UDAIPUR

UDAIPUR

Udaipur (270 kilometers from Jodhpur) is a 400-year-old city know for its forts, palaces, palace hotels and old wall. It was founded in 1559 by Maharaja Udai Singh II, who moved the capital of the Kingdom of Mewar to Pichola Lake after after Mughal emperor Akbar besieged its earlier power-center Chittorgarh. Udaipur is now home to around a half million people and is most famous for a spectacular palace built in the middle of Lake Pichola. The city is located in a part of Rajasthan with a surprising number of forested hills. The 1983 James Bond film “Octopussy” was shot at several palaces in Udaipur.

Udaipur is known as the City of Lakes. It seven shimmering lakes (three of them artificial) that are visible, it seems, from almost every rooftop, fairytale palace, sprawling haveli, revered temple, narrow and colorful market in the city. Nestled in the mighty Aravalli range, surrounded by dense forests and craggy hills, it was described by Colonel James Tod of the East India Company as “the most romantic place in the Indian sub continent”.

The centerpiece of the city — the City Palace — is actually a palace group made up of about a half dozen ornately carved palaces. Built by Maharana Udai Sing in 1568, it features winding staircases, opulent courtyards, miniature paintings made with brushes with a single squirrel hair, marble pools. and balconies perched above a lake. It is open to the public and is still owned by the maharana, who also owns the Monsoon Palace and a winter palace now occupied by the Shiv Niwas hotel. The Maharana spend most of his time in the Shambhu Niwas, the only one his palaces that remains off limits to tourists.

Visitors can enjoy tranquil boating on Lake Pichola, the largest of Udaipur's lakes, spend a day taking in the opulence of City Palace, visit the time-weathered temples, shop at the art and curio stalls that line the streets, enjoy Rajasthani folk music and dance performances, taste delicious cuisine or drive out of the city to discover legends hidden in the wooded Aravalli hills and the impregnable forts dotting its surroundings. Udaipur is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India.

Getting There: By Air: Maharana Pratap Airport provides easy flights to various cities across the country. By Road: Udaipur is well connected to all the major cities of India. Delhi is 667 kilometers away while Mumbai is 760 kilometers away via road. By Train: Trains from various parts of the country like Delhi, Mumbai are connected to Udaipur.

Shopping in Udaipur

Udaipur is a delight for shoppers. From beautiful jewelry and colorful traditional clothes to wooden handicrafts and miniature paintings, the bustling markets of the lake city are definitely a shopper's paradise. Head to the Bada Bazaar or Haathi Pol to shop for beautifully carved wooden artifacts and the famous Kathputlis or hanging puppets of Rajasthan.

Udaipur is also famous for its Kundan, Polki and Meenakari jewelry. The Haathi Pol bazaar also has a number of shops selling beautiful traditional paintings of Rajasthan including the Pichwai, Phad and Rajasthani miniature paintings. Local markets of Udaipur also deal in camel-leather products like purses and jootis. The city is also filled with shops selling Rajasthani Bandhni prints in forms of saris, kurtis, bags and other items.

Shilpgram Mela is an annual art and craft fair of Udaipur. Handwoven clothes and products of camel leather are some of the attractions of the fair. The fair encourages local artisans, potters and designers to exhibit their talents and promote their cultures. It also offers a glimpse of the lifestyle of weavers and local artisans. The fair is generally organised in the months of November or December and lasts for 10 days.

Sights in Udaipur

Sights in Udaipur include the Jagdish Temple, a religious building dedicated to Lord Vishnu, built in 1651; Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandal, a museum of folk art with regular puppet shows; Sageliyon Ki Bari, a beautiful garden dedicated to maids of honor; and the Pratap Memorial, a monument with a Japanese rock garden dedicated to Rana Pratap and his faithful mount.

Gulab Bagh, or the Sajjan Niwas Garden, is the largest garden in Rajasthan, sprawling over 100 acres of land. Built by King Sajjan Singh in 1850, the garden boasts an array of roses along with orchids and expansive lawns. It also has a toy train for children, along with a small zoo housing leopards, birds and chinkaras. The garden also has a library called Saraswati Bhawan, which was built by king Fateh Singh, ruler of Mewar (1884-1930). It contains books related to history, archeology and manuscripts that date back to the early medieval period. The garden also includes a museum called the Victoria Hall Museum, which has a famous collection of antiques, murals, royal household items and other interesting relics.

