During our day trip to Mahabalipuram last winter, we reached ‘Krishna’s butter ball’ around that magical time when everything touched by sunlight gets a shower of gold dust—including these huge boulders that stood silently admiring the profile of the more popular attractions nearby.
To get an idea of it’s scale, there’s a little child who managed to sneak into the view, and of course, those trees look quite dwarfed!
Photo taken with Motorola Moto G3. Click / tap on the image to enter my Flickr photostream.
A prominent feature of Rajasthani architecture are the windows with their characteristic floral silhouette. When visiting monuments in the region, it is hard to resist the temptation of framing the magnificent views with the window. Ah, what a feeling it must have been, living in those palaces!
Alas, for women, not a very good one. The queens and princesses had their share of riches and maids and all luxuries that a royal household could provide. But freedom? Trapped in a tower, looking out of the window was the only freedom they had. Called jharokhas, the beautiful latticed windows were built to allow women to look at the world outside, without themselves being seen.
Here is one such window at Bagore ki Haveli, Udaipur. I wonder what must be visible through those tiny windows within the main window.
So this week, when the Daily Post asked us to show windows, I felt cheated. But considering what it must have been like for the women who looked out of these tiny windows, I don’t have any reason to complain.
I wanted to write about the stereotypical portrayal of Rajasthan – a traditionally attired instrumentalist, strumming his Ravanhatta and playing Raag Maand and perhaps the most popular, and misinterpreted Rajasthani folk song “Kesariya Balam”. But I’ll shut up this one time, and sit with the Rajput royals and look out for the monsoon clouds atop Sajjangarh in Udaipur.
As we scouted hotels near Lake Picchola, we were caught between conflicting traveller reviews—those that spoke of magical lake views, and others that complained of poor hygiene and stench. Considering that we were traveling to a city with lots of water, during monsoon, we decided to keep ourselves away from Lal Ghat.
We browsed through OYO rooms and zeroed in on the cryptic “OYO Homes 062 Fatehsagar Lake”. For reasons better known to OYO, the website does not provide the exact name of the hotel or the location without a confirmed booking!*
After confirming our booking, we looked for reviews of the property. There weren’t as many ratings of the house as compared to the other hotels, but all of them positive. Well, we would find out for ourselves.
Our flight landed in Udaipur half an hour before time; the air was cool, much cooler than the muggy national capital we had left behind; the scenic Aravalli range surrounded us throughout the drive to the city—a beautiful start to our trip.
Our talkative cabbie, Chetan, seemed to know a lot of touristy information on Udaipur—as did all the other rickshaw drivers we rode with. One would think they were all getting paid to promote tourism! None of them, however, had heard of Khudala House. So, we followed the map and gave directions. When we were near our destination, we caught sight of water for the first time—and what a beauty she was! As our eyes feasted on the beautifully blue Fateh Sagar Lake, growing ever wider in front of us, the GPS lady quietly said, “turn left, and you will arrive at your destination.”
We hopped off our cab and walked around the driveway. The property may not have had a lake view, but it was royally beautiful. Walking to the right, we were greeted by a row of statues posing against a great green leafy wall.
Ahead of us was a neat lawn and dining tables surrounded by flowering plants and bonsais.
And behind the lawn was the grand entrance to the house.
Our host, Mr. Dhanajai Singh, later informed us that the house was built in 1941 by his grandfather. About 35 years ago, his father, and present owner Capt. Jaiveer Singh added more rooms. The majestic original structure has now been leased to the restaurant 1559AD.
We walked back to the front gate and towards the newer, smaller (relatively speaking, of course) building on left of the driveway. A loose curtain of painted bottles and a stone wall decorated with divine statues marked the division between the old and new.
Here too, the visual delight continued. A beautiful lawn outlined by balsams in full bloom and surrounded by dozens of bonsais.
Our host graciously allowed us a complimentary early check-in and gave us very helpful tips on sightseeing in Udaipur, including the recommendation of a morning walk at Fateh Sagar, and advice of exploring the Old City on foot.
Our room was spacious and included a big bathroom, a dressing room and our own backyard! We ate home-cooked breakfast in a common dining room filled with interesting objects and memorabilia. Abhay, the soft-spoken housekeeper who single-handedly looks after all the rooms, took care of all our requirements. And then there was Bully, the boxer, whose droopy eyes looked at us curiously (I heard him bark only once). The owners were very warm; and sans the presence of impersonal staff and eerie hallways that are characteristic of hotels, we felt at ease during our stay.
