The palace made prettier

The palace made prettier

The palace made prettier

Udaipur, nestled on the slopes of the Aravallis, hidden from the winds of the Thar desert, was historically the stronghold of the Mewar dynasty. Here, the air is cool, unlike the dust-laden winds of Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. The Old City is quiet and still retains the charm of a village, with its many winding lanes dotted with Mewar architecture leading to beautiful ghats that step into Lake Pichola.

The Old City begins with the Udaipur City Palace on the south and develops densely along Lake Pichola on its eastern bank. In fact, it is difficult to point out where the city stops and the palace begins because of the dense development.

We meet Miss Ahuja, an architect, who takes us around the palace. We soon realise how large the complex really is. There are rooms that lead you into more rooms, each one more colourful than the other. The rooms are in beautiful pastel shades, and some are elaborately painted with motifs of peacocks and elephants. It is here that we understand the vibrant relationship Rajasthan has with colours. The colourful rooms are interspersed with cool marble courtyards adorned with intricate tile and mosaic work. Mor Chowk, one such courtyard in the palace, is adorned with peacocks delicately crafted with pieces of coloured glass and mirror.

Architecturally, the palace is a fine blend of Mewar, Mughal and British influences. The palace is huge and would require a good day or two to cover completely.

The palace was built on the previously existing courtyard of Rai Angan in the 16th century. Its custodianship now lies with the Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation (MMCF), the face of which is Maharana Arvind Singh Mewar from the royal family. It has recently been restored by Shikha Jain and her team at DRONAH, an organisation that regenerates historical city centres. Funded by the Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles, the restoration work was done in collaboration with architects, heritage professionals, city planners and federal ministries.

Currently, the work on archiving, curating and interpreting the large collection of textiles, artefacts, musical instruments and other such cultural resources is on. The most prized collection of the palace is the Osler cut-glass crystal gallery, which can be accessed on purchase of a ticket.

The MMCF, in collaboration with DRONAH and the Getty Conservation Institute, recently launched a book on the palace -Living Heritage of Mewar, Architecture of the City Palace Udaipur - authored by Shikha Jain and Vanicka Arora. The MMCF has been integral in supporting the conservation works at the palace, and is also keen on continuing the local festivals and traditions. On this accord, the local festivals of Gangaur, Teej and Holi are celebrated publicly at the palace every year.

Udaipur also plays host to festivals like the Udaipur Music Festival (in the first week of February) and the Wonderflip Festival, an electronic music festival which debuts this month.

Udaipur receives a lot of tourists owing to its proximity to Ahmedabad. The many shops here are a pleasure for any tourist to visit. Especially the antique shops, which mean business. Accessed through small doorways, these shops are covered from floor to ceiling with interesting artefacts, one more beautiful than the other. On the other side of the lake are restaurants offering beautiful views of the palace.

In all, Udaipur is a place that entices tourists like no other.