Bundi – Charmed by the Magic of this Fairytale Town in Rajasthan.

I had first heard the mention of Bundi from foreign backpackers when I was in Rishikesh in 2014. It was especially surprising, considering I was from Rajasthan itself and had never thought of Bundi as a tourist destination. The mention was quickly forgotten as I made my way to McLeodganj and Manali in the snow. Bundi resurfaced again a few months later when I was scouting for Havelis when my family pestered me to start a business.

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Inside the humongous Taragarh Fort, after entering via the intricate door of Hathi Pol.

After a quick look at Kota (Ancient : Kotah) Museum and Fort-Palace, Bundi was hardly an hour away. The original plan was to stay on for just 2 days, after all how much could a little town be worth. Two days quickly turned into three, then four and before I had realised it was the 6th day and Bundi was proving to be clingy, almost like a drug.

The Taragarh Fort loomed large over this pretty town, it was brilliantly lit in the night and thats how my love affair with Bundi began. After trying to type and retype some sentence that could explain the beauty of Bundi, I give up.

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Can you imagine lunch with a 13th Century view!! And thats not costly, either.

The houses of Bundi, as viewed from afar are blue. There is a green coloured lake in the centre of the town, with a beautiful yellow Varuna Temple that rises from beneath. There are baoris (or stepwells) tucked away in small lanes with the temples. And miniature paintings decorate most houses that speak of great affection of art and fine crafts. It appears as if time stopped in the 15th Century in Bundi.

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A rooftop converted into an alfresco café, in Bundi.

History of Bundi : Bundi was founded in the 12th Century and was the capital of the Kingdom of Hadoti.

Bundi Palace & Taragarh Fort

Rudyard Kipling wrote of Taragarh Fort – ‘The work of goblins rather than of men’. The entrance of Hathi Pol (Elephant Gate) was magnificent and so was the fort and its insides. The real treasure of the Bundi Palace were the murals and paintings inside the Chhatra Mahal, Phool Mahal and Badal Mahal. The entrance to two of these was locked and luck was on my side and a guard opened the same for me to have a look at the strangely chinese-looking paintings. Taragarh Fort is located on a hillock above the Bundi Palace and was constructed in 1354.

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A bird’s eye view of Bundi – clicked from the ramparts of the Fort.

There are the unmistakeable shops for tourists leading to the Taragarh Fort but there were no touts and no haggling. It was a welcome experience from the other touristy places in Rajasthan and other parts of India.

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Ummed Mahal or Chitrashala – designed like a char bagh, or Mughal gardens.

Chitrashala – Ummed Mahal

We continued huffing and puffing on the steep climb; it was mid-February and yet the days were unbearably warm while the sun shined brightly. The manicured greens outside were a fair reflection of the riches of the paintings inside. Chitrashala is Bundi’s crown jewel, with some rare Krishna paintings in a unique style known as Bundi style of painting and has gorgeous green-blue colours. Real gold is also said to have been used in some, but has long since been taken away from this 18th Century Palace made by Rao Ummed Singh. Perfect place for a bird’s eye view of the Blue houses of Bundi!

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One of the many exquisite Krishna paintings in the Chitrashala.

Baoris of Bundi (Stepwells of Bundi) 

There are known to be around 50 baoris in and around Bundi which were largely constructed to be of help in times of drought.Among the many Baoris visited, my favourites were the Raniji-ki-Baori with fabulous carvings, Nagar Sagar Kund and Dhabhai Kund – among many others. While the others were made around 100 years ago, Raniji-ki-Baori was built in 1600 and was commissioned by the then Queen of Bundi. The present condition of most baoris is terrible and they are used as rubbish and a horrible stench emanates. 😦

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Can you imagine women of those times walked so many stairs to collect water for their daily needs? A stepwell inn Bundi.

Nawal Sagar

This is the artificial lake in the town of Bundi; evenings at the lake are tranquil and there are fabulous reflections of the Palace and Fort when the water is calm. There are loads of fluttering pigeons around the lake and also another Fort (the entrance to which isn’t allowed.) Best views of Nawal Sagar itself are from the Fort or Palace, the water of the lake appears green while the houses of Bundi look blue and it makes for a memorable photograph.

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View from the Nawal Sagar Lake as the Palace and Fort tower above Bundi. The structure in the water body is the Varana temple.

Jait Sagar & Sukh Niwas Mahal

I was quite pleased to spot a water body from the top of Taragarh Palace, in a different direction from Bundi and next day walked to Jait Sagar Lake. We walked through the narrow lanes of Bundi town, and were surprised to see temples at every turn. Jait Sagar lake was pretty, it is a sizeable water body and Sukh Niwas Mahal (Literally Happy House Palace) is the name of the structure near the lake. It is famous because Rudyard Kipling is known to have stayed here once. A recommended site for peace and tranquility lovers with lush greenery and a water fountain.