Mansapurna Karni Mata Ropeway is a cable car ride which connects the Karni Mata Temple to the Deendayal Upadhyay Park. The first ropeway of Rajasthan, it offers some of the most spectacular views of Udaipur. Visitors get sweeping views of Lake Pichola, the City Palace and other famous luxury hotels and heritage buildings of the city of lakes. With the help of the ride, people can conveniently reach the Karni Mata temple to seek the blessings of Goddess Karni, which used to be quite a task before the ropeway was opened.

Jag Mandir Palace is often referred to as the 'Swarg Ki Vatika' or the garden of heaven. Said to have inspired the Taj Mahal, this beautiful, three-storeyed palace was built on the Jag Mandir Island, about 800 meters south of Jagniwas, by Maharana Karan Singh II in 1620 and later completed by his son. Constructed of yellow sandstone and marble, it is said the king built it as a hiding place for Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, before he ascended the throne. Legends say, Shah Jahan, who was then known as Prince Khurram lived here with his wife and sons. Maybe a reason why Gul Mahal, the section in which the prince lived, has strong traces of Islamic architecture, including the crescent. A mosque was also constructed here. Gu Mahal has a stunning courtyard with checquered black and white tiles and pietra dura (stone mosaic) work, that inspired similar touches in the Taj Mahal in Agra. Other attractions include life-sized marble elephants, Bara Patharon ka Mahal, Kunwar Pada ka Mahal, Zenana Mahal and beautiful flower gardens. It also has a museum that offers a glimpse into the history of this island. Locals also refer to it as Octopussy's house, as some scenes from the 1983 James Bond film were shot here.

Jagdish Temple (150 meters away from City Palace) is made in the Indo- Aryan style of architecture and named after Maharana Jagat Singh, who ruled between 1628 and 53. Known as the largest in Udaipur, the three-storeyed temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is adorned with carved pillars, decorated ceilings and painted walls. The main shrine has the figurine of the four-armed Lord Vishnu carved out of a single black stone. The main shrine is surrounded by four smaller shrines of Lord Ganesha, the Sun God, Goddess Shakti and Lord Shiva. The first and second floors of the temple house 50 intricately carved pillars each. The shikhar or spire of the main temple, around 80 feet high, dominates the skyline of Udaipur. Decorated with sculptures of dancers, elephants, horsemen and musicians, it's a spectacular piece of art. A pair of marble elephants welcome visitors to the temple and there is a stone slab here that has inscriptions which refer to Jagat Singh. A flight of 32 steps lead to the main shrine, where stands a brass idol of Garuda, the mount of Lord Vishnu.

City Palace in Udaipur

The City Palace in Udaipur is the largest palace in Rajasthan and a must-visit destination for anyone who comes to Udaipur. Rising from a bank of Lake Pichola, it an imposing and grand icon of Udaipur's and Rajasthan's royal past. With a facade that is 244 meters long and 30.4 meters high, the palace complex has 11 smaller palaces. Construction of the palace was started in 1599 by Maharana Udai Singh II, the city’s founder, and was extended by his successsors. Though today, it seems uniform, like the brainchild of one man. It includes two luxurious palace hotels, a school and the popular City Palace Museum. With ornate towers, cupolas, arched doorways and protruding balconies, the City Palace is an architectural marvel and represents an exquisite blend of Rajasthani, Mughal, European and oriental architecture styles. It has a maze of courtyards, pavilions, terraces, corridors, rooms and hanging gardens.

Encircled by fortifications, this stately palace is built in granite and marble. The massive gates of the palace are known as ‘pols’ with Bara Pol being the main gate, which leads to the first courtyard. On passing Bara Pol, one comes across a triple arched gate, known as Tripolia. Between these two gates, one can see eight marble arches or 'toranas', where its is said kings used to weigh themselves with gold and silver. Next to Tripolia is an arena where elephant fights were staged. Across Tripolia, is the Elephant Gate or the Hathi Pol. In 1974, a large part of the City Palace was turned into a museum, known as the City palace Museum. You can still marvel at the royal family's horses at the stables next to the museum. Inside the museum, first comes Rai Angan, where it is said king Udai Singh met a sage who asked him to build the city. Its walls are lined with rare paintings.

