Tour du Monde
Shopping in Udaipur17.05.2010 / 15:18
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Text by Alex Marashian Photos by Oliver Helbig
Shopping in Udaipur
For all of Udaipur’s art, architecture and history, shopping remains one of the city’s primary attractions. Our busy shooting schedule left precious little time for bargain-hunting and out-of-the-way discoveries, but thanks to a few good insider tips, we were are able to check out some of Udaipur’s best offerings in just a couple of hours.
Perhaps the single most impressive shop we visited was the Ganesh Handicraft Emporium on City Palace Road (no street number). Entered via an easy-to-miss passage along the right side of the Lord Shiva temple, the Emporium is situated in a 300-year-old haveli, or mansion, belonging to the emporium’s owners, the brothers Monoj, Ganpat and Laxman.
True to the words on their business card, the emporium sells “all kinds of handicrafts and textiles.” A great many of them are antique. The brothers used to send agents out to the surrounding villages in search of old textiles, rugs, throws and wall-hangings, along with artifacts ranging from sword sheaths to horses’ headdresses to intricately carved doors and window frames. But nowadays, says Ganpat, villagers know to come to them with their most valuable goods.
While our photographer, Oliver, was riffling through the antique quilts known as gudri (about $350 each), I found myself asking Ganpat for more information about the building itself. With its richly ornamented stone work and original fixtures, its string of courtyard and labyrinthine arrangement of rooms, it was one of the most beautiful and evocative structures I’d seen on my trip. And it suggested a whole other world of undiscovered beauty behind the façades of Udaipur.
Ganpat graciously offered a tour of the sprawling haveli which, despite our time constraints, Oliver and I readily accepted. Quiet and cool, barren of furniture and personal affects, far removed from the heat and hectic life of the street down below, the upper levels of the four-story haveli were a revelation to me. I could have taken up residence immediately. Unfortunately, Ganpat and his brothers have plans of their own to move in with their families following an extensive restoration, which they expect to take three years.