Disappearing behind the Aravalli hills, the sun leaves nothing but a captivating orange skyline. No longer does Lake Pichola reflect the glaring light, it is now left in a peaceful darkness, the water transforms to a sheet of black. The peaks of the hills border the lake, guarding the charm, architecture and history that exist there. Udaipur, in the Indian state of Rajasthan is dubbed the Venice of the east or city of lakes.
The City Palace constructed in the 16th Century and part of the Mewar Kingdom governs the land surrounding the lake. It’s immense size, flamboyant style and panoramic city views have propelled its status as one of the most iconic buildings in Rajasthan. Balconies, towers, murals, corridors, gateways, steps and terraces all created from granite and marble. Walking around, stepping into the past, it is hard not to be very impressed. This is ancient India in its grandest glory.
If the City Palace is the commander, then his most loyal comrades would be Lake Palace, Jag Mandir, Jagdish Temple and Monsoon Palace. All striking examples of Rajasthani styled architecture making Udaipur romantic, captivating and original. I can now see why such a place was chosen for the James Bond film Octopussy in 1985.
The city itself has slender roads, steep inclines and its walls are decorated with detailed antique paintings. Bridges across the river provide a link to tranquil restaurants and rooftop viewpoints, while boats dawdle on the water.
While the beauty of the city enthrals most, I find myself in awe of the Aravalli hills in the distance. The natural world holds a place within my heart and immediately I feel the sense that I want to explore them, disappearing into the guardians of the city. The barrenness and emptiness of the distant peaks withhold an expression of freedom, a chance of adventure and discovery.
The Enfield Thunderbird is a perfect mode of transport and we leave in the morning before the heat intensifies. Thin roads weave amongst the dry and rocky land; there are primitive villages and more lakes holding a feeling of desolateness. We reach a Hindu temple, entering to receive a blessing from inside the cave. In the dried out river bed, a woman walks with a herd of goats and on the road towards the temple, children find shade under a concrete pillar. This must be part of the ‘real’ India that people refer to when talking about the north. Although the distance to Udaipur city is short, the transformation in the physical environment is extreme. Riding along the winding roads, with no particular destination to reach, just an opportunity to explore, we are swallowed up in the rustic vastness.