Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Udaipur - India's City of Romance

Around sunset we arrived in the southern Rajasthan town of of Udaipur. No longer were we in sleepy desert towns where camels shared the road. Our entry into town revealed a rather modern city. Women riding motorcycles was no longer an uncommon sight. Thankfully the old city had a bit more charm. That evening we sat on the hotel’s rooftop restaurant. On the still night, the illuminated Lake Palace cast a perfect reflection on Pichola Lake. To its left was Jagmandir Island on which a 17th century maharaja palace glowed. To our immediate right the sound of Rajasthani music swelled in the night sky. Behind us the white gopuram of a Hindu temple was also illuminated. With the aid of a fellow photographer’s tripod, I managed to capture a bit of the lakeside scene.

The following morning we once again climbed the stairs of our hotel which was designed to look like a haveli. With mountains as a backdrop, the ivory-colored Lake Palace contrasted with the dominantly blue scene. Although patches of earth peaked through the receded lake, shallow boats still made their journey to the romantic and expensive (over $400 a night) Lake Palace Hotel. (By contrast, ours was less than $15 for a 3-bed room). Unable to even have a cup of tea at the Lake Palace Hotel made famous by the James Bond movie “Octopussy,” we instead toured the cream-colored City Palace located on the water’s edge. On the way to the museum entrance we passed by multiple boutique shops including the popular Anokhi store. Inside the multi-towered palace with its balconies and cupolas we saw lavishly decorated rooms filled with mirrors, and ornamental tiles. Rooms were painted in cheery colors, with the ceilings continuing the room’s theme. The mirrorwork and mosaics were particularly beautiful. Perhaps its most famous area was the Mor Chowk (Peacock Square) where one couldn’t help but admire the beautiful dimensional peacock mosaics. Other areas revealed intricate miniature paintings, a signature art of Udaipur. A few sprinkles actually fell from the dark skies, eliciting smiles from visitors.

Not making it very far, we stopped at a shop just outside the palace gate. Here we had fun looking at colorful, embroidered ethnic dresses, some of which had the trademark Rajasthani mirrors. Right across the street we entered a shop filled with colorful puppets of various sizes, intricacy, and models. When comparing it to others I had seen on the trip, these puppets were the best carved. A young man invited us into the back room where he treated us to some demonstrations. A female puppet came to life, shimmying her hips and bobbing her head just like a dancer. A more eccentric male puppet dislodged its head, tossing it up, juggling it, and even placing it on the buttock area. Other shops tempted the buyer with silver jewelry, miniature paintings, leather-bound handmade paper books, block-printed fabrics, and jooti slippers. Even the turbaned figure on the temple steps was in a selling mood, offering crash courses on how to play the The plentiful supply of tourists left us having to bargain hard.

See more photos of Udaipur on Flickr

1 comment:

Bibi said...

I like this mural and your descriptions of everything. I used to have a skirt with a mirrored embroidery.