Table of contents for Bundi
- The Spell of Bundi, Rajasthan : Reaching Bundi
- The Spell of Bundi – Exploring Heritage
I never thought of visiting Bundi ever, forget about planning a vacation. But on any given day I would pick a visit to a place over no visit to any place so when my better half so excitedly suggested for Bundi/Kota, I was game. Rajasthan in winters is splendid and we badly wanted to get out of Delhi, with the smog keeping the Sun out and making everything gloomy and dull, this was an opportunity not to be lost. We had been to other usual suspects of Rajasthan viz. Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Udaipur, Shekhawati etc. So taking a thorough glance at the map with places within the radius of 700 km from home, and that are warmer than Delhi, she pointed at this sector we had never travelled to. Bundi is close to 500 KM from Delhi, so we decided to cushion the long drive, with a break at Jaipur. Even though this seemed like a hidden agenda to harness Bapu Bazaar and Jauhari Bazaar and what not, I played on. The plan was to spend one night at Jaipur and then rest of the two nights at Bundi. We ended up taking three nights at Bundi with a long drive back home.
Jaipur is like next town to both of us. The drill is to start by 5 or 5.30 AM, cross Manesar before the world wakes up and be in the vicinity of Pink city before noon. With a short break for tea and paratha, we reached Jaipur, well in time, with a happy, well-slept and excited offspring in the backseat. We had booked ourselves at Arya Niwas, a good no-nonsense place to stay. It has a decent lawn in front where one can sit and enjoy the Sun. The rooms are small and functional, the quilts were warm and soft, and the sheets were crisp. Staff is polite, cordial and keeps to themselves. There is no Bar, no room service and they only serve vegetarian food. It is a hit among the westerners so you would find a lot of them. I would recommend the place for its straightforwardness. Apart from the shopping bouts at Bapu Bazaar and likes, we visited ‘Hawa Mahal’ and roamed around in the local markets.
In the evening the plan was to experience the ‘Sound and Light’ show at ‘Jantar Mantar’. The show started late because someone of high importance decided to join us at the nth hour and then when it started, it could not hold much. This one is a mix of ‘Projection’ and ‘Sound and Light’. In a classic ‘S n L’ show, different monuments are used as background and props and with the help of Sound and Light, the narration happens. Off late, we see a lot more use of ‘Projection’ where it is similar to watching a movie on a big screen. It was okay but may be skipped for its non-convincing script. ‘Ishq-e-Dilli’, that is currently ongoing at Purana Qila in Delhi, is a great example of a projection-based show, well synced with the play of lights, the sound effects and the script (strongly recommended to read Auro’s story on it as well as to experience it in person).
After a busy and enriching day from NH-8 to the streets of Jaipur, we started the next day from Jaipur at about 10 AM. Sanganer, the town famous for hand block-printing falls right on the way on Tonk Road that we were to take. With my wife and daughter’s keen interest in crafts, we decided to pin this small village. Now the question was what to do once you reach the village. The gentleman at the travel desk at Arya Niwas (again, very well versed and helpful) suggested a few names and encouraged us to just go.
Hence, our first stop was at at ‘Salim Paper’ at Sanganer. From what we had learnt, this would be a cottage industry like place where one could see paper making and block printing. So we reached after going circles in the village, and ultimately realising that the place was right at the beginning. If you tell them that you are from ‘Arya Niwas’, they take you through a guided tour of ‘Paper Making’. This was our first visit to a ‘Paper Making’ factory and it was an extremely educative experience. The place was large, expansive and had sections where different jobs took place. The lady took us through the entire process with a lot of patience. The first step is to make the pulp by mashing waste cloth-cuttings that they procure from all the factories around. So essentially the raw material was waste organics being recycled and that was heartening to know. The cloth is shredded to very tiny pieces that are kept submerged in water for a few days. After that the whole cloth-water solution is rolled over and over again to form a thick pulp. This pulp is then further rolled to form a smoother paste. Color and condiments like rose/marigold petals, leaves are added now. Then the paste is spread on metal sheets and left to dry in the sun. Each sheet individually! Hence the paper is born. The dried paper sheet is taken off the metal based and pressed through machines. And thereafter, different actions are taken to make use of this paper. So we saw techniques of cutting, printing, pasting and finishing.
To give the viewers an experience to take home, and of course as a model for this tour fee, they also have a small shop/display counter. The only way we could have reciprocated the gesture was to buy some stuff so we bought quite a lot. Most of that was exciting and relatable as we were purchasing exactly what we saw being made right then. All of it was for European and American markets and were indeed of supreme quality. So we made a good collection of fancy paper bags, craft kits, various kinds of papers etc. that my daughter is waiting to rob off her mother for her school projects.
But this perhaps was not the ‘essential hand block printing’ that we came to see. So we asked the lady (Ms. Chhavi) to guide us to a place where we could watch that happening. She recommended this place called “Sakshi”.
Sakshi was this store, with a factory close by where both the block printing and blue-pottery happened.
If you have ever tried your hands at pottery then you would know that it is a laborious process. I have never done it myself but I have lived closely with someone who has. I guess the phrase, getting your hands wet, probably comes from here. Long back, Sahil Ghumakkar Sethi wrote a small log on his visit to Khurja, a small town very close to Delhi. Khurja is a hot centre, literally, of pottery and an interesting visit. So as we learned, at Sanganer and other places that produce blue pottery, it is the stone powder which is used after grinding the stones and kneading it before finally creating the artefacts. This was new to us. We were lucky to peep into the kiln and learnt that because of the stone, the breakage rate is very high. And all the pieces that break are completely a waste (unlike clay which can be wetted and treated and reused). There were a few artisans who were busy with the various stages of the entire process.
