Friday Review

History lessons by Lake Pichola

The muted yellow in the floral miniatures on the stately Badi Pol takes on an iridescent sheen in the sharp rays of the morning sun. As the day grows brighter, in its warmth, you look at the 400-year history of the Suryavanshi dynasty that ruled Mewar.

Through the Badi Pol, built by Rana Amar Singh I, you walk up the slope to the imposing Tripoliya built in 1711. A triple arched gate with ornate jaalis, jharokhas and cupolas, it gives one the first glimpse of Udaipur’s royal past. Through the Tripoliya you arrive at the Manek Chowk, which like any other chowk or junction has been seeing intense activity. Originally used for ceremonial processions, horse cavalry and elephant parades, now tourists throng the place for taking photographs with the colossal City Palace Museum as the backdrop. In the evenings, it is also the site for the sound and light show that chronicles bloody battles, seiges, Mughal intrigue and Rajput valour.

The gallantry of the region’s legendary warriors is symbolised in the crest at Darikhana ki Pol, the entrance to the museum.

As you step inside to explore Mewar’s living heritage, one of the walls illustrates the genealogical tree of the Suryavanshi rulers. At the Assembly Hall, a youthful portrait of Maharana Bhagwat Singh Mewar beckons your attention.

In 1969, he set up the Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation (MMCF) and converted the 30 mt. high and 333 mt long City Palace into a museum.

A young guide, and an elderly Bhupendra Singh, administrator-in-chief, MMCF, take you through winding narrow staircases with exquisite Victorian tiles lining their side walls, quaint porticos and balconies with resplendent views of the city of the sun.

You stop by the Saleh Khana or the armoury and admire the paintings that pay homage to Panna Dhai, the selfless caretaker of a young Udai Singh (founder of Udaipur), who sacrificed the life of her son to save the prince. The golden chapter in the yellowed pages of history comes alive at Pratap Gallery I that houses the original armour, sword and shield of Maharana Pratap, the hero of the Battle of Haldighati (1576).

The Mewar style of construction integrates Persian architectural influences in Chandra Mahal, an outcome of Rana Karan Singh’s visit to Delhi to sign a treaty with Emperor Jehangir.

Baadi Mahal on the fourth of the palace has 104 elegantly carved pillars and is the highest point of the monument. It is here that royal banquets were hosted. In one of the balconies that flank this mahal is the chair that was placed in Delhi Darbar, held in honour of King George V, for Maharana Fateh Singh, who refused to attend the darbar.

A few sections of the palace indicate how art and literature thrived in Mewar. For instance, the miniature paintings at Dilkush Mahal, the walls and ceilings of Kanch ki Burj carry glass inlay work, Chitram ki burj showcases elaborately painted wall murals depicting court scenes, boat rides, festivals and processions.

Vani Vilas is where Kaviraj Shyamaldas wrote the four volumes of ‘Veer Vinod’, the official history of Mewar and Madan Vilas displays pages from the book ‘The Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan’ by Lt. Col. James Tod, who came to Udaipur as a British representative and stayed on for five years, undertaking extensive tours.

The book is a labour of his love for the region.

The physically challenged Maharana Bhupal Singh was the last Maharana to live in this palace before Mewar merged with the Union of India in 1948.

Though most parts of this palace, constructed in a phased manner, stand out for their blend of different architectural styles, the Surya Chopad and Surya Gokhada capture the design aesthetics and culture of Mewar.

On a cloudy day, the people and royal family used to look at this ornamental sun and begin their routine.

The Surya Chopad opens into a spectacular courtyard where ends the tour of the Mardana Mahal or the Kings Palace. A narrow passage leads to the the Zanana Mahal or the Queen’s Palace. Royal textiles, musical instruments, sculptures, paintings, photographs and palanquins preserved caringly transport you to a world of grandiose.

As you exit through Moti Chowk, the dun-coloured Aravallis and the still waters of Lake Pichola seem to reiterate that the sun never sets on Mewar.

( The writer was in Udaipur at the invitation of Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation)


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Printable version | Oct 11, 2021 3:51:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/History-lessons-by-Lake-Pichola/article16091787.ece

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