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Published: January 31st 2008
Lake Palce, Lake Pichola, Udaipur
pure pristine white wonder -- the lake palace was an ideal retreat during the hot summers for the royalty
Udaipur, the city of lakes is a saga about the Ranas of Mewar, their valor, their values and their vibrant lives entrenched in the rich cultural legacy of their imposing forts and palaces. The city attracts tourists from all over the globe, each seeking a piece of its cultural pie for posterity. Located in the desert state of Rajasthan it is renowned for its folk dances, the ethnic attires of its people, their jewelry and more.
Visitors to Udaipur get more than they bargain for and the ones with deep pockets are sure to have a holiday of a lifetime. Historic palaces are now heritage hotels catering to the needs of a growing economy powered by the influx of local and foreign tourists scrambling to accommodate Rajasthan in their vacation plans. Those who stay at the City Palace hotel get the royal experience (literally!). With an impressive façade overlooking Lake Pichola, the palace looks stately when its bluish tinged porcelain tiled balconies light up during the night. The present Maharana has his private quarters in the palace grounds while the main area of the palace with its different mahals is now showcased as a museum. The style and architecture is
similar to contemporary palaces of that era and most rooms are adorned with beautiful glass and mirror inlay work, some with enamel tiles forming unique mosaic designs. The Zenana Mahal, the Baadi Mahal and the Mor Chowk are some of the palace courtyards that are now used to host lavish parties. Flower bedecked walkways and ethnically dressed damsels greet you on the walkway leading to Zenana Mahal, which was the venue of the dinner we were invited to. The museum has a remarkable collection of miniature paintings and the Art gallery has its walls adorned with paintings eulogizing what would perhaps be Udaipur’s most famous historical figure, Maharana Pratap.
A visit to the city palace is incomplete without tea break at sundown on the ‘Sunset Deck’. A glance around the place and you find folks focusing their camera lenses, trying to catch a snapshot of the sun going down on Lake Pichola, but what is unique about this sunset is the white washed Lake Palace’ island situated in the middle of the lake; all bathed in twilight! James Bond’s ‘Octopussy’, was shot on site putting Udaipur on the map of Hollywood locales. More recently, Kingfisher’s annual calendar featuring a
bevy of beauties was shot inside the City Palace but what was astounding was the bikini clad young lass striking a provocative pose inside the Darbar Hall, which even today exudes its old world charm and rich cultural heritage. Apparently the ad gurus were looking for exotic locations for their shoot and they got their locale right but not the attire!
Other places of interest include the Jagmandir, an island palace located on Lake Pichola. A flower decked ferry takes you to the steps of this unique party venue which is mainly used for celebrity weddings, banquets and other formal occasions. The palace is resplendent at night and its bedecked walls light up to provide a unique ambience. Another favorite destination is the eighteenth century Devigarh fort, now converted into a heritage hotel. Located at a distance of 28 km from the city, it’s a long scenic drive up the hills of the Aravalli range. The Devigarh palace hotel also prides itself on its luxurious suites and hospitality.
The ‘City of Lakes’ is aware of her market potential and is gearing up for a swanky new airport which will become operational in the next few months. With a
huge floating population, Udaipur still retains its old city charm and is best described as the face of culturally rich India - with its palaces still retaining their grandiose to its colorfully attired folks and with every other foreign tourist making sure it’s on his/her itinerary - it’s a city on a song!
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