Bundi – The Least Explored Jewel of Rajasthan

Sindhu Murthy

The picturesque town of Bundi is one among the least explored jewels of the state of Rajasthan. The quaint town sits on a narrow gorge in the Aravalli ranges of South-eastern Rajasthan encircled by walled fortification with four gateways. It is also called as a city of stepwells because it has a number of stepwells dating back to the 17th century. Bundi is known for its ornate fort, the palace with faded cupolas and loggias, and beautiful lakes. During our visit to Rajasthan, we spent a good two days in exploring the monuments in and around Bundi. Here is a detailed post to help you plan your trip to Bundi.

Very few places in Rajasthan have been able to retain the charming atmosphere of the olden days and Bundi is undoubtedly one among the best.

Walking in the narrow alleys of the old town of Bundi is sure to take you back to the centuries past. The narrow lanes still hold many heritage structures and Havelis which stand testimony to its grandeur of the bygone era. Very few places in Rajasthan have been able to retain the charming atmosphere of the olden days and Bundi is undoubtedly one among the best. Many of the heritage buildings have been tastefully altered into hotels and guesthouses to accommodate the tourists.  Bundi has a unique character unlike any other tourist destinations in Rajasthan which makes you feel at peace. However, due to lack of any development works around the old town, you still see open drains and stray animals and rodents on the streets which make the town unappealing to the tourists. Bundi is more popular among the foreign tourists than the Indians. This is very apparent even in the menu of the numerous restaurants dotting the bylanes of the old town. On enquiring with the restaurant manager of the hotel where we stayed, he reconfirmed that most of the hotels provide only western breakfast because hardly any Indians stay there. The very few Indians who visit Bundi make it a pit stop to break their journey between Jaipur and Udaipur. Interestingly, the foreign tourists like this place for the very reason that it is not much crowded by the maddening tourists.

A Bit of History

In ancient times, the area around Bundi was inhabited by various local tribes. The area surrounding Bundi is said to derive its name from a former Meena tribe man called Bunda Meena. Bundi was previously called Bunda-Ka-Nal- Nal meaning ‘narrow ways’. It was later conquered by the Hada ruler Rao Dev Singh after which the south-east region of Rajasthan got its name as Hadothi– the land of Hadas.

Places of Interest

There are many monuments and lakes doting the landscape of Bundi and its surroundings. While most of the tourist spots are free to visit, entry to some of the monuments like the Bundi palace, Taragarh fort, 84 pillared cenotaph and Sukh Niwas and the government museum is chargeable.

Nawal Sagar Lake

The Nawal Sagar is a square shaped artificial lake constructed right in the center of the old town of Bundi. The reflection of the entire town and the city palace can be seen in the lake. A walk around the lake during the sunset is one activity you should not miss while in Bundi. It makes for a fascinating sight when the illuminated Bundi palace gets reflected in the ripples of the lake after sunset. The lake also has a half-submerged temple of Varuna, the wind god, in one of its corners.

You can leisurely spend your evening walking around this lake appreciating the beauty of the illuminated Garh palace and its reflection in the lake.

Bundi or Garh Palace

The Bundi Palace stands perched midway on the hill housing the Taragarh fort and can be viewed from any vantage point in the old town of Bundi. The entrance to the palace is through a huge gateway ornate by sculptures of elephants and is called as Hathi Pol. One of the major attractions of the Bundi palace is the Ratan Daulat- a huge court hall housing many pillars and a beautifully sculptured marble throne.

Set aside about 30 mins to explore the palace and an additional 30 mins if you are an avid photographer.

Chatra Mahal

On walking further ahead from the Ratan Daulat, one enters a beautiful courtyard leading to the Chhatra Mahal. Though the entry to the Chatra mahal is through the Bundi palace, a separate ticket is needed to enter it. The main attraction of the Chatra Mahal is a room with miniature murals painted in hues of red, gold, and blue. The ornate jharokhas of its courtyard offer a beautiful view of the blue city of Bundi. It has beautifully crafted ivory doors and the walls are decked up with fine mirror inlays. The courtyard also has a small pool in the center with a fountain. The Hathiya sal needs a special mention for its beautiful pillars, each of which is embellished with four wooden elephants. You can also visit the Phool mahal and the Badal mahal for their eyecatching mirror inlay works and murals which are now in despair for lack of maintenance. Though most of the embellishments and paintings of Chhatra Mahal are worn out, one can imagine how beautiful it would have looked in its hay days.

