2024 India – Part 4 – Rajasthan (3)

 

 

A revisit to the country of kings…

 

The original plan was to take a bus from Jodhpur to Udaipur but as there were two sites I wanted to see I opted for plan B and took a taxi instead which enabled me to visit both places on the way to Udaipur.

After a two hour drive we arrived at the valley of the Aravalli Hills, where the magnificent Ranakpur Jain temple is located. The 15th-century temple complex, dominated by the great Adinath Temple, is one of the five great holy places of the Jain faith. The grand scale and sheer architectural complexity of this white marble temple distinguish it as perhaps the single most impressive example of Western Indian temple architecture. The temple has an unusual four-sided plan, with four separate entrances. Each entrance leads through a veritable forest of columns, and a number of beautifully ornamented halls and chapels, to the central sanctum containing a four-faced image of Adinath.

There was a reason why I wanted to visit this place as I remember I was blown away by it during my first visit in 2009 and it didn’t disappoint this time. I adored the beautiful carvings , witnessed some prayers going on and enjoyed the atmosphere at the temple, although there were definitely more tourists around then last time. 

On the way to the second place we stopped for lunch after which the trip was continued. We were now in a rather hilly area and the vegetation was completely different than in the lower plains of Rajasthan. 

The ramparts of Kumbhalgarh Fort wind along the rugged contours of the Aravalli Hills for 36 km. and these were the first things I saw before I got a glimpse of the fort itself. 

This massive 15th-century fort, located at a height of 1,050 meter, along the border between Marwar (Jodhpur region) and Mewar (Udaipur region), was known as “The Eye of Mewar”, because it offered a commanding view of the countryside for miles.

I was extremely happy it wasn’t that warm as it was a long steep climb to the top which lead me past no less than seven fortified gates, studded with threatening spikes. Finally I made it to the highest point inside the fort, where the Badal Mahal, a 19th-century palace was located with airy chambers and fine wall paintings of hunting scenes. It had taken me me several stops before I got there but the views were extremely rewarding. 

Then I descended again towards the 15th-century Neelkantha Temple, which also lies within the fort, it has a huge Shiva linga and is still in use. Unfortunately it was closed by the time I got there so I just drank a fresh coconut at one of the stalls outside the temple before returning to my taxi and we started on our final two hour journey to Udaipur.

We arrived just before sunset so I good get a good first impression of the city. As my driver was from Udaipur he had no issues manoeuvring to the crowded streets straight to my home stay.

A heartfelt and warm welcome awaited me and after I checked in I sat on the spacious rooftop terrace. Not much later my host joined me and we engaged in a nice conversation. Time flew by quickly so I made my daily phonecall to Vladi and fell asleep very pleased, ready for my last destination in Rajasthan.

Next morning my host brought me to Lake Pichola, on of the highlights of the city. The first thing I did over there was to visit the Jagdish temple, a large Hindu temple just outside the royal palace. It has been in continuous worship since 1651 and was a nice place to visit.

Then I went to the City Palace, a visit that would take me almost all day. Beautifully situated on the shores of Lake Pichola, the Udaipur City Palace is an iconic monument in this waterside city. The palace was the centre of power of Mewar, the kingdom ruled by the Sisodia dynasty. Behind the fortified walls, with their rows of arched windows and intricate turrets, lies a maze to explore.

The City Palace complex is a miniature kingdom of royal apartments, reception halls and courtyards, linked to each other by narrow passages and steep staircases. The main attraction within the complex is the superb City Palace Museum. Spread out over several palaces, the museum is entered through the imposing Tripolia Gate, built in 1713.

I remember last time in 2009 when I aborted the tour as it was so extremely cramped I almost became schizophrenic. Today it was less crowded so I could complete the tour at east. 

Next I made a boat excursion over lake Picholla which showed Udaipur from an extremely picturesque point of view. We sailed passed the Floating Taj Lake Palace which most people will recognise from once of the scenes in James Bond Octopussy. 

