Watermarked by whimsy and splendour, the Venice of the East holds stage as one of India’s truly seductive cities. Udaipur is an international destination unto itself, with splendid Lake Pichola lapping against shimmering white buildings, and the Aravalli hills closing in to savour the view.
The centrepiece of the city is the floating Lake Palace – brash enough for a Bond film (parts of Octopussy were filmed here), yet refined enough for his majesty’s pleasure. Packed with princeliness and passion, Udaipur is raw Rajput dreaming, with palaces, havelis and temples at every turn.
Formerly known as Mewar, Udaipur was founded in 1559 when Maharaja Udai Singh II took flight from the final sacking of Chittor by the Mughal emperor Akbar. As Udai Singh and his contemporaries resisted Muslim might, the city grew a reputation for patriotic fervour and an aching love of independence.
In 2006 a record rainfall returned the lake to its natural splendour and restored the heart to Rajasthan’s most romantic city. When the monsoon is poor though, the lake feels more like an abandoned quarry, and the swarming tourist trade of the old city goes into damage control. Don’t despair though, fair traveller; the surrounding countryside is an untapped Rajasthan highlight.
Udaipur celebrates the Mewar Festival in April.
Last updated: Feb 17, 2009
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