One of our favorite cities in India so far was Udaipur in Rajasthan. We spent a very enriching day in the city, strolling around the lakes and the old town. We got absorbed in the tumult of the markets and enjoyed the beauty of the City Palace. The other day we made a day-trip to the close-by Ranakpur, contemplating the artistic marble decorations of the most stunning Jain temple.
Udaipur, city of Lakes
Udaipur is often called the Venice of the East, as its charm comes from its` location around the Fateh Sagar and the Pichola Lakes. They are idyllic, set for a boat ride on them or a nice walk on their promenades. Both have small islands with temples and palaces with oriental architecture. They make you feel being part of a fairytale.
City Palace of Udaipur
The City Palace can be characterized by a mixture of military architecture from the Rajputs and the breathtaking decoration techniques of the Moguls. It was built between the 15th and the 20th century and is a maze of buildings and palaces, showing different styles from the course of history. The terraces are overlooking the picturesque Lake Pichola. Some palaces serve as luxury hotels today.
At the time of our visit, the whole City Palace was in a state of transformation. Hundreds of workers were building stages, tents and dance floors; decorating with flowers, ribbons, colorful adornments and life-sized crystal elephants (favorites of Julia). At first we thought they were setting up the premises for a festival, but soon we learned they were preparing a private wedding, which would take place in a weeks’ time. Everything was reflecting unimaginable wealth – in strong contrast to other sides of India’s population…!
Bada Bazar Udaipur
A walk through the Bazar in the old town was an orgy of colors, smells, food and goods. Thousands of people of all age, gender and religion were moving around on the streets. They are selling their merchandise, negotiating over prices, chatting to old friends and strangers (e.g.: us) and eating the most amazing things.
After losing our way in the narrow and curvy streets of the bazar, we finally took a Rickshaw (for 100 Rupees) to our accommodation to conclude the day with a delicious Indian dinner.
Daytrip from Udaipur: Jain temples of Ranakpur
The most spectacular Jain temple we have seen so far was the one in Ranakpur in the Aravali hills, surrounded by dense, green forests. The architectural brilliance of the buildings left us speechless.
The main temple is a huge, white, 3-story marble structure. The stone came from Makrana, where the materials of the Taj Mahal also originate from. The temple has 1440 pillars, all with different, very elaborated, fine carving. Its´ domes and ceilings also have beautiful marble ornaments.
The main teaching of Jainism is the non-violence towards all life forms. Their followers believe in 24 Tirthankaras, spiritual leaders, the first of which was Adinath. The Ranakpur temple is dedicated to him.
The closing words of our guide were: “all who have not seen the Jain temple of Ranakpur have lived an unfulfilled life”. This may be exaggerated, but the harmony and beauty of the place for sure is something we will remember for a long time.