Udaipur – the city where India becomes lovable

We arrived in Udaipur in the morning, after one long overnight journey with the train, coming from the south of India. And the first thing which stroke us was that everything seemed so much more quiet here… We crossed the Walking Bridge and, before even starting to look for accommodation, we stopped for a morning coffee, by the side of the lake. The sun was gently warming us, the air had a soft, spring-like note to it, the buildings were sending glittery reflections of themselves into the waters of the lake. While Indian women, sited by the edge of the water, undisturbed and apparently unaware of the people around, were doing their laundry.

There was more to discover of this “Indian Venice” – the streets, the people, the roof-top restaurants and handicraft shops, the wonderful lake that somehow manages to bring peace and serenity over Udaipur’s hundreds of years of life and history.

The city also reveals what the lives of the Maharajas used to be, these Indian princes who were governing rather small states, and who often retained some degree of autonomy even under the English domination. And we got to enter into the palaces which they build, and rebuild, over the centuries, for the court, for official business, for their own pleasure. Or for the exclusive use, and confinement, of their wives.

And, finally, I would like to show you the place where we stayed in Udaipur, one of the accommodations I liked best, so far, in India. Don’t miss the photos of its roof-top restaurant!

Into India’s past: the Ellora and Ajanta caves

They are not actually caves, but monasteries that were carved into the mountain rock by monks, as places of prayer. The first one we saw were the Ellora caves, a complex of caves built gradually by Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monks, from the 5th until the 10th century. The Ajanta caves are older than the Ellora ones, built at a time when Buddhism was actually the predominant religion in India. They are exclusively Buddhist and were caved between the 2nd and the 6th centuries. Their signature feature is represented by the paintings that once covered the walls of most of the caves. Unfortunately the site is not very picture-friendly, as the light is rather dim.

When we were lucky enough to be alone in one of the caves, we could almost listen to the silence, letting our eyes get used to the darkness, pierced only by the light passing through the entrance door, picturing in our minds the kind of life that the monks would have had in those secluded mountain-monasteries.

Arriving in India – and stumbling upon a wedding

So, here I am…

I find it difficult to put in just a few words what exactly is India to me. In a way, this is why this first post took a little longer to be written (this and the fact that the wi-fi is it not a common sight in India – so we’re back to Romania’s favorite place during the ‘90s: internet cafes!).

The word that kept coming back into my mind, time and time again during my first days in India, was “more”: more colors, more dust, more smells (good and bad!), more noise, more people, more everything, than anywhere else I’ve ever been. Some would say that here there’s more LIFE – with its chaotic, crazy, beautiful, tiresome, full of energy, never-ending play. The first few days I could not stop but welcome everything around me with a bewildered smile, not really sure what to feel about the constant honking, the cows with painted horns, the old, dusty busses full of people, the saris (the saris… and it seems so wonderful and incredible to me that, here, the women are dressed in all these amazing colors, every day of their life!), the dust, the noise, the garbage that seems to pile up on the side of the street, the welcoming smile that I am getting from other women… All of this is too much to be captured in just a few photos. Hopefully, I will be able to slowly unfold it, through the posts of this blog, and bring you bits and pieces of what India looks to me.

For now I can show you just a little bit of Tiruvannamalai, a town in the south of India, where we spend our first week and half, in the company of friends from Bucharest. Here, near the sacred Hindu mountain of Arunachala, there’s one of the biggest Hindu temples in south India, as well as the ashram of Ramana Maharshi, an Indian teacher who lived at the beginning of the 20th century.

And it is also here that, courtesy of our resourceful friend Adar, we got invited to a typical south-Indian wedding: and you can imagine how excited I was to have such a change! The ceremony started in the evening, with different rituals expressing the agreement of the two families for the marriage, continued over the night, with more guests arriving from other cities (we were sent home and advised to come early the next morning) and was completed the next day with a ritual performed by the Brahmin, which lasted for almost two hours.