Located about 200 km from Jaipur and 30 km from Kota, this hamlet almost has a dreamy touch to it. Lying in a beautiful narrow valley, with a fort on a hill overlooking it, Bundi’s charm is in its rural simplicity. It is claimed to be once the capital of the Hadoti kingdom of Hada Chauhan clan, legendary Prithviraj Chauhan being one of them. Just like Jodhpur, Bundi’s houses also have a noticeable blue colour to them – to keep houses cool during summer. The place saw a period of spectacular prosperity in the 19th century under the rule of Zalim Singh and then decline post his death. The place has, however, still preserved the art and culture from the glorious past, even though with a clearly-evident struggle. Here are some places you have to visit when you are in Bundi.
Built in 1345, atop a steep hill overlooking the city, it almost has a guardian-like presence over Bundi. With time having stolen its charm and grandeur, Taragarh is still a worthy shadow of its past. It stands in a sombre contrast to the land below – fields, rivers and lakes, surrounded by fruit orchards, flanked by Aravallis and looking postcard perfect. Apart from the tanks built with now-lost technique so they never dry up, the fort is also a tribute to Rajput architecture with its curved roofs, temple columns, and elephant and lotus motifs.
Rudyard Kipling called this palace ‘such a palace as men build for themselves in uneasy dreams – the work of goblins rather than of men.’ Located on the downhills of Taragarh Fort, Bundi Palace’s mansions are a treat to watch with their murals and frescos. The palace is actually a collection of many palaces inside one, built over three centuries. The Ummed Palace in the eastern part is also famously called Chitrashala (picture gallery) and it boasts of some of the best paintings from the late 16th century depicting love stories, court proceedings, stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata, and more.
RANIJI KI BAORI
If Bundi is known as the city of stepwells with over 50 of them, Raniji ki baori, as the name suggests, is truly the queen among all the baoris. Sitting pretty in the middle of the city, it is also counted among the best stepwells in Asia. Built by queen Nathavati in 1699, wife of famous king of Bundi, Anirudh Singh, the stepwell is a three-storeyed one with a grand high-arched entry gate, intricate carvings and marble elephants. If the look from the top amazed you, the view after a 100-step odd descent will make you fall in love.
CHAURASI KHAMBON KI CHHATRI
As was the norm, the royal children were raised by nannies and as a result, the to-be kings and queens had great respect for those women and treated their children like their own brothers and sisters. This 84-pillared cenotaph is a temple-type structure with a marble Shiva lingam in the middle, and was built by the king, Anirudh Singh, to honour his foster brother, Deva. The double-storied cenotaph is decorated with carvings of animals and nymphs. The legend is that no one can count the pillars correctly unless the locals share the trick to do so.
SUKH MAHAL AND LAKE JAIT SAGAR
Located close to the Taragarh Fort, near the north gate of the city, this picturesque lake and cream-coloured palace on its bank, is said to have played the muse for none other than Noble prize-winning Kipling. He is believed to have authored a part of his famous novel, Kim, while staying here. Built on a lake and surrounded by mountains on three sides, the palace was the royalty’s escape from harsh summer. The lake is covered with pretty naturally-grown lotus flowers that bloom during winter and monsoon.
Tip: Bundi festival, held in the month of November is a wonderful stage to showcase Bundi’s traditional art, culture and craftsmanship.