Udaipur, Rajasthan’s city of lakes
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
When the sun sets over a lake/sea, it’s always a spectacular sight – and so it is with your photos of Fateh Sagar. And man made lakes? That’s quite amazing, isn’t it?
You’re right, there’s always something extra special about watching the sun set over water 🙂
Beautiful pictures! I love those small gazebos overlooking the water 🙂
Very traditional features in Rajasthani architecture – it’s so beautiful!
This post made me smile Sarah. And also grimace, because I have so few surviving photos of my days in Udaipur. And what shots I do have are pretty rubbish. Such wonderful Lake Pichola captures, I have great memories of visiting Jag Mandir Island and strolling through its gardens. All the James Bond themed restaurants and cafes were a hoot too. I loved this city, but like you Jaisalmer stole my heart in Rajasthan.
Well I’m pleased to have made you smile but less happy about the grimace! Glad you love Jaisalmer too 😀
Lovely. I wish I’d been able to include places like this in my one and only trip to India. But I stayed south, and even that limitation left so many treasures unexplored.
While I loved our trips in the south (Kerala, Goa and a bit of Karnataka), Rajasthan was by far my favourite Indian state so far! I’d like to go even further north one day 🙂
You photographs make me yearn for places I’ve never seen. Beautiful glorious work.
Thank you so much Marilyn 😊 That’s sort of what I try to achieve – share places I have visited and loved in order that other people who haven’t visited can see and love them too. Some may be inspired to visit too, which is great. Others won’t feel able to do so but can at least enjoy a virtual visit via me!
So glad you went back in your treasure trove of photos to find these ones from your 2015 trip as they are just magical! Never would have thought man-made lakes could look so idyllic.
I guess if done well a man-made lake can look as good as a natural one, especially if it’s been around for centuries as these have?
Beautiful photos of the lakes in Udaipur. I was our favourite city in Rajasthan. Maggie
That’s interesting as it wasn’t my favourite. I’m not sure why because it has some beautiful views and the City Palace is stunning. Maybe we didn’t stay long enough to do it justice. I preferred Jaisalmer, that was my favourite!
Jaisalmar was our second favourite. It was a close call and maybe our amazing havelli hotel had something to do with it. 😊
Our amazing guide in Jaisalmer probably had something to do with how much I loved that city! He lived in the fort and took us down all sorts of tiny lanes we wouldn’t have discovered on our own, into the temple where he worships, into his uncle’s place on the wall with an amazing view … He told us about his grandmother who committed sati, how he went against the traditions of his Brahmin family to become a tour guide rather than a priest – all fascinating!
Your photos are amazing Sarah. I love the legend but it is so sad. What a rash promise! I wonder how the rope cutter was punished, if he was punished. I can imagine how he wouldn’t like half the kingdom lost, but it makes a good story. The pictures of people washing their clothes in the lake evokes lots of thoughts and emotions. It’s one thing for water from our wash to dump into the lake where it is not noticeable. This is different. The other thing that moved me is how that woman could squat. I’m working on squats right now to strengthen my atrophied leg muscles. I can’t even get down that far, let alone stay in that position long enough to wash clothes. And that doesn’t even mention the man sitting by her side lazily dipping his feet in the lake. There’s so much to say about all of these photos – the wonderfully different shaped boat. A fabulous post, Sarah.
Thank you Marsha, I’m glad you found the legend engaging. It was new to me when I came across it and I just had to share! I do know what you mean about the squatting, there’s no way I could do that! But if you do it regularly all your life you retain the necessary flexibility I reckon.
Mike and Kellye Hefner
Kudos to Udaipur for trying to make their city the cleanest in India. One would think tourism there would skyrocket because the (clean) city and its surrounding areas are so picturesque. As always, you’ve captured it beautifully. Thank you for sharing.
Oh it’s very popular with tourists, for sure. Actually it wasn’t my favourite of the Rajasthani cities we visited, despite the beauty of the lakes and the stunning City Palace – but absolutely worth seeing of course!
Mike and Kellye Hefner
What was your favorite city?
Jaisalmer was my favourite of the major cities – a dramatic fort so large that people live on the streets that wind around inside it, beautiful honey-coloured stone and ornate stone-work on the houses, interesting Jain temples, lots of street photo opps, and a frontier town vibe. I also liked the small places we stayed, especially Narlai 🙂
Mike and Kellye Hefner
I haven’t heard of either place, but I will be Googling them asap!
That palace hotel is a stunning creation, it really does, as you say, look like it’s floating on the water. Michaela can never work out how their clothes could possibly ever be clean when they’re washed in dirty polluted waters, especially the sacred Ganges. But then, nothing is straightforward in India, is it!?
So true, ‘nothing is straightforward in India’ 🙂 But that’s its charm for a traveller, isn’t it? As for the clothes, I suspect that what they are is ‘clean enough’ 😉