Rajasthan’s ‘other’ Blue City is known for its beautiful paintings tucked away in the Chitrashala, the art gallery inside the Bundi Palace. Less well-known compared to the other cities of Rajasthan, Bundi is a beautiful place full of unique architecture, such as the aptly-named Taragarh or Star Fort. The city’s place in literature is secured -- Bundi inspired Rudyard Kipling when he wrote Kim, with the author staying at the Sukh Mahal.

033 India Bundi

Highlights

Bundi is a historic place, with archaeologists finding several Stone Age tools dating back 200,000 years in 2017. There are also caves with rock art which are between 5,000-10,000 years old in and around the city.

Originally founded by the Meena tribe, Bundi’s name comes from a chieftain called Bunda Meena. Bundi has some amazing viewing points, so head to the Taragarh Fort for a view over the city, before losing yourself in the art gallery at Chitrashala. If you’re after architecture, try Chaurasi Khambon ki Chhatri to admire the geometric precision of the 84 pillars of the cenotaph, or examine the artistry of Bundi’s 50 stepwells.

Taragarh Fort

This 14th-century fortress’ name means the Starry Citadel, and this is a perfect place to do some stargazing on a clear night. The fort houses the Garb Gunjam cannon which rather curiously means The Thunder from the Womb. Although crumbling in places, the fort is worth the steep climb for its palaces, murals and views over Bundi. Watch out for the monkeys.

Bundi Palace (Garh Palace)

Just below the Taragarh Fort stands Bundi Palace. The majestic Hathi Pol (Elephant Gate) greets you with its massive pillars, before heading inside to the Badal Mahal, Chhatra Mahal and Phool Mahal, each of which houses treasure troves of paintings. However, the palace’s biggest attraction is its group of turquoise and gold murals depicting historical battles and royal processions.

The neighbouring Chitrashala Palace houses paintings commissioned by Rao Ummed Singh. Look for the images of Krishna, particularly the one of him playing the flute in the trees.

Sukh Mahal

Built along the banks of the Jait Sagar Lake in the 18th century during the reign of Ummed Singh, the Sukh Mahal was home to Kipling and inspired him to write Kim. Meaning the palace of bliss, the Sukh Mahal is home to Mughal art and statues, a marble cenotaph and gardens.

Chaurasi Khambon Ki Chhatri

Built in the 17th century by Rao Raja Anirudh for his foster brother Deva as a dome-shaped memorial, this cenotaph is famous for its 84 pillars (although legend says you can’t count them all). The cenotaph has several ornate sculptures and a linga (a form of Shiva) built in the centre.

Raniji Ki Baori

Stepwells are an architectural feature of Rajasthan and Gujarat. With water being a scarcity, stepwells were designed not only as sources of drinking water, but also places to bathe, pray and relax. Often sculpted as temples with gates, arches and pillars, there are about 50 stepwells in Bundi, but most of them are in ruins. The Raniji Ki Baori is the best known, built in the 17th century by Queen Nathavati, wife of Rao Raja Anirudh Singh. It is 46m (150ft) deep and each level has carvings of deities.

Chitrashala

Bundi is known for its miniature paintings and murals and there is a story behind them.

In the 16th century when the Hadoti kings broke away from Mewar and befriended the Mughals, Emperor Akbar of the Mughals sent three artists from Chunar near Varanasi as “gifts” to the royal court. The artists shifted their canvas from palm leaf manuscripts to walls. Armed with a thin brush that had a single hair, they created the minute details of Bundi art that mixes Rajput and Mughal influences.

To see the best of Bundi art, you must head to the Chitrashala, an art gallery tucked away in the Umed Bhavan, a part of the Bundi Palace. The entire gallery is a riot of colours with paintings depicting mythology, deities, temples and some beautiful and bold portraits of Rajasthani women. The colours are in vivid shades of turquoise and teal. There is even an Indian version of Romeo and Juliet.

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