You will need at least 1 hr to explore the Chatramahal along with Bundi palace. Add additional 1 hr if you have to click detailed photographs of the paintings in all the rooms.

Taragarh Fort

This decrepit fort named Taragarh meaning the “Star fort” is situated on a thickly wooded hilltop at an altitude of 1426 feet and was built in 1354 AD.  There are three gateways to the fort, most of which are now in ruins. During its prime time, the Taragarh Fort was renowned for its tunnels crisscrossing the entire hillside. It takes about 30 mins to climb uphill from the ticket counter to reach the Taragarh fort. From the Taragarh fort, you can see the beautiful city of Bundi with the Naval Sagar lake occupying the prime spot of the town and the Brahminic blue houses spread across the town making you feel you are watching the blue city of Jodhpur.

You can spend around 1 hr exploring the ruins of the fort and clicking photographs of the Bundi city.

Chitrashala

Chitrashala, meaning the school of art, is a fascinating gallery of miniature murals located in the Ummed Bhavan just behind the Bundi Palace. This is one of the most popular spots among the tourists who visit Bundi. The Ummed Bhavan faces a lush green garden with a small pool and a Shiva temple in the shades of a pink bougainvillea vine.  The Bundi school of art is famous for using basic colors such as  blue, green and turquoise on a white background along with highlights of yellow and terracotta. Scenes depicting Ragamala and  Krishna Raasaleela along with scenes of hunting, battle, love and courtship are beautifully painted in fine details all over the walls of the Chitrashala. The Bundi school depicts side faces with chubby cheeks and short stature along with curly locks. This is one place you will spend a remarkable amount of time exploring the details in the paintings.

You can set aside 1.5 to 2 hrs to view each painting in detail along with clicking pictures. However, make sure you keep your flash off while clicking pictures.

Chourasi Kambhon Ki Chatri

This 84 pillared cenotaph was constructed by Rao Raja Anirudh in the memory of his foster brother, Deva. The cenotaph also houses a shiva linga in the center. The sides of the pedestal are decorated with carvings of animals, and the pillars are engraved with beautiful images of contemporary Rajput lifestyle during the 17th century.

It hardly takes around 15 mins to walk around the cenotaph and click pictures.

Raniji Ki Baori

Of the many step wells located in Bundi, Raniji Ki Baori is the most popular one known for its ornate pillars supporting high arched gates. This step well was built by one of the Queens of the royal family and hence the name. The well is 46mts deep and has a multistoried structure with places of worship on each floor. Though the ASI has taken measures by covering the top of the stepwell to avoid litter in the well, the huge number of pigeons which sneak into the mesh add a lot of filth into the water with their droppings and feathers. Another notable stepwell in Bundi is the jail Kund or the Dha Bhai Kund.

Sukh Mahal

Sukhmahal is a summer palace constructed during the reign of Rao Raja Vishnu Singh. It is located on the banks of the Jaith Sagar lake amidst lush greenery. It is said that there is an underground tunnel connecting the Sukh Mahal to the Bundi palace.  A government museum located in the premises of Sukh Mahal houses some stuffed animals hunted by the late Kings of Bundi and their British friends. It is here that Rudyard Kipling stayed and got inspired to write a part of Kim. Though the Sukhmahal is in itself not very attractive, its location is. With a beautiful view of the Jaith Sagar lake and the surrounding lush green hills, this is an excellent place for photographers to capture some landscapes.

It takes around 30 min to visit the museum and the Sukh Mahal. However, it is located at about 5 km from the Bundi palace and takes 15 to 20 mins to reach.

Kshar bagh

Further ahead from the Jait Sagar Lake is the Kshar Bagh which was the resting ground for the ancestors of the rulers of Bundi. Cenotaphs are built for the kings and queens in architectural splendor.

