Rajasthan has so much to offer to a traveler looking for historical places or nature’s marvels. Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, and Jaisalmer are most visited cities in Rajasthan and they are must-visit places in the itinerary of every traveler. Like everyone else, I also visited these places when I traveled to Rajasthan. After visiting the popular places, I planned to visit lesser known places in Rajasthan and that’s how I decided to visit Bundi in Rajasthan.
Bundi is a small town surrounded on three sides by Aravali mountain range. There is a different charm in Bundi’s rural settings, its uncomplicated surroundings, and laidback atmosphere. Though during my travel I noticed that there are serious maintenance issues with the heritage structures and buildings. Still, there are some interesting places to visit in Bundi.
History of Bundi
Bundi was inhabited by various local tribes and Parihar Meenas were the prominent tribe of the area. The recorded history of Bundi dates back to the early 12th century.
It is believed that name Bundi was derived from a former Meena king Bunda Singh Meena. Bundi Rajasthan is situated in a narrow valley which is surrounded by the Aravalli Hills. So, Bundi was also known as “Bunda-Ka-Nal”, Bunda was the name of the King and Nal meaning “narrow ways”.
In 1342 Rao Deva Hada took over Bundi from Jaita Meena and renamed the surrounding area as Haravati or Haroti. This region is still known as Haroti area of Rajasthan.
In 1804 Rao Raja Bishan Singh gave assistance to British India’s Colonel Monson when he was defeated by Maratha empire. Thus forming an alliance with British rulers in India. This alliance of Hadoti rulers of Bundi remained with Britishers till India’s Independence. They enjoyed the confidence of them and there were no wars in this area. They merged with India after the independence of India in 1947.
Historical places to visit in Bundi
Taragarh Fort and Garh Palace Bundi
Taragarh Fort is built on a steep hillside overlooking the city of Bundi. The fort was constructed in 1354 AD by Rao Deva and this fort also known as the ‘Star Fort’.
The main entrance to the fort and palace is very high, it is known as Hathi Pol, which means ‘Elephant’s Gateway’.
Taragarh Fort is built with green-colored serpentine stone, which was available locally. The intricate carving is not possible in this quality of stone and that’s why the fort doesn’t have cravings. Though to enhance the beauty of fort, there are colorful paintings in some parts of the fort.
There are three water tanks in the fort, which still has water and fine example of medieval engineering.
From the top of Taragarh fort, we got the bird’s eye view of the whole city of Bundi and Nawal Sagar lake.
Garh palace Bundi on a slightly more elevated area of the hill and it is adjacent to the Taragarh Fort.
The Garh palace complex is under the archeological survey of India.
This place is very well maintained with manicured gardens and clean open areas.
In one part of the palace is Chitrashala that is comprised of galleries with of some of the best and colorful paintings of those times.
The murals on the walls depict the stories from Indian mythology and the lives of the rulers. The colors used in these murals are a combination of blue, red, and green, with strokes of yellow to give them a beautiful look.
Present day facts about Taragarh Fort and Garh Palace
* Entry ticket for Indian is 80 INR and for foreign tourists, it is 500 INR. Video camera you have to pay 100 INR.
* It remains open between 08.00 AM till 6.00 PM in winters and till 07.00 PM in summers.
* There are no guides available near or inside the fort.
* There is a shop and restaurant near the main entry gate. It is advisable to carry water from outside.
* The ramps are steep and also in bad condition because of uneven stones. Wear good walking shoes or sports shoes.
* Don’t keep eatable material in the bag. If you have to keep it for some reason then keep it inside pockets as there are monkeys inside.
* Don’t leave your bag unattended because there were some incidents reported in the past when monkeys picked the bags looking for food.
* If you are scared of monkeys then carry a wooden stick with you for physiological advantage.
* There are bats in a small part of the fort but they are harmless if you don’t disturb them. Though that area smells bad.
* There are very few tourists inside the Taragarh Fort and Garh palace, so we got the whole place to ourselves.
* The fort area is badly maintained especially the outer parts. I have come to know that this is due to the legal battle for ownership.
