The Gangaur Ghat at Lake Pichola in Udaipur, the white city

Colorful Rajasthan: India’s Scenic State in Five Days, Part II

Libor Pospisil
8 min readAug 14, 2023


In Part I of the story, I got to see tigers at Ranthambore National Park and explored the pink city of Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan. Here, I complete my too short of a trip across the state.

The brevity of the trip forced me to give up a poetic, seven-hour train ride from Jaipur to the city of Udaipur. Begrudgingly, I took a mundane, one-hour flight instead.

Udaipur’s historical district is famous for its breezy location on the sloping shores of Lake Pichola. No wide boulevards could fit in there, merely steep and narrow streets, some of them accessible only by tuk-tuk. That is how I also traveled, with my luggage, to the guesthouse where I stayed. The accommodation was in a one of the havelis; the cozy, multi-story townhouses on the lakeshore. Their top terraces usually have restaurants, with panoramic views of the city, the lake, and the surrounding mountains. Udaipur receives more rain than the rest of the state, which makes the landscape surprisingly lush for Rajasthan.

Ranakpur Jain Temple

White city

I saw from the terrace how people use the lake to relax, and to help them with laundry and tuk-tuk wash. When I went downstairs to feel the lake up close, a street vendor wanted to strike up a conversation with me. He put a phone with a picture in front of my face. I recognized the lady on it: “Oh, that’s Judi Dench. With whom?” “With me! They were shooting a movie in Udaipur years ago. She is a nice lady. She took a selfie with me.” That movie was The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Udaipur was also the setting for an older Bond movie and many others. The reason is simple. Udaipur is India’s quintessential fairy-tale city, thanks to the landscapes, and the architecture as well. Many of its façades are ornately embellished with marble of white and cream colors.

Besides havelis, the city has several palaces. Two of them are on islands in the lake, making a boat trip even more worthwhile, while the Monsoon Palace sits on top of a mountain. The prime royal residence of Udaipur is the immense city palace, which grew over centuries on a cliff, right above the lake in the city center. Visiting its compound takes the better part of the day, and a great deal of attention, as one walks through tens of spectacular halls. The numerous courtyards along way ensure that the tour remains pleasantly varied.

In the city palace of Udaipur

All the halls in the city palace showcase the spectacular art of Rajasthan. Some of them are covered with paintings of maharajas and court life; others have glittering walls and dome ceilings. Mosaics of peacocks with glass inlays create a sense of luxury.

After the tour, as I was walking through the gate of the palace, I had to jump to the side of the road since the maharaja’s motorcade came rolling in. A lot of Rajasthani cities and palaces are still residences of the former royal families. I roamed the streets of Udaipur for a bit, and later, I walked up the precipitous steps leading to the Hindu Jagdish Temple. The priest there asked me to wait downstairs because they were just cleaning the Holi decorations. In a moment, water in red hues began streaming down the steps. When it stopped, I began walking up again but had to quickly run back because now blue water started flowing down. Then, yellow water came down too. I might have missed the Holi festival itself but not the Holi cleanup.

Miniature painting workshop of the Jagdish Temple in Udaipur

The priest gave me a tour of the temple site, describing the story of Hinduism through the lines of reliefs on the temple’s exterior. He did not skip the Kamasutra part, which was depicted on a small section of the wall, making the temple particularly interesting to visitors from abroad, who have little patience to learn about the spiritual aspects of Hinduism. Inside the temple, I saw the black statue of Lord Vishnu, still wearing his Holi attire in deep-yellow.

I made my way to a small workshop, where artisans employed by the temple preserve the old art of miniatures. The intricate paintings are small, but they comprise surprisingly eventful scenes, with many tiny figures. The art form dates from the era when maharajas ruled over Rajasthan. Miniature painting, together with silver smithing, are two forms of art in which Udaipur excels over any other place in India.

The performer is alluding to the historically most vital job in Rajasthan — carrying water in the Thar desert.

At the restaurant, on top of a haveli, I made new friends Akhil and Raji, who were visiting from Mumbai and Bangalore. They took me then to a local theater, where we sat on the floor and watched traditional Rajasthani dances. The wide range of performances underscored how diverse the Rajasthani cultures are. The mountains, the forests, the Thar desert; each corner of the enormous state was big enough to developed its own distinct customs and dances.

