Thursday, 30 March 2017

Land Of The Royals - Mewar, Rajasthan - November 2016

पधारो म्हारे देश - this quote is epitomized with the land of Rajputana, now Rajasthan. If you wanna experience Royalty, Grandeur, Marvel, this is the place. Rajasthan is famous for its extravagant colors, veiled traditions and valor of Rajputs.

Rajasthan constitutes of two major regions – Mewad & Marwad. We planned to visit the Mewad part of it, a non-desert region.

We reached Jaipur by evening flight. Reaching our hotel, remaining evening was free. We just roamed around with a plan to explore this Pink City next day.

Jaipur, named after its founder Maharaja Jai Singh II, is the first Planned City of India. It was planned based on principles of Vaastu Shaastra. City Design is grid based with divisions into various blocks. Maharaja wanted to shift his Capital at Amer to accommodate growing population. Hence the present location of Jaipur was selected about 10 kms away. The City was founded in 17th century.

Jaipur is called as Pink City of India. However since we landed here, we didn’t see any Pink. The City was normal like any other city elsewhere. But, when we started for our sightseeing next day and as we entered the large Pink Gate, the architecture changed. Buildings were not Pink but Terra-cota colored. Names on the shops were of same style everywhere (Black Letters on a White background). All shops, houses, restaurants, lodges, even some temples were of same color. What we saw was the front facing parts of the building were Pink (Terra-cota). Buildings at the back within the alleys were of regular colors & design.

During the rule of Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh, City was painted Pink to welcome the Prince of Wales in 18th century. This Pink later on got changed to Brownish-Red or the Terra-cota color.

This is the old Jaipur City. It is covered with a wall from all sides with 8 large gates. Hence it is also referred to as Walled City. Outside these walls is the newly developed City, just like any other.

We started for the city sightseeing next morning.

November 7, 2016:
Amer palace is a place which by far is the best place to visit in Jaipur. Amer village at the foot of a hillock over which stands the magnificent walled palace was the original Capital of Kachwaha (Kushwaha) Dynasty / Clan.

The palace is accessible by vehicles or by elephant ride. Elephant ride costs around Rs. 1100 for two adults (one elephant). However it normally has long queue and is time consuming. But the experience of entering the palace on a royal safari would definitely be an experience of a lifetime. This ride is available only upto noon.  We went by our cab.
Elephant ride
The palace is built in four levels – Jalebi Chowk (main palace grounds), Diwan-e-Aam (Public Audience Hall), Diwan-e-Khaas or Sheesh-Mahal (private meeting place / chambers for Royals) and the Zenana or Women’s Quarters (for Royal Ladies & their attendants including mistresses & concubines).
Jalebi Chowk - with Diwan-e-Aam seen on left above & Ganesh Pol behind
As you enter the first gate (Suraj pol), there is the open area called the Jalebi Chowk. This used to be the place for gathering of Soldiers & the Armed Forces. Today, elephants reach till this point. Tickets for the Palace need to be purchased here – Rs. 100 for adults. We also hired a Guide for Rs. 200.
Jalebi Chowk
Climbing few steps one can reach second level. It houses the Diwan-e-Aam. The elevation actually is because of water storage tanks below. It is based on rain water storage concept. This area was open to general public. The King used to meet the people in his routine Darbar here.
By the side of Diwan-e-Aam, there is a Hammaam and an exquisitely decorated large entrance gate, the Ganesh Pol, named because of Lord Ganesh painted at its top. This gate is the entry to the private chambers of the Royals, the third level.
Ganesh Pol
Art-work - Golden color (natural) within Ganesh Pol
As you pass through Ganesh Pol, a garden welcomes you. It was built on the lines of Mughal Garden with a fountain in the centre. On the left is the famous Sheesh-Mahal or Diwan-e-Khaas. It is also known as Jai Mandir. This is one of the most beautiful & awe-inspiring constructions of the Palace. It is exquisitely embellished with glass inlaid panels & multi-mirrored ceilings. Raja Man Singh built & completed it in 1727.
Multiple reflections of a candle light through thousands of mirrors would have been a sight to savor. Somewhere it is mentioned as “glittering jewel box in flickering candle light’. Same can be witnessed to some extent by light a mobile torch.
It reminds the Pyar Kiya Toh Darna Kya song from Hindi film Mughal-e-Aazam. It is wrongly mentioned that it was shot here; actually the Sheesh-Mahal in that song is an artificial set.
There is a Sheesh-Mahal in Agra Fort; and a Kaanch Mandir in Indore. However, this one is far better maintained.
Garden in front of Sheesh Mahal
Diwan-e-Khaas (Sheesh Mahal)
Mirror / Glass work - inside of Diwan-e-Khaas
Ahead is the Zenana. Way for this part is a small passage without steps to ascend or descend. It had slope with textured floorings. It is said that the Royal Ladies, during their marriage, wore studded Royal Dresses along with splendid gold ornaments. All this weighed about 20-50 kgs. The woman couldn’t walk wearing so much. So she was brought inside on a wheeled chair or a Doli.
Raja Man Singh had twelve wives. This part of palace houses 12 quarters, 1 for each wife (3 on each side forming a square) with a separate bathing & toilet facilities. These chambers had provision for their maids also. The central square has a pillared pavilion. This was used as a meeting venue for the ladies.
It is said that Queens’ Quarters were interlinked to the King’s Quarter with secret passages. King visited any of the Queens of his choice; no one knew to whom the King visited. It is said that King was identified in a Room where the Beeda (or Paan) is ordered / provided.
Pillared Pavillion
Amer was ruled by Kachwaha’s – they are supposed to be the descendents of Lord Ram from his son Kush.
The area around present day Amer & Jaipur was known as Dhundhar in 10th century. It was ruled by the Meena clan. Rana Kankal Dev of Kachawaha Dynasty destroyed sovereignty of Meenas & formed their Capital here. He also constructed Ambikeshwar Temple. Name Amer is said to be derived from it. It is also said that Amer is derived from Amba Mata of Meena clan.
Amer town - below Amer Fort
As soon Capital was formed, they started constructing fortified walls. This was the birth of Amer Fort. For the next 700 years Amer remained capital of Kachwahas. As the time passed and generations changed, Amer developed & became stronger.

