Neemrana to Bundi: In search of Indian step wells – Part 2

Day 3

Today is all about Bundi and the chief reason I visited this beautiful city, as I have mentioned above, I want to explore all the surviving Stepwells (Baoli or Baori) of India before they disappear & thus a trip to Bundi (or Boondi) was a must for me as the city has Stepwell in its slogan “Bundi – The city of Stepwells”.

Bundi is just 35 km from Kota and generally, it would take 30-40 mins, but the road condition in Kota was horrible which made this journey one-hour long. Sorrows apart, I reached Bundi by 10 AM, and I must say that locals here love to live like a well-disposed village life. There are cows on every street, many local sweet shops serving chai (tea) and snacks and in a way Bundi is a city where you might like to walk, rather than ride in a car.

The first site where I stopped was 84 pillared cenotaph (Chaurasi Khambon ki Chhatri). It’s a 17th-century temple (more of a tourist site now) which has a total of 84 pillars on two floors and a white marble Shivalinga in the center.

Chaurasi Khambon ki Chhatri

Chaurasi Khambon ki Chhatri

Chaurasi Khambon ki Chhatri

Chaurasi Khambon ki Chhatri

Chaurasi Khambon ki Chhatri

Chaurasi Khambon ki Chhatri

As per the site’s history board, a ruler of Bundi (Anirudh Singh) commissioned it in 1683 AD & is devoted this temple to his foster brother Deva. History apart, the temples has some amazing wall paintings, statues carved on its steps (there are quite a few) and as it’s the 1st attraction which I saw in Bundi, I must say that the city has something to offer.

Grabbed some pictures here and also bought a three attraction ticket. I mean, the entry ticket for most sites in Bundi starts from INR 50, but here I bought an INR 75 ticket which allows seeing three tourist sites (this one, Raniji ki Baori and Sukh Mahal)

Next, I stopped the car at Raniji Ki Baori or the queen stepwell. As Bundi is known as the city of stepwells, this one is the best which I observed in the town. Raniji ki Baori was built by a queen of Bundi (Nathavati) in the year 1699 AD. Upon entering, there are four cenotaphs on the top and the stepwell is three storey down. The first thing which caught my eyes were the gates on 2nd and 3rd floor. Both well crafted, statues of elephants in all corners, and the work on these gates is so amazing that one can just look at them for hours, which I did and took these photographs.

Raniji Ki Baori

Raniji Ki Baori

Raniji Ki Baori

Raniji Ki Baori

Raniji Ki Baori

Raniji Ki Baori

Even today this Baori is in excellent shape and is one of the most decorated stepwell I have seen in the last three months. From here I walked to anther stepwell name Dhabhai Kund, just a km away from Raniji ki baori.

Dhabhai Kund

Dhabhai Kund

Dhabhai kund isn’t that popular as Raniji ki baori, and I can predict that as there was no one at the ticket counter to charge us. So instead of waiting, I entered the site and took some pics. I can use terms like massive, huge for the baori but not words like well maintained. Dhabhai Kund is an ancient site as its almost 400 years old and somehow survived but it’s not a place where you would love to sit and spend an hour. So, took some photographs (as the one above) and went to see the main attraction of Bundi – The Garh Palace or Bundi Palace.

The Garh Palace or Taragarh Fort is the biggest building in the city and you can see it from the Kota-Bundi Highway. Like the image below.

Garh Palace

Garh Palace from Highway

Now Bundi is one city, but in my view, its divided into two parts. One connected with Kota-Bundi Highway, where above sites are, and second which is aside Naval Sagar (one out of two lakes in Bundi & both are clean).

Naval Sagar

Naval Sagar

So after crossing the lake, I entered a whole new city which has some fabulous haveli’s, beautiful paintings at local’s residence, quite some rooftop café’s which I believed is for tourist to come and sit, enjoy a nice view of Bundi Palace & most important, cows everywhere (on every street).

I read some blogs before reaching Bundi, and many suggested to walk in this part of the city to get the real joy from Bundi, which I did. Things which I noticed were:

  1. Locals here are very polite. I mean not like Jaipur or Jaisalmer where they start following tourist to sell something.
  2. Almost every house here loves to draw paintings on their walls, and most homes are colored with blue, which gives the impression to call Bundi as the 2nd Blue city of India (1st is Jodhpur)
  3. Surprisingly clean, even with more the ten cows are on every street. I think the locals do a good job of making sure that the roads are properly washed.

