Udaipur is not just about the iconic Udaipur City Palace, Jagdish Temple and the cruise around Lake Pichola. There are a number of interesting tourist attractions within the city of Udaipur – getting around Udaipur could be a challenge if you are not familiar with local public transportation and you do not have a car. Our tour around Udaipur was arranged by Luxe India. Our guide, Narayan was very knowledgeable about history of Udaipur and Rajasthani culture and customs; despite our short stay in Udaipur, he was able to arrange a flexible itinerary taking into account our needs and priorities.
Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandal (Udaipur Folk Museum)
Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandal in Udaipur is a folk-art museum showcasing a rich collection of puppets, dolls, masks, folk dresses, ornaments, musical instruments, and paintings. It covers local culture and customs as well as people from the Rajasthani region. The entrance hall of Bharatiya Lok Kala Museum displays theater objects and other rooms display an impressive collection of tribal folk musical instruments and ornaments. These rare collections span a period of 44 years and contains a wealth of information for students and scholars in their research work of traditional art and culture of Rajasthan.
The exciting and colorful folk performances in the museum is one of the main reasons why Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandal is one of the most popular museums in Udaipur. The daily puppet shows (performed regularly throughout the day), which run for about 15 minutes, are interesting and very well-performed. It is not surprising that it is very much admired among children. Rajasthan is the birth place of Indian puppetry. Rajasthani puppeteers are known as Nats. They will travel from village to village to perform their puppet show and a puppet troupe typically comprise 2 male puppeteers and one female drummer who narrates for the show.
Check out the video below for a snippet of what to expect from the puppet show at the museum and see how good Rajasthani puppetry is at manipulating these puppets to do life-like gestures:
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Museum entrance fee is Rs 20/- (locals) or Rs 35 /- (foreigners) per person; Photo Camera fee is Rs 20/- per camera; Video Camera fee is Rs 50/- per camera. The Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandal Musuem is open from 9.00 AM to 6 PM daily.
Padma Shri Devilal Samar established Bhartiya Lok Kala Mandal in Udaipur in 1952to document the traditional art and culture of Udaipur and other cities of Rajasthan. The doll model below is an example of documentation of the Bhavai Folk Drama. The Bhavai is an entertainers community living in both Gujarat and Rajasthan. They perform for their patrons in these areas. They are experts in balancing several pots and a burning bottle on their head while dancing.
Saheliyon ki Bari (Courtyard of the Maidens)
Saheliyon ki Bari was built by Maharana Sangram Singh in the 18th century for the royal ladies on the banks of Fateh Sagar Lake. This is considered as one of the most beautiful gardens in the city of Udaipur. It is also a popular tourist destination especially for the locals. Literally translated, Saheliyon ki Bari means “Gardens of the Maids” or “Courtyard of the Maidens”
Saheliyon ki Bari was once a favorite retreat for the queen and her maids. The story of this place was that the garden was actually designed by the king himself and presented it to his queen. The queen came with 48 maids after her marriage. This garden was built so that the queens and companions can spend their leisure time undisturbed and away from the complex issues and restrictions imposed on the ladies in the royal court. Here in this garden, all these restrictions are lifted and the ladies can enjoy this space in their own way.
Look out for the beautiful fountains around the garden – these were especially brought from England. These fountains were elaborately decorated with sculptures. Other things to look out in Saheliyon ki Bari include the beautiful carved marble pavilions, lotus pool, marble statues of elephants, flower beds and bird fountains. Entrance to Saheliyon ki Bari is Rs 5/- per person. No camera fees are charged here.
