Udaipur holds a unique history, incomparable in the world. The foundation of Udaipur was laid by Maharana Udai Singh in year 1559 A.D. Mewar is the most respectable Rajput clan of India-now called the clan of Sisodia’s but in former times it was known as Guhilots. The real founder of the clan was Bappa Rawal who belonged to the dynasty of Guhil at Vallab Niwas in Gujarat. All subsequent rulers of Mewar, from ancient Guhil dynasty to present Maharana Arvind Singh of Mewar are considered as the descendants of Bappa Rawal.
The old city has several narrow lanes with leaning houses on both sides. The exterior of most of the houses is painted white which adds to the beauty of the entire city with spectacular lakes and gardens in the background. Though in Udaipur of today visitors no longer get to see men riding horses and elephants, and courtiers going to Maharanas palace in impressive costumes, but the streets of Udaipur are still full of fascination and colour.
There are elven city gates through which one can enter the town. They include – Surajpole, Delhigate, Hathipole, Chandpole, Ambapole, Brahmpole, Sitapole, Jalburj, Rampole, Kishanpole and Udaipole.
Mythologically, the rulers of Mewar belong to the elder branch of the Suryavanshi or “Child of sun”. The Maharana is regarded as the legitimate heir of the throne of Rama, and is styled as “Hindu Suraj” or “Sun of Hindus”. That’s the reason why the Royal family has the sun as a symbol in its inscriptions.
Legend has it that the Sisodia dynasty of Mewar descended from the Sun God through Lav, the elder son of Lord Rama, the hero of the great epic, Ramayana. They migrated southwards, what is now Gujarat, founding several cities along the coast, one of which was called Vallabhi.
By the mid 500 A.D., Siladitya VII, the Rajput king od Vallabhipur, was sacked by Salim Uniss, a commander of Arab ruler of Sindh, killing King Siladitya. His fourth and youngest wife Pushpawati, who was on a pilgrimage offering prayer for her unborn child at Ambaji near Mt. Abu, heard about the destruction of Vallabhi and the death of her husband. Despairing she took refuge in a cave and gave birth to a son, whom she called ‘Guha’ (cave-born). Entrusting her child to a local Brahmin woman, the queen committed sati.
The young Guha or Guhil grewup amongst the Bhils. He was brought up in the jungles near the city of Idar, then ruled by the local Bhil Chieftain Mandalik, who adopted Guhil as his own child. In the year 568A.D., when he was eleven, the Bhil chieftain granted Gunhil his first territory, which gave birth to the state of Mewar. Mandalik died in 592A.D. and the throne was ascended by Guhil who established the Guhilot line.
After Guhil, his son Bhoj (626-646 A.D.) moved his seat of government of Nagerdhara (which he later renamed as Nagda). This town is still situated 23 kms. north of the present Udaipur.
After Nagditya, his son Shiladitya, Aparagat and Mahendra II ruled Nagda till 716 A.D. Mahendra II died in 716 A.D. and his wife entrusted her 3 year old son Kalbhoj (later known as Bappa Rawal), into the care of a Brahmin priest, who gave him a through religious training. Here he learned to revere the local deity Eklingji. At the age of 21 Bappa Rawal decided to reclaim the entire Guhilot Kingdom with the blessings of Harit Rishi and proceeded towards Chittorgarh. The ruler Man Mori appointed young Bappa as the commander-in-chief of his army and in A.D. 734 Bappa Rawal was proclaimed as the Ruler of Chittorgarh. Chittor remained the capital of the Sisodias from the eighth to the sixteenth century.
Although Mewar had an outstanding military record, it was known for its spirit of non-aggression. Mewar fought only to protect itself from invasions, to regain its lost territories or to preserve the dignity and freedom of its people. Mewar rulers refused to bow down before the Mughals and held onto their Rajput values. They refused to give their princesses in marriage to the Mughal emperors.
Udai Singh built Udaipur in year 1559 A.D. When Udai Singh’s grandson Amar Singh was born, he traveled to the temple of Eklingji to worship the family deity. Before returning to Chittor he decided to go on a hunt in the mountains, south of the holy township. He entered in a large valley high in the Aravallies, hunting a rabbit, and the party rested on the shores of Lake Pichola. On the eastern shore of the Lake Udai Singh met a holy man. The sage advised him that if he built a city there, fortune would favour his family. Maharana Udai Singh considered the site suitable for his new capital of Mewar, since Chittor was not safe and Udaipur came in existence as a new capital of Mewar dynasty.