The evening continued at a street stall. Akhil and Raji showed remarkable patience when they taught my clumsy fingers to eat panipuri, without breaking the shell and spilling the delicious liquid all over myself. When I mastered it, I kept lining up to try more, not least because panipuris come in many flavors, from sweet to savory ones.

The most beautiful temple

The six-hour drive from Udaipur to Jodhpur allowed me to see more villages, in one of which the locals were still enjoying the Holi festivities, with colors flying in all directions. The driver said that in some places, Holi actually lasts the whole week.

The Ranakpur Temple opens up to the surrounding nature.

We passed by forts too, but most importantly, we made a stop at Ranakpur Temple. This 15th-century marvel stands isolated, at the bottom of a valley. The impression of the temple defies words. The marble structure contains high-ceiling halls, where every pillar and wall are covered with delicately sculpted reliefs. The number of pillars exceeds four hundred, and no two of them are the same. At the end of each hall is not just a window but a large opening that leads straight into the surrounding forests.

Ranakpur is one of the main pilgrimage sites of Jainism, an ancient Indian religion. With only five million adherents, it is less well-known abroad, and yet, the religion’s philosophy and followers have greatly influenced India, including Mahatma Gandhi. Perhaps naïvely, even we outsiders, can feel how the temple, with its setting, embodies some of the tenets of Jainism — asceticism, hard work, open-mindedness, and a close connection with nature.

Mehrangarh Fort overlooking Jodhpur

Blue city

When the driver and I finally arrived in Jodhpur, I knew immediately it would become my favorite city in Rajasthan. It is defined by the enormous 15th-century Mehrangarh Fort, whose massive walls on top of a rocky mound conceal the comfortable palace inside. The fort is a popular venue for weddings, one of which produced columns of laser light that evening and rhythmic sounds spilling over the city. With the scenic backdrops, it is not surprising that Rajasthan has become a wedding destination. Priyanka Chopra got married in Umaid Bhawan Palace, the residence of the current maharaja of Jodhpur. The daughter of India’s top billionaire from Mumbai placed a part of her wedding ceremonies in Udaipur.

Jodhpur lies at the heart of Rajasthan, where even the dry bushes begin to disappear, and the landscape turns into desert. The dusty narrow streets are, nonetheless, incredibly picturesque, thanks to the old decorative style of the houses and the typically blue walls. On some houses, the blue is just a background for murals. Where Udaipur’s vibe is luxurious, Jodhpur’s charm is in its ruggedness, which is probably what attracted most me to the city. Or maybe, it is that I like color blue.

Toorji Ka Jhalra — the stepwell in Jodhpur

The houses also have flat roofs with terrace restaurants. In one of them, I ordered laal maas, or mutton red curry, which is a local specialty. Sitting down alone, I did not end up eating alone. A gentleman dining at the next table struck up a conversation with me. He was born in India, but now works for a tech company in California. So, the topic of the conversation, with the fortress towering above our heads, was clear — tech again.

After my meal, I walked to Toorji Ka Jhalra, the most enchanting spot of the entire trip. It is a stepwell in the center of Jodhpur. I had not known what a stepwell was until I stood at that gigantic square hole in the ground, leading to a pool of water below. Created in the 18th century, its sides were reinforced with stones and numerous sets of staircases, all symmetrically converging and diverging. The design ensured that even large crowds could orderly reach the lifesaving water. One side of the stepwell is embellished with a tall arch and false windows, so that walking down to the water feels like entering a subterranean palace. These days, the stepwell serves as a swimming pool for kids. At the top, a musician played ravanahaththa, an ancient predecessor of the violin. For me, it was the perfect ending to travels through Rajasthan.

Early next morning, I could not resist though, and rolled that luggage of mine to the stepwell to see it one more time. Next to it is a chic café with red armchairs and shelves of Indian religious statues. I ate breakfast there before heading to the airport. That gave me a few moments to reflect on the places in Rajasthan that I had to skip because of how short the trip was: the gold city of Jaisalmer in the desert, the camel fair in Pushkar; the fortress of Chittorgarh; Mount Abu; the cities of Ajmer, Bikaner, and Bundi. Rajasthan did not bow to my, nor anyone else’s, hectic itinerary. It is we, who must slow down and take time to explore this spectacular part of India. Only then can we fully appreciate all it has to offer.

If you go

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