Next comes Bada Mahal is the exotic garden palace that stands a 90-feet-high natural rock formation. Inside, there is an enviable collection of rare paintings, antique furniture and exquisite glass mirror and ornamental tile-works. Manak Mahal has an exquisite collection of crystal and porcelain figures, while Bhim Vilas flaunts a fabulous collection of miniature paintings depicting the real life stories of Radha-Krishna. Krishna Vilas is known for miniature paintings portraying royal processions, festivals and games of the queens. Moti Mahal is celebrated for its lavish decor while Sheesh Mahal is known for its breathtaking mirror work. Chinese and Dutch ornamental tiles can be seen at Chini Chitrashala and Dilkusha Mahal is known for murals and wall paintings. The Zenana Mahal’s central courtyard, Laxmi Vilas Chowk, contains a beautiful white pavilion and a stable of howdahs, palanquins and other people-carriers.

Another must-see place here is the Durbar Hall, with some of most impressive chandeliers. The walls display weapons and portraits of former kings of Mewar. The foundation stone of this hall was laid in 1909 by Lord Minto, the viceroy of India, during the reign of Maharana Fateh Singh. The hall is inside the Crystal Gallery. Amar Vilas is the highest point of the palace with wonderful hanging gardens with fountains, towers and terraces, offering one of the most magical views of Lake Pichola. The City Palace is constructed in such a way that the lake can be viewed from any of its balconies, cupolas and towers. While, from the outside, it may appear to be almost nondescript, one has to step inside to appreciate its artistic heritage. Such is its splendour that it's not rare for visitors to lose themselves amidst the delicate mirror-work, marble work, murals, wall paintings, silver work, inlay work and colored glass!

Lake Pichola

Lake Pichola (in Udaipur) is framed by majestic mountains, grand forts and magical palaces. Watching the limpid blue sheet being set ablaze by the rising sun, is magical. It's equally mesmeric to just watch the grey-green mountains cast long shadows on the water, as the sun sets, and twinkling stars float on the ripples, mingling with lights from the surrounding restaurants and hotels. Located right at the heart of Udaipur, Pichola is one of the oldest and largest of the city's lakes. Built in 1362 by Pichhu Bajanara during the rule of Maharana Lakha, legends say that the beauty of the lake enticed Maharana Udai Singh to build a city by its banks. It was enlarged by Maharana Udai Singh II, after the city was constructed, by flooding Picholi village, which gave the lake its name. He also built a stone masonry dam in the Badipol area by the lake. Today, the lake is 4 kilometers long and 3 kilometers wide.

There are four islands on the lake: Jag Niwas, where the Lake Palace is located; Jag Mandir, with the palace of the same name; Mohan Mandir, from where the king would enjoy the annual Gangaur festival celebrations and Arsi Vilas, a tiny island which had a small palace and an ammunition storehouse. Legends say it was built by one of the kings of Udaipur to enjoy the sunset on the lake. It is also has a sanctuary where a large variety of birds like egrets, cormorants, coots, tufted ducks, terns and kingfishers can be spotted. Beautiful arched bridges were built to connect the shores of the lake at several places. While the magnificent City Palace stands along the eastern banks of this lake, on the southern side, stands the Machla Magri (Machhala Magra) or Fish Hill on which is located the ruins of the Eklinggarh Fort.

Bagore Ki Haveli (on the waterfront of Lake Pichola at Gangori Ghat) was constructed in the 18th century by Amar Chand Badwa, the then Prime Minister of Mewar kingdom, Bagore Ki Haveli was a private property until India's independence. Today, this mansion with ostentatious architecture, is a museum. Reflecting Mewar’s rich heritage, Bagore ki Haveli has an assortment of huge courtyards, balconies, jharokhas, archways, cupolas and a fountain. With around 138 rooms, the interiors of the Haveli are decorated with alluring glasswork and murals, including the chambers of the royal ladies, renowned for intricate stained glass windows.

The marvels of architecture are visible as one enters the high gates of the haveli, being welcomed into an attractive courtyard with a double-layered lotus fountain at its center. As you walk inside, a row of rooms on the right offer splendid views of Lake Pichola. The haveli has three chowks: Kuan Chowk, Neem Chowk and Tulsi Chowk, the latter reserved for women of the family. The Kanch Mahal (mirrored passage) and Durrie Khana were areas used only by the men of the family. Diwan-e-khas was the largest chamber.

