The hotel offers a wide range of recreational activities, both indoors and outdoors and suitable for all ages. There are guided excursions beyond the palace available for those who wish to explore the area. These promise to take you on memorable journeys through Rajasthan’s rich cultural history.

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Rural Rajasthan: Delwara

Distance: 5 minute walk Total Duration of Visit: 1 hour 30 minutes
Opening Times:
Guided tours – 10am-6pm Daily
Cost: Guided tours – 300INR

Delwara village epitomises the rich history of Rajasthan state. Traditionally the area was divided into kingdoms under the rule of tribal families. The Jhala Rajputs ruled the kingdom of Mewar wherein Delwara lay. Devigarh Palace was built at this strategic location in order to guard one of the three main passes into the valley of Udaipur. Due to its geographical importance, the principality of Delwara was awarded to Sajja Singh from Gujarat, for displaying his bravery and loyalty to Maharana Pratap of Mewar against the Mughal Emperor Akbar in the battle of Haldighati (1576), more information on this can be found below as part of our 'Battle Stories' experience.

The current community was once known as ‘devkul paton nagri’ or the 'town of gods'. This was because it boasted approximately 1000 temples, out of which there were about 400 Jain Mandir Temples. Each successive ruler built their own temples worshipping different gods and over time these accumulated. Even today every street in Delwara has at least one temple.

The Non-Governmental Organisation Seva Mandir, has sped the development of Delwara as a socially, historically and environmentally-aware village. This has led to the organization of village walks by one of six specially trained local boys. These trips include a visit to a local potter to observe his work and a small personalized tour of any of the other many sites that the village is home to. Apart from the many Hindu and Jain temples, below are highlighted other places of significance in Delwara:

  • Indra Kund: A beautiful Step Well that is a marvellous example of stone carving and is about 15 meters deep.
  • Hunting Tower: The tower located on Kantya Hill, locally known as Audhi, was built by King Jasvantsinh. It was used by the king for hunting during his rule. Its ruin can be reached easily by a short, (approx. 30 minute walk) up the hill. The path also passes the ruin of an old temple. From this point there are fantastic panoramic views over the village, the palace and the Aravalli hill range.
  • Sadhna Workshop: About 20 years ago, a patchwork program was initiated in Delwara by a local NGO, Seva Mandir, as an income generation activity to promote women’s empowerment. Today, this initiative has transformed into a self-owned enterprise involving more than 600 women from various villages. Of these, around 250 are from Delwara, which is where their main workshop is found. Open to the public (10am-5pm, Monday to Saturday), fair trade and high quality women’s clothing can be purchased here.

Tours cost 300INR and all money made from the walk is split between the guides, a fund for the local youth centre and walk expenses. We advise a 5pm start, which allows enough time to enjoy the village in daylight and most likely spot the local monkeys emerging from the trees at dusk, after a beautiful sunset.

Please let the Hotel know if you wish us to arrange one of these tours for you (more information: http://www.sevamandir.org/walk). Alternatively a member of staff would be more than happy to accompany you or, of course, you are welcome to explore the village yourself with a map available from Palace Services. For more information please see: http://theculturetrip.com/asia/india/articles/a-guide-to-delwara-the-town-ofthe- gods/.

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A Journey through Sacred Places: Eklingji and Nagda Temples

Distance: 15 minute drive Total Duration of Visit: 1 hour
Opening Times: Cost: Free Entry
Eklingji - 10:30am-1:30pm and 5:30pm-8:30pm daily
Nagda – 10am-5pm Daily

Eklingji is a 1000-year old temple complex dedicated to the god Shiva. It is only a short ride away from the hotel in the neighbouring village. It is an ideal choice for your first journey to explore Hindu religious practices, as the temple is usually not too crowded and in remarkably good condition.

The quality of the upkeep is due to the fact that Eklingji is serviced by the personnel of the Rajasthani maharana himself, who visits the temple every Monday, on the holy day of Shiva. The temple-complex consists of a main temple and 107 other shrines for the worship of the different manifestations of the god. The central temple houses a remarkable four-faced idol of Eklingji (Lord Shiva). The four faces of the idol represent Lord Shiva in his four forms. Carved out of black marble, the idol is 50 feet high. Eklingji is believed to be the presiding ruler of the Mewar region hence the reason why its kings are maharajas (princes) and not maharanas (kings).

Every marble surface is adorned with intricate carvings, while the walls in the main temple are covered with embossed silver plates depicting Hindu deities and their attributes, such as the god Ganesha with his symbol, the mouse. The milky whiteness of the immortal marble slabs is offset by the colourful swirl of lotus petals, coconut shards and flower garlands: votive offerings presented to the gods by devotees visiting the temple.

