First a favor to ask: Yinru and Corina, could you please send me an e-mail at email@example.com so I can respond to your post? Gracias! Faby, do you know how to answer a post directly from the comments section of Blogger? OK, and now to today's story:
Udaipur was once the seat of a powerful kingdom, whose maharajas undertook the construction of major dams, reservoirs and palaces, and to this day the lakes remain the most attractive portion of the city. We took an early boat ride through one of them, and enjoyed the views of very attractive water palaces (private) and the impressive royal palace.
The maharaja stepped down as head of the city government shortly after the independence of India, in 1949, but remains a very rich and influential public figure (in fact, several maharajas are now members of the Indian parliament). Unfortunately, as I said yesterday, the municipality of Udaipur seems to be lethargic and has done little for the general well being of the city and its inhabitants (with the exception I will describe below). I have a theory for why this is so: Udaipur has more than its fair share of international non-profit charitable organizations, either because of the reputation of being “the Venice of India”, or because the maharaja has actively invited them to come. The end result, I think, is that the municipal authorities have adopted an attitude of living of international charity, rather than get their butts out of their municipal cushions as has been done elsewhere in India.
The one bright gem in the city is the old royal gardens, which are now open to the public for the sum of 5 rupees (a very modest sum, although still significant to many families. The gardens are beautifully tended, and city residents seem to enjoy strolling through them. We met a dad with his two sons, and the kids were having a good time climbing on the marble elephants and just running around. The garden was also being used as a set for the film “The Cheetah Girls”, but unfortunately we were there at lunch time so we didn’t get to see Bollywood in action (I am going to have to buy the film once it comes out).
Another interesting visit was to a Hindu temple, where the guide took the time to explain to us the synbology of all the figures carced in the walls. Difficult to explain in just a few lines, but basically it goes from the demons in the lower portion, through the people (as in the photograph) doing everything people do, to the gods on top. I chose this photograph for its slightly x-rated content, but also because when one looks carefully at the whole string of figures carved around the temple it does indeed give you a panormaic view of Indian society in the VIII century.