Monsoon Palace

Monsoon Palace (in Udaipur) rests atop the Bansdara hills in the Aravalli range and overlooking the Fateh Sagar lake. This white palace seems just like a fairy-tale castle, one which holds within its walls memories of kings and queens. This 19th-century marble palace was constructed by Maharana Sajjan Singh of the Mewar dynasty, and was named after the king. Originally planned to be an astronomical center, it was later turned into a monsoon palace and a royal hunting lodge, at the untimely death of Sajjan Singh.

Strategically built to let the royal family enjoy sightings of the monsoon clouds, a harbinger of happiness in the desert state, it stands shrouded in melancholy today. However, it offers stunning views of Udaipur and the surrounding countryside and lakes, specially during sunset. At the foot of the hill is the 5-square-kilometer Sajjan Garh Wildlife Sanctuary, where wild animals like chital, sambar, wild boar, and blue bull can be seen. Nearby is the Jiyan Sagar lake also known as Badi lake.

Sajjangarh Biological Park (the foothills of the Monsoon Palace) was inaugurated in 2015. Sprawling over an area of 36 hectare. It houses a variety of flora and fauna that includes Himalayan black bear, leopard, tiger, sambar, striped hyena, lion, Indian porcupine and many others. The biological park is under CCTV surveillance 24x7 and has an in-house Zoo Hospital and a Nutrition center.

Lake Palace

Lake Place (in Udaipur) is the famous palace in the middle of the lake. Built on a four-acre Jag Niwas island between 1743 and 1746 under the supervision of Maharana Jagat Singh II as his summer palace, this white marble palace was originally known as Jag Niwas. Later, it was used as the summer resort by the descendants of Jagat Singh. Today, it houses a five-star hotel that opened in 1961 and can be reached by motor launch or row boat. Basic rooms go for around $200 a night. Suites coast as much ac$550. Parts of the James Bond film “Octopussy” were filmed here. Over the years guests have included Vivien Leigh, Queen Elizabeth, the Shah of Iran, the King of Nepal and Jacqueline Kennedy.

Located at the heart of Lake Pichola, ethereal Lake Palace seems like a mirage, a dream in white floating in the brilliant blue of the lake. And every sunrise and sunset, the palace seems to melt into the molten gold of the shimmering waters. The palace faces the east, in a tribute to the rising sun. With white cupolas seemingly stacked against each other, the palace is beautifully adorned with brilliant murals in a myriad of shades, series of courtyards that are aligned with numerous columns, terraces, beautiful fountains and well-laid gardens. In the evening, when it's lit-up it's a sight of a lifetime!

In the middle of the palace is lotus-flower-littered marble courtyard and hanging gardens. Peacock wander around the tables while a sitar player produces a droning melody. The restaurant serves authentic Rajasthani cuisine including fiery curries. You can sit on the roof of the hotel and enjoy a 360 degrees view or enjoy a an hour-long coconut oil massage in he Royal Spa. Cruises around the lake include a stop at the Jagmandir, a small island famous for its carved elephants.

The Lake Palace Hotel for a while was surrounded on three sides by land. Where royal barges float serenely on placid expanses of water, herds of cattle grazed on shrubs that popped up in the cracked earth. It was even possible to drive up to the hotel on a dirt road. The lake was the victim of droughts during the late 1990s and exploitation of water resources by the growing population around the lake in the early 2000s. Tourist booking declined and people worried that the tourism industry which Udaipur depends on might dry up with the lake. Since then the water has come back

In the Raj area the maharana had complete control over the lake and water in the area. Water was funneled to the lake using a complex system of dams and reservoirs that aimed to capture and preserve precious rainwater. After independence in 1947 the maharana lost his power and control over the people in the area. New homes and buildings were built, many of them around the lake. Where did they get their water? From the reservoirs and canals that filled the lake and from the lake itself. In the Raj era few people lived around the lake, now more than 100,000 do and water is in short supply. Sometimes water has to be rationed and at one point the lake was 10 percent of the size it once was.

Museums in Udaipur

Bhartiya Lok Kala Museum is a must-visit spot for experiencing the ethnic folk culture of Rajasthan. It houses a rare collection of rural dresses, folk deities, paintings, masks and dolls. This museum was started by Bhartiya Lok Kala Mandal to encourage the local art and craft of Mewar. The museum hosts a puppet show for the visitors at regular intervals along with numerous designs of henna handprints, decorated cow dung floors etc.

