In south-eastern Rajasthan, India, the town of Bundi is surrounded by the Aravalli hills on three sides. Snaking across one of them is its gargantuan bastion and the crumbling Taragarh Fort, with picturesque lakes and houses painted a striking indigo blue clustered below. It looks just as Rudyard Kipling described in his 1887 book Letters Of Marque, like “the work of goblins rather than of men”. Despite its proximity to major metros such as Delhi and Jaipur, the tranquil town has somehow avoided becoming a major tourist destination, and therein lies its charm.
The area around Bundi was apparently inhabited by local tribes until Rao Deva Hada, a local Rajput chieftain, established the town in 1342, renaming the surrounding area Hadoti. Bundi’s amazing architectural heritage is still intact and the town is famous for its baoris – terraced and ornately decorated stone stepwells, once used to store rainwater for the long arid season.
The town itself, with its narrow lanes – which you may have to share with lumbering cattle and speeding scooters – and tiny shops selling miniature paintings on old postcards, colourful lac bangles and gossamer Kota sarees, exudes a sepia charm that grows on you.
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Its pièce de résistance is the Chitrashala room in the 18th-century Bundi Palace (main photo), embellished with a riot of murals and frescoes in a muted turquoise-and-aqua colour palette. The intricate paintings in the room – depicting everything from brave soldiers and royal processions to local heroes, doe-eyed maidens, and gods and goddesses – offer a mix of romance and mythology, and serve as a window into the lifestyle of yesteryear.
Elsewhere in the palace, Badal Mahal – where the women of the royal family lived – has a Chinese-inspired ceiling mural featuring scenes from the Ramayana epic and vivid images of the Raas Leela dance, which is part of the story of Lord Krishna.
– TEXT BY KALPANA SUNDER
PHOTO: ALAMY (CLICK PHOTOS)
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.