India witnessed continuous attacks from Persians, Turks, Mongols, Afghans. Many invaders raided this land in the form of Khiljis, Tughlaks & Lodhis. But Amer stood by it all protecting its people.

The landscape changed in 16th century by arrival of Mughals. In 1526, Mughal Emperor Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodhi at Panipat. And this marked the beginning of Mughal Empire in Delhi.

Rajputs formed a coalition against this new invasion. On 17 March 1527, Rajputs & Babur came face to face. Babur won this battle too & marked a shadow of Mughals on Rajputana.

Ahead in the history, Kachwahas became the first allies of Mughals in Rajputana. Raja Bharmal proposed to offer his daughter’s hand (Princess Jodha) to Emperor Akbar in marriage in 1562.

Bharmal’s grandson Raja Man Singh I became a trusted general in Akbar’s court. He was instrumental in development of Amer Palace inside the Fort. His grandson Mirza Raja Jai Singh (Jai Singh I) further developed Amer. Diwan-e-Aam was built by him making it equivalent to that in Agra Fort. Maharashtrians know him for his Treaty of Purandar with Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

History changed its course once again. In 17th century, Mughal Empire started to diminish; Marathas had started to flourish. Sawai Jai Singh II (grandson of Jai Singh I) decided to develop a new place as Capital for the Kingdom. On 18 November, 1727 foundations of Jaipur were laid. Jai Singh II was an expert in Science & Astrology. Jaipur is India’s First Planned City. Jantar Mantar (the oldest observatories) of Delhi, Jaipur, Banaras, Ujjain & Mathura are the ideologies of Jai Singh II. It would not be wrong to say that, 300 years ago Jai Singh II scripted a philosophy of Modern India.

After 600 years, glory of Amer gradually receded to the new capital, Jaipur. Jaipur went on to become Capital of modern day Rajasthan State in the Indian Union. Amer still remains strong overlooking the development of Jaipur into one of the important cities of India.
Jaigad Fort - as seen from Amer Fort
There is Sound & Light Show in the evening which depicts the full history of the region with fascinating Lighting of the Fort Walls. The story telling with powerhouse music & song sequences make lasting impression. There are two shows of 45 mins., first in English & then Hindi. The show is fully worth of its ticket price of Rs. 250. Only drawback is one would have to comeback all the way from Jaipur in the evening to watch this show.

