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Udaipur – The Venice of India

March 28, 2011 by Chelsea Slone

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Udaipur, often referred to as the city of lakes, is located in the southern part of the Rajasthan state of India. The quaint town located in the depths of a plush valley streams peaceful rivers and presents beautifully ornate architecture throughout. The narrow winding streets create a maze throughout the town, leaving you to explore the tradition and culture for hours. When the sun goes down and the lights of the palaces on Lake Pichola light up before your very eyes there’s not a doubt in your mind why this romantic city is said to be the Venice of India.

As we arrived in Udaipur and turned down the first narrow road entering the town we were even more stunned than we had been in Delhi by the number of cows traveling through these narrow streets. To give you an idea, you couldn’t turn a street corner without seeing at least two or three walking along the road, not to mention the several you would find lying down to rest on the sides of the streets. They were literally everywhere. The only way I can think to best describe the environment is to imagine building a town inside the perimeters of cattle ranch. Other than the cattle we found the windy narrow roads to be quite a change from India’s big city life. Even though it could be very chaotic at times, the layout provided a unique ambience we hadn’t seen before. Alongside the road you could find local people making and selling shoes, food, jewelry, and brightly colored local style clothing hanging in the archways.

Lake Pichola, considered one of the most beautiful lakes in Udaipur, is home to the stunning Lake Palace. Located on the east side of the lake this Palace, now a luxury heritage hotel, lies beautifully in the center of the lake surrounded by water. The Udaipur City Palace stands along the east bank of Lake Pichola giving it breathtaking panoramic views of both the summer palace on the water and the monsoon palace up in the hills. Visiting the palaces were a highlight to our time here, but the the view of them at night lit up by the water was unforgettable. Having a summer palace and winter palace was common in many other areas of India but with Udaipur being located within a valley a monsoon palace was built do escape the rain and reap the benefits of the lush hillside.

The City Palace lying alongside the river is not only provides stunning views but it’s also known for the unique movie like paintings and Italian stained glass windows located throughout. The palace is still used today for many traditional Indian weddings, where murals are often painted on the walls for decoration on the special occasion. The Mor-Chowk courtyard, decorated with an array of three dimensional peacock mosaics was by far the most fascinating and intricate area in the palace. Each peacock, the bird of India, was created from the semi precious emerald, lapis lusil, and turquoise stones. At the top of the courtyard a balcony was built for the queen from the same semi precious stones. To me it’s fascinating to see the time and work people put into the intricate decor of palaces such as these, as it’s something you never find in recent architecture.

The Jagdish Temple was another fascinating monument for unique architecture. Built is 1651 this Indo- Aryan architecture was constructed with detailed art figures from the bottom to the top. The style of the art wasn’t solely designed for appearance but also in an important pattern for the importance of different living creatures on earth. For example the elephants were toward the bottom used for transportation of the kings all the way to figures of kings at the top.

Last but not least for Udaipr is the food. While we were there we decided to branch out and try more authentic Indian cuisine. A few of the dishes we found to be delicious were Chicken Jhangiri, Lal Maas Rajputana, Butter Chicken and Gulab Jamun.

Chicken Jhangiri is a flavorful Indian spiced dish topped with tomatoes and hard boiled eggs and served with rice and naan. This dish was very similar to chicken marsala but with yogurt to make it creamy and delicious. It was by far our favorite meal in Udaipur.

Lal Maas Rajputana is a very popular meat dish in the Rajasthan area. The mutton is served in a spicy red sauce with a distinct taste of coriander and turmeric making it also have a little sweetness in the dish.

Gulab Jamun is an amazing and very popular Indian desert. It’s basically a warm gooey donut hole soaked in a sugar syrup flavored with cardamom seeds and rosewater, kewra or saffron. Thank goodness they are served by two’s and not by the dozen!

After reading about the unique sweets India offers we make a special trip to a local bakery. With no idea what to order in the array of little sweet bites we requested the man behind the counter box up an assortment of the non refrigerated sweets to sample during our next road trip to Jodhpur. Even though they all looked similar in their granola bar kind of way each one of them were distinct by a different dominating spice.

That’s all for the beautiful city of Udaipur… Next stop Jodhpur!

Alvida,

T+C

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