Still living the Raj life

Udaipur, India. Today we made it to the City Palace of Udaipur, which is an awfully utilitarian name for a lovely 500-year old complex of small palaces with a gorgeous view overlooking the city.

Its setting, nestled in the vicinity of other palaces and famous temples, will be familiar to those old enough to remember Octopussy. Or maybe just to those who are addicted to James Bond films. Preparations are in place for this week’s coming festival, Holi. Yes, this is the one where they throw paint powder everywhere. Stand back!!

We were impressed by the coherence of a residence that served – and still serves – Maharana Udai Singh II and his successor Maharanas over a period of the next almost 500 years as the palace was continually expanded. The section where the current Maharana lives was built in the 1930s, presumably with things like electricity and plumbing.

There was an almost seamless flow from one part of the palace to the next. What is remarkable is that there were no Versailles-style grand spaces or overdone courtyards or gardens. Rather, the palace had an intimacy that seemed almost homey, though the finishes were quite luxurious.

The original panther and tiger traps are still here, and there is nice marble platform from which the Raj could mount his elephant, or – a little lower down – his horse.

Yes, there is a current generation of this royal family, and yes, he still stables his horses here. He is 75 and has a 35-year-old prince heir with a globe-trotting life style. Heavy is the head that will next wear the crown…

There are special highly decorated rooms, lovely courtyards. devoted to different events or purposes like dancing,  and vistas, lots of screens that would provide excellent views for the ladies of the harem, and some amusing vignettes of private rooms of more recent Maharanas. There is even a special room used exclusively — and only once — for “honeymoon nights” as the Maharana introduced each young girl into the harem.

They were obviously just simple people trying to do a good job of governing their state though they claim direct descent from the sun god, and sleep in silver cradles There’s a convenient image on the outside of the palace of the sun for the general population to worship and a full representation of the sun god inside for the family to worship — or to thank for all the benefits bestowed on them. So maybe it is rather like Versailles.

With four floors of riches to view, which did not include the part of the palace actually inhabited by the reigning Maharana or the section that is a very high-end hotel, it was almost too dizzying to absorb.

Don’s Food Corner

Jo is making some eating progress. She moved on to a piece of apple pie. Robust health might be in sight.

I tried another vegetarian dumpling dish — chakki ki subzi. Unlike the dumpling dish I had yesterday, this one did have light fluffy dumplings in a sauce that was heavy on the yogurt. Looking at a recipe, the dumplings are made from “the remains of wheat flour dough after it is washed.” I’m not sure exactly how that is achieved, but it looks like the dumplings are first boiled briefly and then deep-fried briefly before being added to the gravy. Delightful little pillows with a slight crust around the edges.

I was also given a small portion of corn in a pureed spinach gravy. All in all, a very light, but satisfying meal. I didn’t have any rice, just a portion of bread — roti.

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