Bundi is about 368km from Jaipur. If you see only one off-the-beaten-track town in Rajasthan, the small town of Bundi, established in 1241, should be your first choice. It’s worth a visit not just for the architectural magnificence of the palace that clings to the cliff above; the town’s lack of modernization and abundance of temples, cenotaphs, and step wells; or even its renowned school of miniature paintings (arguably the best-value paintings in Rajasthan); it’s the lack of hustling, which comes as a truly welcome relief. Approached through a gorge, the town is protected by the embracing hills of the Aravalli Hills, topped by Taragarh Fort, and life here goes on pretty much as it has for centuries. Because the population is in no way dependent on tourism, you are either greeted with real affection or total indifference. There’s absolutely no sales pressure— a refreshing change after the constant barrage of “Please come see,” and “Special price for you” that follows you everywhere in the cities and more popular towns. Exploring Bundi’s narrow streets, with tiny cupboardlike shops raised a meter or more above street level to avoid the monsoon floods, feels like seeing the real India. Followed by giggling children trying to touch your hand or clothes, you will pass old men beating copper pots into perfect shape; tailors working with beautiful fabrics on ancient Singers; huge mounds of orange, red, and yellow spices offset by purple aubergines, red tomatoes, and green peppers; rickshaws carting women adorned in saris of saturated colors; and temples blaring live music—fresh and natural images that will have you grabbing your camera every 2 minutes. Besides wandering the streets, you can walk to a number of attractions, of which Garh Palace (described by Rudyard Kipling as “the work of goblins” and one of the few examples of pure Rajput style) and Raniji-ki-Baori (the state’s most impressive step well) are not to be missed. Raniji-ki-Baori, which lies in a small park in the center of town, dates back to the 17th century and features ornately carved gates, pillars, and friezes. Garh Palace’s exterior is astounding, but sadly, much of the interior is falling apart; entry is now restricted to the arcaded Chitra Shala, which is decorated with many of the fine murals in the miniature style the town is famous for (free entry; dawn–dusk). Given prior notice, the owner of Haveli Braj Bhushanjee can arrange for you to view palace sections currently closed to the public. Chitra Shala alone is worth the steep walk up to the imposing gates, as are the views of the town—much of it painted the same blue seen in the more famous “blue city” of Jodhpur. For an even better vantage point, keep ascending the rough path that leads up to Taragarh (not necessarily to the top), for a great sense of peace (you’re unlikely to encounter anyone, bar the Hanuman langur monkeys and a lone goat herder) and superb photo ops of the town. Sights farther afield, like Sukh Mahal, a summer palace where Kipling wrote Kim, are best explored with Haveli Braj Bhushanjee’s picnic and sightseeing tour.
Kota is 130km (80 miles) by road from Sawai Madhopur and 155km (96 miles) from Chittaurgarh, so you can either visit it after you see Ranthambhore and/or Jaipur, or combine it with a trip from Udaipur via Chittaurgarh. To get to Bundi, you have to travel through the industrialized town of Kota. If you have arrived by train (Kota is well connected to the rest of the state, including the main Delhi-to- Mumbai line, Jaipur, Sawai Madhopur, and Chittaurgarh), you will then have to catch a bus, jeep, or taxi to Bundi. A taxi to Bundi will run you Rs 600 ($14); a jeep costs Rs 500 ($11). Kota, which dates back to the 12th century, has a number of impressive monuments (particularly the Palace Fort), but it is only worth stopping at if you have arrived too late to catch a taxi to Bundi.
WHERE TO STAY & DINE
Haveli Braj Bhushanjee
This is without a doubt the best place to stay in Bundi, and—despite the small size of the rooms and basic facilities—one of the most authentic heritage properties in India. Situated on a narrow lane inside the walled city, just below the palace, it also happens to be one of the most professionally run guesthouses in India, managed by the discreetly proud Braj Bhushanjee brothers (four of whose ancestors were prime ministers of Bundi State in the 19th c.). Many of the walls are covered with exceptional- quality murals, again typical of the Bundi school of miniature painting, and though each room (like those in so many other guesthouses) is traditionally decorated, the choice of objects, fabrics, and carpets (all sourced from Bundi and surroundings) shows a great deal of thought and innate flair. All the rooms are beautiful (though those overlooking the lane are a tad noisy at times) and feature en-suite “shower rooms”— small, but freshly whitewashed and gleaming. No alcohol is served—you can bring your own, however—and meat is definitely not permitted on the premises. Though garlic and onion are rarely used in the cooking, dining is of exceptional quality. Rather than choosing from a menu, you are served a selection of simple, flavorful, home-cooked dishes (Rs 300/$6.85), either in the Darikhana, where images of ancestors glower and large colored glass baubles hang from the ceiling, or on the terrace, from where you have a pictureperfect view of the illuminated palace at night. The brothers are a wealth of information about the area and can arrange wonderful sightseeing tours on request (they will, for instance, pack a picnic and carry it up to the fort for you). They also have an excellent (and extensive) collection of miniature paintings and other tribal and traditional crafts for sale—you may pay a little more than you would if you purchased directly from the artist (see “Shopping,” below), but be assured that the brothers know the difference between a pretty souvenir and a real investment. At press time, six new rooms and a swimming pool were being added to the property, the latter certain to draw visitors into staying for more than a day.
Bundi Distance Guide
|Bundi||to||Sawai Madhopur||111 Km|