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Rajasthan: Places to Visit - IV

Amber Fort, Rajasthan

Sawai Madhopur

Lying on the main Delhi-Mumbai railway line, Swai Madhopur is the gateway to Ranthambhor National Park. In the 13th century A.D. Govinda, the grandson of Prithviraj Chauhan took over the reign of the land. Later his successor Vagabhatta, beautified the city and built a noteworthy temple at Jhain. In the middle of the 15th century A.D. Rana Kumbha captured the fort and gifted it to his son. Later the Hada Rajputs of Bundi and Mughals occupied it. In 1754, Mughal Emperor Shah Alam gifted it to Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh I of Jaipur and since then it was maintained as the hunting preserve of the Maharaja. Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh were part of the royal hunters who stayed here.

The Fort

The well-preserved imposing fort, built in 994 AD, stands atop steep high creek 200 metres above sea level. Ruined pavilions, walls, chhatris and splendid monuments are interspersed within the majestic fort. The fort has an 8th century Ganesh temple on an open land.

Ranthambhor National Park

Nilgai, Ranthambore National Park

The 392sqkm. park is one of the finest tiger reserves in the country. A system of three pretty artificial lakes is part of the biosphere. Crocodiles can be seen basking on the banks during the winter. The lake also attracts a large number of migratory and local birds. The local fauna of the park includes tiger, sambhar, chital. Nilgai, chinkara, langur, wild boar, leopard, hyena, jackal, jungle cat, sloth bear and a little population of pythons. More......

Shekhawati

Interior of Fort Mandawa, Shekhawati (By Ahron de Leeuw (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Shekhavati is not the name of particular city or town. In fact, it is the name of an entire region in northern Rajasthan, which was once controlled by the Chief Rao Shekha. Shekhawati, an open air art gallery as it is popularly called, is famous for its painted havelis. This arid region, with historical and social development, has blossomed into a colourful profusion of art and life for almost 2 centuries from 1750 A.D. Jhunjhunu is the capital of Shekhawati, The town was founded by the Kayamkhani Nawabs in the mid 15th century A.D. and remained under their control until it was taken over by the Rajput ruler Sardul Singh in 1730 A.D.

Jhunjhunu

Jhunjhunu is the capital of Shekhawati. The town has a number of beautifully painted havelis. The Khatri Mahal (the Wind Palace), built around 1760 AD, is an interesting monument. The Sri Bihariji Temple noted for its lovely murals, Badalgarh, Jorawargarh, Mertani Baori, Kamruddin Shah ki Dargah, Birdi Chand ka Kaun,Ajit Sagar and a Jain temple are other interesting places for tourists.

Havelis

Painted Havelis,Jhunjhunu (Dhirad [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Shekhawati Unlike other places in Rajasthan where the main attraction is generally forts and palaces, Shekhavati is known for its painted havelis. The whole region of Shekhawati is dotted with elaborately frescoed havelis or mansions, built by rich merchants of the region, displaying a unique architectural style. The havelis are painted predominantly in blue, maroon, yellows, green and indigo. The earlier wall paintings were largely based on the mythological themes, depicting local legends, animals, portraits, hunting and wrestling scenes and a glimpse of everyday life. The turn of the 19th century saw the appearance of new motifs, an outcome of the British Raj's influence upon the Indian culture. The region appears as if it were an open-air Art Gallery.

Other Places

The towns of importance in Shekhawati are Nawalgarh, Dundlod, Mandawa, Mukundgarh, Singhana, Fatehpur, Lakshmangarh and Bissau. Some of the havelis in these towns have now been converted into heritage hotels. Shekhavati also has a number of small fortresses and a deer sanctuary at Tal Chhapar. The best way to visit this region is either on a Horse Safari or a Camel Safari.

Udaipur

Udiapur is the capital of Mewar, a kingdom ruled by the Sisodia dynasty for 1200 Years. It is a lovely lakeside city, encircled by hills and mountains, and set on the edge of three lakes. The city's narrow streets lined by bright coloured stalls, gardens, temples and palaces reflect in the calm blue waters of lake Pichhola. Maharana Udai Singh founded the city in 1559 A.D. Originally there were nine gates to enter the city. Of the remaining five original gates, the Suraj Pol or Sun Gate on the eastern side is the main entrance to the city.

Udaipur is a major domestic airport in the country. Indian Airlines connects Udaipur with Jodhpur, Jaipur, Aurangabad, Mumbai and Delhi with regular flights. Udaipur is directly linked by rail with Delhi, Jaipur, Ajmer, Chittaurgarh, Jodhpur and Ahmedabad. Udaipur is also well connected by road with other major centres of the state.

