The Spell of Bundi – Exploring Heritage

To recap the journey so far, we started from Delhi on Dec 28, 2012 and after the bouts of shopping and sight-seeing, we spent the night at Arya Niwas, Jaipur. Next morning, after going through the educative experiences at Sanganer and learning a bit of blue-pottery and block-printing, we reached Bundi only by evening. After getting mesmerised by the stunning views of the Bundi Fort, from the roof-top dining place of hotel ‘Dev Niwas’, we retired to our rooms. I did get into a fire-drill and spent many hours, fighting the hacked website and fixing the house before we retired for a well earned sleep. Ab, aage (now, further)!

The first thing that I did the next morning was to check my emails and after some usual checks-n-balances, the hack-thing seemed to have gotten resolved. It was time to head out to the restaurant again for the morning breakfast and to watch the fort again, this time under bright sun light. Yes, the Sun was out in its full glory and from the terrace we could see the city rising. It was Dec 30th and probably a holiday as we could see a lot of folks busy with kite flying. What appeared as complete darkness the previous night was actually an unending sight of co-joined roof-tops, of not-so-large houses, almost all of them of 2 storied/levels and it looked like an ordered chaos. While we were having our well-laid out breakfast, we noticed that there is always one or usually two of the hotel staff, guarding us. It made me remember those numerous movies on US Presidents where there are officers with stone gazes are all around him, all the time. I think Hollywood is simply obsessed with the President and the White House. Ok, that story at some other time. Coming back to our own hotel staff, they seemed wiser and were smart enough to not invade your private space but their vigil was more than casual. Before long, we discovered a herd of Langurs jumping across roofs. As we looked more, we saw more of them and after a while, we marvelled on our conditioned reflexes which failed to see the monkey and langurs all this while. Yes, Bundi has a lot of them and not all of them are friendly. The hotel staff was there for our protection, more when we were eating out on the terrace. As we talked, we learnt that the Langurs are not to be worried about but we must take care of ourselves and our belongings when we see monkeys, especially the red faced ones.

Right across the street, a lady of the house was engrossingly engaged with a ‘red-bum’, negotiating a piece of cloth which the red bum was attempting to try on! So one needs to be very wary of them, when in Bundi. They are everywhere.

Our first destination for the day was ‘Bundi Palace’ , ‘Chitrashala’ and ‘Taragarh Fort‘. All are in the same line of sight. We were staying in the old city and the palace was a 10 minute walk away from the main artery of the old town. On both sides, you would see shops of all colours. The sweet-maker getting ready for scooping the first lot of hot Jalebis, the panwaalas, the tea shops with benches outside, an old temple with intricate work and as you get closer to the Palace, more touristy shops selling Bundi Paintings. Yes, Bundi is known for its miniature paintings and we would learn about them later but first lets walk up to the ticket counter, a moderate gradient away after the parking.

At the ticket window, we were refused the entry. To add insult to injury, we were told that foreigners are allowed but Indians are not given permission. On more probing, I learnt that there was some fracas created by non-foreigners and it being a private property, Raja Ji decided to stop the entry for Indians. But, I was told, I could get it along with my family since I do not look like someone who would (rather, could) create some problem as long as I pay like a foreigner. So we paid much more of what we should have paid and got in. As you get past the main tall gate, you find yourself at a do-raha/fork. On the left is the main part of the ‘Palace’ and on your right, a further climb made more difficult by unkempt way, is another section of palace called, ‘Chitrashala’.

Gradient - Get the scale by looking at people on left slope

Gradient – Get the scale by looking at people on left slope

Entrance - Get the scale

Entrance – Get the scale

It has a big entrance and you land up into a courtyard flanked on all sides by large, tall halls with stairs going up to the next level. You catch a breath to take a good view of overall topology and head towards the stairs. The initial bat-poo-smell is familiar but gradually the stench begins to get the better of you. The palace has seen good times and that is apparent from those murals (and more when we would visit Chitrashala), persian glass-ware and all things which are signature of forts. The jharokhas (Bay windows?) give an impressive view of the town and the Baoli. In December, the haze was thic but I would guess that in a better weather the view would take you few ages behind. The old, stunted-appearing, town almost feels like a scene from the film ‘Rudaali’. We walked around, with the help of a local guide/care-taker who patiently opened the locked doors so that we could appreciate the once-royal palace. The overgrowing stench, bad upkeep was now winning so I got into a conversation with the caretaker. He told me that the place is undergoing a litigation. There is a very thin layer of support staff to take care of the place but all they try to do is to keep the hooligans off and wait for well-meaning travellers. I didn’t want to make it more difficult for the caretaker and wished him luck and we proceed to 2nd floor/3rd level. Large rooms, supported with crafted pillars and brackets. The usual Torans (welcoming motif at the entrance) with elephants proudly protruding their long trunks.



