Summary : Udaipur offers Rajasthan's best cultural entertainments. In addition to the programmess organised by the Cultural Centre there are many other regular events.
Sunset Point-Bhartiya Lok Kala Mandal-Sahelion-ki-Bari-Fateh Sagar Lake- Nehru Park-Pratap Smarak-Jagdish Temple-City Palace and Museum- Lake Palace
For a stunning early-morning view over Udaipur and its lakes, be at the Rang Niwas Palace Hotel, Lake Palace Rd, at 7 am latest. Head down the garden avenue opposite, bear right round the hillside, take the footpath leading up (just behind the pink temple, near Sunset Point) and allow a full hour for the climb. The view from the top is most spectacular round 8 am.
Returning down, hire bikes if you haven’t got them already from the rank below Roof Garden Cafe (near the Rang Niwas Palace Hotel), cycle left to the bottom of co lake Palace Rd, then left again through the narrow Bapu Bazaar. At the end of Bazaars Road, head straight over the crossroads and curve left via the Hospital and Medical college until you come to Chetak Circle (surely one of the world’s few traffic Interactions named after a horse, in this case Maharana Pratap’s faithful steed, (chetak) A few hundred metres right at the circle, look out for Bhartiya Lok Nandal co his is a famous folk museum housing an exhibition of tribal knick-knacks musical Instrument and (the main attraction) home-produced and international puppets. Rajasthan is said to be the birthplace of Indian marionettes, and the Kala Mar dal (established 1952) is the place responsible for reviving this traditional art fora. after centuries of neglect.
It was set up primarily to preserve various folklore traditions, but once puppets began to catch on again (mainly as a children’s education aid, :hough also for village family-planning programmes) it began running puppet trair ing camps for aspiring artistes, not only in Udaipur but all over India. Here you can see string and ‘Ialua’ puppets from Rajasthan, rod puppets from Bengal, shadow puppets from Andhra, and Orissan marionettes. Also a variety of muppets and pup )ems from America, Sweden, Romania, Czechoslovakia and many other courntries. There is a charming ‘puppet show’ every hour or so, and if you are interested in seeing how the puppets are made, just drop into the small training cent left of the entrance. The Kala Mandal (tel 29296) is open 9 am to 5.30 pm daily, and admission is Rs2.
Tc see one of Udaipur’s finest gardens, cycle right out of the museum and then left t Sukhadia Circle. The first major turning right along this road brings you to S helion-ki-Bari (garden of the maids of honour). This striking example of co Hindu landscape gardening features a picturesque lotus pond (turfed with radiant yellow blossoms in the spring), round which are ranged four magnificent marl e elephants and myriad fountains. The pretty pool pavilion (within small enclosure) has been much-photographed, but you should save your photos for the curious Community Science Centre. This is just behind the pavilion, and is unmissable: sea-monsters in milk bottles, neanderthal heads, moulting stuffed bats, :Hand a skeleton in a sari! Rest awhile at Sahelion-ki-Bari. It’s a peaceful, restful picnic spot—ideal for a packed lunch. Open from 9 am to 6 pm daily, admission Rsl, camera charge Rs5.
C) ing out left, then right (a short, exhausting ascent) you come presently out on Fate: Hagar Lake. The pretty island garden shimmering in the middle of it is Nehru Park Leave the cycle at the foot of Moti Magri Hill, and take the Rsl tourist boat over, the island is visually stunning: a riot of bright orange and maroon blossoms among green landscaped lawns. It has a small (bizarre) restaurant. Back on land, proceed along the lakeside a further 0.5 km ( 1/3 mile) and visit the Pratap Smarak Monument on the left. Here, atop the Moti Magri or ‘Pearl Hill’, stands the bony – satue of Maharana Pratap (1540-97), mounted on his ‘loyal and faithful mount’ c hetak The climb up is a bit wearing, but is relieved by pretty gardens, and at the atop there is a marvellous view down over the lakes. If here between 3.30 and 6 pm, you 1 use the telescope observatory. The memorial itself is open 7 am to 7 pm daily, aodnm Rissio2n.
Be the entrance, hire a rowing boat (Rs35 per hour) to laze awhile on the Ii anquil Fateh Sagar Lake (scooped out by Maharana Fateh Singh after the original l678 :::nstruction was destroyed by torrential rains). Then recover bikes, head back inlandl via the Lake Swaroop Sagar causeway (just keep to the left) and take DIRECTIONS for Hathipol, where the Rajput princes used to house their elephants in Time: OF: war. Pasthis, up the hil, visithe Jagdish Temple. This is the bigest and BEST TEMPLE in Udaipur, built in the Indo-Aryan style by Maharana Jagat Singh in 165l, tHE black stone image enshrined within depicts Vishnu as Jagannath, Lord of THE Universe, the brass Garuda outside representing his animal-carrier, the texoterior walls are notable for their beautiful elephant-motif carvings. A Good timie to arrive here is late afternoon, when you may be lucky enough to find local ladies singing prayer-songs and traditional hymns, accompanied by lively temple musicians. The foot of the temple steps is the favourite pitch of Udaipur’s best drinks vendor, with a selection of about 20 differently-flavoured fruit cordials—a real treat after all that hot cycling.