This part of the city is flourishing (economically) because most travelers here are from Europe, I mean I met with more euro backpackers rather than travelers from India. So locals have turned their homes as B&B, guest house and those who have big mansions, they have turned them into haveli’s. After realizing this, I must say that I made a big mistake by booking hotel in Kota, rather than staying in a heritage Haveli’s in this part of Bundi.

Heritage city

Heritage city

Heritage city

Heritage city

After a free walk on the roads, I reached the Garh Palace parking & bought a ticket for INR 100 and INR 400 for a guide (it’s suggested to have a guide if you are interested in taking some great shots). One thing which I loved about my guide that he advised to some great angles to take pictures which I would have never taken by myself. So here is the one from the entry gate of Bundi Palace.

Garh Palace

Garh Palace

Garh Palace

Garh Palace

From here there is an inclining passage towards the center of the palace which is known as Ratan Daulat. The entering gate of Bundi palace is an architectural marvel. It has white marble statues of elephants on the top, two balconies where, as per my guide, musicians use to welcome guests with their chimes, and paintings of Hindu gods on the ceiling.

Palace Entry gate (Hathiapol)

Palace Entry gate (Hathiapol)

Now Bundi Palace is divided into three parts.

One from where I came in Ratan Daulat, which has a lovely garden, where the subjects of Bundi ruler use to stand and from the 1st floor there is a large open gallery will marble pillars along with a throne (amazing) where the king use to sit. This part of the Palace was developed by Ratan Singh who was a close ally of Mughal Emperor Jahangir.

Ratan Daulat

Ratan Daulat

Ratan Daulat

Ratan Daulat

Ratan Daulat

Ratan Daulat (Throne)

Next section of the Bundi Palace is on its western side which has more four small palaces inside. Their names are Chhatar Mahal, Phool Mahal, Badal Mahal & Hathiasal. All these mansions where build by different kings and the things which makes this part of the palace special are the ivory made gate at Chhatar Mahal, black stone elephant statues on the pillars, beautiful paintings and an excellent view of whole. Have a look at some pics below.

Chhatar Mahal

Chhatar Mahal

Black stone elephant

Black stone elephant

Bundi from Chhatar Mahal

Bundi from Chhatar Mahal

From here our guide took me on a floor above Ratan Daulat to see the best part of the palace – Chitrasala (Room of Paintings)

Well, there is no doubt that Bundi rulers lived a life of immense luxury which even today attracts travelers like me to visit their palace and even try to stay here for a week is possible. But sometimes a ruler comes in every thriving dynasty which is more attracted towards humanity. Well, that happened with Bundi too.

Chitrashala

Chitrashala

In the 18th century, Bundi had a new ruler (from the same family which ruled from 13th century to 2009) Umed Singh who converted into a saint in the age of 18 (as per my guide) and ordered to create paintings which depict the real picture of Bundi empire since its beginning. So Chitrashala, is a gallery of images which hint that most of the Kings of Bundi were breastfeed by their nanny’s as the queens were heavy drinkers and loved to enjoy weed.

There are also some images of Bundi & Indian history like many images Lord Krishna’s life, images of war, politics and the life which the kings and queen of Bundi lived (drinking & pleasure along with war). The idea behind this by Umed Singh was to present a picture to his children’s & the world that what sort of life which Bundi monarchs lived. Even today many locals treat Umed Singh as a holy saint and respect him as their god.

Chitrashala

Chitrashala

Chitrashala

Chitrashala

Chitrashala

Chitrashala

There is also a route from Chitrashala going above towards the Taragarh Fort which I skipped as the main attraction is the palace, not the walls of the fort.

My view of Bundi palace is that it is an underrated tourist site which has so potential, but it’s not well promoted as the City Palace of Jaipur or Udaipur. So by 4:00 PM I was out from the Palace and next attraction on the list was Sukh Mahal and Shikhar Burj.

As I mentioned above, that Bundi has two beautiful lakes, and I have used the term beautiful as the lakes (Naval Sagar and Jait Sagar) are quite clean and especially on Jait Sagar one can see naturally grown lotus flowers. Apart from the lovely flowers, there is a small palace on its banks which is known as Sukh Mahal/ Sukh Niwas Palace.

Sukh Mahal

Sukh Mahal view from Jait Sagar

Well, the history of this little mansion is that in summer, the royal family use to come and stay here and as the water flows below this Mahal, the temperature is quite nice inside. But the real reason I visited Sukh Mahal was Rudyard Kipling, author of famous books like Jungle Book and his noble prize winning book “Kim”.