After our Amer Fort in the morning, we went to a National Handloom Shop. Normally Guides after their tour take you to such shops. This is a part of their business plan. However, purchasing of items from there is not compulsory.

Our visit here helped us gain some knowledge about the printing of cloth by natural colors. Most common item they show is the Jaipuri Rajai. Apart from it, there were other goods like Sarees, Bed-sheets, Baandhani Dress Material, Items with Precious Stones, etc.

After a short visit here, we returned back to Jaipur for the visit of City Palace. City Palace is complex of multiple buildings (Palace, Durbar, Museum). It was built by Sawai Jai Singh II when he shifted their Capital from Amer to Jaipur.
City Palace - Entry
Entry ticket for adults is Rs. 130 while for Children it is Rs. 70. There are multiple options for tickets like Gallery Viewing, Night Viewing, Special Ticket for Chandra Mahal & also a comprehensive ticket for many monuments. The most common is the 130-70 mentioned above.

As one enters inside, there is a grand pink walled courtyard with a central pillared hall. This is Diwan-e-Aam. It has marbled flooring with crystal chandeliers on the ceiling. There are few arms, guns on display. Two large silver urns catch the attention. These are called as Ganga-jallee. They hold a Guinness World Record as world’s largest silver vessels. Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh II got these made to carry water of River Ganga with him to England during his visit in 1901 (for King Edward VII’s coronation). He thought it to be religious sin to consume English water.

Through one large marble gate one enters the other side of this complex which houses Chandra Mahal. It grabs the easy attention being tallest building of the complex and also not Red in color. There are 3-4 exquisitely carved gates. The one through which we come is the Peacock Gate, the best amongst all. Royal Family still lives in the part of Chandra Mahal.
Chandra Mahal
Peacock Gate
Coming back to the main courtyard next to visit is the Sabha Niwas (or Diwan-e-Khaas). It is kept & maintained in the condition as it used to be in those days of ceremonial assemblies. The flooring has rich Kashmiri Carpets, ceiling are adorned with chandeliers; the pillars are donned with the flags showing emblems of erstwhile State of Jaipur. Walls are mounted with life-size paintings of previous Kings. The hall has a gallery on one side for Royal Women to view the proceedings without being seen.

Next is a Museum which houses Royal Costumes & Accessories. It is housed in what is called as Mubarak Mahal.
After City Palace, we moved towards Jantar Mantar which is just outside. It is a complex which houses collection of astronomical instruments. These were built by Sawai Jai Singh II, who himself had immense knowledge in astrology.
Jantar Mantar in front, City Palace Tower behind & Nahargadh Fort at far behind
There are about 19 astronomical instruments. It is better to hire a guide. The charge is Rs. 200. But, this will at least help in understanding these instruments.

The most famous is the Samrat Yantra, the world’s largest sundial which measures time at an interval of 2 seconds. The Guides show the calculation which shows accurate time with backlash of 10 minutes. This difference is due to compensation for the longitude difference between Jaipur & Allahabad (longitude reference line for IST).
Samrat Yantra, The Sun Dial
From here we returned back to our hotel. On the way we had a photo-stop at Hawa Mahal, the iconic identity to the city of Jaipur. Hawa Mahal, meaning Palace of Winds, was constructed for the Royal Ladies to observe the Street Festivities & in a way take part in them. Also to observe the everyday life on the Street below. It was constructed in such a way that they could observe all happenings below while unseen from outside.

It is a 5 storied structure in the form of Lord Krishna’s Crown. There are about 900 windows, small & large, with intricate latticework. The lattice helps to maintain the privacy within while allowing cool air to flow around causing the air-conditioning effect. Hence the name.

Hawa Mahal was built in 1799 by Sawai Pratap Singh (grandson of Sawai Jai Singh II).

November 8, 2016:
In the morning we started for Ranthambore National Park, a Tiger Reserve under Project Tiger of Govt. of India. It is one of the largest National Parks in North India & is situated about 15 kms from Sawai Madhopur. Distance between Jaipur & Sawai Madhopur is about 150 kms.

We started at about 9 am. After a breakfast stop, we reached our hotel in Sawai Madhopur at 12 noon. After Check-in formalities, lunch & a brief rest, we started for our Jungle Safari at 2 pm.

