KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
On our first full day in Udaipur we headed straight for the City Palace, Rajasthan's largest, located on the shores of Lake Pichola in the heart of the old city. The fusion of various buildings erected by different maharajas creates a surprisingly uniform façade 244m in length. We entered through the north gate and found ourselves in a large courtyard that is now used as parking for VIPs. There is an arcade with gift shops and a lovely terrace with a café where one can sit and have a cold drink while admiring the architecture of the palace soaring above. We passed on the refreshments in order to get a head start before the tourist buses and school groups arrived.
A large part of the palace has been turned into a museum for visitors to see the beauty of the apartments where royalty lived in the past. Another part of the palace is still used as a residence for the royals and yet another section has been converted into two separate luxury hotels. Near the entrance to the royal apartments is a large symbol of the sun - the emblem of the Royal Family of Mewar. We hired an elderly guide to usher us through the maze of small hallways and staircases and he pointed out some interesting architectural details and historical facts that added to our enjoyment of the lavishly decorated rooms and courtyards.
You are no doubt aware of my life-long love of elephants. I was surprised to learn that the warring Rajputs put hoods, that were made to resemble the head of a baby elephant, on the heads of their horses. This confused the enemy's elephants and they would refuse to attack the horse and its rider. A little tidbit pointed out by our wonderful guide. It's information like this that we enjoy rather than a droning list of date, names and events.
There is a large Crystal Gallery where a collection of crystal chairs, tables, sofas and even beds is on display. The rare crystal was ordered by the Maharajah Sajjan Singh in 1877 but he died before it arrived. It stayed packed in boxes for 110 years before being put on display. The admission charge is unusually high and there is no photography allowed so we decided to give it a pass. There is enough to see in the Palace itself to overwhelm any visitor and it was time to get back to the warren of narrow streets and real life in the city.