Hitting the Wall After Two Weeks
16.03.2011 - 17.03.2011 82 °F
India has beaten us down. Maybe it is the heat. Maybe it is the incessant peddlers who don't understand the word "no." Or maybe it is the two straight weeks of stomach cramps from too much ghee. I don't know what it is, but ennui has set in. We have travelled half-way around the world, and all that we want to do now is absolutely nothing. People warned us, but I never believed it would happen. We are all fort-ed out.
Do you want to see another fortress? Eh. Do you want to visit another palace? Whatever. Do you want to check out another temple? Does it have a swimming pool?
Today, our driver was taking us from Jodhpur to Udaipur, with a side trip to a small town called Ranakpur. We would then see yet another temple carved out of white marble. We were tempted to request that he drive us straight through to Udaipur so that we would not have to spend an hour in the heat staring at another repetitive site. Instead we politely held our tongue. Later we were glad that we did.
This was our last drive through the Rajasthani countryside.
Pack of camels
The driver of the second car is flatulent.
(Left) In the countryside, many women still practice purdah--concealing their face from men. (Middle) Turbans and mustaches are two distinctive features of Rajput men. (Right) Rajasthani women are often adorned with large bangles, earrings, anklets, and nose rings.
After the 2-3 hour car ride from Jodhpur, we arrived at the main Jain temple called the Chaumukha Mandir (Four-Faced Temple). It was built in the 15th century and is dedicated to Adinath, the first of 24 enlightened beings in the Jain religion.
(Above and below) The temples at Ranakpur are one of the five holiest sites for Jain pilgrims.
Some Jain devotee's take extreme precautions to protect living organisms. The mask prevents the swallowing of flying insects. The broom is used to sweep the ground in front so that bugs are not accidentally stepped on.
After more than three decades without a menstrual cycle, I was relieved that today was not the time to start.
There were plenty of tourists in shorts and sleeveless shirts who did not realize that visitors are required to be fully covered. They had to rent leggings or shawls to get inside. There is no entry for the temple, but 50 Rs are needed for the camera. Inside, you definitely want to take pictures.
Guardians protect the entryway to the temple.
There are over 1400 unique pillars with some of the most skillful carvings we have seen.
Several domed ceilings are ornately decorated with the same craftsmanship.
Beautiful statues and detailed carvings can be found in every wing inside the the temple.
The head priest worked the room, offering blessings to the tourists. Afterwards, he asked for a small donation (ten rupees). Overall, the Chaumukha Mandir is one of the most beautiful religious sites we have seen in India, with only the temple at Khajuraho rivaling it in intricacy. Seeing this work of religious art reinvigorated us for more sightseeing.
The journey from Ranakpur to Udaipur started off treacherously. The one lane road winds around steep hills. You never know what is coming around that corner, be it car, truck, or monkey.
Our driver was smart enough to take the route slowly and safely.
Eventually, the terrain transformed into flat and green farmlands. Although, Rajasthan is one of the wealtheir areas of India, the countryside was still dotted with animal-driven water wheels in lieu of electricity.
These water wheels demonstrate the extent that India still needs to go to modernize.
Once we arrived in Udaipur, we checked into the Jagat Niwas Hotel on the banks of Lake Pichola. Although the building was constructed in the 17th century, it is a fully modern facility with a great location.
Views around the courtyard of the Jagat Niwas Hotel.
We stayed in room 101, a suite that overlooks the lake.
(Left) Enormous window seat with a great view of the lake. (Right) Bedroom.
(Left) Bathroom. (Right) Small room off of the bedroom with a desk and armoire.
View of Lake Pichola and the city from our window.
Not the cleanest water to bathe in.
Since there are many shops right outside the hotel, we went to see what deals were to be had.
I'm pretty sure I would have looked hot in this number, but they did not have my size.
Unlike some of the smaller, more rural towns in Rajasthan, Udaipur is a very popular destination for tourists. Known as the Venice of the East, the city has picturesque lakes surrounded by idyllic, lush hills. Most people love this area of Rajasthan. Therefore, shopkeepers don't have to try as hard. In the other cities, salesmen would not hesitate to turn over every item in the store and unfurl every shawl, quilt, or rug just to sell one item. In Udaipur, we just felt that several shop owners were even annoyed that we were looking to buy something. It was laughable to see some of the prices marked up 2-3 times more than in smaller towns like Jaisalmer. Needless to say, we did not shop for long.
Instead we just went up to the covered balcony at the Jagat Niwas, relaxed, read, and drank up their stock of Limca sodas.
