I was in Udaipur, Rajasthan for last 3 days on invitation by a friend and he took me around. In my trip to Udaipur in 2008 I had seen the popular places there including City Palace of Udaipur, Jag Mandir, Vintage & Classic Cars Museum, Kumbhalgarh Fort & Ranakpur Jain temple. What was left in this trip to see was City Palace in the Night and Haldighati.
Before I write on Udaipur sight seeing let me share this happy moment during the trip. On day 2 of my trip during dinner in The Sunset Terrace restaurant in City Palace, we spotted the Prince of Mewar who kindly agreed to pose for a photograph for us. The Prince holds post graduate degrees in hospitality and is involved in developing sports activities amongst students of the region – an activity I believe more celebrities should be promoting with their status. Encouraging sports amongst youngsters is the best way to keep away from violent acts & drugs.
On landing in Udaipur Airport, you are hit how small and hence charming it looks compares to the monstrous airports in Indian metros. The Maharana Pratap Airport, Udaipur is about 30 km away from the city.
In the evening of day 2 of my trip we went to see the lighting show in the night with narration of Mewar dynasty’s story in the City Palace gardens. This is a must-see activity for anyone visiting Udaipur. The narration by present Maharana (custodian) starts from the establishment of the Mewar dynasty in 8th century by Bapa Rawal under his Guru’s guidance of seeking the blessings of Lord Eklingji (Lord Shiva). Mewar rulers never coronated themselves as kings but as custodians to Lord Eklingji, a tradition that continues to this day for the claimed to be the world’s oldest-serving dynasty.
In 1303 Chittor (then) capital of Mewar is attacked and plundered by Allauddin Khilji, with Rana Hamir Singh of Mewar recapturing the capital in 1326. Rana Kumbha who ruled from 1433-1468 builds the monumental Kumbhalgarh fort & contributed generously to construction of famous Ranakpur Jain temple. Under attack from Sultans of Gujarat in 1535, Chittor witnesses the jauhar (self-immolation) of 13,000 women led by the Rajmata; but the young prince Udai Singh gets saved due to heroic act by his foster-mother, Panna Dai who sacrifices her own son for the life of the prince. Udai Singh becomes the Maharana and founds the city of Udaipur on the shores of Lake Pichola in 1559. Eight years later in 1567, Chittor is besieged by Akbar’s army. It signals the end of Chittor as the seat of power for Mewar dynasty.
In June 18, 1576, Maharana Pratap Singh fights a tough battle with the combined forces of Akbar and Rajput states, and gets saved due to the sacrifice of his white horse ‘Chetak’ – which earned it a legendary role in Mewar’s history. To this day everywhere you go in Udaipur you see a Maharana Pratap Singh’s statue or picture, always riding his horse Chetak. During the reign of Rana Raj Singh I (1653 – 1680) the idols of Lord Shrinathji (God Krishna) and Lord Dwarkadish were given shelter, when the wealth of the temples and their disciples were under attack by Aurangzeb’s forces; later the idols found safe haven in Nathdwara and Kankaroli respectively.
After Indian independence it was Maharana Bhupal Singh became the first princely state to merge with the Indian Union creating history. The dynasty then sets up, The Maharana Mewar Foundation focusing on social welfare through the income generated in running luxury hotels across it’s numerous palaces; the establishment of this trust has ensured that the name of Maharana & legacy continues to this day.
On Day 3 of my stay in the morning we travelled to Maharana Pratap Museum near Haldigati area, which is about 1 hour drive from Udaipur city. The privately run museum has good audio visual displays narrating various happenings in the life of Maharana Pratap Singh, his battle in Haldigati, heroic act of his horse ‘Chetak’ and other stories from Mewar tradition. A good place to go if you have kids, but remember the narration is only in Hindi – my friend helped me, by translating to English.
The museum also had a small heritage village with displays and shops selling local handicraft products.
In the shop I bought myself a multicoloured local turban called Paag and a wooden toy set of a musician playing various instruments.
The last stop was the mountain pass where Maharana Pratap Singh’s army attacked the Raja Maan Singh (representing the Mughals); called the Battle of Haldighati, named so as the soil in the place looks turmeric (called Haldi in Hindi language) in colour.
Overall, this was a productive and fun trip.