It is also said that whoever whispers their wishes into the ear of the stone bull in front of Shiva’s statute will have them fulfilled in due course by the favour of the God.

Nagda, the abandoned capital of the Mewar region, is an ancient group of temples dating from the 7th century, situated beside an ever-expanding lake covered by a floating forest of lotus flowers. Most buildings were destroyed by the Mughals or have been submersed by the lake over the years. Yet, the surviving pair of 10th century temples, called the 'mother-in-law' and 'daughter-in-law', still offer a breath-taking glimpse into the colourful history of the city. Of particular interest is the marriage area with its four ornate, carefully carved pillars depicting lovers in embrace, to which couples are supposed pay homage upon visiting the complex.

Nagda is no longer a place of active worship; it is owned and maintained by the government, owing to its status as a national heritage monument. The temple is in easy reach of Eklingji; a quiet area of contemplation and peace, where the only signs of life are local children relaxing on the ruins and cows grazing in the background.

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Religious Rituals: Shrinathji Temple in Nathdwara

Distance: 45 minute drive Total Duration of Visit: 2 hours 15 minutes
Opening Times: See Below Cost: Free Entry

Nathdwara is famous for its Krishna temple which is home to Shrinathji, a 12th century idol of Krishna and the temple's namesake. Originally situated on Govardhan hill, near Mathura, it was moved to Nathdwara in the 17th century to protect it from the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb's campaign against Hindu worship in his empire.

The temple now attracts thousands of fervent devotees from all over India and the world. To get the most out of the trip we would advise that you visit with a guide from the hotel, to navigate the crowds and explain the reasons behind the traditional offerings being given. Men and women are separated during the induction to the temple but can rejoin once inside so you may need one guide for men and another for women.

The experience is at times confusing and very crowded but will provide you with an invaluable insight into the depth and meaning of the Gods and Goddesses, in this case Krishna, to Hindus worldwide.

Darshan (prayer) Timings: Inductions into the temple occur at eight different times during the day. Devotees attend these in correspondence with aspects of Lord Krishna's day as is explained below. As a tourist, Rajbhog (breakfast) is the best induction to attend, being a slightly less popular time of worship. If you want to visit a Hindu temple, but are taking a child or are not fond of crowds, Eklingji is a quieter option.

  • Mangla - 05:30 - Krishna wakes up
  • Shringar - 07:15 - Krishna dresses in his first outfit (of many) of the day.
  • Gwal - 09:15 - The lord takes his cows to pasture.
  • Rajbhog - 11:30-12:15 - Krishna has his first food of the day (breakfast!)
  • Utthan - 15:30 - Having fallen asleep whilst watching his cows, Krishna wakes from is nap.
  • Bhog - 16:30 - Krishna has the second meal of the day.
  • Arti - 17:00 - Krishna prays at this traditional prayer time just after sunset.
  • Shyan - 18:30 - Krishna is ready to sleep once more.
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Battle Stories: Haldighati

Distance: 1 hour drive Total Duration of Visit: 3 hours
Opening Times: 8am-7pm Daily Cost: 200INR for Non-Indians, 30INR for Indians

An hour away, nestled among turmeric-coloured hills, apparently still stained with the blood of the thousands of soldiers who died there, lies the fort of Haldighati. This is where Maharana Pratap, a Rajasthani king fought against the Mughal Emperor Akbar's forces led by Man Singh I. He won but sustained enormous casualties. The fort has been turned into a museum to celebrate this important figure in Indian cultural history, considered one of its foremost freedom fighters.

The museum provides highly interactive storytelling, which would be great for children, and some fascinating stories about the power struggles and human sacrifices of 18th Century Rajasthan. There can be a lack of English explanation, though, so take a hotel guide with you to translate.

There are also camel rides available outside the fort, and a selection of its famous rose water. The region is now known for the growing of roses, and even supplies RAAS Devigarh with the flowers.

Haldighati is close to Nathdwara, so could be covered as the first stop in a morning excursion.

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A Royal Experience: Udaipur

Distance: 45 minute drive Total Duration of Visit: Full Day Trip
Opening Times: Cost: 200INR for Non-Indians, 30INR for Indians
City Palace Museum - 9:30am-4:30pm
daily
City Palace Museum – 115INR for adults,
55INR for children
Jagdish Temple – 5:30am-2pm,
4pm-10:30pm daily
Jagdish Temple – Free Entry
Sahelion ki-Bari – 8am-8pm daily Sahelion ki-Bari – 50INR for Non-Indians,
10 INR for Indians
Boat Rides – Hourly 10am-6pm,
leaving on the hour
Boat rides – 300INR before 3pm,
500INR after

Udaipur, the lake city, is a beautiful, and relatively quiet, Rajasthani city. We recommend starting at the City Palace, still home to Udaipur’s king, which will help to situate the city within its impressive history. City Palace is the largest palace complex in Rajasthan. Though it was originally made up of 11 palaces constructed over four centuries of successive rulers it is well-known for the uniformity of its design. Once used solely as a royal residence, the mass of towers, balconies and gardens now house two restaurants, Fateh Prakash Palace Hotel, City Palace Museum and Crystal Gallery.