(Left) These lime sodas are more tangy and less sweet than U.S. equivalents. (Middle) View of the Lake Palace from the balcony of the Jagat Niswas. (Right) Parrot atop of a domed roof.
There are many cruises on Lake Pichola that will cost ~250-400 Rs/person. We had a perfect view of the sunset from our hotel for free.
Sun setting over the nearby Lake Palace.
For dinner, we climbed up to the roof to further enjoy the view of the illuminated Lake Palace. We didn't realize the portions are larger here than in Jaisalmer, so we over ordered. The food was good, but that has been the story for most of our meals.
(Left) Mutton stewed in "white" gravy. (Right) Fish tikka achari - tandoori fish.
(Left) Alu angare - tandoori potatoes stuffed with cheese and fruits. (Right) Vegetable biryani.
(Left) Cheese naan. (Right) Citrus mocktail.
Lights illuminate the Lake Palace at night.
The next morning, we visited the nearby City Palace. We chose the audio tours over the less expensive Indian guides. Personally I enjoy going at my own slower pace and have a difficult time understanding some of the guides' accents. The palace is well decorated with many informative displays regarding the history of the Mewar Kingdom. They have beautiful art pieces including five vibrantly colored peacock statues. The take home point we got from the tour is that the s**t from Udaipur's royal family does not stink as badly as that of other rajput royalty. They proudly flaunt their history of resisting rather than cooperating with the Mughals and then the Maratha Confederacy. In 1911, then Maharana Fateh Singh also refused to attend the Delhi Darbur of King George V in 1911 because Mewar was not given the most esteemed position above all the other Indian kingdoms under British rule.
Cannons guard the gates to the City Palace complex.
(Left) Balconies protrude from the facade of the palace walls. (Middle) Paintings decorate the entrance to the complex. (Right) The Ganesh Deorhi Gate is the entrance to the museum.
(Left) Painted ceiling inside the decorative archway. (Right) This angel seems out of place in a palace with Hindu and Islamic architecture.
A marble fountain and pigeon cages decorate the Bari Mahal which also contains a relaxing courtyard with palm trees.
Various screens and windows found inside the City Palace.
Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace) is adorned with mirrors.
The ceiling and walls of the Krishnas Vilas are decorated with miniature paintings. This room is a shrine to a 16 year-old Mewar princess who died in 1807. She was inadvertantly betrothed to two different Rajput rulers. Instead of choosing one kingdom and thus angering the other, she elected for suicide. It took 2-3 rounds of poison before she finally died.
Colorfully-painted walls can be found throughout the palace.
Ornate wall panel
(Left) The Kanch Burj is lined with red and silver glass. (Middle) Room containing a swing suspended from the ceiling. (Right) An ivory door remains preserved behind glass.
The royal "throne" for one of the rulers who had been stricken with polio is on display. Notice that there is no place for toilet paper.
The Maharana's of Udaipur are followers of Surya Dev (Sun God).
(Above and below) The 17th century Mor Chowk (Peacock courtyard) contains colorful mosiacs of peacocks.
The outdoor courtyard of the Zeenana Mahal can be rented out for weddings and parties.
After the City Palace, our driver took us to the Saheliyon-Ki-Bari (Garden of the Maids of Honor). A sign outside proclaimed it as being the "most beautiful garden in India." If this were true, then this place would reflect poorly on all the other gardens in the country. I can imagine this site once being gorgeous. There are multiple fountains surrounded by lily ponds and elephant statues spewing water and a central courtyard with a large picturesque fountain. Unfortunately, the place needs a serious scrubbing down. There is mold and algae discoloring the tiles and pools.
They really need to increase the pitiful 5 Rs/person entrance fee to pay for better maintenance. The money would also help with the water bill as the entry waterspout remains turned off. They are only activated by a man whose sole job is to wait around until a guest walks by. Then he just turns the crank to let the water flowing.
Man waiting to activate the fountains. Possibly one of the lamest jobs around.
Even worse is the "science museum." It is a room filled with dusty, poorly informative displays with random themes. There are a couple of jars with preserved animals in formaldehyde. There are also a couple of posters sparsely detailing the exciting topic of fossil fuels. And they even have those mirrors that distort your reflection, likely obtained from some defunct amusement park. The only saving grace is that the place is free. How they pay for the two guys "working" there, I do not know.
The museum resembles an elementary school science fair with no winning exhibits.
After we finished up with these gardens, that ennui had returned. Now, where can we find a swimming pool?