Golden Temple, Amritsar, Punjab, India

After a long train ride from Udaipur to Delhi, and then another long bus from Delhi to Amritsar we arrived at the spiritual centre of the Sikh faith.

We checked into a hotel near the city’s main attraction – the Golden Temple. By then, the sun was setting so we decided to take a walk to the temple.  It was a lot busier than I experienced during my last visit in 2006 – and we lined up alongside many Sikh families to put our shoes into storage, wash our feet before entering, and for Travis to collect a scarf for his head.

The grandeur and magnificence of the Golden Temple is breathtaking as one first enters the area. It is set on one side of a huge man-made lake of water. Whilst witnessing the temple’s dazzling gold exterior is amazing, seeing the many, many Sikhs make their pilgrimage to this sacred place quite a moving experience.  Many were walking around the temple, as we were, others sat quietly and respectfully on the edge of the holy lake. The place was so alight with colourful turbans, and sarees.

After circling the Golden Temple, we went into the Langar canteen. The generous Sikh community offer free food for anybody who enters the Langar – and anybody can have a meal as often as they wish. The meal is simple – everybody entering receives a traditional thali steel plate and a steel bowl for water. Upon entering the canteen, people sit in rows cross legged on the floor. The volunteers who serve the food pass through each row, placing dahl, water, bread on each person’s plate.

The Golden Temple a prominent Sikh Gurdwara
Akal Takht (The Throne of the Timeless One)
The Harmandir Sahib with clock tower in the background
The Darbar Sahib and North entrance gate
Golden Temple and clock tower
Travis and Sonya at the Golden Temple
Sikh pilgrim viewing the Golden Temple
The Golden Temple at twilight
The Golden Temple viewed through the North entrance gate
The Golden temple and Akal Takht
The Golden Temple or Harmandir Sahib
Central Sikh Museum and clock tower
Sikh man in traditional dress and turban at the Golden Temple
Two Sikh men wearing royal blue turbans common among Sikh ministers and gyanis
Sikh man wearing traditional Orange and Blue colours that reflect the Khalsa
Travis taking a photo of a Sikh at the Golden Temple
Sonya at the Golden Temple

City of Lakes, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India

For our final day in Udaipur we decided to join a boat ride around Lake Pichola and visit Monsoon Palace.

Lake Pichola Boat Ride

From City Palace Rameshwar Ghat we joined a shared boat ride tour around Lake Pichola. The one hour trip allowed us to get a close-up glimpse of all the small islands including;

  • Jag Niwas – which houses Lake Palace, a palace made famous by the Bond movie Octopussy.
  • Jag Mandir – which includes a Jag Mandir Palace that we stopped at.
  • Mohan Mandir – which we saw children diving into the waters from, and
  • Arsi Vilas – which houses a small palace

Jag Niwas Lake Palace famous for one of locations of the James Bond film OctopussyWooden boat near the Jag Niwas Lake Palace and the Monsoon Palace in the backgroundJag Niwas Lake Palace with a traditional wooden boat
Jag Niwas Lake Palace the home of titular character Octopussy in James Bond filmMonsoon Palace on Aravalli Hills in the distance with Lake Pichola Ghats in the foregroundBagore ki haveli Ghat with Jagat Niwas Ghat further on
City Palace as seen from Lake PicholaThe Udaipur City Palace complex viewed from Lake PicholaLal Ghat
Lal and Ghanghaur Ghat near Bagore ki haveliMohan Mandir with Lake Pichola Ghats behindMohan Mandir an uncompleted temple
Children diving from Mohan MandirSwargiya Jodh Singh Ji Chauhan Puliya bridgeA man and elephant under a tree
Elephant statues on the perimeter of Jag Mandir PalaceJag Mandir Palace surrounded with elephant statuesJag Mandir Palace elephant with City Palace seen in the distance
Sonya with an elephant at Jag Mandir PalaceTravis at Jag Mandir Palace and City Palace in the distanceSonya resting on a white stone chair
Sonya and Travis at Jag Mandir PalaceThree elephants and crocodile at Jag Mandir Palace fortunately all stoneBats in the trees on shore near the boats

Monsoon Palace

Our last destination in Udaipur was the Monsoon Palace, named as it was viewing location of the clouds used to determine the monsoon. Located five kilometers west from Udaipur, the journey was fairly expensive having to take an auto-rickshaw to the gate followed by part entrance fees and further Jeep transport to the palace.

The Monsoon Palace was extremely run-down, but did offer panoramic views of Udaipur and its lakes.

Mother and baby monkey resting under a bushMonkeys in a treeView of Udaipur from Aravalli Hills
View of Udaipur and Lake Pichola from the Monsoon PalaceSonya at one of the unrestored Monsoon Palace roomsView from Monsoon Palace of the Aravalli Hills

This concluded our exploration of the Rajasthan region, later that day we caught a train to New Delhi.

Dharohar – culture and heritage concert of Rajasthan, India

Sonya recommended we see this as she had seen similar last time she was Udaipur. The tickets were fairly inexpensive at one-hundred rupees plus a little extra for use of camera during the performance.

The show features the different music and dance styles found in the state of Rajasthan.

Traditional Rajasthani instruments

The show starts with an elderly man playing a ravanahatha (a bowed string instrument local to the Rajasthan region) and a veiled women singing.