There are two modes of Safari, by a 20 seater Canter or 6 seater Gypsy. We opted for a Gypsy (cost is Rs. 5000). Normally a Gypsy goes far in the interiors than a Canter. Also, too many people in a Canter may also create lot of noise.

The wild life sanctuary is about 15 kms from Sawai Madhopur. Safari is accompanied by a Driver and a Guide. The driver drove us till the entry gate. A guide was allotted to us here. After basic formalities, we entered inside.

The Sanctuary is divided zones. We went inside Zone-8. Zone 8 had a Tigress & her two Cubs (Male & Female), the guide explained. I am not aware how these zones are selected; or whether we can select any specific zone we want.

The forest here is not that dense (when compared with Jim Corbett National Park). At least, not in this zone. It is said that chances of spotting a Tiger here are more; maybe this is the reason.

Immediately, we came across the common members of the Jungle – herd of Deer, Nilgai and Peahen (unfortunately, no Peacock). A little bit inside, the Guide was aware that a Tiger had killed a Nilgai in the morning; and had kept his Kill. He was anticipating that the Tiger might come to eat his Kill. We were just roaming around the place. He even showed us the Carcass about 100 meters away (which we could not have identified otherwise).

Since there were no signs, our Guide decided to move away to some another area. And the oncoming Gypsy guide informed us that Tiger is spotted near his Kill.
Tailing The Tiger
The way our driver has U-turned the vehicle & he drove it on those bumpy roads, we still have Goosebumps even today. This will be remembered for another reason; I came to know later that my wallet has lost. I am sure it fell off in the jungle during this rollercoaster.

And we spotted Him – 18 month old Male Tiger Cub. He wanted to go to his Kill. But he was taking his own sweet time, giving us a full opportunity to observe him. He was totally careless about large crowd gathered around him. He damned nothing & truly showing a spirit of the King of the Jungle. Initially he rested under a tree, then marched slowly & stopped again few meters ahead. Then he disappeared from our sight as he moved much ahead, crossed the road and came towards his kill (and in our view). For next half an hour, he savored his dinner. Finally, at 5 pm our time came to end and hence we started off. He was still there.
The King of the Jungle
This was an awesome experience. Trailing a Tiger for about half an hour, then spotting him & finally watching him for the next whole one hour. My previous two Safaris didn’t succeed in spotting a Tiger (Jim Corbett & Periyar). This time we were lucky.

Once the news about Tiger Spotting spread, there were around 10-15 Gypsys in the area. And actually, He just didn’t cared.

It is advisable that one should leave immediately after 5 pm because later on all the Gypsys start to move out making the environment heavily dusty.

Two big blows came up. We came to our hotel & I came to know that I have lost the wallet (cash of about Rs. 3000, Credit Cards & Driving License). Then we were relaxing and another big blow came-up – Demonetization by our PM.

November 9, 2016:
In morning after a quick breakfast, we started off with most of our cash in 500s & 1000s. We witnessed our share of hardships – problem at Toll Plazas, Restaurant not accepting 500s & 1000s & also not having Card facility, a very brief Raasta Roko by truckers in front of Petrol Pump.

Our destination was Udaipur, however on the way we were to visit the mighty Chittorgarh. It is about 300 kms from Sawai Madhopur.

There goes a saying in Rajputana - गढो में गढ़ चित्तौड, बाकी सब गढ़ाईया (Chittod is the ONLY Fort; everything else are just the hillocks). Chittorgarh indeed is one of the largest fort in India (some say even Asia).

Chittorgarh has a magical confluence of Bhakti & Shakti Movement. It is associated with two of the great human beings in Indian History. Saint Meerabai who led the Bhakti tradition & Maharana Pratap who cherished a dream of reconquering Chittorgarh from Akbar.

It was initially named Chitrakut after its founder Chitrangada Mori. In 7th century, it came under possession of Bappa Rawal, founder of Mewar Kingdom. With brief interruptions, the Fort remained in possession of Mewar Kingdom & was their Capital for next 8 centuries.

The fort is a witness to 3 Jauhars – the ultimate sacrifice. If Rajputs were attacked by enemy, and there were no chance of survival, the men-folk used to go ahead with suicide attacks with a motive to cause maximum damage to the enemy & their women back home committed mass self-immolation to avoid dishonor at the hands of enemy.