Rudyard Kipling in the 19th century lived in Sukh Mahal for two years, and he was so impressed with the beauty of this city & monuments that he said– ‘Jaipur Palace may be called the Versailles of India … Jodhpur’s House of strife, gray towers on red rock, is the work of giants, but the Palace of Bundi, even in broad daylight, is such a palace as men build for themselves in uneasy dreams – the work of goblins rather than of men.’

Here are some pics which I took of Sukh Mahal, have a look

Sukh Mahal

Sukh Mahal

Sukh Mahal

Sukh Mahal

And last attraction which I saw in Bundi was Shikhar Burj. The term Shikhar means hunting and Burj, I suppose lodge. So Shikhar Burj is the Hunters Lodge of Bundi’s royal family. It’s just 3 km from Jait Sagar but it isn’t a monument as it is still the property of Bundi’s royal family and they haven’t opened this palace gates for public.

That didn’t stop me from having a look around to take some pictures. But it was closed so I was only able to check out the lodge from outside. Not a bad palace but what can I do, it’s private property.

Shikhar Burj

Shikhar Burj

And with this my four days three nights trip from Neemrana to Bundi is finished and no doubt, that Bundi was the main attraction here. I felt that Bundi isn’t that successful as Jaipur, Jodhpur or Udaipur (concerning tourism) but it has every potential to be a world class tourist city. Plus, the part of the city which is opposite the Naval Sagar (one where Bundi Palace is) is amazing. I mean I could have stayed there for weeks, and many were.

So if you are ever planning to go for a complete Rajasthan trip, then do lend a day for Bundi.

14 Comments

  • Uday Baxi says:

    Dear Jatin
    A good informative series. The photographs were also nice. Please keep exploring more of such step wells and do write about them.
    Thanks for sharing..
    Regards

    • Jatin Chhabra says:

      Thanks Uday, I have made plans till dec 2017 to explore more than 30 Stepwells in India and 2 more journeys (Route of Ganges and trails of Buddha in India and Nepal) which will take two to three years.

  • Taher Kagalwala says:

    Dear Jatin,

    This was a very inspiring journey. Your photos are very nice indeed. I have seen bavris in various parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan. There is one in a small village in Kapadwanj that comes to mind. It is in the Kaira district of Gujarat. Another one that comes to mind is the one at Ranakpur. Your journey hasn’t ended, my friend. Keep discovering.

    Taher

    • Jatin Chhabra says:

      Thanks for introducing Kapadvanj. I have added the site in my list will definitely visit this site but can’t find any near Ranakpur. The only name I am getting is Narlai, which I will confirm by making some calls.

  • Bill McReynolds says:

    Lovely photos and write-up. Thanks for such interesting places. I think “burj” means “tower” and maybe the hunters kept watch for animals from that tower. That happens here in the US when hunting deer. Isn’t there also a very large baori in Gujarat? Amitabh Bacchan used to do TV advertisements for the Gujarat Tourism Board, and this baori was featured.

    • Jatin Chhabra says:

      Thanks for the comment Bill.
      Yep there are more than 15 well maintained stepwells in Gujarat and I do plan to visit the by dec’16

  • Pooja Kataria says:

    Dear Jatin, Yet another wonderful post. Bundi indeed looks beautiful and already has me interested in visiting it soon. Thanks for the information provided.
    Regards

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Bundi is indeed a gem, waiting to be discovered. We were lucky to have found a good place, within the old town, and loved it.

    In one of the comments, I see that you are indeed committed to bring us a lot of Baoris so all power to you Jatin.

    And here’s a shameless plug of my visit to Bundi – http://www.ghumakkar.com/the-spell-of-bundi-rajasthan-reaching-bundi/

    • Jatin Chhabra says:

      Nice post on Bundi Nandan… Bundi Palce is so awesome, even more than the City Palace of Jaipur who charge like 2500 per person, to visit the real palace building.

      I have plans to visit some popular Baoris, in India as they are actually a Made in India product which I am 100% sure that 99.99999% Indian don’t even know about.

      I might even construct one in Rajasthan and I am not joking about this…

  • manish patel says:

    nice woork jatin, it takes really a traveller’s heart to explore,that’s what you just did! keep repeating!

  • Kailash Mehta says:

    Dear Jatin,
    Nice write up with beautiful pictures. Read twice your post. Plan to visit all this place with family in my next vacation trip. Good work dear.
    Keep Travelling :)

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