Naga is the Sanskrit word for snake. In Buddhist and Hindu mythology, a naga is a semidivine being, either a serpent or half snake/half human, which can assume either form. They are associated with bodies of water and live in underground kingdoms. I’ve found some sources that say nagri means city.
Naga Nagri (NAH-gah nah-GREE) is a neighborhood in Udaipur on a squarish peninsula across Lake Pichola from the City Palace. If my research is accurate, then City of Magical Water Serpents is very apropos.
It’s a five-minute, 50-rupee ride away from the heart of Udaipur, where the main tourist attractions such as City Palace and Jagdish Temple are, and is considered part of the historic old city. The Island Tower Hotel is located there.
Because Nirmal managed the Island Tower when I visited in June 2013, we all hung out there a lot. It was a comfortable place to lounge in the heat of the day, and the rooftop gave us great sunset views and a cool place to spend the evenings.
Every afternoon Pushker would accompany me there in an auto rickshaw from Nirmal’s shop or my hotel. After crossing the bridge from the City Palace side at Chandpol, we would be on Brahmpol Road, the main road that cuts across the north side of the peninsula and connects Naga Nagri to neighborhoods in the western part of Udaipur. Along that main road are shops selling kitchen wares, shoes, fabric, pretty much anything. There are tailors and repairmen of all kinds.
Turning left, we’d head south on the eastern side of Naga Nagri where there were a lot of hotels, both backpacker and more expensive, along with craft and curio shops, massage salons, ayurvedic centers and hole-in-the-wall shops selling snacks and cold drinks. Restaurants are usually on the hotel rooftops. A good chunk of the southern tip of Naga Nagri is taken up by Leela Palace, a very expensive hotel.
At the second street, we’d turn right, and we’d be at the Island Tower on a much quieter street.
The heart of Naga Nagri is largely residential. It thus has a quieter, more peaceful feel to it than the more lively city center across the lake to the east. I didn’t think much of it at first, but because of all the time I spent there, it grew on me.
The potato man would pass through the streets of Naga Nagri each day, chanting “potatoes, garlic, onions” like a mantra. At first, I didn’t recognize any of the words he said. Nirmal told me he was speaking Mewari — not Hindi — when I asked him what the man was saying. His distinctive voice echoed up to the Island Tower rooftop where I could hear him clearly. The day I snapped this picture was the only time I ever saw him.
By the time I left Udaipur, I was very fond of Naga Nagri.