In 1303, Rani Padmini (wife of Rawal Ratan Singh) led first Jauhar of Chittorgarh when Allauddin Khilji led a siege.
2nd Jouhar was led by Rani Karnawati (widow of Rana Sanga) in 1535 when the kingdom was attacked by Bahadur Shah of Gujarat. There is a legend that Rani Karnawati had sent a Rakhi to Mughal Emperor Humayun for assistance. Humayun even responded, but could not reach in time.
3rd time again, Chittorgarh had to witness another unfortunate Jauhar. This time it was when Akbar attacked in 1567.

Chittorgarh is witness to such bravery & sacrifices for freedom. Amer which did peace treaties with Mughals, Chittorgarh fought till the last becoming a ruined citadel.

Rana Kumbha ascended to the throne in 14th century. Mewar flourished during his reign. He built many forts in the kingdom. He built Vijay Stambha (Tower of Victory) to commemorate his victory over combined forces of Malwa & Gujarat.

During 16th century, Mughals had started to gain their entry & establish presence in India. Rana Sanga led a combined Rajput forces against Babur, but was defeated. His son Rana Udai Singh was taken to safety at Bundi along with his nursemaid Panna Dai. He was attacked by his uncle Banbir to gain the throne; Panna Dai sacrificed her own son & saved the life of heir to the throne. He was coronated as Rana in 1540. During 1567, when Akbar invaded Chittorgarh, he shifted the Mewar Capital to Udaipur. He felt the need on account of multiple attacks on Chittorgarh & emergence of artillery warfare. A more secure place was required as a Capital.

His son, Maharana Pratap, acceded as the King in 1572. He devoted his whole life in getting Chittorgarh back to its glory. He fought with Akbar all through. There was time when all his territories (Udaipur, Chitttod, Kumbhalgad) were captured by Mughals & he lived hiding within jungles & mountains; even survived on bread made of wild grass.

The might of Chittorgarh can be visible from the road as we reach nearer to the Chittod town. The Fort is vastly spread; however, not very high. The mighty fortified walls are clearly visible a artistic tower.

Vehicles can go upto the top. The road passes through 7 gates – Padan Pol, Bhairon Pol, Hanuman Pol, Ganesh Pol, Jodla Pol, Laxman Pol & Ram Pol (the main gate). However, this was not the main entry route. The main gate of the Fort is on opposite side – Suraj Pol. This route has steps till the top.

Entry ticket is Rs. 15 per adult & Rs. 20 per vehicle. We also hired a Guide; charges were Rs. 750 (Rs. 500 for a short tour).

After passing through Ram Pol, first site is the Kumbha Palace. Most of it is in ruins. Ruins of Diwan-e-Aam & Diwan-e-Khaas are also seen. Most of the area is now converted into a garden.
Kumbha Palace - now in ruins

Kumbha-Shyam Temple & Meera Temple
Ahead from here is the temple complex – Meera Temple & Kumbha-Shyam Temple. These have exquisite carvings on them. However, these are severely damaged by several Mughal attackers. Faces of all sculptures are damaged.
Saint Meera-bai used to worship Lord Krishna here. The famous tale of Meera surviving after drinking poison took place here.
Kumbha-Shyam Temple is dedicated to Lord Varah. Both these temples were built during reign of Rana Kumbha. However, the main idols of both temples were taken to Udaipur, to safeguard them against constant attacks.
Kumbha Shyam Temple
Damaged sculpture - survived many Mughal attacks
Meera Temple - insides
Vijay Stambha is one structure which is one of the identities to Chittorgarh. This 9 storeyed Victory Monument was constructed by Rana Kumbha to celebrate his victory over Mahmud Khilji led armies of Malwa & Gujarat. The tower is dumb-bell shaped with narrowing in centre & spreading out at bottom & top. This type of design is unique for a tower. It is decorated with thousands of sculptures outside as well as inside.
It is 37 meters tall & can be reached at top through 150 steps; however, at this time entry inside was not allowed due to some restoration work.
The area surrounding Vijay Stambha is where the famous Jauhar led by Rani Padmini took place.
Famous song of Hindi Film “Guide” was shot here – “Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamanna Hai”.