The museum itself is extremely informative and well-explained in both Hindi and English, meaning it is unnecessary to pay for an additional guide. There are separate areas depicting the clothing, silverware and family portraits of the royal family in addition to the palace itself in which you can explore both the King and Queen's quarters. The Crystal Gallery is a stunning collection of the royal jewels and should not be missed.

From the City Palace, a short walk takes you to the Jagdish temple. Built in 1652 and dedicated to Lord Jagannath, an incarnation of Vishnu, the temple has the ease of a city-centre location, and is popular for its beautiful stone carving; however, it is fairly small and open so does not get too crowded during the day. Look out for the famous black stone idol of Jagannath.

After Jagdish Temple, don't forget to visit Sahelion-ki-Bari to continue the royal experience. These gardens are particularly outstanding around the rainy season. Historically, these were a place for the close female friends of the Queen; the English translates as the ‘Garden of the Maids of Honour’. Formal garden areas surround fountains, whilst winding pathways lead to open lawns that provide space for picnicking.

Alternatively consider the following recommendations for dining in the city:

  • Leela Palace -$$$- Leela Palace is a lakeside hotel and perfect for dinner. The range of Indian and international food options will not let you down, nor the views of the lake, which are quite special. Do ask at the hotel for any further recommendations.
  • Sunset Terrace -$$- Part of Fateh Prakash Palace Hotel, this al-fresco restaurant has beautiful views over Lake Pichola. This restaurant serves a good variety of continental food along with a selection of great Chinese and Indian dishes.
  • Savage Garden -$$- If you are looking for a change after exploring the Indian culinary scene, Savage Garden offers a variety of Middle-Eastern and European dishes in a stylishly-decorated, blue and white haveli. The menu is carefully put together to create exciting and delicious combinations of flavour.
  • Natraj -$- This has been Udaipur's top thali joint for more than 20 years. Having thali is a great way to try authentic Rajasthani food as it allows you to try different curries, breads, rices and desserts in one meal. At Natraj your food will be refilled before your eyes by the serving staff as you learn which you like and dislike. The restaurant has a polished and modern look; usually quite busy but you can always find a free table.

For more advice about places to eat in Udaipur please do not hesitate to ask the hotel driver or guide who will be happy to help.

Your afternoon can be spent exploring the cities markets (please note these are largely closed on Sundays) and for a more metropolitan shopping experience, Celebration Mall can be reached on your way back to Devigarh as it is located in Udaipur's suburbs.

No visit to the City of Lakes would be complete without exploring Lake Pichola and Lake Fateh Sagar, the two lakes of Udaipur. Boat rides are available, especially worth taking in the late afternoon to watch the sunset. These often include a closer look at the island-set Taj Lake Palace and Jagmandir Island Palace.

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Panoramic Summit: Sajjan Garh

Distance: One hour drive; 15 minutes from Udaipur Total Duration of Visit: 2 hours 30 minutes
Opening Times: 9am-sunset
(last entry 5pm) daily
Cost: 300INR for Non-Indians; 50INR for Indians

High up in the Aravalli hills, overlooking Udaipur, is the Monsoon Palace, Sajjan Garh. Once a royal palace from which to watch the monsoon clouds move over the countryside, now it is the best place to go for views over Udaipur and the surrounding countryside.

The palace itself is sparse, and smaller than its original constructor intended, due to the King's untimely death in the late 19th century. The views are well worth taking a trip up for. You will need to take a car, though, it's too steep for bikes, and the road up is not safe for walking.

There is also a zoo, which they call the Sajjan Garh biological park. We would not recommend a visit, as though there are still a few animals, they are not all in an active condition.

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A Rajput Stronghold: Chittorgarh and Sawaryaji Temple

Distance: 2 hours 30 minutes Total Duration of Visit: Full Day Trip
Opening Times: 8am-7pm Daily Cost: 200INR for Non-Indians, 30INR for Indians
Chittorgarh – 7am-6pm daily Chittorgarh – 100INR for Non-Indians;
5INR for Indians
Sawaryaji – 5:30am-11pm Sawaryaji – Free Entry

If you have a day to spare and want to really delve into the heart of Rajasthani history, a visit to Chittorgarh is a must. As it is a long drive, be sure to drop in at Sawaryaji temple on the way back (details below).

