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Destination of the Month

Bundi, Rajasthan

An overtly intriguing and captivating town with narrow lanes comprising of Brahmin-blue homes, lakes, hills, bazaars with a temple at every nook, Bundi is dominated by a fantastic palace of faded parchment cupolas and loggias rising from the hillside above the town. Bundi came into its own in the 12th century when a group of Chauhan nobles from Ajmer were pushed south by Mohammed of Ghori. After tugging the Bundi area from the Mina and Bhil tribes, Bundi was made the capital of their kingdom, known as Hadoti. Bundi was generally loyal to the Mughals from the late 16th century on, but it maintained its independent status until incorporated into the state of Rajasthan after 1947.

This extraordinary, partly decaying edifice – described by Rudyard Kipling as 'the work of goblins rather than of men' – almost seems to grow out of the rock of the hillside it stands on. Though large sections are still closed up and left to the bats, the rooms that are open hold a series of fabulous, fading turquoise-and-gold murals that are the palace's chief treasure. The palace was constructed during the reign of Rao Raja Ratan Ji Heruled (Ratan Singh; 1607–31) and added to by his successors.

In case you wish to include Taragarh in your itinerary along with the historical palace, then its best to buy tickets for both at the palace entrance itself. Once inside the palace's Hathi Pol (Elephant Gate), climb the stairs to the Ratan Daulat or Diwan-e-Aam (Hall of Public Audience), which displays a white marble coronation throne that belonged to the ruler. Thereafter, you pass into the Chhatra Mahal, added by Rao Raja Chhatra Shabji in 1644, with some fine but rather weathered murals. Within the Bundi Palace complex is the Chitrasala, a small 18th-century palace built by Rao Ummed Singh. To find it, exit through the palace's Hathi Pol (Elephant Gate) and walk round the corner uphill.

Above the palace's garden courtyard are several rooms covered in beautiful paintings. There are some great Krishna images, including a detailed one sitting up on a tree playing the flute after stealing the clothes of the gopis (milkmaids). The back room to the right is the Sheesh Mahal, badly damaged but still featuring some beautiful inlaid glass, while back in the front room there's an image of 18th-century Bundi itself whose stairs lead up to the Phool Mahal (1607), whose murals include an immense royal procession, and then the Badal Mahal (Cloud Palace; also 1607), with Bundi's very best murals, including a wonderful Chinese-inspired ceiling, divided into petal shapes and decorated with peacocks and Krishnas. Bundi is also known for its baoris. It has nearly 60 beautiful baoris, a few of which right in the town centre. The majestic feel of a majority of these is unfortunately diminished by their lack of water today – a result of declining groundwater levels – and by the rubbish that collects in them, with least involvement of the local municipal corporation to clean them up.

The most impressive, Raniji-ki-Baori (Queen's Step-Well), is 46m deep and decorated with sinuous carvings, including the avatars of Lord Vishnu. Built in 1699 by Rani Nathawati, wife of Rao Raja Anirudh Singh, it's one of the largest of its kind to be seen anywhere. The Nagar Sagar Kund is a pair of matching step-wells just outside the old city's Chogan Gate. The Dhabhai-ka-Kund is an impressively deep 19th-century tank south of the Raniji-ki-Baori – though dry.

Visible from the fort is the rectangular artificial lake called the Nawal Sagar , which tends to dry up if the monsoon is poor. At its centre is a temple dedicated to Varuna, the Aryan God of water. Opposite the Abhaynath Temple, one of Bundi's oldest Shiva temples, west of Nawal Sagar, is the 16th-century tank Bhora-ji-ka-Kund, which attracts a variety of bird life after a good monsoon, including the mesmeric kingfishers.

Though an increasingly popular traveller hang-out, Bundi attracts less tourist crowds compared to places like Jaipur and Udaipur. The streets are less noisy, with less polluting vehicles or dense throngs of people. Very few selected places in Rajasthan retain so much of them.

Bundi is well connected by road from Jaipur (3 hours) and Udaipur (4 hours). It offers a decent variety of accommodation to suit everyone's pocket. Indeed a great place to visit with family during vacations…..!!