Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Bundi - The City & Its People

I'm getting used to the unpredictable London rains, or am I? With my boots on, I am sitting inside the comforts of my new home and looking outside, day dreaming! Aching to go on a lovely road trip, with the wind in my hair, a little bit of sunshine and good company. My mind wanders to the time the husband and I had traversed the surprisingly smooth roads of Rajasthan and found our way to a beautiful little city - Bundi. 

Our maiden road trip was planned with much excitement and there was no stopping this anniversary getaway. Friends called the plan 'insane' and 'too ambitious', considering Delhi to Bundi is almost a 8 hour drive (470 km) and that just one person would be behind the wheels, but we were adamant not to break our trip in between and loose one night to the otherwise much frequented Jaipur. 

The pleasant October air and magnificent State highways made our early wake up worth it, and we zoomed through the state highways with just one stop in between for a refreshing cup of tapri chai. Munching on chips, high on energy drinks and swaying to earthen melodies the time flew by and we arrived at our destination a little later than lunch.

Enclosed, almost hidden by the surrounding Aravalli hills, Bundi is a small town yet untouched by commercial tourism. It took us a while to get to our hotel; snailing through the narrow lanes then backtracking the path because a cow wouldn't let us pass through. No wonder Bundi was previously called "Bunda-Ka-Nal", Nal meaning "narrow ways".

We had booked our stay for the night in advance. Hotel Bundi Haveli, a restored property, well amalgamating both the heritage and modernity perfectly, exceeded our expectations. Wish we had more time on our hands to enjoy the comforts of the place. 

12 rooms decorated tastefully each opening to a wide courtyard, a roof top terrace giving a 360 degree view of the city, a petite breakfast area surrounded by whites and greens and to top it all a friendly staff and management - we couldn't have asked for more!

It is said ancient Bundi was primarily inhabited by the Meena tribe and got its name from the tribe's chieftain Bunda Meena.  Later, for over a century, Bundi flourished under the reign of Hada (Hara) Chauhans who founded the Hadoti state in the 12th century. But gradually reduced to being just a titular state as Kota emerged as an important city. 

Known for its baoris (terraced stone step wells), Bundi is also famous for being Rudyard Kipling's inspiration for his work 'Kim'. "The work of goblins rather than of men", he said of this place and rightly so. 

The Taragarh Fort

The 'Star' fort built in 1354 A.D by Raja Rao Bar Singh, which reflected the strength of the Rajputana clan, ironically today stands in quite a dilapidated condition. However one can imagine the grandeur of the place back in the days, especially as one gazes at the 'Rani Mahal', a separate area designed for the king's wives and concubines.

'Hathia Pol' (Elephant Gateway)
The Palace interiors; carvings and paintings on the pillars and ceilings

Another attraction inside the fort is the Chitrashala (Art Gallery) depicting wall paintings, murals and miniature paintings influenced by the Mewar and Mughal styles. Most of the works depict the court scenes, hunting and war, love lives of the royals and life of Lord Krishna in colours blue and green.

Open all days, 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM
Ticket Price INR 25 per person Indian Nationals/
INR 100 per person Foreign Nationals
Still Camera INR 50/ Video Camera INR 100

*Be wary of Monkeys! The fort is officially theirs! ;)

Also there was a small cafe just outside the fort but we skipped it due to lack of time.

The 84 Pillar Cenotaph (Chaurasi Khambon ki Chattri)

Standing in isolation, it is hard to miss this 84 pillared cenotaph. A close look at the carvings on the sides of the pedestal reveals the life and times of the Rajput era.

Due to lack of time, we had to call it a day. But there are few attractions which deserve a mention.

Sukh Mahal 

Kipling's residence in Bundi during 19th century, the palace now a museum blooms amidst lotuses in the Jait Sagar lake.

Raniji Ki Baori (The Queen’s Step-Well)

Located right in the middle of the town, Raniiji ki Baori completes the Bundi city tour. Stepwells were not only a major source of drinking water in earlier times but also sanctuaries for bathing, prayer, meditation and other religious ceremonies. The interiors thus are also an architectural delight with beautiful carvings and motifs. We did go here right after we visited the Taragarh Fort but it was already closed by the time we reached, so instead we made our way to the adjacent food stalls where we savoured few of the street foods including gulab jamun and bati churma. 

If Day 1 was about Bundi, Day 2 was about one person and his world, Mr. Om Prakash Sharma alias Kukki ji. If you research Bundi, his name is sure to pop up in the google search and you can't help but admire how the man from such humble upbringings has turned his fate around by his undying passion for history and archaeology. 

A class VII dropout, Kukki ji has always been an explorer and a wanderer at heart sourcing ancient coins, terracotta utensils, metals in the arid hills in and around Bundi. In 1993 he discovered his first rock painting, which experts would later identify to a civilization older than the Harappan and Mohen-jo-daro period, and since then he has discovered more than 75 rock painting sites in the region which has earned him the status of 'honorary archaeologist' by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)

We had called in advance to set our date with him not knowing what to expect. But his outrageous zest for life rubbed off on us from the word go and at the end of it we were sorry to say our goodbyes.

Accompanied with extraordinaire sights and stories we slowly rode onto the unbeaten path.

On our way to the rock paintings site

Ah! The smell of adventure!
And here it is!!

With Mr. Kukki and his discoveries

We had a cup of tea at a nearby waterfall sight and said our goodbyes promising Kukki ji to return once again to visit his home where he nurtures a mini museum displaying all his collectibles.