Udaipur, being a sought-after tourist destination in India, is very well connected by air, train and road. From Udaipur, you can hire a cab that will take you to Kumbhalgarh. There are a number of nice properties here, where you can get a room, ranging between Rs 3000 (USD $46) to Rs 7000 per night, which you can choose from. Nestled between the Aravalli ranges, away from the maddening crowd, here, you can feel one with nature and unwind completely. The best time to visit is between October and March.
Since we were travelling from Jaipur, we chose to drive the distance of almost 350 kms. Till Ajmer, the roads are beautiful and you can also get some decent places for tea and snacks. After that, you are almost on your own and the last 100 kms are not the best. The area is almost arid and God forbid if your vehicle breaks down here. Make sure the car is serviced and the spare wheel is in place. And don’t forget to take along some refreshments.
Kumbhalgarh – The highest Fort in Rajasthan
Being members of the Club Mahindra, we had booked in their resort. Since Kumbhalgarh itself seems to be in the middle of nowhere, so are these beautiful properties. You can feel absolutely cut off from civilisation with just a few species of fauna around a small lake, narrow roads and thorny trees to add to the rustic charm of the landscape.
We had hit the road in the early hours, and so were at the resort in time for lunch. After resting for an hour, we put on our walking shoes, made sure the water bottles were full and off we were to check out the majestic fort of Kumbhalgarh.
This formidable and mammoth Mewar fortress, was built by Maha Rana Kumbha and is the birth place of Maha Rana Pratap, the legendary Rajput king of Mewar. Rana Pratap has to his credit, defying the mighty Mughal empire, almost alone and unaided by the other Rajput states. His father, Uday Singh had founded the city of Udaipur.
Situated at a height of 1,100 metres, the fort is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fort has seven massive gates.
The entry ticket to the fort was Rs 15 and Rs 200 (USD $3) for non-Indians. The fort is open from 9am to 6 p m daily.
The wall around the perimeter is one of the longest walls in the world, second only to the Great Wall of China and is also called ‘The Great Wall of India’. There were no guides available and so we hitched up our trousers and prepared ourselves to explore the vast grounds on our own.
We first climbed up the stairs to check out the famed rampart, which was so wide that eight horses could run side by side on it. Standing on it and surveying the beautiful hills of Aravalli all around, makes one feel like any king would; while inspecting his kingdom.
We climbed up further (how difficult it is to walk up and down the stone stairs!) to visit the Badal Palace. It is located at the topmost point of the fort and is the main palace here. Needless to say, the view of the landscape is breathtaking from here.
The fort complex is dotted with more than 300 Hindu and Jain temples. We just managed to visit a few. The architecture of the carved pillars was amazing.
The Shiva temple with its almost 5 feet high ‘Shivling’ is a must-visit.
It’s quite exhausting walking around the huge complex but as the sun started its downward journey, the hills and sky acquired a different hue altogether that was mesmerising and made us forget our tiredness.
We refreshed ourselves with some hot tea and snacks available outside the fort before we settled down to watch the Sound and Light show which starts at 6:45 pm and lasts for 45 minutes. Tickets are priced at Rs 100 and the show is only in Hindi. The show was brilliant and we enjoyed every minute of it.
Back in our rooms, we freshened up for dinner. After dinner we sat outside our room in the cool moonlight. It’s a totally different experience, sitting in the still of the night, soaking in the sounds of silence which was disturbed only by the sound of the crickets.
Parshuram Mahadev Temple
After breakfast the next day, we pulled on our shoes again, hitched our knapsacks and drove around 10 kms to reach Sadri-Rajpura-Parshuram Cave Road. We parked our car just outside the entrance of a small temple dedicated to the Monkey God, Hanuman. The hike all the way down starts from here.
It’s a great place to visit if you like to walk on the isolated hills and feel close to nature. This is all part of the Kumbhalgarh forest. For the religious minded, it is an added bonus as you also get to pay your obeisance to Lord Shiva, in a small ancient cave, believed to be built by the Saint Parshuram.
We started our walk down the hill side on a narrow, concrete path. The walk didn’t look difficult at all. Thankfully we were a group and had each other for company as there was no other human in sight all the way down. Some monkeys did show up off and on, whose number increased as we reached the temple. Just remember not to have any eatables in your hand when you spot a monkey. That’s the only time they may bother you. Otherwise, just ignore them and they will stay away.
The tranquility of the hills was at times unnerving and I, for one, would hate to walk alone here after sunset. (The temple timings are from 6 am to 7 pm). The walk started becoming arduous, the pathway looked unending, our legs were giving way, our water had finished… when we spotted a few plastered buildings hidden in the hills.
Relieved, we walked faster… only to be welcomed by gangs of monkeys and langurs. They seemed to be everywhere. At first we faltered, but the priest saw us from ‘down below’ and hollered at someone to shoo away the monkeys and langurs. It was smooth sailing all the way down then.
The langurs were all over the temple and we had to hide the offerings for the deity, from them.
Parshuram was the sixth ‘avatar’ of Lord Vishnu and an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. He had built this cave, in the foothills of the Aravalli, with his axe, in order to meditate while worshipping Lord Shiva. Inside the cave, a continuous stream of ‘unexplained’ natural water falls on the Shiv linga. There are nine ‘kunds’ that never dry, even in peak summer.
Later, we sat in the serene environment for sometime, looking at the majestic view of the Aravalli hills. We could see another path leading up to the temple. The priest told us that this was the path taken by those who preferred coming by train. And during ‘Shravan’, the line of devotees would extend all the way to the bottom!
The walk back was a Herculean task for us and we somehow managed to trudge uphill.
Once we reached the top, everything suddenly looked wonderful.
17th Century Rajsamand Lake
Back at the resort, all of us made a bee line for the spa, just so we could get some sensation back in our legs :). After lunch, we were ready to drive another 50 kms to soak in the beauty of the 17th Century Rajsamand Lake.
This huge lake (approx 1.75 miles wide and 4 miles long), was used as a seaplane base of Imperial Airways, during WWII, for over six years. Unfortunately, due to mining of marbles in the catchment area in the last three decades, it has started drying up. But due to renewed efforts of authorities, 2017 is the first year, after 44 long years, that the lake filled to its capacity.
Maharaja Raj Singh had built nine pavilions or ‘Nauchowki’ on the embankment of the lake, which are beautifully carved with pictures and the history of Mewar is inscribed here. This is one of the longest etchings in India!
‘Tuladaan’ (kings would be weighed in gold on special occasions and the gold would then be distributed among people) was done on five ‘torans’ (weighing arches) here. It was an annual event organised by Maharaja Raj Singh and his descendants.
We watched the spectacular sun set on the beautiful lake brimming with water. Lack of too many people, added to the serenity of the place.
A totally worthwhile weekend getaway. If you have time, you can visit the Ranakpur temples to see some exquisite carvings on marble pillars and try and count those pillars (it is said that it’s impossible to do so)!