Set in the lush Girwa Valley, surrounded by the Aravallis and interspersed with translucent lakes. Udaipur (meaning 'city of sunrise') is more favoured by nature than most of its desert neighbours. It is situated in southern Rajasthan, 430 kilometres from Jaipur, and is a land of lakeside pleasure palaces, rambling hilltop fortresses, luxuriant gardens with fountains and streams, where bards sing of beautiful princesses and epic warriors. Its annals abound with tales of romance, heroism, chivalry and great traditions.
Udaipur, Chittor and Bhilwara formed Mewar, the largest erstwhile princely state in Rajasthan and a geographically secluded territory whose distinctive physical features played an important part in shaping its history.
Maharana Udai Singh II (1536-1572) laid the foundation of Udaipur as the capital of Mewar in 1567, after the final sack of Chittor by the Moghuls. He built Udaipur (named after himself) between the fortresses of Chittor and Kumbhalgarh. Nestling in an enchanting valley with abundant water and formidable natural defenses, Udaipur was a counterpoint to stark Chittor, 111 kilometres away.
Once, when he was out on a rabbit shoot on a hill overlooking Lake Pichola, Udai Singh met an ascetic who advised him to build his capital on the very spot where they stood. Udai Singh constructed a small temple, Dhuni Mata, at the point where the meeting had occurred. Around it he built a fortress. The ruins of his castle, Moti Mahal, can still be seen on the slopes of Moti Magri (Pearl Hill), the site of the fortress. This was later abandoned when the ruling family moved southwards to the eastern bank of Pichola and began constructing, in 1567, the fortress now known as the City Palace.
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