Hall Facade

Hall Facade

Torans, Brackets, A lot of detailed work to admire

Torans, Brackets, A lot of detailed work to admire

View of Bundi from a balcony

View of Bundi from a balcony

Tucked tightly in a Niche

Tucked tightly in a Niche

For Hadoti Fans

For Hadoti Fans

Family Tree

Family Tree

Diwan-e-Aam Level 1

Diwan-e-Aam Level 1

Ownership Details

Ownership Details

The weather was on our side along with 4 other guests, all foreigners, quietly hopping from one quarried stone to another. We decided to take the steps down and move to ‘Chitrashala’. As we were begining to get ready for another climb, we took one last long look and rued on how litigations and policy-paralysis is just killing almost everything. Would you stop taking care of a baby while the court figures our the right of ownership post divorce. But in no time, we were back to our composed selves and got past the snack-n-bottle kiosks towards ‘Chitrashala’.

Top Floor of Palace - Great job ASI

Top Floor of Palace – Great job ASI

As you take the turn, after the tough and steep climb of 10 meters, you are welcomed into a different world. ‘Chitrashala’ is maintained/managed by ASI, unlike the fort, and boy what it indeed looks like a part of a different eco-system. Well manicured lawns, sparkling pathways, alert staff and many more people around. As if the government, via ASI, is trying to mock upon the feuding owners. To be fair to our discreet drive to Bundi, we didn’t rush thorough the palace and now we were repenting on all the time lost there. ‘Chitrashala’ is the place one must go and witness. The murals and wall-to-wall paintings are well preserved and its a riot there.

Wall Murals

Wall Murals

Wall Murals - Notice the blues

Wall Murals – Notice the blues

War Scene

War Scene

Wall to Wall to Celing to Ceiling

Wall to Wall to Celing to Ceiling

One more view of murals

One more view of murals

Art Galore

Art Galore



The paintings chronicle the events from history and just like a good and learned student who scribbled to fill all the hashiyas (margins) of the answer sheet, the painters have indeed not left any place. Rooms and rooms of art, sneaking on you from all sides, include the top. Bundi School of Painting, indeed seemed like a big ticket item with scenes from hunting, colourful ceremonies, festivals, animals, birds, Gods and their leelas (acts). All well preserved, a little away from the prying (Sonu loves Monu) guests via an unobtrusive short wall, for the luxury of average travellers like me. We went on a shooting rampage. When we recovered, we spent time trying to decipher the meanings and the contexts. And finally when we were tired, we also made use of December sun and the green lawns. ‘Chitrashala’ is a must. We went again the next day and I would plan to visit again, just for this place, for a few hours.

After this fulfilling run, we moved up towards the ‘Taragarh Fort’. By now, it was beyond noon and the overall morale for another climb was not high. But we still decided to move and were stopped and suggested to go down, lease a stick for each member of the group (that would be me, my spouse and my 8-year old kid) to ward off the monkeys. It meant going down the two gradients, getting a stick after signing the lease agreement, climbing up and further up to the fort. It was an easy decision and we decided to delay the visit to the fort for the next day.

Time to hunt for a place to eat. We were able to nurture a good appetite when we were called by this chap, stilling in a corner. He turned out to be the owner of ‘Out of the Box’ rooftop cafe (all decent restaurants in Bundi are on roof tops, don’t ask me why). He didn’t seem like a local product so I asked him more. Well, he was from Tamil Nadu and been running a cafe in Pushkar. When he visited Bundi, he realised that there is no good place to get the typical-cafe (a long lecture later, but this is the category where you get things like falafel, fresh fruit juices, wooden-oven baked fresh pizzas, cheese-n-mac, guess you get the drift. These cafes are abundant in places like Kasol, Mcledoganj, Goa, Rishikesh, Khajuraho, Bundi, Paharganj in Delhi, and may be Gokarna in TN and attract foreign tourists/travelers and wannabes like me) so he hung around for longer and built one. With a quiet place like Bundi, which gets a lot of good Sun, he has put his money in a good place. Impressed, we embraced for another climb towards his ‘Out of the Box’ cafe through narrow, winding stairs. At each level of the house, a living world waited for us. Elderly women sitting on folding beds, contributing to the chores of the day, glancing at us, often giving us a strange (but smiling) looks to our polite/conformist tattoos. The cafe was airy, with enough protection built from the menacing monkeys.