Just up the road, you’ll find the grandiose City Palace and Museum. This largest of all Rajasthani palace complexes stands on the crest of a ridge, poised over the serene Pichola Lake. You’ll enter from the northern end, through the triple Tripolia Gate (1725), with its eight exquisitely carved marble arches. This is where the Maharanas used to be weighed in gold or silver on their birthdays, the largesse later being distributed to the populace. Study the exterior—a breathtaking array of white filigreed balconies and windows, ornate arches and cupolatopped octagonal towers—then purchase the useful guide book at the entrance, and go exploring. The museum actually takes up most of the sumptuous palace complex, and is full of delights: the glorious peacock mosaics (depicting India’s national bird at different seasons of the year) of the Mor Chowk, the mirrorencrusted Moti Mahal, the porcelain and glass of Manak (Ruby) Mahal, the fine collection of miniatures in Krishna Vilas (and Zanana Mahal) and the ornamented Chinese tiles of Chini Mahal. Climbing through a maze-like succession of staircases and small rooms (many decorated with mirrors, stained-glass windows, latticed balconies, ostentatious columns), enter a small second museum, with more superb miniatures, toys and royal knick-knacks, via the Rai Angam or Royal Courtyard. The views down over the Pichola, with its coronet backdrop of gaunt desert mountains, and of the glittering bone-white Lake Palace (framed perhaps, in an ornamented palace window) are something you’ll remember fm years to come. The Palace museum is open 9 am to 4 pm daily, admission is Rs20 , camera fee Rs5 (Rs20 for video cameras!). There is an extensive and well il lustrated catalogue available
Next, cycle down to Bhansi Ghat (below City Palace), and buy a boat ticket (includes coffee and biscuits) over to Jag Niwas island on the Pichola Lake. Built around 1740 as a summer palace for the Maharana, the Lake Palace Hotel on Jag Niwas is a utopian fantasy in dazzling white marble—the place to be at sunset, sipping a cool cocktail or an ice-cold ‘deluxe’ beer perhaps, watching the bird-scarer on the top terraces lassooing pigeons (they spoil the paintwork) and waiting for them still waters of the lake to turn first coppery-yellow, then a fiery blood-red. After dush ., flocks of giant fruit bats sweep over the lake, like a scene out of Hitchcock’s 1 lie Birds’. On the subject of films, the nearby Jag Mandir island—another summer house of the Maharana—was used in James Bond’s ‘Octopussy’. Its other famous , guest was the Emperor Shah Jahan, who apparently got the idea of building the ‘la’ Mahal while imprisoned here.
Unless staying for supper at the Lake Palace Hotel, finish off with an evening meal at Roof Garden Cafe in Lake Palace Rd. From the roof top, you have marvellous view of the City Palaces (beautifully illuminated by night) up on the hill, also a ringside seat for any marriage ceremonies going on at the small Shari Mata (mother goddess) temple below. In March/April—the usual marriage season—the streets of Udaipur are alive with uniformed bands, colourful process sions, and disco rickshaws. They generally all end up here, around 8 pm, since all marriages require the blessing of the goddess—not just before the wedding, but afterwards too.
The new West Zone Cultural Centre was one of seven centres set up in 1985. Established in the splendid Bagor ki Haveli near the main ghat on Fateh Sagar. Open daily from 10 am to 5 pm there is a small museum and regular theatre and music performances (tel 23305, 23858). The centre has also developed a crafts village known as Shilpgra m near Havala 3 km (1 3/4 miles) away which hosts a festival each winter.
RECREATION Here you an see traditional folk dancing performed by professionals—either at Meera Kala Mandal (‘culture evenings’ on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, 7 pm start, tickets Us20) and at Lake Palace Hotel (folk dances on the top terraces at 9 pm nightly). The Lake Palace also has fun puppet shows in the courtyard at 7 pm daily. A better ‘puppet circus’ takes place from 6 to 7 pm each evening at Bhartiya Lok Kala Mandal (Rs5).
There’s fishing at Jaisamund Lake (permits from tourist office); free horse-riding (for guests only) at Pratap Country Inn and Shikarbadi Hotel; and swimming for Rs30-50 for non-residents at various hotel pools including Laxmi Vilas Palace, Bhikarbadi and Hotel Lake End