The Ahar Cenotaphs are a group of royal cenotaphs located in Ahar, about 3 km east of Udaipur in Rajasthan, in Rajasthan, India. The site contains more than 250 cenotaphs of the maharajas of Mewar that were built over approximately 350 years. There are 19 chhatris that commemorate the 19 maharajas who were cremated here. One of the most striking cenotaphs is that of Maharana Amar Singh, who ruled during the period 1597 to 1620. The chhatri of Amar Singh has a four-faced statue in the centre and the friezes on the basement show the immolation of the king’s wives who chose to commit sati. The cenotaph of Swaroop Singh II, who was cremated with his 21 wives, is another majestic memorials. It has a 56 pillared portico with an octagonal dome in the centre, supported by eight dwarfed pillars.
Maharana Pratap Smarak Samiti Memorial at Moti Magari Udaipur
The Maharana Pratap Memorial is located on a hill known as Moti Magari near the southern end of the embankment of the Fatch Sagar Lake. It is an imposing structure – being a large and fine bronze alloy statue of Maharana Pratap riding on this faithful horse – Chetak. This was erected by Maharana Bhagwat Singh to pay homage to this legendary Rajput hero who resisted the mighty Mughal emperor Akbar in a fight for independence. We heard a lot of stories about Maharana Pratap’s bravery and ingenuity (disguising his horse Chetak with an elephant trunk to confuse his enemies’s elephants) during our tour of Udaipur City Palace.
There are also other bronze alloy statues of Hakim Khan Suri.Bhamashah, Bhilu Raja, Jhala Maan who had assisted Maharana Pratap in this fight. Nearby are the remains of the old palace known as Moti Mahal which was occupied by Maharana Pratap’s father, Maharana Udai Singh, when he first came to live at Udaipur.
Another reason why Moti Magri or the Pearl Hill is popular among local tourists is because of the bird-eye view of the Fateh Sagar Lake that one can enjoy from the top of this hill. A great place to relax after a long day of touring Udaipur.
Miniature Painting Shops in Udaipur
One of the most interesting display in the Udaipur City Palace has to be the miniature paintings which depict important historical moments and people in very realistic ways through the style of painting. Udaipur is famous for its traditional miniature paintings, which are mural-like paintings mostly depicting incidents from Rajput or Mughal history and legends, or stories from the Hindu Puranas.
These paintings are beautiful if viewed from normal viewing distance; but if viewed at from a closer distance with a magnifying glass, every inch of the painting seems to come alive and tells its own story. Each and every leaf and flower, design and embroidery in costumes of characters, individual waves in water, feathers of birds – every corner of the miniature painting was carefully illustrated and painted. The quality of a miniature painting is evaluated based on the level of details present in it and require hours of care, dedication and work of the artist to prepare such paintings. Thus, it is not surprising that miniature paintings fetch a very high price in the market.
You can request for your guide to bring you to one of the miniature painting schools where you see the craftsmen at work. An apprentice at miniature painting starts working on paper. Once he becomes more skilful, he will start painting on silk, and then on marble sheets. The most experienced artists will do their artwork on camel bone. The paint brushes are made with just a few thin squirrel hair and it is only with such brushes that the fine details of the miniature paintings can be brought out.
If you are considering to buy a miniature painting, be prepared to bargain hard (try to get at least a 30% – 40% discount from the original price quoted). Of course, the price is highly dependent on the details in the miniature painting and the skill level of the artists. Expect to pay about US$50-60 for a high quality small painting. There are lots of shops selling miniature paintings so if you have the time to shop, take your time to decide on the quality you need which suits your budget.
Jet Airways flies to Udaipur from New Delhi twice a day. If you are flying to New Delhi from Singapore in the morning, you will be able to catch the afternoon direct 1-hour long Jet Airways flight to Udaipur. If you want to experience luxury living like a Maharajah or Maharana (in Udaipur’s context), I strongly recommend the Leela Palace Udaipur as your hotel of choice during your stay at Udaipur. Our guide from Luxe India, Narayan was able to plan a great itinerary around Udaipur so if you are looking for a good tour guide who is able to tell you interesting stories about these places (things you can’t typically find in guidebooks), ask for Narayan of Luxe India.