Menu of OOB

Menu of OOB

OOB good food. Recommended

OOB good food. Recommended

The fare was a good mix of pastas and pizzas and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We polished the big lunch with fresh juices and the damage was not too high. We returned to the street. It was now afternoon and our friends from Delhi, who were chasing us with a delay of a day (actually I got a handicap of a day, since my friend, a Super Randonnuer, talks and drives fast) were now leaving Jaipur and were to join us in a couple of hours. To make the whole equation even more complicated, another friend drove directly on Day 3. Talk of planning.

So we decided to check out some of the other attractions and moved towards New Bundi. From Fort one can join the Jaipur-Kota highway without much of ‘Google Maps’. Since the previous evening, we entered the city only after dark we wanted to head back to highway to see what we missed.

If you are coming from Jaipur, then Bundi falls on your left, almost appearing from nowhere since it is in a gorge with a tall hill protecting its identity, on the right side of the road. I think if someone makes a bypass road then probably Bundi would fall off the map, entirely. As we drove alongside the hill on our right and the town on the let, we realised that the town has grown over time and there is a new part of town, almost like what New Delhi is to Old Delhi, gradually pushing its way in. To discover this new town, we again entered the town from another entry further down the road and witnessed the usual mix of apartments, hospitals, traffic, schools, auto markets and what not. Our next stop was ’84 Pillars’ but I would save that for another log since we visited this place again on next day. We still had about 2 hours with us and our friends told us to stop visiting new places and instead wait for them. The dilemma resulted in this unplanned drive to Kota, famous for Sarees and coaching schools. I was way past the age for a coaching school but my wife is more consistent for her love for good weaves. We rev-ed back on the highway again and in another hour, we were at Kota. It was a Sunday so the market was closed but we could still manage to find some shops and bought a few. On the return, we stopped for a quick snack break and reached hotel from the other side of the town.

The evening was spent on terrace, overlooking the brilliantly lit Bundi Palace and reminiscing the Bundi Palace, reminding the promise we made to ourselves to visit Chitrashala again, food at OOB and the drive to Kota. The plan for the next day was to capture the alleys of Bundi and discover more of the precious heritage the city has proudly preserved over last few hundred years. Along with our friends who we had just welcomed with suppressed zeal.


  • Vipin says:

    So finally Nandan bhai is back & back with delightful & colourful Bundi…the post is as detailed as the work on murals…just loved it! The photos too are brilliantly captured reflecting the words…Chitrashala really looks wow & the murals inside are surely a treat to the eyes…My interest in Bundi has specifically been into exploring it’s baolis & you have added some more attractions to this list through this post…did you get to see any baolis (would love to see & know about them in coming post if possible)?…

    Just 2 days back, Giriraj & me were discussing about exploring beautiful Bundi someday soon & here it came through you…:)….wonderful post with a touch of fun & a lot of info, thanks for sharing!

  • Deepender Sehajpal says:

    Bundi is indeed one of its kind place, we absolutely loved the slow pace and absolutely laid back hadoti region.

    Bundi woh laddu hai jo sabko ek baar zaroor khana chahiye
    cycling woh tyohaar hai jo sabko har roz manana chahiye

    thanks for mentioning my title Super Randonnuer in this post, its fantastic to read this as it was the new year resolution that I made on Jan 1, 2013 in Bundi that i will get the Super Randonnuer titles this year, feels good that i did manage to fulfill a resolution!!! cheers

  • Glad to see your post after a long time.

    “Firdoos” ki party due hai :-))))

  • Avtar Singh says:

    Hi Nandan

    Its great to see your post first time after my familiarity with the site, although I have read some of your earlier posts, but this one seems Live!

    Great post, having the perfect blend of pacy and juicy stuff along with splendid pics of ceilings etc.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    @ Vipin – Thank you Vipin for your effusive praise. Yes, we did visit the most popular and biggest Baoli there viz. ‘Rani Ji ki Baoli’ and I hope to cover it in next log. Apart from ‘Baolis’, a walk in the main artery is in itself a fulfilling treat to all senses. Wishing you a journey soon. I am sure you and Giriraj would both enjoy it.