Crystal Gallery contains the largest private collection of crystals in the world. Established by Maharaja Sajjan Singh (1893-1947). The gallery was opened for public in 1994 and exhibits precious crystal brought from various parts of the world. It also showcases fountains, dresses, dining table, sofa set, a crystal bed and many other precious items. The main attraction is the world's only crystal bed. Audio guides are also available at the gallery which gives a great insight into the amazing collection of crystals. The gallery also houses the rare crystal that Maharana Sajjan Singh had ordered from F&C Osler and Co. in England in 1877.

Vintage Car Museum houses some of the most elegant and luxurious cars that were used by royalty. This collection has been displayed in the Mewar State Motor Garage and includes 22 cars. Some of the most attractive cars in the museum are the seven seater 1938 Cadillac, the 1934 Rolls Royce Phantom and Cadillac Convertible. The cars displayed are still in perfect working condition and many of them have been customised according to the needs of the Mewar family.

Near Udaipur

Ahar (on the outskirts of Udaipur) is the cremation ground of the rulers of Mewar and a renowned archaeological site. Looking like a city of tombs, Ahar has 372 cenotaphs of kings and queens of Mewar and was built over 400 years. Nineteen maharanas were cremated here, and the most striking cenotaph is that of Maharana Sangram Singh (1710 to 34). These cenotaphs are made of marble with fine carvings etched into them. The cenotaph of Sangram Singh has 56 pillars with an octagonal dome at the center supported by eight smaller pillars. Nearby is a small museum with a rare collection of antiques. The archeological museum houses antiques that date back to the 10th century. Some of them include earthen pots, iron objects, etc. There is also a metal figure of Lord Buddha that dates back to the 10th century along with grain pots, skin scrubbers, balls and seals belonging to 1st century B.C.

Eklingji (22 kilometers from Udaipur) is wall-enclosed complex of 108 temples chiseled out of sandstone and marble and dedicated to the family deities of the Mewar rulers. One of the most famous pilgrimage sites in Rajasthan. Ekling is believed to be the ruling deity of the princely state of Mewar. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple was built in A.D. 734 and has been repaired and modified numerous times. A four-faced idol of Lord Shiva made out of black marble rests in the temple. The idol is 50 foot tall and is flanked by idols of Goddess Parvati and her two sons, Lord Ganesha and Lord Kartikeya. The main temple has huge silver doors depicting the two sons guarding their father. One must visit the temple during the festival of Shivratri as a great celebration ensues during this time.

Haldighati (40 kilometers, or an hour away, from Udaipur) is picturesque mountain pass, where several battles were fought here, the most legendary being the battle of 1576, between Rana Pratap Singh of Mewar and Mughal emperor Akbar's army. It is said so many soldiers died in this battle that the yellow colored soil (from which the place derives its name) turned red. It is also the place where the gallant Chetak, the beloved horse of Maharana Pratap, lost his life while trying to save the king. There is a cenotaph built in pure white marble, dedicated to Chetak. Nearby is Badshahi Bagh, famous for gulkand, a sweet jam-like preparation made from rose petals.

Mount Abu (200 kilometers from Udaipur) is 3,800-high mountain (one of the highest in Rajasthan) with the state's only hill station. Named after a serpent that rescued Shiva's mount from some demons, this mountain has lakes, forested hills and 11th and 13th century marble Jain temples. Adhar Devi Temple, carved out of huge rock, is reached after a climb of 200 steps. Nearby are Nakki Lake, a 3,700-foot-high lake studded with little islands, and 6,700-foot-high Guru Shikhar, the highest peak in Rajasthan.

Ranakpur (between Jodhpur and Udaipur, 162 kilometers from Jodhpur and 91 kilometers from Udaipur, i40 kilometers from Paina Junction on the Ajmer and Mount Abu railway) is one of the biggest and most important Jain temples in India. Dedicated to the god Adinathji and built in the 15th century, the marble temple contains 1,444 pillars, each one with different carvings.

