‘Don’t touch it.’ I had snapped at the foreign tourists who were tentatively touching the frescoes on the walls inside the Bundi Fort. They stepped back in alarm and scurried away and as I grumbled at their callousness in not respecting my country’s heritage, a sorry sight met my eyes. Right below, glaring on the bottom panel of a painting depicting a beauty in diaphanous attire was the declaration ‘Monu loves Rani’ beside the crude etching of the male reproductive organ. I was flabbergasted, shocked, and felt like a complete ass. To think, that someone could vandalize such incredible art was beyond my understanding and I felt angry and frustrated at the ignorance of my countrymen. To add injury to the insult, the local government seemed to have little interest in the paintings and it was heartbreaking to see them getting slowly destroyed.

A view of the Bundi fort and palace

A decaying palace, an ancient fort, and stepwells

Bundi leaves you with such feelings. The sprawling ramshackle fort, the scattered historic remnants, the uncared stepwells, and cenotaphs make you want to scream out in frustration, yet somehow these ruins add to the charm of Bundi. It’s hard to explain because this town does not have the architectural wealth or grandeur of Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, and Jaisalmer, yet the little town is so charming that you find it hard to leave. The surrounding hilly forested countryside creates an atmosphere of a lost kingdom and it reminds you that you are in the country of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Mowgli’ (Kipling actually lived and wrote here).

The symmetrical beauty of a stepwell in Bundi

What is Bundi all about?

The Bundi town too is very captivating. It is small, easily walkable, and has narrow lanes of Brahmin-blue houses, assorted temples, and a picturesque palace. Erstwhile capital of the Hadachauhans of Rajasthan, this erstwhile royal town lies 210 kilometers away from glittering Jaipur and it is a popular hang out for travelers looking for some offbeat Rajasthan experience. Though slowly getting increasingly visible in the tourist circuit, Bundi does not get the crowds like Jaipur, Udaipur, etc and this retains the blue town‘s magical timeless quality.

A winding lane of Bundi town

A royal town in Kipling’s Mowgli setting

During one winter I spent more than two weeks at Bundi and had explored the town and its neighboring places to my heart‘s content. Those were very relaxing days, going around the Rudyard Kipling‘s land on a motorbike, catching stunning sunrises, counting endless turbaned shepherds, admiring brilliantly beautiful faces of the people, and staring in amazement at the delicate murals of the famous Bundi school of miniature paintings. However, what I liked most about this little town was its old-world charm that came minus the quintessential Rajasthan noise, pollution, and choking crowds. An all-pervading atmosphere of past wonders can be instantly felt in the picturesque, slowly decaying Bundi Palace that tumbles down a rock-strewn slope beneath the ramparts of the even more ancient fort of Taragarh. Inside the once luxurious palace are fading memories – remnants of gold and turquoise murals evoking a glorious past. The palace overlooks a bustling bazaar, a small town, and spectacular step-wells with magnificently carved portals. The whole setting is simply magical.

A view from Taragarh fort

The pros and cons of visiting Bundi

There is no doubt that the dream-like Bundi too has its share of annoyances of traveling alone in India and the labyrinthine blue lanes are littered. Some locals boys are relentlessly amorous especially towards solo women travelers and the monkeys are a bit of a menace. Despite all that, its ancient streets are traffic-free and the nights are refreshingly silent. Thus, it is no surprise that the blue town is close to my heart and this post is an ode to my beautiful Bundi days. Few places in Rajasthan retain so much of the magical atmosphere of centuries past and thankfully for explorers, it still in the offbeat travel circuit.

This stepwell in Bundi is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen

The palace reflected on a lake in Bundi

The sprawling decaying palace in Bundi

Sunrise seen through a lane in Bundi

A Bundi painting of a woman at her toilet

Incredibly photogenic locals

They are often friendly and unabashedly curious

The woodlands that surround Bundi

Paintings inside the palace

Bundi is an offbeat gem of Rajasthan

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