City Palace

City Palace, Udaipur

Completely white and majestic, the City Palace complex is an architectural marvel that stands on a hill surrounded by crenallated walls. It is a collection of courtyards, pavilions, terraces, corridors, rooms and hanging gardens. Its main entrance is through the triple arched gate, the Tripolia with eight marble porticos. The gate was built in 1725. The Maharanas were weighed under the gate in gold and an equivalent amount in value was distributed among the populace. The Suraj Gokhada or the Balcony of the Sun is another fascinating monument. During the times of trouble, it is where the Suryavanshi Maharanas of Mewar, presented themselves to the people to restore their confidence. The 'Mor Chowk' known for its exquisite peacock mosaics in glass and the Chini Chitrashala noted for its blue and white ceramics are other interesting places in the complex.

Jagdish Temple

Built in 1651 AD, by Maharana Jagat Singh I, this Indo-Aryan temple is the largest and most splendid temple in Udaipur. The temple has beautiful sculpted images.

Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandir

This Indian folk arts museum displays a rich collection of folk dresses, ornaments, puppets, masks, dolls musical instruments and paintings.

Saheliyon-ki-Bari

This garden of the maids of honour brings to the front, the unique lifestyle of the royal ladies, who once strolled through these gardens. This magnificent garden has numerous fountains in four pools and delicately chiselled kiosks and elephants.

Fateh Sagar

Built by Maharana Fateh Singh, this beautiful lake is surrounded on three sides by hills, and the Pratap Memorial on the north. In the middle of the lake is Nehru Park, a lovely Garden Island with a boat shaped café. One can indulge in boat rides and row across to the Nehru Park.

Pichhola Lake

Located in Udaipur city of Rajasthan, Lake Pichola is an artificial fresh water lake, created in the year 1362 AD, named after the nearby Picholi village. It is one of the several contiguous lakes developed over the last few primarily created by building dams to meet the drinking water and irrigation needs of the city and its neighborhood. The lake’s surroundings and the several islands within the lake have been developed over the centuries, with palaces, marble temples, family mansions and bathing ghats. Two islands, Jag Niwas with Lake Palace and Jag Mandir with Jaj Mandir Palace are located within Pichola Lake.

Lake Palace

Pichola Lake and Lake Palace- view from City Palace, Udaipur

Lake Palace is located in the Pichola Lake on Jag Nivas island. It was built between 1743- 1746 under the direction of the Maharana Jagat Singh II (62nd successor to the royal dynasty of Mewar) of Udaipur, Rajasthan as a royal summer palace and was initially called Jag Niwas or Jan Niwas after its founder.The successive rulers used this cool haven as their summer resort, holding their regal durbars in its courtyards. In sixties the palace was converted into a hotel and in 1971 the Taj Group took over the management of the hotel.

Ahar

Located 3 km from Udaipur, Ahar is the ancient capital of Sisodias where stand the royal cenotaphs of the Maharanas of Mewar. It has a small government Museum where a rare collection of antiquities including earthen pots, iron objects and other art items excavated in the region is exhibited

Sajjan Garh

This Monsoon Palace dominating the skyline is visible from most parts of the city. It offers a panoramic overview of the city's lakes, palaces and the surrounding countryside.

Gulab Bagh

It is a spectacular rose garden laid out by Maharana Sajjan Singh. Few gardens in India offer such spectacular beauty, as this garden. A library in the garden has a rare collection of ancient handwritten manuscripts and books.

Eklingji (22 km)

Built in 734 A.D. Eklingji is a beautifully sculpted temple complex with 108 temples within its walls. The temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva. The walled complex encloses and elaborately pillared hall or 'mandap' under a large pyramidal roof and has four-faced image of Lord Shiva in black marble.

Kumbhalgarh Fort (84 km)

Kumbhalgarh is the second principal fortress in Rajasthan after Chittaurgarh, Maharana Kumbha built it atop the Aravallis in the 15th century. The fort extends over 12 km and has many temples, palaces and gardens. The Badal Mahal or Cloud Palace offers a spectacular bird's eye view of the surroundings. The Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary is nearby. The Fort is accessible only by jeep from Kelwara.

Jaisamand Lake (48 km)

Maharana Jai Singh built this artificial lake in the 17th century, the second largest in Asia. Graceful marble chhatris flank the embankment. Beautiful summer palaces for the Udaipur queens are located on the banks of the lake. Jaisamand Island Resort and Jaisamand Wildlife Sanctuary are also worth visiting.

Ranakpur (90 km)

Jain Temple, Ranapur

Ranakpur is the home of a group of beautifully sculptured Jain temples those lie in the tranquil valley of the Aravallis. One of the five holiest places of the Jains, the temples are surrounded by a wall. These temples were built in the 15th century during the reign of Rana Kumbha. The principal Chamukha Temple sprawiling over 48000sq.ft, dedicated to Tirthankara Adinath, has 29 halls supported with 1444 pillars. Two temples dedicated to Neminath and Parsvanath, facing the main temple, has beautiful carvings similar to those of Khajuraho. An 8th century sun temple nearby has polygonal walls richly decorated with carvings of warriors, horses and solar deities riding chariots.