गढो में गढ़ चित्तौड, बाकी सब गढ़ाईया (Chittod is the ONLY Fort; others are just hillocks). विजय स्तंभ (Vijay Stambh - Tower of Victory) is the identity of Chittorgarh Fort. This 9 storeyed Victory Monument was constructed by Rana Kumbha to celebrate his victory over Mahmud Khilji led armies of Malwa & Gujarat. The tower is dumb-bell shaped with narrowing in centre & spreading out at bottom & top; this type of design is unique for a tower. It is decorated with thousands of sculptures outside as well as inside. The area surrounding this Tower is the Holy place where Rani Padmini led the 1st Jauhar against attacking Allauddin Khilji. #itsmytravelogue #instalogues #rajputana #aanbaanaurshaan #royalrajasthan #talesofvalour #talesofvalourandsacrifices #talesofvalor #chittorgarh #vijaystambh #ranakumbha #rajasthan
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Area by the side of Vijay Stambha where Jauhar took place
Finally, we reached the most famous highlight of this Fort, Rani Padmini Palace. The legend has made this place eternal in the history.
Rani Padmini Palace on left; Jal Mahal on right
Allauddin Khilji was fascinated by the stories of beauty of Rani Padmini. He attacked Chittorgarh & laid a siege. But when he realized that it is almost impossible to win Chittorgarh, he sent a message to the King, Rawal Ratan Singh. He proposed his wish to see the Queen once, since he has heard of her beauty; after this, he will leave. After much deliberation, Ratan Singh agreed; but to see the Queen in a reflection. This would fulfill Allauddin’s wish as well maintain the veil tradition of a woman.

Arrangements were made in Rani Padmini’s Palace. Mirror was placed in such a way that the Rani Padmini would be sitting about 80 feet away on the steps of Jal-Mahal. Allauddin could view her face reflecting over the water surface onto the mirror. However, the arrangement was such that direct viewing was not possible. Allauddin was told that if he tried to bypass this arrangement, he would be killed.

After Allauddin saw the Queen, while he was returning back, he deceitfully captured Ratan Singh. He demanded Rani Padmini to be handed over to him to sought release of the King. Rajput soldiers attacked Khilji’s camp in palanquins (thought to be of Rani Padmini’s assemblage) and rescued Ratan Singh. The battle that ensued resulted into death of Ratan Singh & a certain defeat of the Rajputs. Since, the defeat was evident, Rani Padmini led first Jauhar of this fort. All men led suicide missions to cause maximum damage. It is said that when Khilji entered the fort he could just see a mass pyre of thousands of women.

However, there is a debate on truth of this Mirror / Reflection Story. This forms the basis of an epic poem Padmavat by Malik Muhammad Jayasi. Doubt is because this poem was written about 250 years after the actual incidence in the year 1303. Secondly, Allauddin Khilji had attacked Chittorgarh twice before this, since year 1299. Both times he suffered massive defeats at the hands of Rajputs. So there was no need for Rajputs to give-in for his inappropriate demand during his 3rd attack.

Rani Padmini’s Palace seems to be very recent structure. It was re-built very recently in 19th century. The legend of Rani Padmini’s glimpse to Allauddin Khilji can be witnessed here with placement of Mirror.

From here we moved towards other side of Fort. It has the main entrance of the Fort – Suraj Pol.
View from Suraj Pol, the other side of Fort
Apart from these, there are many structures which we gave a miss – Kirti Stambha, Jain Temple, Kalika Mata Temple, Fateh Prakash Mahal. The Fort is once said to have 84 water bodies which were the primary source for an army of 50,000 people. Now 22 of them are now present. Most famous amongst them is the Bheemlat Kund – formed by Bheema when he struck his foot here.
At present there are about 400 people leaving on the Fort.
The Fort is Fish-shaped & is divided into three main parts – Govt. Buildings on one side, all the attractions & sight-seeings in the centre & a Deer Park towards other end.

After this trip to glorious past, we commence our onward journey to Udaipur, about 120 kms away.

November 10, 2016:

The main attraction in Udaipur is its City Palace. This City Palace is divided into 3 parts – one is where the Royal Family still live, second is converted in to a Star Hotel & the third portion is open to Public. There is even a School inside.

