Part 2: The treasures of Rajasthan
On your luxury Rajasthan holiday, you’ll discover untold treasures, unique testimony to the golden age of spice and silk caravans traversing the hot, dry landscapes. Here is the second part of our blog on Rajasthan’s spectacular hilltop palaces.
Jaisalmer, 205 kilometres west of Jodhpur, is the most remote of the old principalities. The district’s western border thrusts into Pakistan. Plopped in the southern Thar Desert, the arid sandstone ‘Golden City’ becomes hazy when the heat soars up to 46 degrees from April to June. With roots going back to the first fort built here nearly 1,000 years ago on a caravan route, the old trading city long ago lost its significance for India’s trade with the emergence of ports and sea trade.
Before you take a camel trek, stroll through the bustling market, past the Jain temples, and climb up 76 metre-high Trikuta Hill to Jaisalmer Fort. The turreted yellow sandstone ‘Golden Fort’ was recently named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fort’s precincts, still the residence of thousands of citizens, house 12th to 15th Century Jain temples, the Laxminath temple dedicated to Lakshmi and Vishnu, as well as the Maharawal, or Raj Mahal Palace.
Muslim stoneworkers in this region were renowned for their skills and the palace is a showcase for their art. Note in particular the palace’s gorgeous facade with corbelled balconies adorned with delicate filigree.
In the far south of Rajasthan, the palaces of Udaipur are perhaps the most extravagant of all. The yellow stone City Palace, 250 kilometres south of Jodhpur, sprawls along a 600m high ridge overlooking the east bank of Lake Pichola. A vast complex, it encompasses at least a half-dozen granite and marble palaces worth visiting, as well as courtyards, maze-like corridors, terraces, towers, gateways, shops and administrative offices.
Starting in 1537, when Udai Singh II chose the site as his capital of the Mewar Kingdom, 76 generations of Rajput rulers made their imprint, often while fighting off Moghul invaders. The result is a fusion of Rajasthani and Mughal architectural styles. The Mewar family retains ownership of the property but two of the palaces today are luxury hotels.
Badi Mahal, the four-storey main palace adorned with terraced gardens, has a priceless collection of 18th– and 19th Century Mughal miniature paintings and wall paintings. Its courtyard once hosted elephant fights. Its swimming pool was used for the Holi Festival, the vibrant Hindu festival of colours. The Chini Chitrashala is tiled with Chinese and Dutch ornamental tiles. The Zenana Mahal, the former women’s quarters, is today a museum with multi-coloured tiled walls and floors, an apartment full of miniatures, and wall paintings illustrating the story of Krishna.
Meanwhile, Lake Palace, or Jag Niwas, floats like an enormous white wedding cake in the middle of Lake Pichola. Four hundred years old, it once served as a summer palace for the royals. Now it’s the Taj Lake Palace Hotel (and open to visits for a meal or tea). Visitors to the central garden are advised to examine the detailed stone inlay and the domed elevated green marble pavilion, or chhatri, carved with vines and flowers.
Yonder holidays to India can include a private tour of Rajasthan. Most are luxury experiences in Northern India staying in boutique hotels and exceptional palaces.
All Yonder itineraries are crafted on a tailor-made, one-off basis, so you can be sure that your holiday will be as individual as you are.