When the mind is silent like a lake the lotus blossomsAmit Ray
Udaipur’s setting in the Aravalli Mountains, and around a string of man-made lakes, gives it a unique character among Rajasthan’s cities. Arriving here it is immediately obvious why it is so often called the ‘city of lakes’.
You are never far from the water here, so views are often more scenic. Local life focuses to some extent on the lakes, creating a more relaxed vibe than elsewhere. And the city’s efforts to become the cleanest city in India have borne fruit, at least in the centre.
All the lakes are interconnected, and you will see different numbers cited. It seems to depend on whether you count the smallest stretches of water as an actual lake or not. Wikipedia suggests that in total there are three main lakes in the upper catchment area above the city, six lakes within its municipal boundary and one lake downstream. Our guide on the other hand said there were just five in the centre. In practice you will probably be most aware of just three. There is Pichola with its famous Lake Palace in the southern part of the city. Fateh Sagar in the more modern northern part. And smaller Swaroop Sagar which links the two.
The lakes are not natural; they are all manmade. Pichola is the oldest, constructed in 1362 and extended in 1560. Fateh Sagar was added in 1678 and Swaroop Sagar in the mid-19th century. In the past there have been considerable problems with water pollution, caused by poor treatment of sewage. But there have been commendable efforts in recent years to clean up the lakes.
The amazing City Palace deserves a post of its own one day. Today I want to focus on the lakes themselves in response to Marsha’s Writers’ Quote theme of ‘Enjoying lakes’.
This was the first of the lakes we were able to enjoy, as we stayed in a hotel facing west from a ridge above it. We were in the perfect position to catch the final rays of the sun as it went down behind the hills on the opposite shore. The hotel made the most of these views, with musical entertainment as the sun sinks and drinks served on the small terrace overlooking the lawns.
Pichola is dominated by views of the Lake Palace, now a first-class hotel, which seems almost to float in its waters. The best views can be had from another palace, the City Palace, built on a ridge on the east shore.
I found an interesting legend told in this extract from the introductory narration of a 1939 film called Picturesque Udaipur:
From one of the sumptuous palaces of His Highness, the Maharana of Udaipur, we gaze upon a picturesque lake, about which an interesting story is told. According to a popular legend, one of the reigning Maharanas of Udaipur was in love with a beautiful dancing girl, who was also proficient in the art of tightrope walking. By way of diversion, he promised the young lady half of his kingdom, if she succeeded in walking over this lake on a rope that was suspended above the water. Naturally, she accepted the offer. And when it was apparent that she was about to succeed, one of the Maharana’s ministers, who was not in sympathy with the idea, cut the rope, and consequently the girl fell into the water and was drowned. A stony grave in the bottom of the lake now commemorates her memory. And it is said that at night, when the moon is full, her ghost is seen upon a rope, running back and forth across the lake.
This small lake links Pichola to the south and Fateh Sagar to the north. It is the most central of the lakes and the one where we saw locals making good use of the water that dominates their city. We had lunch in a hotel on its shores with beautiful views.
Later we stopped on a bridge which also had super views in both directions. We could see locals washing their clothes, and themselves, at the water’s edge. And we had a good distant view of the Monsoon Palace. We met some local school boys too, keen (like many of their peers in this friendly country) to pose for photos!
I visited Udaipur in 2015