The City Palace is built on the banks of Pichola Lake. Though the construction started in 1553 by Maharana Udai Singh II (founder of Udaipur), it has been regularly developed by series of various Rulers for the next 400 years. The Palace is built around a small hillock; though it doesn’t seem so as you enter. But as you rise till the fourth floor, which seems a terrace, there are large trees over here. It seems a surprise that such large trees have grown on a terrace; actually these trees are on this hillock.
Surprise, Surprise - Trees on the 4th Floor
Entrance to the City Palace is through large triple-arch gate – Tripolia. Entry ticket for Adult is Rs. 250, for Child is Rs. 100 & for Camera is Rs. 250. We also hired a Guide for Rs. 250.

When passed through Tripolia Gate, there is a open courtyard – Manak Chowk. This used to be Diwan-e-Aam. From here we entered inside. There is a network of narrow passages which take us through assortment of courtyards, pavilions, terraces, balconies, corridors, rooms & even gardens built by various Rulers over a period of time. From outside it looks like a flamboyant building with artistic domes, towering towers & beautiful arches. It is an architectural marvel of Rajasthan & even largest palace in the state. It took us a little more than 2 hours to complete this tour.

The palace has a gallery dedicated to Maharana Pratap; with his weapons & armour, photos & paintings, maps depicting Battle of Haldighati & information about his beloved horse, Chetak.

Few noteworthy palaces and chambers are Mor Chowk (also used to be Diwan-e-Khaas) – has elaborate designs of three Peacocks depicting three seasons; these are crafted with 5000 glass pieces, Sheesh Mahal – known for its mirror designs, Dilkhush Mahal – with its multi-colored glass windows creating a sense of joy as you enter, Moti Mahal – decorated with mirrors & tiles.
Mor Chowk

The view from inside is mesmerizing – Udaipur city on one side & Lake Pichola on other. Lake Pichola is the primary lake of Udaipur (also called as City of Lakes). It is called so because it is behind the City Palace (पीछे).
Lake Pichola
Udaipur City
During entry inside the Palace at Manak Chowk we saw some preparations going on – a Shamiyana being erected – like some function. When enquired with our Guide, he informed these are the wedding preparations. The Palace is available for Wedding Celebrations at the cost of about Rs. 1.25 Crore for 3 days of ceremony package (liquor extra).

Near City Palace is Jagdish Temple, dedicated to Lord Jagannath. Presence of such large temple with exquisite sculptures is hard to believe in a crowded locality around. It was built by Maharana Jagat Singh in 1651. Need to climb about 30-odd large steps to reach. It is said to be largest temple of Udaipur.

City Palace is the major & most visited tourist attraction of Udaipur. It is also a time consuming place, if decided to cover it in detail.

After our lunch, we moved for a Puppet Show at Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandal. It has museum which displays everything about Puppets. Apart from Strings Puppets, there are Rod Puppets, Shadow Puppets, Water Puppets, Finger Puppets, Hand Puppets. I saw many for the first time. There were Puppets from various Regions of India and also from other Countries. There is a Puppet Theatre where Puppet Shows are held every half an hour. Duration is about 20 mins.

And all this for a meager ticket of Rs. 40. I thought the institute is doing a commendable job in keeping this old art form alive. However, the condition of Museum needs an improvement.

For the evening, we had two options – Light & Sound Show at City Palace or Rope-way Ride. Since we had seen L&S Show at Jaipur, we preferred Rope-way Ride.

By the banks of Doodh Talai (Lake) a Rope Way is constructed towards a hillock. Tickets are Rs. 100 for adult & Rs. 50 for child. Ticket is for return trip. A short ride of 2-3 minutes is beautiful, with splendid view of Doodh Talai, Lake Pichola, City Palace and Jag Mandir. Once on top, the view of Jaipur on other side is also worth watching.
Doodh Talai in foreground, Lake Pichola on left & City Palace on right
This is the best place to watch a sunset with setting of Lake Pichola & its islands in the fore.
The Panorama
At the top, there is a canteen to have a cup of coffee & snacks. A few steps above is the Karni Mata Temple (Mansha Poori Karne-wali Maa). Also a Dargah is present.

After a tiring tour, we retired back to our hotel. There are few more attractions in Udaipur which we skipped for paucity of time – Saheliyon Ki Bari, Vintage Car Museum, Bagore Ki Haveli (Cultural Program), Light & Sound Show.

November 10, 2016:

Morning, we started for Ajmer & Pushkar; sort of twin cities with twin religious importance. Ajmer is about 260 kms from Udaipur & Pushkar is 11 kms further.

