An evening to remember
lower ground, waiting for the monsoon predictions.
The palace is no longer used for any royal functions, but instead houses a wilderness-themed exhibition from a local forestry unit.
The most fascinating of the plethora of temples in Udaipur is the Indo-Aryan Jagdish Temple. Built by Maharana Jagat Singh and completed in 1651, the tall cone-shaped building is fantastically carved with images of elephants, horses, tigers, priests and elaborate artistic patterns.
The gleaming sand-coloured structure raises defiantly into the blue Rajasthani sky, a testament to the strength and resilience of the local people and their craftsmanship.
The temple is dedicated to Lakshmi, Hindu deity of wealth, prosperity and fortune, and worshippers come regularly to offer their prayers and take a blessing from the resident Hindu priest. A steady stream of barefoot worshippers and tourists circle around the temple, awestruck by the intricate details that decorate its exterior. On my last night in Udaipur I opt to try the sunset cruise organised by the Taj Lake Palace. Boarding the sleek speedboat, I stare wide-eyed at the vivid colours painting the sky. The most radiant shades of pink and orange look like a work of art painted on an artist’s canvas. The white marble of the City Palace and the Lake Palace glow mesmerisingly against such a colourful background.
The boat tour takes us near the banks, where we observe people bathing, swimming and socialising in and around the water. Private havelis (mansions) converted into hotels line the banks, their rooftop restaurants packed with diners soaking up the evening sun in this exotic and wonderful land.
Our boat approaches Jag Mandir, a marble structure protruding from the lake’s surface. A row of life-size marble elephants line the perimeter of the island, which our guide explains is a freestanding island similar to the Taj Lake Palace’s foundation. Built between the mid-16th and 17th centuries, the palace has been used for a variety of purposes throughout its history; notably to provide refuge to Prince Khurram, who had rebelled against his father, Emperor Jahangir, in 1623.
Today the palace grounds comprise a large courtyard, fountain and garden areas, a few hotel rooms and a restaurant. Bathed in a warm yellow glow from strategically placed spotlights, the palace shimmers in the water like a star in the night sky.
Cruising back to the Taj Lake Palace as darkness falls, I review my stay in this magical lake city. The captain points out a red light on one of the City Palace’s towers. The light signals to Udaipur residents that the maharana is in the city. Of all the magnificent places in India, I muse, what a splendid one to call home.
A luxury room with the Taj Lake Palace winter offer is Rs87,500 (Dh5,140) for two nights including breakfast. See www.tajhotels. com.
Air India flies from Dubai to Udaipur via Delhi from around Dh1,400.