The restaurant 1559AD is as beautiful inside as it is outdoors. We were too busy admiring the ambience and relishing the food to take any pictures (actually, we had left our phones behind in our room next door, and regretted it!)
Rickshaw drivers did not know where Khudala House was. So we had to use nearby landmarks to explain where we were staying. Once we came to the T-point in front of Fateh Sagar, we told our driver, “turn left, and its right there!” “Yeh to 1559AD hai,” (this is 1559AD) our driver said. “You should told me this before.”
During the three days we spent in Udaipur, we were mostly tourists. But at the end of the day, we came home.
* When I did a new search a little while back, our comfy homestay’s name was very much mentioned—though there were other properties with cryptic names. I don’t know if this hiding of names is a random thing. Any ideas why OYO does this? If you know anyone there, could you ask them to change this?
Photos taken with Motorola Moto G3. Click / tap on the image to enter my Flickr photostream.
Of Udaipur’s many lakes, the Fateh Sagar takes pride of place. While lake Picchola has the exotic lake palaces, Fateh Sagar retains the beautiful backdrop of the Aravalli hills.
“Well, you’re on vacation, but if you are early risers, I recommend taking a walk along Fateh Sagar. The roads are closed for vehicles till 8 am for morning walkers,” our host Dhananjai at Khudala House advised us.
I remembered reading about the beauty of sunrise at Fateh Sagar on an online travel forum. And so, on a Sunday morning, we set our alarm for 5:30 am, unlocked the House’s front door and sneaked out.
A few minutes later, we crossed the barricades to enter a walker’s paradise—the lake on one side; a rock-cut wall providing shade from the heat of the sun, on the other. We joined hundreds of locals walking briskly along the cordoned section of the road.
We walked leisurely, admiring the still boats basking in the golden light of the rising sun, the soft rustling of the gentle waves, the cool atmosphere, the seemingly endless hills washed green by the monsoon rains and the clean environs.
It had poured heavily over the past two days—a kind of rain that would have brought Delhi NCR to its knees. And yet, the streets of Udaipur were devoid of waterlogging. Even Fateh Sagar’s water level remained constant.
When we first came to the city, our hearts were set on lake Picchola, having been enamoured by its ghat and the surrounding architecture. Making our way from the airport, our talkative cabbie Chetan had said, “You come to Udaipur, the main lake is Fateh Sagar. The boating is good here too, and reasonable. Picchola is okay… famous for the palace. But the real beauty is in Fateh Sagar. It is 20 kms if you want to go all around it.” At the time, we dismissed his words, but as the winding roads revealed the breadth of the lake and the distant hills, we understood what he meant.
Over an hour into our walk, there still was no sign of the sun. But what was that? The sound of water. A waterfall? Noone mentioned a waterfall in these parts.
We reached the end of the cordoned section, and there she was, not-so-quietly going about her job of making sure the water doesn’t spill out into the roads. I’m not sure what this structure is called—a sort of dam, I suppose, to control the level of water.
Nearby, a middle aged man with a mesh paddle was busy cleaning the lake—the ‘filth’ mostly comprised of leaves. Standing on the bridge, we soaked in the misty spray of the ‘waterfall’ and watched the calm water of Fateh Sagar spill out into the bushes on the other side.
And behind the bushes, we saw our sun—already up, waiting for us. We wondered if this was the viewpoint that we were supposed to have reached an hour earlier. If you happen to visit Fateh Sagar for the sunrise, perhaps you could shed some light on this matter. On the other hand, if, like us, you get caught up along the way admiring pretty much everything and miss the sun rising from behind the hills, here’s our takeaway:
The sunrise isn’t a view. It’s an experience.
In response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: share with us the structure of something typically overlooked.
Photos taken with Motorola Moto G3. Click / tap on the image to enter my Flickr photostream.
A cool breeze, clouds playing hide and seek with the sun, the sound of waves to one side, and the interiors of a palace on the other, a panoramic view of palaces and havelis and the backdrop of Aravalli hills – perfect, no?
“Oh, that’s nothing. Just some old ruins,” he replied in a laid back tone, that could only be described as Goan.
The Churches of Old Goa are staple tourist fare. And like diligent tourists, we paid a visit to the most famous of them all – the Basilica of Bom Jesus and the adjoining Se Cathedral. Both sites had ingredients one would expect from a medieval church – massive in size, walls engraved, high ceilings housing intricate chandeliers and a presence that makes you speak in whispers, lest anyone else hears. With the sea of humans, though, the churches were reduced to fancy backgrounds for selfie enthusiasts – even with signboards and staff members explicitly asking people not to take pictures with people in them.