Chittorgarh dates back to the 7th century and its history encapsulates more than a millennium of Indian cultural change. It has endured three epic battles between the Rajput family and the Mughals (Alu-ud-Din-Khalji in 1303; Sultan Bahadaur Shah in 1535; and Akbar in 1568) and remains to tell the tale today.

It is known as the strongest bastion of Hindu resistance in the state and each battle was followed by a johar (mass suicide) as the dead warriors' wives sacrificed themselves to prove their loyalty. The fort covers an area of 14 square km and was once home to over 100 temples, separate palaces for each dignitary and almost 100 reservoirs. An impressive, and largely still-standing wall, surrounds the entire complex. Interestingly, a parallel plateau can be seen across the plain on which the highway was built; this used to be the battlefield. This hill is in fact higher however as the terrain is less rocky and unsuitable for storing water, the fort was built on the lower platform.

Much of the fort is now in ruins (although structurally still stunning) but it has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site. As at Haldighati, the site is a treasure trove of stories, which involve individuals such as Padmini, who is believed to be the most beautiful woman to have ever lived, and the famous Maharana Pratap, who always wished to occupy the fort but, due to its outstanding defences, was unable to. Little inform is supplied, so to unlock the secrets of Chittorgarh it is well worth paying a guide to take you around the site and transportation can be provided by the hotel. Harish is a particularly knowledgeable guide and extremely professional. For the day he charges 500INR.

Although there are a number of temples that are still active at Chittorgarh, about an hour from Devigarh, on the return trip, you have the choice of visiting the famous Sawaryaji temple. It is a new build, although the idol is extremely old and depicts the child Krishna, the preserver. This temple, and the town of Sawaryaji is quite crowded and unclean, but gives you a taste of real life in an Indian town. Again, please take a hotel driver and guide in order to help you navigate and arrange this trip.

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Temples of Old and New

If you are RAAS Hopping over to Devigarh you should definitely make the most of the transfer to Udaipur. There are several sites on the route that provide a great opportunity to stretch your legs are some the best off-the-beaten-track gems of Rajasthan. We are more than willing to provide guides and picnics, and we would really encourage you to use the opportunity to explore these treasures.

If you fancy a trip to one of India’s strangest pilgrimages sites, stop Om Banna, about an hour outside the city and literally on the side of the road.

The temple there houses a Royal Enfield motorbike, affectionately known as ‘Bullet Baba’. The story goes that a man crashed his bike by the side of the road and his bike was taken into police custody. Yet each night the bike returned to the place where it crashed, without anyone touching it. The story turned to legend and the bike gained a mythical status of its own. Now hundreds of pilgrims come each day to visit the bike and get good luck in their travels.

If you’re willing to take a more scenic route, you can make a day of it and take a detour to the incredible temples of Ranakpur and Kumbhalgarh. About three hours from Jodhpur is Ranakpur and the drive, through the Rajasthani countryside and the Aravalli hill range, is beautiful. Ranakpur is famous for having the most spectacular of Jain temples in the area. Non-Jains can only visit the temples after noon, so we advise you not to leave from Jodhpur too early. Jainism is one of the ancient religions of India, which holds at its core a belief in non-violence. This extends to a specific diet, Jain vegetarianism that, among other things, excludes root vegetables because to eat them requires the killing of the plant. It also means that leather objects cannot be taken into their temples. The complex is home to many temples, the largest of which, Chaumukha Mandir, is a complicated series of 29 halls, 80 domes and 1444 individually engraved pillars. The intricacy of the structure is a testament to the 65 years that it took to build. The place is also famous for its large population of monkeys that live in and around it. Once you have explored the site, a further one-hour drive will take you to Kumbalgarh Fort.

One of Rajasthan’s most important forts, Kumbalgarh was built under the reign of Maharana Kumbha, who was highly passionate about art and architecture and in whose memory an annual 3-day music and dance festival is held at the fort. In the surrounding villages many legends circulate about Kumbha’s construction of the fort; after several unsuccessful attempts to lay the foundations of the wall, a spiritual advisor suggested that a voluntary human sacrifice was necessary for the building works to commence. Even now, the main gate houses a shrine and temple in commemoration of the beheading. Within the Fort itself there are 84 smaller fortresses and over 360 temples, mostly Jain and the rest Hindu. The Fort, 38 km long, is the world’s second longest continuous wall after the Great Wall of China. The view from the top is spectacular: the flourishing vegetation of the Wildlife Sanctuary stretches out below the Fort and on a clear day you can see as far as the sand dunes of the Thar desert. The Sanctuary is over 600 km2 in size and is home to many of India’s endangered species, and birds like the Kingfisher. Foot tracking tours and horse safaris leave regularly from the Fort, where in addition to panthers, bears and hyenas you might even encounter lions, which are presently being reintroduced in the region as part of a country-wide wildlife conservation project. From there, Devigarh is two more hours' drive.

 

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