Chittaurgarh

Chittaurgarh (100 kilometers from Udaipur) features an incredible fort with intricately carved towers and stupas. This fort is said to be the ;argest in Asia. It withstood many sieges and is a source of tales about battles fought over a beautiful princess poetess named Padmini. Many people climb the nine-story-high tower for a wonderful view. Chittaurgarh is part of the Rajasthan Hill Forts UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to UNESCO: “As a former capital of the Sisodia clan and the target of three famous historical sieges, Chittorgarh is strongly associated with Rajput history and folk lore. Furthermore the sheer number and variety of architectural remains of early date (ranging from the 8th to the 16th centuries) mark it as an exceptional fort in its scale and monumentality comparable to very few other Indian forts.”

Perched on a dramatic uprise of hills, Chittorgarh sprawls for as far as the eye can see. Nestled in the Aravalli range and flanked by the pristine Berach river, it echoes with the tales of Rajput gallantry and the melodious tunes of saint-queen Meera Bai's devotional songs. The historical grandeur of the city is reflected in its majestic monuments, a legacy of the Sisodia Rajputs of Mewar, who made the region their capital.

Fortified under the patronage of the Rajputs, who would rather die in battle than surrender, Chittorgarh was attacked three times (1303, 1535, and 1567-68) with the enemy becoming stronger and more skilful every time. While the victory was not achieved every time, the sacrifices of these brave souls left a deep imprint on the history of the region. The men fought until the last drop of their blood while the women performed jahaur (self-immolation by jumping into a holy fire). The first attack in 1303 was by Alauddin Khilji while the second attack in 1535 was by Bahadur Shah of Gujarat and finally by Akbar who seized the fort in 1568. After the last of the attacks, Rana Udaisingh escaped to Udaipur to establish a new capital for Mewar. However, under Mughal emperor Jahangir (Jehangir), Chittor was returned to the Rajputs in 1616.

Chittorgarh Fort is one of the most glorious symbols of the indomitable Rajput spirit. Set atop a 180-meter-high hill and spread over an area of 240 hectare, it presents a formidable sight. According to legend the fort was constructed by Bhima, one of the Pandavas from the epic Mahabharata. It is an imposing structure that rings with the stories and tragedies of the past and the tales of extraordinary men and women. A one-kilometer road winding through foothills leads to the fort and takes visitors through seven gates before reaching Rampol (gate of Ram), one of the entry gates still in use. While going from the second to the third gate, one can see two cenotaphs (chattris) that have been built in honour of Jaimal and Kalla, who laid down their lives during the siege by Mughal emperor Akbar in 1568. The main gate of the fort is Surajpol (sun gate).

The fort has some of the most magnificent monuments, which include the Vijaya Stambha, the Kriti Stambha, Rana Kumbha's palace, Rani Padmini's palace, a temple dedicated to Meera Bai and many others. It also houses a number of Jain temples. From the top of the fort, catch a spectacular sight of the Chittorgarh city sprawled at the base of the fort.

Getting There: By Air: The nearest airport is located in Udaipur City which is about 105 kilometers away. By Road: The place is well-connected to all the major cities of Rajasthan by bus. By Train: It has a well-connected rail network to cities like Udaipur, Ajmer, Delhi and Jaipur.

Kumbhalgarh

Kumbhalgarh (102 kilometers north of Udaipur) is also part of the Rajasthan Hill Forts UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to UNESCO: Kumbhalgarh was constructed in a single process and (apart from the palace of Fateh Singh, added later) retains its architectural coherence. Its design is attributed to an architect known by name –Mandan – who was also an author and theorist at the court of Rana Kumbha in Chittorgarh. This combination of factors is highly exceptional.”

A gem of Rajput legacy in the royal state of Rajasthan, Kumbhalgarh is a fortress town that has the second-longest wall in the world, after the Great Wall of China. Kumbhalgarh Fort lies within the Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary that was the hunting grounds of the rulers of Mewar. Also the birthplace of the legendary Rajput ruler, Maharana Pratap, Kumbhalgarh was one of the most prominent fortresses of Mewar. It was established by Rana Kumbha and his successors, who belonged to the Hindu Sisodia clan of Rajputs.

Kumbhalgarh is situated on the western ranges of the ragged and high Aravallis, making it virtually inaccessible in the 15th century. There are as many as 84 forts in the area out of which 32 are said to been built by Rana Kumbha. In ancient times, Kumbhalgarh separated Mewar from Marwar and was used as a refuge by the rulers of Mewar during enemy attacks.