Ajmer, originally Ajaymeru, is the city of Prithviraj Chauhan. It was the Capital of Chahamana (Chauhan) Dynasty. Ajaymeru Fort was built in 8th century by King Ajayaraja I while the city was built gradually over the period, finally developed into capital by Ajayaraja II. Finally in 1192, it came under Muslim rule after defeat of Prithviraj Chauhan against Muhammad of Ghori.

Today, Ajmer is famous for Dargah Ajmer Sharif, shrine of Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti. Moinuddin Chisti was born in Afganistan & was a direct descendent of Prophet Mohammad. He came to India after a dream in which The Prophet guided him to do so. He reached Ajmer & settled here. He garnered substantial following. He died in 12th century in Ajmer; his tomb is the famous Dargah Sharif.

It is from here that various disciples branched out & the Chisti Order was spread far & wide in South Asia. Nizamuddin Dargah in Delhi is dedicated to one such disciple. Ajmer Sharif the Principle Dargah among several Dargahs established from Sindh in Pakistan upto Bengal in east & Deccan Plateau in South.

During reign of Akbar in 15th century, Ajmer & the Tomb of Moinuddin Chisti emerged as a popular pilgrimage site. Akbar himself, along with his wife, used to come here from Agra to Ajmer every year as a vow when he prayed for a son. The large pillars (minars) are constructed at every 2 miles (3 kms) along the entire way from Agra to Ajmer. These pillars mark the place of rest where royal pilgrims halted every day.

November 11, 2016:

In the morning, we started for Pushkar, about 11 kms from Ajmer. It is renowned for its Brahma Temple which is said to be the only one in the world. Actually, it is one of the very few temples of Brahma. It is one of the oldest existing cities of India. It is referred a Teerth-Raj – King of Pilgrimage Sites.

Pushkar is also famous for its lake – Pushkar Lake. As per mythology, it was formed from tears of Lord Shiva. When Goddess Sati died, Lord Shiva cried so much for so long & his tears formed two lakes – one is in Pakistan (Katas Raj Temple) while other is here in Pushkar.
It is also said that Lord Brahma wanted to perform a Yagna. While searching for a place he came across a demon, Vajranash, who was killing people. Using a Lotus, Brahma killed the demon. The pieces of Lotus Flower fell down and formed a Lake – Pushkar (Pushpa-Flower + Kar-Hands). To perform Yadna, Brahma didn’t had his wife, Savitri, along. Hence he married a Gurjar girl, Gayatri. This angered Savitri & she cursed Brahma that he will be worshipped only at Pushkar & nowhere else. Hence it is said that Lord Brahma’s temple is only at Pushkar.
The Lake is surrounded with about 50 ghats. Pilgrims use these to take the sacred bath. The area is flocked by many priests who offer to perform Poojas, Shradhs, etc. I had a feeling that everything had gone commercial. They were trying to trick the tourists into getting some pooja done & extort money in the form of Dakshinas.

Brahma Temple is just like any other. Situated inside busy market place, this 14th century temple doesn’t seem any special. Actually, my perception of this temple being only one in the world was very different. Though the present temple is comparatively recent one, the original was said to be built 2000 years ago. The temple is constructed on high plinth accessible through large marble steps. The main temple structure inside is colorful, with blue pillars & red dome. The principal deity of the temple is Lord Brahma with his second wife Gayatri. His first wife Savitri is said to have left after cursing him; her temple is on a hill nearby.
Market around Brahma Temple
Another attraction of this place is the Pushkar Camel Fair (or Pushkar ka Mela). It is an annual festival lasting for 5 days from Kartik Ekadashi to Kartik Poornima (normally in the month of November). It is said to be one of the world’s largest camel fairs.
Apart from a Camel & Livestock fair, it is famous for various competions like Camel races, longest moustache & even a Cricket match nowadays.
There are multiple roadside shops which attract men, women & kids alike.

By afternoon, we started for our return journey. On our way back, we came across a place called Budha Pushkar. It is a lake, which was dried-up at this time. It is a Holy Lake whose historicity is said to be more ancient than even that of the much revered Pushkar Lake.

We had over evening flight for home from Jaipur. We reached Jaipur (about 150 kms) by about 5 pm. By 10 pm we were home, thus ending our journey to this Royal Land.