Then we stopped at Jag Mandir, a palace built on another island in Lake Picholla, which is also called the “Lake Garden Palace”.Its construction is credited to three Maharanas of the Sisodia Rajputs of the Mewar kingdom.

I decided to stay there a while, enjoy lunch and a chilled beer. It was ridiculously overpriced but I knew that ahead from my last visit and one needs to go for a treat once in a while.

A short boat ride later I was back at the back of the palace and then headed towards the old city at the other side of it. My plan was to make a stroll over there but I noticed the day had been a bit tiring for me and it would be better to take a Tuk Tuk towards the hotel again for a rest. 

It had been a busy day and as I had two full more days around Udaipur there was no reason to rush things.

When one thinks of Rajasthan one thinks of forts. There was one fort I still wanted to visit and it was only 120 kilometre away from Udaipur. So I rented a taxi for a day to maker the trip.

Chittorgarh Fort is one of the most famous forts in India. Not only because of its gigantic structure, also because it has witnessed the history for Centuries. Chittorgarh Fort is considered as unbreakable and immiscible.

Needless to say, the Fort has had a tumultuous past. This bastion of the Rajput’s has faced violent attacks thrice in its entire history. The first was in 1303 when the Sultan of Delhi, Ala-ud-din-Khilji, who was enamored by Queen Padmini, launched an attack to abduct her. More than two centuries later, in 1533, it was Bahadur Shah, the Sultan of Gujarat, who caused immense destruction. Four decades later, in 1568, Mughal Emperor Akbar attacked and seized the fort. It was finally in 1616, under the rule of Mughal Emperor Jahangir that the fort was returned to the Rajputs.

I entered through the 7 gates, paid my entry ticket and was extremely happy to have a  available as the distance between the several sights were simply to large to cover on foot, especially in this heat.

Within the fort there were several palaces and temples to be visited, one was even more interesting than the other. It truly was an amazing place to visit and I was extremely happy I made the effort.

In spite of the larger distances covered by taxi I still had to walk quite a bit, a . Halfway during the afternoon we finished most places of the fort and we started our return to Udaipur. We were still to visit some cenotaphs but I felt I had seen enough for the day and asked to return to the hotel straight away where I slept for quite a while. Another exciting day had come to an end.

My last day in Udaipur, my last day in Rajasthan. The closing of another chapter….

I decided to go on a walkabout and just follow my heart without any fixed idea of where I was going. I took a rickshaw to the Jagdish Temple, a large Hindhu temple in the middle of Udaipur, just outside the royal palace. It has been in continuous worship since 1651. 

Loud music and singing was coming from the main shrine so I decided to have a look what was going on. The Jagdish Temple is raised on a tall terrace and to reach the main shrine, I had to climb 32 marble steps, intercepted by a Brass image of Garuda in the end, being the mount of God Vishnu.

Inside a prayer session for Krishna was going on and I must admit I got goosebumps from the vibe and strong spirituality that was in the air. I stayed a while to enjoy the atmosphere and then descended the 32 marble steps again and collected my shoes.

Then I just followed my heart past the narrow streets of old Udaipur, watching the shops and market stalls. It was truly lovely. I stopped for a while at one of the ghats and had something to drink in one of the many cafe’s. 

There was a footbridge that I could cross to the other side of the lake and immediately I liked the atmosphere in that area. It was rather touristy but rather quiet and pleasant. As I was getting a bite dizzy I found a nice restaurant at the waterside for lunch and remained there relaxing for another two hours or so.

Finally I took a rickshaw back to my hotel and slept for some hours. I was extremely pleased with my tour through Rajasthan but also noticed my energy levels are going down much faster than in the beginning of my trip. It’s been an intense and incredible wonderful experience but the time has come to listen to my body a bit more seriously. 

Continue to Part 5 Maharashtra – Old and new discoveries