[pullquote sid=”pullquote-1310222606″ align=”right”]This palace exuded power and influence from every window and in every piece of “branding”.[/pullquote] There is a lot of is sort of thing in all monarchies, but it is only when seeing it not directed at oneself that you can see it for what it really is: a method of keeping a family line in power. As the Patrician of Ankh Morpork says, “people mostly want tomorrow to be just like today”.
That is not to say I didn’t find it alluring and beautiful, quite to the contrary; I thought it magnificent and a stunning artistic marvel. I wondered how anything I would go on to see in Rajasthan could compete. Little did I know that this palace was the standard of this area of India, and each city-state had an equally or better edifice to the past.
One thing I do remember well was the very high quality audio tour that spoke at length about the legends and history of the building, something that would be difficult to discern without local assistance.
After a few hours we returned to our hotel and met the owner. She and Cesca got on very well and we were presently surprised when she offered Cesca a job renovating the hotel. We seriously considered it and I wonder now what would have become of us had we relented to the temptation.
That night we ate out in a roof top restaurant and spoke with the waiter who, as it turned out, used to work in the mysterious Oberoi.
“How much is a room for a night?” I asked.
“$2000 a night,” he said, “but it doesn’t really have rooms”.
“What do you mean?”
“The hotel is like nothing else. You get your own wing, your own cook, your own staff and your own pool. You basically get your own hotel”.
“Wow!” Cesca exclaimed.
The waiter smiled and filled our glasses.
We had a few days until the festival we had come to see, and I would like to say we spent it exploring the countryside and many temples, but the room was so nice and the heat so high that we mostly spent it exploring each other. Not to say I didn’t learn new things!
In the mornings Cesca would go and do some yoga at the local school, and then we would explore the cafe’s (of which there were many, usually filled with too-loud Americans yelling into their phones and sipping lattes). After that it would be some shopping and then back to the room.
It was great to relax and Udaipur was just the place.
Eventually the night arrived and we had the opportunity to see one of the strangest festivals in all of India. Down by the steps to the Gangaur Ghat a large crowd of very brightly dressed Indians all milled around as though waiting for something.
They were mostly middle-aged women and children. They didn’t have long to wait. Amidst much fanfare the first younger girl came into view. She was dressed in very fine and colourful garments and on her head was a large pointed puppet. There were two types, one male and one female.
They were made to look like they were dressed up for something as well. The girls’ numbers swelled to a dozen full casts for Punch and Judy. They all seemed happy, but ever so slightly embarrassed.
I learned that they were all unmarried women and that this ceremonial procession was to ask the Gods for aid in finding them a partner. Cesca and I decided that it was all very sweet really.
We spent a couple of hours paying with the hordes of local kids who had come for the colourful spectacle being played out by their sisters and aunts, but found the two Westerners an unexpected bonus.
We had quite a flock demanding money, photos and school-pens following us until the festival ended and we went for a drink.
As we sat on yet another rooftop bar, ruminating on the night’s brightly lit strangeness and the phenomenon of unmarried sisters; I noticed something on the hills in the distance:
They were on fire.
A large fire was burning over the brow of the hill. Judging by the distance to the glow it was a dangerous size and I briefly wondered about it coming down to threaten the city itself. Over the next hour i watched it out of the corner of my eye as it swept along the hill-side.
Eventually we turned in. The next day we booked a hire car to take us to Jodhpur and we left Udaipur behind. It had been a very relaxing and pleasant city area to visit with some incredible architecture and that amazing palace. I still remember it very fondly.
Our hire car drove us through the countryside towards the great city of Jodhpur and we watched the beauty pass us by in happy, if warm, contemplation.
About half way through our journey we stopped at the enormous Jain temple of Ranakpur, near Sadri town, in the Pali district of Rajasthan.
It is acclaimed world-wide for its intricate and architectural style and one of the five major pilgrimage sites for the Jain faith.