    @ Deepender – You deserve every bit of it. Doing 600 Km of cycling is a big feat and needs celebration.

    @ Mahesh – Sure Sir. Visit with family as your time permits. :-)

    @ Avtar – Thank you.

  • Smita says:

    Good to see this Bundi ka laddoo presented so well ki ‘jo na khaye so pakka pachhtaye’.

    I wish you had written more about the uniqueness of Bundi style of paintings. These paintings are distinct for their bright colors (a lot of bright indigo blue, emerald green, gold streaks and crimson), curvy body sketches and a prominent long forhead with delicate lines of hair. They are soaked in the ‘rasik’ forms of art – themed around music, dances, romance, bhakti… so you see a lot of Krishna-leela, Meera Bai…

    Looking forward to more.

  • Last week , Mukesh Bhalse returned with a new Post and now Its Nandan..
    I hope , soon we will be reading a new Post from Vishal too
    Nandan Ji..For me it’s your first Post other than interviews..
    Great post, full of information and beautifully captured pictures .
    Thanks for sharing..

  • SilentSoul says:

    ?? ??? ?? ?????-????? ????? ?? ??? ??????? ????? ??? ?? ???? ?? ?? ????. ??? ???.??????? ???. ????? ?????????. ???? ?? ?????? ????? ???? ?? ??? ???? ???? ??. ???? ?? ???? ???? ????? ?? ???? ??? ???? ?? ?? ???? ??.

    ????????? ?? ????? ????? ??. ?????? ???????? ????? ?? ?????? ????????? ?? ..

    ???? ??? ?? ???? ??? 9 ??? ?? ??? ?? ..??

  • Nice one Nandan and good to know a new place Bundi and detailed pictures. Interesting to know that there are some places where Indians are not allowed, but can understand the reason.

  • injamaven says:

    couldnt some Hada Chauhans afford to hire several caretakers to guard the fort/palace? It’s a real treasure and shouldn’t need to stink of bat guano!

  • Amitava Chatterjee says:

    Excellent piece of writing and a brilliant travelogue. It may also be used as a complete guidebook on what all we should cover while visiting any place and then present it so gracefully.

    Many of us were waiting for this for a long time and you fulfilled our wishes. Chitrasala is surely a treat for eyes and a must visit place now for me too, whenever time permits. All the shots were
    very well taken.

    It was a nice feeling to read this post after a long time. Just hope you won’t make us to wait so long for the next part.

  • Naturebuff says:

    Hi Nandan,

    A new place for me, Bundi. Lovely writeup and brilliant pics. You write very well taking the reader with you all the way :-) Sounds really very vibrant and certainly a must do for heritage lovers. Will keep in mind for when we go that side…

  • Nandan Jha says:

    @ Smita – Thanks. Planning to include the Painting bit in next part. Though you have already mentioned all the key ingredients, may be I would add a pic or two to further illustrate it.

    @ Naresh – Thank you. I did write to Vishal for something else recently and have not heard back. Last I know, he was keeping very busy. I hope to hear back and read from him soon. Yeah, I know that I should be writing more often.

    @ Silentsoul – ???????? ? ??? ??? ???? ?? ???? ??? ?? ?? ?? ???? ?? ??? ????? ??? ? ???? ???? ?? ?? ?? ????????? ????? ???? ??? , ???? ?????? ?? ??? ???? ??, ???? ??? ?? ???? ? ????????? ?? ?????? ?

    ???? ??? ???? ?? ??? ,??? ???????? ???? ?? , ???? ?? ????? ?? ????? ?? ????? ? ?? ???? ?? ?

  • Nandan Jha says:

    @ Upanshu – I think it was a temporary problem. It is a private property so may be there is no other way to keep the hooligans off. Often these large forts attract a lot of unwanted activities.

    @ injamaven – It would cost money and I don’t think this treasure has any tangible value or a day-to-day ROI. ASI has done a swell job of keeping Chitrashala well.

    @ Amitava – Thank you Dada. The shots are from my phone. :-) We have stopped lugging our P-n-S for last 1 year or so since it was not giving us enough excitement to shoot and more often than not, we would come back from a trip without clicking a single photo from it. Now the plan is to put money in a good DSLR (I had access to a good DSLR in yesteryears and we thoroughly enjoyed it) and possibly do some better shots. Hope Singhal Sir is reading. hehe. Thank you again for all the praise.

