There was a meeting in Mumbai on 8th & 9th Nov’13 and my wife wanted to visit Shirdi thus begun the hunt. My ghumakkar mind was thinking beyond, how well if we can travel around the coasts of entire west after the meeting is over. Road maps are always a weakness to me hence, long hours browsing the roads along the coasts of Gujrat from Surat onward was tempting me to do the unusual job of driving 6000 + km but that was not going to be approved by any one so, I decided to share my ideas in episodes. I talked to my wife of the road journey upto Ahmedabad with a night at Chittorgarh and then fly to Mumbai for the meeting after which a bus to Shirdi and then back to Ahmedabad and after visiting some places in Gujrat by local buses, we will drive back to Udaipur and via Ajmer to Delhi, thus only a 2000 km drive. With hesitations she agreed and I was confident to manage the rest on the way.
On 5th Nov’13, we started at 7.30 am after the ritual of Bhaiya Duj performed by my wife because her brother lives nearby. A cool morning with least traffic through the brilliant roads on NH-8, we crossed Jaipur on Ajmer HW. A road from Chandwaji turns left on Ajmer bye-pass surprisingly with no signboard showing direction for Ajmer instead, a board of Mahindra World City is prominently fixed showing direction towards the left and a small portion on the right shows straight for Jaipur 45 km, so make sure to turn towards Mahindra World City for escaping the Jaipur mad crowd for going direct Ajmer or Chittorgarh, Udaipur, Ahmedabad etc. Another landmark is a large Motel in the name of Hotel Country Touch on your left just prior to the left turn.
Ajmer is another 120 km from this point and the road is one of the best 6-lanes in India. The bad stretch at Kishangarh is also recently completed adding joy to the journey upto Ajmer or Pushkar. Just after passing by Dudu, a road prior to entering Kishangarh turns left for Chittorgarh via Bhilwara further to Udaipur and Ahmedabad on a throughout well maintained 4-lane bye pass. However, to continue on NH-8, a road from Kishangarh turns left bypassing Ajmer city to Udaipur via Baewar-Rajsamand-Nathdwara on a single but very well maintained road with minimum traffic on similar pace through very scenic, breath taking views in the surrounding all the way. We preferred the traditional route on NH-8 to visit the Rajsamand Lake and Nathdwara on route in bargain. The distance upto Udaipur is approx. 700 km from Delhi and 9-10 hrs comfortable drive including stopovers of one hour on either route. (Returned via Chittorgarh)
Enjoying the splendid landscapes we reached Baewar by 1.30 pm on our first major stop for refreshment and lunch. I was so energetic till then that my wife didn’t ask me why we are heading towards Udaipur and not Chittorgarh for the break journey. Filled the tank of the car alongwith our tummy, we were again lost in the nostalgic picturesque landscape full of greenery, on an average speed of 100 kmph with ease due to good tar and less traffic. Our first visiting place was Rajsamand Lake which soon appeared with an awesome view of a natural wild lake on the left side of the road. Rajsamand Lake is an artificial lake created in the 17th century by Rana Raj Singh of Mewar. We stopped and hurriedly captured the view both in our eyes and in the camera. Surprisingly, none other was available to enjoy the serene virgin beauty of the so natural place in wilderness. A clear water in the lake, yet uninterrupted by artificiality, was a soothing sight. A rusted board mentioning victory of Maharana Pratap over Akbar’s huge army in 1582, fought there was boasting its historical importance. We stayed a few minutes clicking photographs and watching the silence in the tranquility, glooming hearted was back to our seats. It was sad to see that a place of so rich history, so beautiful is so unattended.
Our next sites to visit in our chart were Nathdwara and Eklingji on the way after which the Ghat section of Udaipur starts. Nathdwara is famous for the 17th century Srinathji temple constructed under the patronage of Rana Raj Singh of Mewar. Mythology says, in 1672 the 14th century Bal Krishna idol was shifted from Mathura to save it from the brutal Mughal emperor Aurnagzeb. At Nathdwara the carriage stopped mysteriously by sticking itself into the mud and petrified. The temple was therefore, constructed at the same spot as an abode of Shrinathji, considering his own choice of stay and worshipped thereafter with much reverence.
Another site of importance on the way is Eklingji with a cluster of 108 temples forted by high walls carved out of sand stone and marble. The Eklingji, a form of Lord Shiva considered being the actual ruler of Mewar and thus it is still revered and worshiped by the Rana of Udaipur visiting on every Monday evening. Other temples in vicinity are the Sas-Bahu temple with relevance of Ramayana is also a worth visit. A lake outside the temple premise is so photogenic that no one can pass by without a halt for the first time. We too tried a few clicks and enjoyed the sun setting charmingly behind the thick bushes on the other bank of the lake.
