Udaipur is famous for many reasons. To those in the west it is mostly known for its gleaming white Jag Niwas hotel found in the middle of one of its many lakes. To the Indians themselves is it known as a home of the great Maharana family. To the travellers, who could never afford a night in such a famous hotel and are relegated to simply looking at it, Udaipur is mainly known for a very special ceremony involving unmarried women and coloured hats.
Udaipur was the first stop for us into Rajasthan. We had heard so much about this part of India and were looking forwards to our visit with relish. The historic capital of the former kingdom of Mewar in Rajputana Agency, Udaipur’s fierce independence had successfully led it into the modern world almost untouched. This is in part due to its mountainous region being unsuitable for heavily armoured Mughal horses; Udaipur remained unmolested from Mughal influence in spite of much pressure.
We had already experienced a “preview” of what we could expect while in the colourful southern city of Mysore, with its grand palace covered in bulbs, culture revolving around the charismatic power base of the Raja’s and incredible local markets.
We arrived, as ever, by train. It remained the quintessential method of transport across India, but its routes into Rajasthan were not all going to where we wanted and so we were soon going to abandon the train for buses and other methods of transport. But, for now, we caught a tuk tuk to the “travellers” centre. The city is built up around lakes and almost everywhere we went overlooked them somewhat.