The famous blue-pottery of Rajasthan is a borrowed art from Persia where crushed stone is moulded / wheeled to form a shape. It is then hand painted and glazed (albeit with high quantities of lead) in very high temperatures to bring out the final product. Lead is essential for this particular style since it enhances the blues and the greens that are painted. It is not recommended to use blue-pottery stuff in microwaves and for serving hot food since the glaze leaches out and is carcinogenic. They may be used for other things like show-pieces, vases and even for serving dry bites.
At the factory, we also were taken to the place where an old gentleman was busy making a bed-sheet. As we arrived. He gave us a quick lecture on how the colors are made, chosen, and printed on paper or cloth. He then displayed printing a series of blocks for a single image. Post that, he even gave us small pieces of cloth that we could chose and design and print on! It was quite interesting.
Then of course, we were taken back to Sakshi, the emporium. The shop was expensive! They had the ‘Craftmark’ accreditation and were supplying to Fabindias and Kilols of the world. It was great quality range, but at the same price as what you get at the retails stores they supply to.
We were way now beyond noon now and back on NH-12 that connects Jaipur to Kota. Bundi is about 45 KM short of Kota. Almost all of this stretch is a 4 lane highway (mostly one side under construction), with little to no traffic. I was driving here for the first time, we had never been to this part of Rajasthan so we decided to stick to the main highway and might have ended up taken a longer route but I would recommend this. If was an afternoon drive but you won’t miss the vibrant colours of Rajasthan. There is a small market after Chaksu with a couple of decent-looking restaurant. For the essential needs of food and hunger, I would advise to attend to it in Jaipur itself or then go all the way to Kota.
View Delhi – Jaipur – Bundi in a larger map
It was dark by the time we reached Bundi. As you get close , on one side you have a hillock, almost trying to hide the town and you slide down towards your left as if you are trying to disappear in an old world. And then suddenly emerges this glowing, huge monument which we discovered later was the King’s palace which so well lit and well-placed. In no time my Honda was in a narrow alley, bustling with action. This was in sharp contrast to blank and barren highway where we were only a few moments back. We called up our Hotel folks for directions and before they could tell us to wait outside the main artery of old town, we were already next to our Hotel/Haveli. ‘Dev Niwas’, our stay for next 3 days, was in a side-alley-let not accessible by a car.
It was not cold even at/around 8 in the evening though there was a little nip, reminding us of the time of the year that was. We were confident that we would get enough Sun during the day so that was not worrying us but we did want to have a clean, spacious but cosy room. And, the room was indeed pretty good. We had opted for a regular room and have requested the biggest room in our category, since often in all these havelis and palace-converted hotels the rooms are of different dimensions.
I would try to write a small note or a hotel review on “Dev Niwas’ but lets first some facts about Bundi.
Bundi has been a small kingdom in the ‘Hadoti’ region of Rajasthan. Hadoti (हाड़ोती) comes from the clans of “Hada” (हाड़ा). The kingdoms in this region were on offshoot of the chieftain senapaties (both Hadas and Meenas) from Mewar who fought with Prithviraj Chauhan and post the war settled in Hadoti region where they built and erected their small kingdoms. Bundi got its name from a Meena chieftan whose name was Bunda. Not long back, Giriraj wrote a couple of stories on this area.
Bundi is a very laid-back town with a beautiful essence of the the old-world charm through and through the walled city. We later discovered that there is also a new city next to, complete with builder floors and the works. There are many, many things to see and do in Bundi. And even though it is still not being toured to, by the regular Indian tourists, it has been around for very long on the travel circuit. Bundi has been visited and mused by the likes of Sir Rudyand Kipling, Satyajit Ray and Rabindranath Tagore.
Bundi is the most famous for its miniature paintings. Why, the whole city, set along a hillocks looks like a miniature painting in itself! The Bundi style of miniature painting is very distinct from the others, for its emphasis on the eyes, expressions and curvatures. It also boasts of beautiful monuments with intricate carvings on the local sandstone presented in the Rajputna architectural style. Being close to Kota, it is very revered for the sandstone available in the area. And for agriculture, very high quality of basmati rice is grown here and exported world over.
After getting ourselves the overdue and customary tea and clicking some pics of the room, we jogged to the terrace of the hotel. Fox Traveller covered Bundi sometime back and you can watch the full episode here. This program was led by a close friend, Richa, so sorry for shameless publicity but trust me, you would enjoy it. Richa had told us that that we must not miss the magnificent view of the fort from the hotel terrace so with the zeal of a young bride, we moved to see our share of Karvachauth moon and boy what a view it was.
Devniwas is situated in the old, heritage part of Bundi, amid the bubbling streets and in night when there is very little ambient light, the illuminated fort is a sight to watch. As the night progress and the cold sneaks in, this glowing structure almost gives you the warmth and the mental-escape from the drudgery and monotony of every day life.
We were one of the very few guests on that night so the restaurant was mostly to us. It was getting late hence we postponed our plan to do the bazaar walk for the next day. While Smita and Pihu enjoyed the local delicacies, I was pulled into a late break hack attack on our web hosting account which took most of my night to fix and after doing everything which I could, I sneaked into the warm and soft quilts of the December night, hoping that all would go well tomorrow.