Udaipur, the city of lakes and frescoes

Life in Udaipur unfolds like a fresco.

Udaipur, the historic capital of the kingdom of Mewar, is located in the southernmost part of Rajasthan, near the Gujarat border. It is around 660 km from Delhi.  It is said that life is one of the most romantic places in India. It is true that the city has all the assets of a peaceful place, where time seems to have slowed down. In a country where the movement all around can make you dizzy, Udaipur is a true haven of peace of mind. I read a lot in this city, on the shores of Lake Pichola, sitting on a stone bench, I parted while turning the pages of an Indian novel. I strolled around like a lazy man. I took very few pictures. 

For once, I wanted to take a break. Touch the Jain temples. Be curious about the history of this city. Touch the frescoes. Contemplate the artistic simplicity of these inhabitants by reading their mythologies on the wall of their home. Their frescoes nevertheless have some of the flavors of frescoes one sees in the old palaces of Rajasthan. The tradition of painting the wall of houses with scenes from mythological and chivalric tales has been prevalent in Rajasthan for the past many centuries. The people of Udaipur make use of such wall paintings for decorations during wedding celebrations. Is it the king of the Vedic gods Indra who is represented on his elephant Airavata? Is it King Chandragupta Maurya who leads his men to war against King Nandâ of Magadha? I don’t know. It could just as well have been a fantasized image of the owner of one of these houses.

I’m not the only one who walks in the alleys of Udaipur. I often come across small groups of Jain monks walking in single file early in the morning. They go with haste and barefoot to honor each shrine. These Jains monks practiced wandering and the wanderings of these Jain monks fascinated me - they only walk with their pilgrim stick all day. Their white tunic attracted me, and visually, I found their displacement very photogenic. So I followed them. I was able to speak to a few of the monks, and one in particular was happy to tell his story of how he became a monk. Monk, Ajit Ratna, made the decision one day to give up his life as a chemical engineer to become a Jain monk. Ajit decided one day to very suddenly give up the mundane life. When he announced his decision to his wife, she also decided to become a nun. Their son also became a monk too. Ajit told me that the ties that binded them as a family no longer exist. They no longer behaved as family members but as monks, each seeking their own path. I took a few pictures and went back to reading again on my stone bench.

My favorite place was near the edge of Lake Pichola. Its name is Gangaur Ghat. There were always over-excited pigeons only upset the silent meditation of some women in sari. I love this city.

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