Elderly man playing a ravanahatha and a veiled women singing

Next three girls performed the fire dance from the Bikaner region of Rajasthan. The girls would move hypnotically and trance like to the music all while balancing kerosene torches on their heads.

Fire dance from the Bikaner region of Rajasthan
Girls balancing kerosene torches on their heads

Following on was the impressive Tera Tali dance, in this performance a women with thirteen Manjiras (small cymbals) all tied around her legs and arms sits on the ground.  The women then strike these cymbals with other manjiras on string, it was a very visual performance.

Tera Tali dance from Rajasthan
Girl dancing traditional Rajasthani dance

Veiled women dances followed next for a traditional Rajasthani dance known as Ghoomar. The women gracefully danced and twirled to the traditional folk music.

Dancer of traditional Rajasthan region dance
Two girls dancing to traditional Rajasthan folk music
Traditional Rajasthani dance known as Ghoomar.

Next was a comical puppet show, featuring a dancing princess, a rider and horse and a magician who could separate his head all in time to the puppeteer’s mouth whistle.

The final act was the infamous balancing pot lady. The Bhavai Dance originated from the balancing skills of the women who carried pots of water on their heads for long distances. In this dance the woman balanced a staggering ten pots on her head (though the last three were all pre-glued together).

Bhavai Dance originated from the balancing skills of the women who carried pots of water on their heads
Woman balanced a staggering ten pots on her head

Venice of the East, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India

From Jodhpur we caught a six hour bus ride south to Udaipur. We spent a fair bit of time exploring Udaipur as there was a lot to see and do. Udaipur is situated around a number of lakes which lead to its nickname, Venice of the East.

Our hostel was in the heart of Udaipur with most things walking distance.

Jagdish Temple

Extremely close to our hostel and on the way to City Palace, Jagdish Temple reminded me a lot of the Khajuraho Temples we had seen, though not at all erotic. The central god was a bronze statue of a Garuda, which was quite scary with his big painted eyes.

Elephant-flanked flight of steps Jagdish TempleStone carvings at Jagdish TempleStone carvings at Jagdish Temple
Stone carvings at Jagdish TempleChipmunk eating on the carvings of Jagdish TempleStone carving of two elephants
Makara of water spoutGanesha the elephant head godScary bronze statue of a Garuda

City Palace

From Jagdish Temple we walked south to the City Palace complex though the Tripolia Pol (Triple Gate). City Palace was like many of the previous palaces we had seen, interesting highlights were the Surya Choupad (Assembly Room) which housed a huge ornamental sun.

Mor Chowk (Peacock Courtyard) had beautiful peacock statues. So intricate were the peacock statues that each barb of the feathers were an individual strand of coloured glass.

The City Palace also had amazing pastel blue rooms filled with wall and window decorations all painted this pastel blue shade.

Tripolia Pol (Triple Gate) of City PalaceEntrance to the City Palace Museum from the Manek ChowkJag Niwas Lake Palace famous for one of locations of the James Bond film Octopussy
Mural of a horse with a rider in the city palaceGanesha at the Ganesh Chowk, god of transitionsTrunk attachment for war horses make the elephants think the horses are baby elephants
Painting depicting Battle of Haldighati (1576)Angel carved in the stone wallSonya with Lake Pichola in the background
Intricate stone carved coloured windowsCages for carrier pigeonsView of Udaipur from City Palace
On of the arched undercover areas of the courtsSurya Choupad with a ornamental sun, the symbol of the sun-descended Mewar dynastyScenes of westerners in a pastel blue decorative frame
Pascal blue wall decoration at Zenana Mahal (Womens Palace)Zenana Mahal (Womens Palace) with a swinging chairPascal blue room
A western style room at the City PalaceLooking over the City PalaceColourful stain glass windows with Lake Pichola outside
Intricate wooden door with poppy flowersA checker board floor of one of the City Palace ChowksOverlooking Manek Chowk at City Palace
Wall painting flower tessellationOne of the mosaic peacocks at the Mor Chowk (Peacock Courtyard)The intricate feathers on the peacock
Mor Chowk (Peacock Courtyard)Mor Chowk (Peacock Courtyard)Sonya and Travis self portrait on a mirrored room
The Zenana Mahals central courtyard, Laxmi ChowkColourful door openings found in City PalaceCity Palace as viewed from the outside
Front Side of the City Palace UdaipurAntique canon on the grounds of the City PalaceBrightly painted door of the City Palace

Lal Ghat

From City Palace we walked back to our hostel stopping at Lal Ghat. Lal Ghat provided us beautiful views of Pichola Lake, including Jagniwas Island (Lake Palace, made famouse with the Bond movie Octopussy) and Moun Mandir.

Jag Niwas Lake Palace famous for one of locations of the James Bond film OctopussyMohan Mandir and Jag Niwas Lake Palace in the distanceTravis resting at Lal Ghat
Travis resting with birds flying from a cageSonya and Travis at Lal Ghat located on Lake PicholaEntrance to Bagore-ki-Haveli

Udaipur at Night

Walking across one of the lake’s bridges at night, we managed to catch the City Palace and ghats illuminated against Pichola Lake.

Jag Niwas Lake Palace on Lake Pichola at nightUdaipur City Palace complex at nightUdaipur City Palace at night