The season to visit Udaipur is approaching – September to February is the best time to avoid Rajasthan’s scorching heat and monsoon rains.
Udaipur is awash with beauty and its rich cultural heritage is still visible in its lake palaces and thriving craft tradition. On a weekend in Udaipur, you can start the day with yoga with the eccentric Prakash, then explore vestiges of the extravagant Mewar Kingdom at the City Palace. At sunset, take a jeep uphill to the Monsoon Palace and see Udaipur’s most stunning view; then watch fire dancing and puppetry at Bagor ki Haveli.
But there’s more to Udaipur! Go beyond the tourist trail and meet some of the city’s most fascinating characters, learn local crafts, and support women’s enterprise along the way.
Take home handmade gifts from Sadhna
Sadhna began with just 17 rural women. Today, 700 artisan stakeholders merge traditional Rajasthani style with contemporary trends to create beautiful clothing, homeware and accessories.
To understand the story of Sadhna, you must hear Choti’s story.
Choti was never sent to school and was married at 15, spending her days collecting firewood and ploughing the fields. She joined Sadhna 26 years ago, when severe drought forced the women of her village to look for alternative incomes. It changed her life forever. From stitching, Choti became a Sadhna saleswoman and has represented India at exhibitions around the country, at a peace initiative in Lahore, and as far afield as London.
In 2000, Choti staged a protest with the women and children of her village, which led to the district magistrate promising better access to water for everyone. Now, rather than one handpump for the entire village, there is one per household, and, with toilets and community-wide initiatives on sanitation, Choti’s village is one of the cleanest in the region.
Choti is now designing the garments which appear in Sadhna’s showrooms. She bought her own flat, and paid for her children’s education – they both have undergraduate degrees. Choti is a role model in her community and beyond.
Visit Sadhna’s Udaipur showrooms to meet the fierce Choti and other artisans gaining independence and demanding more for their communities. You’ll be changing lives.
Visit for free; Jagdish Temple Road, Udaipur Old City – or shop online at sadhna.org.
Explore a village in transition and learn about development
Just 40 minutes outside of Udaipur, take the Delwara Heritage Walk, where local guides introduce you to the culture and people of a historic village. Your fee goes to the youth centre, where girls are learning computing and crafts, and getting educational support.
Developed as a partnership between NGO Seva Mandir and the local community, the Heritage Walk offers a unique insight into a changing community. The guide introduces people and places that paint a picture of the shifting nature of caste relations, women’s rights, access to water, livelihoods, sanitation, and the preservation of heritage. Explore 1000-year-old Jain temples, stunning step wells, and try your hand at thriving local crafts.
The Delwara Heritage Walk costs ₹300 with a discount for larger groups. Everything can be arranged by contacting Seva Mandir in Udaipur on +91 8107495390 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cook up a storm with Shashi
When Shashi was widowed, tradition forced her to stay indoors for a year, secretly taking in washing work to support her children. She started her cooking school with the inspiration of two Irish travellers who came for dinner with her son. In a whirlwind morning, Shashi will teach you 14 wonderful dishes, including her famous ‘magic sauce’.
During her class, Shashi welcomes travellers into her family, sharing her story of overcoming stringent gender and caste boundaries. Tourists have helped her develop her business model, website and cook book. Classes start at 10:30am and 5:30pm, with small groups of 4-5 people. A truly wonderful experience.
Shashi’s class is ₹1,000 for 4-5 hours cooking, including ingredients. Udaipur Old City. Contact: 09929303511 or email email@example.com
(Written by Lydia Shellien-Walker)