Of the three Rajasthani cities we went to, I think I liked Udaipur as a city the best (though the sand dunes in Jaisalmer was still my favorite experience). Udaipur has two main lakes that are vast, gorgeous and surrounded by mountains to top it off. After the Vintage Car collection, Samir and I enjoyed a peaceful sunset by one of the lakes, enjoying the views (including the now commercial resorts on the lakeside).
The next day, we arranged with our guesthouse (Mewargarh palace – great place to stay – clean, hot showers, WiFi, decent rooftop restaurant and cheap!) a tour of the city. Much of the sights centered on the greatness of Maharana Pratap Singh who was the sole Indian King to not succumb to Mogul rule and protected Rajasthan from Mogul invasions. There were many pictoral depictions of his struggle with the Moguls, as well as his famous horse, Chetak, who nobly died in battle. Also, Samir noted the coolness of everyone’s distinct, Rajput moustaches!
Side note about statues of people on horses: I’m not sure if this is universally true, but so far I’ve seen this to be the case about 99% of the time. When you see a statue of a person on a horse, if the horse has two feet on the ground, the rider survived the battle; if the horse has one leg on the ground, the rider was wounded in battle; if the horse has both legs off the ground, the rider died in battles or of wounds inflicted in battle (fact courtesy of my friend Heli 🙂 ). Maharana Pratap Singh was injured in battle, but survived.
Note by Samir:
From the mountain where Maharana Pratap Singh’s statue was, we could see concrete being laid down below. It was interesting to watch. First, bags of raw materials were dumped by hand into a portable mixer (by male workers). You see such portable mixers being hauled around all the time in America by small contractors. Then the portable mixer was discharging the freshly-mixed concrete directly onto the ground (existing concrete surface in this situation). Then a male worker was scooping up the concrete with a garden-variety shovel and dumping into a big metal pan (looked like a wok). Then a female worker was hoisting the wok full of concrete up onto her head, walking into the area where the concrete was being placed, while barefoot, and dumping the load where it was needed. Finally, more male workers were doing the finishing work.
Why didn’t they have the portable mixer dump directly into the area where it was needed? Why create so many unnecessary steps? Surely, some of the material was lost on the ground surface, on the shovel surface, and in the wok. I guess it creates jobs and labor is cheap, so why not?
Back to Rachel:
We also went to Saheli ki Bari – this was a garden made for the princess and her ladies in waiting (Saheli means friends). I wondered what the women used to gossip about back then – perhaps the wonderful bushiness of the kings’ and princes’ moustaches?!
Next, we went to the puppet museum. I was inclined to tell the guide to skip this because I didn’t get what the big deal about puppets was. But I’m glad we went. Puppets in India in Rajasthan originated in Udaipur and the museum had depictions of puppets from around the world and India. We even got to see a live puppet show! These puppeteers had skills 🙂 The museum also had paintings and explanations of different tribes of Rajasthan, dances in India and other cultural exhibits.
We rounded the afternoon off with taking a Ropeway ride up one of the mountains to get a better view of Udaipur and going to the City Palace. After we’d seen the City Palace, forts, etc. in Jaipur and Jaisalmer, I wasn’t super jazzed about seeing more of the same so we opted to not pay for our camera tickets (and the Udaipur City Palace people were super nazi about making sure you had a camera ticket if you were using a camera). I totally regretted this decision after we went through the palace. Firstly, it was huge with all kinds of little rooms and halls to go through. Each area had a bit of its own character and differences in architecture as it was built up by generations of kings. The inlaid glass artwork on some of the palace walls was among the most gorgeous and intricate of ones I’ve ever seen! Peacocks with each line of each feather hand cut and laid – amazing the patience and talent people used to have. One of my favorite rooms was the Queen’s dressing room – basically her closet but super decorated with painted wall, carvings, etc. Samir said I can have one when I grow up (he actually said the exact opposite, but he won’t remember!). So, lesson learned – next time, pay the $5 to take your camera in!
Our last day in Udaipur, we decided to just relax and get massages 🙂 Who says I’m spoiled?!