Shikhar Burjh

Shikhar Burjh is another beautiful monument in despair located amidst thick woods. Once the hunting lodge of the royal family, this magnificent structure beautifully stands on the banks of a huge water pool. The pool is now used by locals for their domestic needs and the monument is infested by a lot of monkeys.

Kota

Kota is located at a distance of around 40 km from Bundi. While there are quite a few tourist spots in Kota like the Chambal barrage, City palace, Kishore Sagar lake, and Jal mandir palace, the replicas of the 7 wonders that are the latest addition to Kota’s  landscape need a special mention. Plan to visit the 7 wonders park on the banks of Kishor Sagar lake during the sunset to capture some best pictures.

Garadia Mahadev

Garadia Mahadev is one of the best-kept secrets of Rajasthan. Being quite popular among the local pilgrims for the Shiva temple, this place is attracting quite some tourists after it was shown in the latest Rajasthan Tourism ad. The locality offers a breath-taking view of the deep gorge with the Chambal river and the plane lands beyond. You can endlessly sit on the rocks appreciating the view. A small Shiva temple can be reached by descending a few steps into the gorge. The best time to visit this place is during the sun rise or the sun set.  Since the location is quite isolated, it is advised to return before it gets dark.

Bhimlat Mahadev

Bhimlat is another lesser known destination near Bundi. Located at around 37 km from Bundi, this isolated place has a huge water fall plunging from a height of 140 ft to form a beautiful pool. With the lush green vegetation and the serene waterfall, this place is sure to break your perception about Rajasthan being synonymous to deserts and dunes.

Brief Itinerary

Since there are quite a number of places to cover around Bundi, you need at least two full days to cover all the locations. Here is a brief itinerary from our 2-day stay in Bundi

Day1:

  • Start early at 8.00 am to cover the Garh Palace, Chatramahal, Chitrashala, and Taragarh fort before it gets too hot during the day.
  • Have lunch and head towards Bhimlat waterfalls.
  • Return to Bundi by evening and spend some time near the Nawal Sagar lake enjoying the beautiful view of the illuminated Garh palace and its reflection in the lake.

Day2:

  • Start around 9.00 am and visit Shikhar Burjh, Sukh mahal, Kshar bagh, Jaith Sagar lake and 48 pillared cenotaph.
  • Head to Kota by lunch time. After lunch, visit the Kota palace and the 7 wonders park by around 5.00pm.
  • Make sure to arrive at Garadia Mahadev before Sunset to witness the beauty of the locality during the golden hours. Head towards Bundi before it gets too dark.

Where To Stay

There are multiple heritage properties in the old town of Bundi that have been modified and upgraded to host tourists.  We stayed in Hotel Bundi Haveli, A Heritage property which has recently been converted into an elegant boutique hotel.

Tips

  • Wear comfortable shoes as there is a lot of walking involved.
  • Best time to visit Bundi is post-monsoons from October to February when the weather is pleasant and the lakes and rivers are full with water.
  • It is quite possible that all the hotels are sold out during peak seasons and hence advance booking is advised.
  • No amenities or shops are available near Garadia Mahadev and Bhimlat. Carry adequate water and snacks while visiting these places.
  • Since not many tourists visit Garadia Mahadev and Bhimlat, not much is done to ensure safety. It is good to be extra cautious while walking on the rocky edges.
  • Govt museum near Sukh mahal is closed on Mondays. Most of the heritage structures and monuments open at around 8.30 am and close by 5.00 pm. Plan your itinerary accordingly.
  • There is a combined entry ticket available for Chaurasi kambhon ki Chatri, Raniji Ki Baori and Sukhmahal which is valid for 2 days. It is economic to buy this ticket instead of buying a separate entry ticket for each monument.
  • Do not expect any super luxury hotels and eateries in Bundi. However, decent accommodation is available at reasonable prices. Most of the hotels have amenities such as hot water, air condition and free wifi.

Let us know how you liked this visual tour of the beautiful town of Bundi. We hope this post gives you enough information to plan your trip to this gem of a place.

Happy Travelling!

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