaipur is in Mewar region, Ranakpur is in Marwar.  During our drive, we took a halt to enjoy some popular breakfast snacks and a quick cup of tea. 

Further, as we drove through the Aravali Mountain range, we saw a sign welcoming us to Marwar.  After that sign, unfortunately the road conditions deteriorated.  Here I was thinking that the Marwari community is rich and would contribute a little to the upkeep of their region!

Nevertheless, as always I slept through most of the drive, waking up only on the curvy roads because the landscape (though semi-arid) was beautiful.  Trees had shed their leaves; I could see mountains in hues of browns and the occasional burst of red/ green from some trees. After a two and half hour drive we arrived at Ranakpur. 

The Jain temples at Ranakpur draw pilgrims and tourists in large number.  I had read that the temple opens only post 12 noon, but when we reached here we realized that was wrong information.  The temple is open from 10 am for Indian tourists and post 12 noon for foreign tourists.  However, photography is allowed only after 12 noon.  The complex shuts for tourists at 5 pm.  Also, one needs to be mindful about their dressing, no shoulder/ leg bearing clothes for women, though if you turn up with wrong clothing, sarongs can be rented to cover-up.    

One of the smaller temple just outside Chaumukha temple
Ranakpur Jain temple complex comprises of several temples, largest of them being Chaumukha temple.  The temple was built in the 15th century and is dedicated to Lord Adinatha.  

I was surprised when my brother told me the temple is built in marble, though not the likes to Taj Mahal; it’s a more earthy light brown/ beige marble.

The structure of Chaumukha temple is imposing and has four-faces.  From the outside, the Chaumukha looks like a sturdy wall, rising from the brown landscape.  

Inside the temple is equally stunning with scores of pillars.  The sheer number of pillars is the first thing that struck me.   

Endless pillars
Not just any pillars,  these pillars had exquisite carvings and doors/ gateways with intricate cravings as well.  

Carving at the entrance

Breathtaking carving on the ceilings
Another masterpiece!

The ceilings/ domes tell their own story and are engraved in beautiful carvings and each of the ceiling sections has different carvings.  


I especially liked the carvings of deities connecting the pillars to the domes and the overall carvings/ sculptures.

Carving connecting a pillar to the ceiling
Other than carvings, the temple had other interesting nooks/ corners/ central pieces. See the snippets below:


Adinath sculptures and statues were also plenty.  See some of the pics below:


As I enjoyed the tranquility of the complex and the cool breeze as I sat overlooking the smaller temple complexes, I saw many tourists, most foreigners listening keenly to the audio guides.  Infact, most tourists here were non-Indians!

A tourist listening to the audio guide

Perhaps, one day I would be more interested in actually getting into the specifics are history of a place.  

But in that moment I was content to soak in the architecture and enjoy photographing it.

Dad showing mom something specific on the gopuram
Funnily, we didn't realize we had spend an hour and a half inside the temple complex.  Because it was hot and sun was shining down on us, I didn’t bother walking to the smaller temples complexes. 

One of the temple adjoining Chaumukha temple

Also, by this time I was starving.  The temple complex canteen had shut and we hurriedly made our way to a nearby resort for lunch in wilderness!

As we drove for lunch, our driver mentioned that Aravalis are popular among trekkers, especially in winter months when Youth Hostel, among other groups runs treks covering popular spots like Ranakpur and Kumbalgarh.  Perhaps, someday I shall revisit on foot! 

Tips for visiting Ranakpur jain temples:
  • Leave early from Udaipur to beat the heat
  • Carry packed lunch, or reach Ranakpur before lunch time in cafeteria ends i.e. before 1:30 PM
  • Carry one camera/ phone to click photos as camera ticket is expensive
  • Maintain silence, respect the religion
  • Dress modestly


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