Making our way out of Se Cathedral, I noticed a lean brick tower in the distance.
As we made our way around the streets of Old Goa, the tower became taller, and then hid behind some trees.
The cab driver looked in the rear mirror. “There really is nothing there. Just ruins.”
I looked at my fellow travellers hoping for at least one of them to share my eagerness to visit that lonely tower.
After a few minutes the driver asked, “You want to go there? We can make a short stop.”
As soon as we reached, I jumped out of the car with a new friend. With others waiting, our instructions were clear. Go there, take a few pictures and head back as soon as possible!
Up close, the tower revealed itself to be just a fraction of what it must have been a few centuries ago. There was a large open space in front, and a large hall just behind it. At its fullest, it may have been much grander than the more illustrious buildings we had just visited.
‘Ruins of St. Augustine Complex’ read the signboard on one of the large stone bricks. Built in 1602 and abandoned in 1835, this church collapsed within the next few years. The silence of the space seemed to speak about its neglect and the lost grandeur.
Amid the spectacular ruins, not all seemed gloomy, though. A few pillars along the side of the fence spoke of survival even as the rest of the land stood barren.
I longed to spend more time within the hall behind the tower, but felt contented that I had the opportunity to visit. I grabbed my pictures and hurried back to the cab.
Built on raised ground, this fragment of a tower is visible from as far away as Se Cathedral
Overlooking the fallen pillars
Standing tall, this pillar attempts to defy the destruction around it
Back home, on digging around the web, I came across an interesting story surrounding the Church. In Hunting for a Georgian queen in Goa Srinath Perur writes about a martyred Queen, and the search for a missing relic that continued into the 21st century.
And a bonus bit of trivia – the eerie song, Gumnaam hai koi was filmed at the ruins.
In response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: what is guaranteed to distract you? What is your “Ooh, shiny!”?
On 15th of August 1947, the British left India. Atleast that’s what we like to believe.
Consider the following:
At a geopolitical level, we stand fragmented, perhaps permanently disabled, fighting against our neighbours, with whom we share a common heritage.
At an institutional level, we inherited a corrupt bureaucracy that mostly enjoys fat salaries for warming the bench; a political structure that upholds the time honoured divide and rule policy; large organisations that spew communal hatred to further their own interests; and a system of reservation for ‘backward’ castes which is supposed to end discrimination, merit be damned.
Even at an individual level, given that we want to teach kids only English (along with other European languages); dream of an MBA from a foreign university; drool shamelessly at NRIs during family get-togethers for matchmaking; and are obsessed with ‘fair skin’, I wonder, are we really independent?
Meanwhile, yesterday, I made some payasam on occasion of a birthday—of a very interesting person. He is quite dark skinned and born to a community regarded as ‘Other Backward Classes’. He has a luxurious palace, but give him beaten rice and he’ll be absolutely thrilled. He used to steal butter as a kid, but I believe he has outgrown that, what with today’s salted low fat, low sodium stuff on sale.
He didn’t have any fancy MBA, but that didn’t stop him from leading a small group of warriors to victory over a mighty army.
His name is Krishna. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. Oh you have! Quite the ladies’ man, no? Please do take a generous helping of this aval payasam—a delicacy made from beaten rice, milk and jaggery.
This weekend India will celebrate Diwali. And preparations for the festival are in full swing. Homes are being scrubbed squeaky clean. Renovated houses are getting last minute paint jobs. Traders – both online and offline – are running promotional offers. And all of us are busy shopping for clothes and gifts!
The most important aspect of the festival, of course, are the lights. With every nook and corner being illuminated, the streets are one of the most beautiful sights to see this time of the year. Even the most common, everyday routes we take, turn glamourous.
As I was walking near a popular market a few days back, lights caught my eye from behind the trees. I would normally just walk past the glittery market, but this time, I took a detour just to soak in the festive ambience.
Unfortunately, Diwali is also the worst possible time to head out because pollution levels skyrocket. It’s a shame that noisy and noxious crackers are still so popular. I’ll admit we used to burst crackers as children too. And it’s been years since we stopped. I hope you, my dear reader, will refrain from contributing to the pollution levels this year and enjoy the sights without the sounds.
Update: Big Bazaar does a fabulous job of getting the message across with their paper patakha ad. Check this out:
Here’s wishing you a very happy, prosperous and safe Diwali.
To see more shiny posts from around the globe, head over the the Daily Post.