Great Wall of India is the name given to a 38-kilometers (24 mile) red-brick wall with pointy battlements that snakes over the Aravalli range in Rajasthan. It was built in the 1400s by ruler Rana Kumbha to hold back Muslim invaders.

Getting There: By Air: The nearest airport is in Udaipur, about 115 kilometers away. By Road: The place is well connected to the major cities of Rajasthan like Jaipur , Jodhpur, Ajmer. By Train: The nearest railway station is at Falna, about 90 kilometers away.

Kumbhalgarh Fort

Kumbhalgarh Fort (100 kilometers from Udaipur) is remote 15th century fortification sitting on a high mountain ridge with seven majestic gates and many temples and palaces. The walls in some places are 20 feet thick and some say more than 30 kilometers long. Soaring above the surrounding rugged mountainscape, at 3,600 ft, the fort can been many kilometers away. With the second-longest wall in the world, about 38 kilometers long, the Kumbhalgarh Fort is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Also, known as the Mewar Fortress, it was the birthplace of the great Rajput king, Maharana Pratap. Everything about the fort has been built to fend off the enemy. From its high position in the Aravalli Hills and its strong ramparts to the four main gates of Aaret, Hanuman, Hulla and Ram Pol, and the Badal Mahal, which was a great hindering force for the enemy, the fort was almost inaccessible. Moreover, the surrounding 13 mountain peaks and numerous watchtowers made it more of a challenge for the enemy. Historical records suggest that it was only once that the fort was besieged.

Exploring the fort is an unforgettable experience. From its high vantage points, which provide sweeping views of the Thar Desert, to its beautiful interiors and various sections like the Badal Mahal and the Kumbh Mahal, there's much to see. There are as many as 360 Hindu and Jain temples inside the fort and devotees can pay obeisance at them. Tourists can also catch the light and sound show organised at the fort under the glittering stars. The fort was built by Rana Kumbha in the 15th century. It was renovated by Maharana Fateh Singh in the 19th century. The Tourism Department of the state government organises a three-day festival to pay a tribute to Rana Kumbha for this splendid architecture.

Places With Kumbhalgarh Fort

Badal Mahal is situated at the highest point of Kumbhalgarh Fort. Built by Rana Fateh Singh, the ruler of Mewar, in the 19th century, the two-storeyed palace is divided into two distinct parts, namely the Zanana Mahal (for the royal ladies) and the Mardana Mahal (for the royal males). The palace has some lovely wall paintings of the 19th century style and the Zanana Mahal is adorned with lattice work or stone jalis from where the queens used to watch the proceedings of the court and other important events. The interiors are painted in pastel colors and one can get a view of the hillsides and deserts of Marwar from the palace. To reach the palace, one would have to climb up to the terrace through a narrow staircase.

Neelkanth Mahadev Temple is famous for its 6-ft-high monolith lingam (phallic symbol honoring Shiva), which is made out of a single black kasoti stone. Residing in the complex of the Kumbhalgarh Fort, the temple was built in 1458 and was renovated by Rana Sanga (a Rajput king in the 16th century), who was a great worshipper of Lord Shiva. According to legend Rana Sanga was so tall that when he sat to offer prayers, his eyes were on the same level as the lingam (phallic symbol honoring Shiva). An interesting feature about the temple is the fact that it has entrances from all the four directions and houses a sanctum and an open-pillared mandapa. A pillar on the left of the temple bears inscriptions that tell about the renovations done by Rana Sanga.

Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary stretches over an area of 578 square kilometers across the Aravalli range. The sanctuary is home to a number of endangered species and is the only one in Rajasthan to trace wolves engaged in their activities. More than 40 wolves are believed to call the sanctuary their home. Other animals that one can sight here include leopards, sloth bear, hyena, jackal, sambhar, nilgai, chausingha (the four-horned antelope), chinkara and hare. It also contains a variety of flora with a number of trees and medicinal plants. One can enjoy a safari in the sanctuary to get a glimpse of wildlife in the natural habitat. The sanctuary also includes the Kumbhalgarh Fort, which is a delight to visit. The best times to see animals such as sloth bears, leopards and antelopes is from March to June.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: India tourism website ( incredibleindia.org), India’s Ministry of Tourism and other government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

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