Thursday, November 25, 2010

Udaipur , Day 9

Udaipur, in the state of Rajasthan, is the former historical capital of the Kingdom of Mewar. Jaipur is now the State capital. Udaipur is known as the city of lakes and is called the "Venice of the East". It is known for its Rajput era palaces, many of which have been converted into luxury hotels.

We arrived at the hotel I chose....turns out it was the former hunting lodge of the current royal family of Rajasthan. The current king or Maharani, owns a ton of properties all over the area. When India became an independent country, the Maharajas of all the states didn't do much but cede power to the new government. They had to give up some of their very expansive lands but managed to keep their palaces and other very prime properties. Some of these are open to the public who are charged admission....all the revenue goes into the royal coffers. This is true for every state in India. The kings of some states are better than others and give back to help the people....others don't. There are no state or country rules that force them to share their revenues and they are taxed a very low, flat rate. Parts of many of the palaces have been turned into hotels and are considered heritage properties. This particular king is not known to be the most generous and the road to this particular property needs major repairs. It is said that his son is better.

Back to the hotel....the current king turned this property into a preserve and a working farm. There are deer, peacocks, chickens, cows, etc. He also breeds polo ponies. We got to see some week old foals and the rest of his horses.
I got a private tour! The paddocks were right by where we checked in and I had walked over to where some of the horses were. I went to befriend some of them and they could see that I knew how to handle them. ( I use to own a horse). That was when I was offered a private tour of the stables. My husband says I had this huge grin on my face. I was happy as a pig in shit!  Dinner was quite good and again the staff went out of their way to make sure I had something to eat that I would like. I have found that I totally detest cilantro. It is in almost everything so I now ask that they leave the leaves out. We slept well.

Ned and our guide
Our guide met us the next morning and a new adventure started. Udaipur is a very colorful and busy city. As usual the honking of horns is the overriding sound everywhere. You start to get used to it after a while. We had a good and knowledgeable guide who was also very friendly. We hit some of the historical forts and palaces and you cannot but stand in awe of some of the engineering feats, especially for the times. Security from warring states was always a top priority and cities were built for safety. There was usually an outer wall with gates, a moat, and an inner wall. The gates in the inner city were only 1 elephant wide. The huge wooden doors had spikes on them at man head hight sitting on an elephant. The palaces were usually built over several hundred years so additions were everywhere. There were the kings private quarters, his queens chambers, and an area for his harem. The king was only allowed one wife, although in years of Muslim rule, the Muslim rulers were allowed 3. You can see Mogul influence all over Rajasthan, but they were predominantly Hindu. Every where you go there are small and large temples dedicated to the Hindu gods. Ganesh is all over the place....he is kind of cute. Our first stop was the Sas Bahu temple. These 2 temples were constructed in the 10th century and dedicated to Lord Vishnu. There are 2 temples here and they are known as the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law temples because of their close proximity to each other as they would be in a typical Indian household. These are very elaborately carved and decorated.

local corner store

The countryside is mainly agricultural and the climate is tropical. Farming is mostly done by hand here as well although the larger tracts of land are prepared with a tractor. Harvesting of sugar cane and summer crops is going on now and they are starting to replant the fields with winter crops. Until this past year, India was in a drought but they had a good monsoon season....we have been having some unusual rainy weather the past few weeks and that is both good and bad. The farmers collect the left over corn, sorghum, and sugar cane stalks to feed their cattle..they need it to dry out or it gets ruined. The women seem to do most of the work! There is very little protection from the elements. As I  mentioned earlier, living is pretty much out of doors. It is warm in the winter. It was down in the 70's and the locals were all bundled up in their blankets! I thought I was the only one who thought it was cold when the temp dropped below 80, haha.    

Our next stop was the City Palace. There has been some extensive restoration done here and you can see the opulence and beautiful inlays and painting. Please see the album at top right for a lot more pictures.  We started our minor shopping spree late this afternoon :-).  Dinner was lovely back at the lodge, again with the kitchen staff doing their best to accommodate my pain in the ass palate.

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