Rajasthan Diaries/ 5: Shrinathji Temple, Udaipur

Udaipur disappointed me at first sight. It was too sophisticated, too touristy. It lacked that raw charm Jaipur had. And every shop, every café, every spot were radiating one common thing – too many foreigners came here. Well, don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against them. They are way more well-researched and respectful towards our heritage. You wouldn’t find any foreigner scribbling Raju loves Natasha on any monument. We saw it even at Amer Fort. I mean I know I suck at this thing called love but seriously I don’t get the point of declaring it to the whole world and choosing such odd spots. I mean even after Mark Zuckerberg gave us such an important yet full of nothing but shit platform why you still have to put your name on a wall where people can’t even like your status. Anyway. Even though they are more or less blameless, I still somehow dislike the tourist spots that pre-dominantly cater to the foreign crowd. I hated Goa for the same reason. And Udaipur has that same disease. It’s infected with something superficial straight out of that ‘Incredible India’ campaign. Here the shopkeepers were quiet and smug. They wouldn’t try to persuade you to come and check out their best quality stuff. He knows the Dollars and Euros would pour in. No auto driver would try to take you to any market around. He doesn’t give a shit. The cafés and restaurants looked superficially cosmopolitan and the fake accent on the café owner’s mouth would entice you to punch him in his fucking face and yell, Saale tu UP se hai. Hindi mein baat kar.

Ever since I had heard the bad news about Chittorgarh fort, I was in an unsettled mood. And Udaipur’s fake cosmopolitan vibe made me more irritable. Even prolonged stares from good-looking hotel reception guys couldn’t cheer me up fully. After sleeping for six hours we both were refreshed. And also famished. But instead of going to have breakfast we chose to start with a visit to Shreenath Ji. He is another form of Lord Jagannath and apparently the resident deity of Udaipur. Every single shop, hotel, restaurant had his portrait hanging in full glory. And he resides at the centre of the town, inside Jagdish temple. (His main temple is in Nathdwara, 48 kms from Udaipur.) We took the steep flight of stairs and entered the main temple premises. Curved in stones that shows expert masonry work this temple is almost four hundred years old. Few local women sitting inside were singing bhajan in chorus. The priest gave us Prasad and again that heavenly smelling teeka. I found it surprising that even though Shreenath Ji was evidently the main deity here in Udaipur, I don’t remember spotting him much in Jaipur. This reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Gods and goddesses have a weird pattern depending upon the humans who worship them.

After meeting with Shreenath Ji we went to O’zen Café. There was no special reason why we chose this place. It was the nearest place to the temple and it looked nice, and we were again about to faint from starving for past eighteen hours. O’zen had a rooftop sitting area and the view was pretty good. Again it was a pre-dominantly foreigner infested place. One very smug looking guy was just sitting next to us with two girls from Australia trying way too hard to impress them. D and I were devouring our naans and butter chicken while me continuously muttering under my breath that I wanted to kick the sonofabitch in the nuts. D was like, but what did he do to you? Well, he did nothing; some people just have that quality. You just feel like beating them up real nice.

After lunch we took the left turn from Jagdish Chawk and started walking. The shops were driving us nuts. By far, I realized Udaipur has the best collection of silver jewellery in India. The variety of collection across the shops was mind-blowing. They even had several designs from Amrapali. D had just quit her job and my credit card limit was running dangerously low so we tried to turn a blind eye to the allure and chose to go to Gangour Ghat instead and click some photos. A lady was selling lots of costume jewellery at the ghat. We bought a few things from her and tried to contain our shopping bug. I bought a Rajasthani maangteeka and roamed the city wearing that for the rest of the day.

I swear I didn't disturb the pigeons.

Of all the lakes in Udaipur Lake Pichola and Fateh Sagar are the most popular. Both are artificially made, created to resolve acute water shortage. Lake Pichola is older, made in 1362. Fateh Sagar was created in the year 1687 and named after Maharana Fateh Singh. After having done with taking a gazillion pictures at Gangour Ghat we headed for Fateh Sagar. We skipped City Palace though. We felt one city palace was enough for one trip. Instead, we went to Fateh Sagar and took a boat ride. The boat was almost full and ready to leave and in hurry we both donned our life vests wrong. Our co-passengers must have thought we were bonkers but we were quite oblivious to our surrounding and busy enjoying the breathtaking view. It was the time for sunset and the vista around the lake was quite surreal. The Sajjangarh monsoon palace up above the hill was looking like a solitary guard on alert in the ray of setting sun. We were going up there the next day.

That jackass

To be continued

Read the other episodes here.