Driving cautiously through the Ghat section, we reached the Lake city Udaipur by 6.30 pm and directly reached the Fateh Sagar Lake for a glance of the mighty lake after 18 yrs since I had last visited the place. Surprisingly, the magnificent lake still retained the mystic charm to engulf anyone in its charismatic charisma in first sight. The gigantic water body seems like an ocean and the road along its side gives the impression of Mumbai’s marine drive. My wife was surprised and spell bound with the sight, a few photographs then the tedious job of searching a good accommodation started. One hotel to another, no rooms, the search continued until we landed to a small sized newly constructed hotel or rather call it a low budget guest house near Udayapole opposite ST bus stand. Udaipur was over crowded with Gujrati tourists due to long Dipawali vacation there. Tariffs were more than 4-times than usual with most of the nice ones already packed.
A 700 km drive was not that tedious as was the drive inside the city during searching for hotels. Any ways, finally we ended up shifting in the so called hotel room with limited space for even a proper stretch. Only good point was its new construction with clean bathroom and running water.
Next day we preferred to go on local sites visit by auto-rickshaw to avoid route enquiries and escape the bustling crowd doubled due to enormous tourist inflow. The local sites of our interest were Gulab Bagh, City Palace and Pichola Lake, the Fateh Sagar Lake was planned to visit in the evening. We started at 10 pm leisurely to reach Gulab Bagh which was hardly one km from our hotel and enjoyed the beautiful garden which also houses a small zoo however, the toy train is the centre of attraction. Childishly, we too boarded the train after a short visit of the zoo. The train track is well spread around the park and its slow pace allows tourists to view every corner of the park quite satisfactorily. The park started in 1878 by Maharana Sajjan Singh once boasted to have one of the oldest zoos with variety of species, is now in ruins. The Victoria museum now converted to Saraswati Bhawan Library lies high with a roman looking huge structure and the statue of Mahatma Gandhi replacing the original statue of Queen Victoria are the few worth framing sites inside the park. Gulab Bagh defies its name with no specific rose garden and once an orchard of varied fruits is turned to jungle with few trees left in some corners. Over all a morning visit was worth to inhale comparatively fresh oxygen in tranquility.
Lake Pichola, an artificial lake was created in 1362 to serve the need of drinking water and irrigation of the town. The islands in the lake have beautiful palaces of world repute and boasts to be one of the most magnificent lakes in an urban setting in the world. The lake offers a wide view of the white city with excellent scenery of the Aravali range and lush greenery around. The palaces on the islands glitters its reflection in the water showcasing a mesmerizing exceptional view. The colorful boats sailing in the tranquil water also adds to its beauty and birds hovering, fishing, floating and doing all innocent activities gains tourist attraction to force them a stand still for hours. The cable cars are operational since June’2009 carrying devotees to the Karni Mata Mandir on top of the hill alongside the lake. We missed the chance due to long waiting. City palace was also over crowded hence issuing further entry passes was stopped for the day. A visit upto its entry was only allowed.
Another tourist attraction and jewel of the city is the giant Fateh Sagar Lake. As decided we again hired an auto late in the afternoon and reached there in 25-30 odd minutes through the maddening crowded market areas. Another artificial lake, it was first created in 1687 by Maharana Jai Singh but the basin being washed away in a devastating unfortunate flood, it was reconstructed by Maharana Fateh Singh in 1888 and thus christened after the former ruler of Mewar. The panoramic view of the lake and a long coastal road with multiple activities ranging from food joints to speed boat besides traditional rowing boats attract most number of tourists and one of the most visited place in the city. The three islands in the lake add charm to its beauty. A park, a jet fountain and an observatory are situated in those islands respectively and are approachable by boats. The evening at the splendidly well lit lake side visit was exorbitantly scintillating & an everlasting mystifying experience.
On the way back, we had a Rajasthani meal of Dal-Bati, just for tasting Rajasthani cuisine and walked around the huge market areas of Gandhi Market, offering range of varieties of items to pick-n-choose from, which are readily available in Delhi-NCR much cheaper. However, I didn’t dare to restrain my wife from shopping with an ornamental smile on my face. After packing our baggage for our onward journey next morning to Daman, slept much earlier than we do in Delhi.
The journey continues……