I have been meaning to write about Bundi, one of the most beautiful places I have visited in Rajasthan and even India. Just 40 km from Kota, the ugly industrial town, Bundi has managed to stay largely undiscovered and consequently unspoilt; ‘off the beaten track’ does not begin to describe Bundi…
Bundi is a series of one delightful discovery after another. Sadly, I did not know enough about Bundi to realize than that it deserved more than just a day trip from Kota. The tourism websites list many many “sightseeing” options but we ventured on our own and stuck to what seemed most inviting. And we were not disasspointed.
First was the Chaurasi Khambhon-ki-Chatri or the 84 pillared cenatoph. Although the blazing heat did not make this seem very exciting then, this is what I found out about this place later. This 84-pillared cenotaph was raised in the memory of Deva, the son of the wet nurse of Rao Raja Anirudh Singh. Built on a high platform this unique double story cenotaph has a large Shivlinga at the center, which makes it both a temple as well as a cenotaph.
And then on to the most famous of the stepwells of Bundi, Raniji ki baori. Built in 1699 by and for Rani Nathavatji, this stepwell is 46 metres deep and is supposed to be one of the largest stepwells in that region. Interestingly, apart from serving as private swimming pools for the royal ladies, these stepwells also acted as reservoirs in the hotter months.
Raniji ki baori was as dry as Bombay on Gandhi Jayanti and the main gate was locked, the key with an inebriated (at lunch time) watchman who vanished on seeing us. However, the exquisite carvings and arches all along the sides were enough to make that trip worth it.
Our final destination for the day was the Garh Palace.
A steep climb along a roughly cobbled path takes you to this entry to the palace.
Being inside the palace is time travel as I have experienced it – seeing another age, another life in front of your eyes.
Only parts of the palace are open to the public; there was noone else in the palace at that time and we went around at our own pace, looking at the captivating murals on the walls and ceiling and pillars. One of the rooms is kept locked and was opened for our benefit; the walls which must been full of colur at one time had now faded and peeling murals (and some obnoxious graffiti too) but the government seems to be doing something to preserve whatever was remaining. The room is kept dark and flash photography is strictly prohibited.
Thankfully, the most captivating portion, the Chitra Shala or the palace of paintings was open. The walls and ceiling of the chitra shala are filled with traditional murals of the Bundi school of painting, all dating back a few centuries (I am not aware of the exact date). Most of them depict scenes from Krishna raas-leela, with a few chest thumping murals thrown in between about the splendors of the kingdom – glimpses of court life, animals of the region, hunting scenes and the like.
I could have easily spent hours at the chitra shala, especially the watchman there had kindly allowed me to take pictures without using a flash. Except it was getting dark and we had to get back to Kota. Without seeing Taragarh fort and the other “sightseeing” marvels that the afore-mentioned tourism websites go on and on about…
When I have a lot of money, I am going back to Bundi to spend a few days there, taking in the colors on each mural at the Chitra shala and walking up and down the Taragarh fort. And all the while, staying in sinful luxury at some ancient haveli converted into a hotel for the sake of tourists like me. When I have a lot of money…