The good earth welcomes the monsoon with the sound of Raga Malhar. Peacocks dance and rain drops sing. Boys and girls come out to play. Paper boats bob along swollen drains and boats decked out in cheery bunting float joyfully on lakes abrim with life rejuvenating rainwater. The sulky, deserted heat-drenched streets come alive with rejoicing crowds emerging from rooms darkened to keep the summer sun at bay.
Inevitably, in your wanderings around the desert state of Rajasthan you would have come across a painterly badal mahal (palace of clouds), or miniature paintings illuminating the joyful welcome of the monsoons, or stunning baoris (step-wells) thirsty for the plenitude of the rain clouds.
In the punishing heat of a Rajasthan summer, even the legendary city of lakes and fairytale palaces longs for the arrival of annual rainy season. Udaipur City, a regal bastion of the erstwhile Mewar royals, is no stranger to beating the heat. Its scenic lakes, historic gardens and palatial residences with their high ceilings, fettered windows and underground rooms provided some respite.
Though it started out as an observatory for Maharana Sajjan Singh the hilltop palace on Sajjangarh Fort from its vaulting heights offered the most dramatic scenes of the monsoon clouds racing across the Udaipur skyline, announcing the arrival of the rainy season. It didn’t take long for the Sajjangarh Palace, from its lofty perch on Bansdara Mountain at about 944m, to become the best seat in the house to observe the drama of a monsoon over the ‘city of lakes’ and the surrounding Aravalli range. If you are here till twilight, you might be treated to a spectacular sunset in the sky washed clean by the departing rain clouds.
The turreted palace, with its clean lines was built in 1884 in white marble. It’s a restful place, with jharokhas, fountains, lawns and a garden and a nice café to chill. The palace also features a unique rainwater harvesting system. Though the maharana’s dream of building a 9-storied observatory was foiled by his premature death, the palace was completed by Maharana Fateh Singh. It also served as a hunting lodge. You wend your way up to the palace from the foot of the hill where there’s the Sajjangarh Wildlife Sanctuary, which is home to sambhar, wild boar, hyenas, panthers and jackals.
Back in Udaipur city find your way to the City Palace nestling on the banks of Lake Pichola. The cavalcade of palace added to the major complex under various rulers also features the lovely Badal Mahal. You will love it for its beautiful mirror work, pretty gardens and fountains.
Surrounded by seven lakes Udaipur, heaves a sigh of relief when the monsoons arrive to fill these water bodies, parched from the summer heat. People come out in droves to enjoy boating and picnics with families and friend. Lake Pichola is attractive for a boat ride to the Jag Mandir Palace where one can enjoy a pleasant lunch at the restaurant. From the boat you get lovely views of the boatful places lining the shoreline. A dinner at the fairytale water palace, now run as a luxury hotel by the Taj group should add a pleasant touch to your tryst with Udaipur in the rains. Fatehsagar Lake, now abrim with water, and the Ambrai Ghat, witness vast throngs of citizens banking in the soaking up the bounty of the rain gods.
Picnics and family gatherings take full advantage of the lushness of the city gardens blessed by the rain. Head out for the historic Saheliyon-Ki-Bari–the garden of maids. Built in the early 18th century by Rana Sangram Singh, it was gifted as part of the dowry of a princess, with the intent that she would enjoy it with her ladies-in-waiting. Two other popular gardens are the Nehru Garden set on an island in Fateh Sagar Lake and Dudhi Talai, a rock garden. Ladies dressed in traditional attire and the famous lehriya (wavelike) printed costumes adorn flower-bedecked swings and sing traditional songs welcoming the rains.
The rainy season also witnesses two beautiful festival events. There’s the Hariyali Amavasya which heralds the arrival of the monsoon and the greening of the parched landscape. Lord Shiva and Parvati are also propitiated for a favoured farming season. The Hartalika Teej celebrates the union of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. You will love the rich pageantry of the images of the deities carried out in procession through the city. It’s the time to gorge on ghewar, an intricately created sweet, made specially in these days.
Come away to Udaipur, when the summers gone and the rain gods are out to play. Lose yourself in the masti of a rain dance… join the lively songs sung in gardens filled with pretty ladies on swings… ditch your diet and feast on delicious monsoon time treats…