In the event that you’re all thinking that Udaipur for us was just husband finding and eating, rest assured, the by now standard Indian town combo of fort/palace/temple beckoned invitingly. It was becoming a bit of a standing joke by this stage of the journey that wherever we went we could put money on the fact that there would be at least that trifecta. As it turned out though, the Udaipur forts were out of the city by quite some distance so we focused instead on a couple of the palaces and a cheeky temple or two. Jagdish Temple looms over the absolute heart of the little city; in fact, killing two birds with one stone, it actually resides in the area that is called the city palace complex – chi-ching! Menacing florists weave together brightly coloured strands of flowers for worshippers to purchase at the bottom of the entrance stairs – however, we couldn’t quite manage to sneak up on them and take photos as they practically threatened to garrotte us with the said flower garlands when they caught even the slightest whiff of our cameras being raised in their directions. Oh well, the temple itself was pretty enough!This three-storied temple is an example of Indo-Aryan architecture and it comprises beautifully carved pillars, decorated ceilings, painted walls and lush halls. Built by the Udaipur royalty in the 1650s, a hefty sum of around 1.5 million rupees was spent to raise this structure. The spire of the main temple is around 79 feet high and undoubtedly dominates the skyline of central Udaipur. The spires are festooned with sculptures of dancers, elephants, horsemen and musicians making it a great place to wander around gazing skyward. Being in the neighbourhood already, it seemed rude not to pop our heads into the City Palace and have a nosey around. Most famously, this is the building that acts as the hotel where James Bond stays in Octopussy. We were even privy to a close up of the wall where Octopussy’s acrobatic circus performers scaled the palace walls and disabled the Indian guards – oh yeah, we’re living the history of the place! City Palace boasts of a pretty magical blend of Medieval, European and Chinese architecture with various towers, domes and arches, adding to the impressive heritage site. Towering on the banks of Pichola Lake, it is a pretty palace with some damn pretty views. It even looks out over a couple of other palaces, which just happen to loiter around the middle of the lake. This place, however landbound it might be, is still an amazing site full of courtyards, pavilions, terraces, corridors, rooms and hanging gardens, providing yet more interior decoration inspiration for future royalty, namely Princess Cardamom the First (Ushma) and Lady Dum Aloo (H-J). Encircled by fortifications, this imposing Palace is wholly built in granite and marble thought lacked a full moat with the lake only taking up one side. We could get alterations done for sure. For some reason though they’re really not keen on horns in these parts. We can’t imagine why the royal blooded prince (who zipped by us in his land rover!) wouldn’t want to wake to the Delhi-like screeching of horns that sound like the drivers have fallen asleep on their steering wheels – how unreasonable! And now for some more completely gratuitous “we were here and you weren’t so look at our pretty photos of pretty stuff” photos. In lieu of a trip out to see another fort, we decided to stick close by to the palace and check out something other than Octopussy that Udaipur is really famous for – miniature paintings! The highlight of these paintings is the intricate and delicate brushwork, which often means you need a magnifying glass to have a really close up look and appreciate the teeny, tiny individual brushstrokes. The colours are handmade, from minerals, vegetables, precious stones, indigo, conch shells, pure gold and silver. Common themes of the miniature painting includes the Ragas (the musical codes of Indian classical music), scenes from the royal court and, of course, depictions of epic stories of our fav god-rogues, such as Krishna.
The painters are part of a genealogical tradition of painting and each work on paintings that will take them hundreds, sometimes thousands of hours of tiring, mini-sized work. While the paintings aren’t always super small, the brushstrokes are, lending them a really unique and delicate identity. It was interesting to see how the artists made their pigments still in the totally traditional way of mushing stones around with water – art history geeks eat your heart out at this still happening practice!
Of course, it would be wrong to walk out of an amazing art school like this without picking up a piece of this art work to take home, right?!
Oh, and in the case that you’re one of those super retentive people that is thinking “hey, they said they visited a COUPLE of palaces at the start of this blog”, stay tuned for a boat ride to Octopussy’s lair…