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The blue houses of Jodhpur; errrrr. Bundi!

Chaurasi Khambon Ki Chhatri

This is the 84 pillared cenotaph that is located outside Bundi but can be accessed by an auto. Although the architecture seems quite recent, the truth is that this cenotaph is quite old and was constructed in 1683. There is a large Shiva Lingam in the centre, which is flanked by the building of 84 pillars. An evening visit is better when the light is perfect to enjoy the colours and also for incredible views of the Bundi Palace & Taragarh Fort.

Kshar Bagh & Shikhar Burj

My curiosity was piqued after spotting signboards for Kshar Bagh (Or was it Shikhar Burj!) near Jait Sagar Lake. Shikhar Burj is the royal hunting lodge located in the forests, and was used by the royals on their hunting escapades. Kshar Bagh is a garden with cenotaphs of the rulers of Bundi and is a lovely place away from the town.

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This is not Greece. Welcome to Bundi – A restaurant on the way to the fort.

Excellent havelis and other cheap staying options in Bundi

Bundi is a real backpackers delight with affordable accommodation options. There are homestays and guest houses for as little as 100 Rupees. A few havelis have been restored into hotels, and are excellent value for money for approx. 1000 Rupees. We stayed everyday at a different place during the trip. It is one thing to find a place as amazing as Bundi, and another to realise that fairytales do come true.

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Prettiness from the street, and reminiscences of the Raj Era.

Bundi Miniature Paintings

Little shops with artists meticulously painting and creating minute miniature paintings in the Bundi style. We sat inside one or two shops without being harangued to buy their wares. They were happy to tell us about their craft and explain it in detail. Thumbs up to Bundi, for a pleasant surprise without the hassles of a touristy city.

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Hordes of Israelis descend on Bundi sometimes, for its tranquil feel and cheap places to stay and eat.

The street food and local shops were a delight too, and everything was authentic and cheap. This was the land of Kota Kachori and milk sweets! I must have gained a kilo or two in those six days. The locals also mentioned the festival of ‘Bundi Utsav’, held in October/November – when Bundi is decorated and really comes to life.

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Graffiti from 52 countries, Chai in Bundi. This place with a crazy chaiwallah sure requires a detailed post.

This is an attempt to summarise the ‘Bundi experience’ in this post; while the memories are so immense that I shall be doing separate posts on the Bundi Palace, Taragarh Fort, Stepwells and architecture of Bundi, Street photography, Places to stay and the food extravaganza that it is.

Also check : A Day in Ajmer – What to see?

Why you should avoid the Pushkar fair?

Oh, and did I conveniently forget to tell you about the Bhaang experience?!

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15 Comments Add yours

  1. This place looks like a hidden treasure ! Nice find 🙂

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    1. It really felt like that! 🙂 Thanks for checking

      Like

  2. Just Yamini says:

    Lovely article, ‘the boy who travels’. I am going to Bundi in my next trip to Rajasthan. Thanks.

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    1. I hope you find Bundi as charming as I did 🙂 Happy travels

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  3. Natasha says:

    Oh I love that shot looking out over the blue rooftops there! I saw those on the last episode the BBC’s Planet Earth, where they were filming the Langur Monkeys and I fell in love with the look of the area. Love that shot of the jeep underneath the tree in the sunshine there too, it does look like a magical place! Beautiful photos! – Tasha

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    1. Yay, you have no idea how happy this lovely comment of yours makes me, Natasha. Also, thanks for such beautiful words. Woohoo!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Natasha says:

        You’re more than welcome!

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  4. Vibha Ravi says:

    Well written Shubham – I like the bird’s eye view and the painting of Krishna at Chitrashala. You say you were scouting for havelis…planning to start a hotel or a home stay is it? Wish you the best

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Vibha, glad you liked it. I think I will do a separate post on Chitrashala – totally loved it. Hehe, that haveli part was like 2-3 years ago. I like my travel and hence this life is better 🙂 Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Vibha Ravi says:

        Wish you lots of great adventures in 2017 too Shubham. 🙂

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  5. SindhuMurthy says:

    Bundi definitely needs many days to explore. We had only planned for two-night halts in Bundi during our recent trip to Rajasthan. We had to leave with half heart because our further bookings were already made and we could not extend our stay. We stayed in a hotel on the banks of Nawal Sagar with Taraghar fort and the Bundi palace in the background. I shall go back for sure to explore Bundi at leisure. Till then I m content with my two-day visit 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely agree. Bundi has the slow charm to make a person interested. Aww, hope you get to come soon. Best wishes 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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