    @ Naturebuff – It is not too far from Bhopal. Winters are a better time and you can add Jaipur to make the concoction better.

  • Rakesh Bawa says:

    Nandan Ji , Namaskar. So Captain is back with bang slam slam, winning the latest round of grand slam of Ghumakkari with this beautiful post. Bundi school of art was quite famous during Mughal period. Pictures that you took are awesome giving a real feel .

  • Nirdesh Singh says:

    Hi Nandan,

    Finally a post from you and that too ‘my kind of post’!

    Most of these properties (but then most of the bunglows around CP and on Amrita Sergill Marg) are embroiled in litigations. And these civil litigations can take generations to conclude.

    But if the general upkeep was that bad how can they afford the lighting in the night. Maybe ASI is paying the power bills. Sometimes ASI does surprise you with the work they do. Especially in Chanderi, MP.
    Chitrashala is special with all the Eastman Kodak Color mural work.

    It seems like you really enjoyed writing this piece much as we enjoyed reading it. Will look forward to visit the alleys of Bundi with you.

    Cant believe the photos have come off a mobile camera. But then what do you know carrying a 2MP obsolete mobile camera for years now!

    Hopefully the next post will come soon. Bundi does deserve a second visit and this time with a camera! Thanks for sharing!

    PS – Vipin it is time you started writing instead of just saying you were there just three days ago! And this obsession towards baolis is not healthy. Not all people go looking for hollowed out ground with green water and flotsam.

  • Snig Bhaumik says:

    Brilliant narration Nandan.
    Surely it is the captain’s stroke.

    As correctly said by Amitava, this could very well be used as the travel guide for Bundi and surrounding places.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    @ Rakesh – Thank you Prof. I hope to write a bit about Bundi School of Painting which we learnt while being there.

    @ Nirdesh – Thank you. There is a thin layer of staff and possibly a few rows of truss lighting bars for the illumination. These are from an Apple Camera, inside their latest phone. :-) It is pretty good. I was reading somewhere, that everyday, these iOS devices click the largest number of pictures. I do aspire to get a decent DSLR though.

    @ Snig – Thank you. There is not a lot of items to tick, while in Bundi so I guess any blog is good enough for info. Thank you for your appreciation.

  • Giriraj Shekhawat says:

    Bundi ko aisey hi nahi kehte –“Queen of the Hadoti” … Your post was very good …The fresco work of bundi paintings is very exceptional …I have been to most of the hadoti part (kota,jhalawar,baran) but bundi is still unexplored for me although i have passed through the rugged plateaus and hills of indergarh and keshoraipatan in bundi district.
    There is a beautiful waterfall 45 km away from Bundi towards Chittaurgarh named Bhimlat..I hope you have seen that.

  • Surinder Sharma says:

    Very nice information and good photos. After long time I read your post. Really good. Thanks

  • Abheeruchi says:

    Hello NJ,

    After a long gap the series opened again.Good to see and read post.Waiting for next.These post reminded me my stay at Lakheri when many of our neighbours used to speak hadoti and as we know mewadi and marwadi we thought we will manage, but it is altogether different language.

    While reading comments on your post I was wondering how come Nirdesh has not read this post which must be of his type and as I came down I found his comment with the same wording.It means ab mai bhi thodo thoda Ghumakkars ke members ki likhne ki aur comment karne ki style samjne lag gayi hu :)

    Hope to read painting series soon…

    Keep travelling, keep writing.

    Hopefully Vishal ji should also come back soon, BTW do you have any news about DL sir.I think his daughter has an account here in Ghumakkar (I mean for commenting)

  • dear nandan
    ???? ??? , ????? ?? ??? ???? ???? ?? ?? ??? ???? ???? ???? ???? ???? ?? ??? ??? ???? ?? ????? ???? ?????? ??? ?? ?? ?? ???? ??? ?? ?????

  • Nikita Goyal says:

    Hi Nandan, You have beautifully presented the heritage with your immense writing style. The pictures are too interesting and eye pleasing to be missed. That is why, we (i along with my friends) are planning to visit Bundi and the surrounding areas in near future.
    Would you please guide me with the weather conditions and places to visit? Also, if you can give me some more ideas about budget management while taking a trip over here… that would be a great favour. I will be waiting for your response.

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