Nawal Sagar Lake
This man-made square shape lake is situated in the middle of Bundi. The lake is overlooking Taragarh fort and from top of the fort, it is clearly visible.
There is a small half submerged temple of Lord Varuna inside the lake. Other than that there are a couple of more structures inside the lake.
There are steps all around the lake for easy access to the water of the lake.
The reflection of Taragarh fort and other surrounding areas can be seen in placid water of the lake. This makes a beautiful picture spot.
Unfortunately, the lake is not well maintained and its water is dirty with waste floating on the surface.
There are some hotels and restaurants on one side of the lake, which have good sitting arrangements. In winters, they serve as the perfect outdoor sitting space.
It was built during the reign of Umed Singh on the banks the Jait Sagar Lake. The Sukh Mahal was the leisure palace with gardens around it, they used it for recreational purpose. The main architectural feature of Sukh Mahal is domed roofs at the terrace of the second story of the Mahal.
With the Jait Sagar lake on one side and hills on another side, this palace has a perfect setting for the leisure palace. It appears as the foundation of Sukh Mahal is under the water of Jait Sagar lake.
There is a couple of temples on the other side of the lake, which can be seen from Sukh Mahal.
In the main area of Sukh Mahal is a room marked with Kipling. It is believed that this the place where Rudyard Kipling lived for some time and wrote a part of his famous book “Kim” in the 19th century.
The garden area of Sukh Mahal is not maintained as there were not any flowering plants. Otherwise, Sukh Mahal is clean.
There is a museum at the end of the compound, for which you have to buy a separate entry ticket of 20 INR.
During the Bundi festival and Diwali, this palace is illuminated with oil earthen lamps (Diyas), which enhance its beauty at night.
Sukh Mahal remains open between 9.00 AM to 5.00 PM.
Jait Sagar Lake
This lake is adjacent to the Taragarh hill and 2 km from the main Bundi market. This 1.5 Km long lake was developed by Jaita Meena and hence named after him. The lake is surrounded by Aravali hills and create a picturesque spot with Sukh Mahal on its one side. We saw some lotus plants floating in water but since we went during the day so there were no flowers visible.
A small garden area is developed on the shores of the lake and it’s popularly known as “Chowpati”. Garden has tall trees and benches for sitting, it’s an interesting picnic spot.
Like most of Bundi monuments, there was no hustle bustle of tourists. There is a small shop cum restaurant for refreshments.
Ranji ki Baori
The Queen’s stepwell is the literal meaning in English for Ranji ki Baori. This 46-meter deep stepwell was built in1699 by Rani Nathavati, who was the queen of Raja Anirudh Singh. The stone elephant statues are on either side of the entrance.
Though this Baori is nothing like Rani ki Vav in Patan, there are some beautiful carvings. The most beautiful carvings are on its high arched gate at the end point of Baori, or on side of walls and its pillars. The decoration on all the archways enhances the beauty of it.
The small domes on the upper part of the Raniji ki Baori were built as sitting. The garden in front part of Baori is small but its well maintained with flowers.
Outside the Raniji ki, Baori is a busy market with several shops and stalls selling snacks or sweets.
Raniji ki Baori remains open between 9.00 AM to 5.30 PM.
84 Pillars Cenotaph or Chaurasi Khambon ki Chhatri
This Cenotaph is on the outer periphery of Bundi town. It was built in 1683 by Rao Raja Anirudh in memorial to his foster brother Deva. This double story dome has 84 pillars on the first level and a big Shivalingam in the center of the dome.
The upper level of the dome can be reached through a narrow staircase. There is very less space on the upper level, where 16 carved pillars support the dome with a small Shivalingam in the center. The 4 smaller domes are on four corners of the main dome are for decoration purpose.
The carving on the dome’s platform is one of the finest, I saw in Bundi. The pillars and the roof of the dome have beautiful carvings.
84 Pillars Cenotaphs remains open from 9.00 AM to 5.30 PM.
The Dhabhai Kund is few minutes walking distance from the Raniji ki Baori. This geometric shape water tank is situated in the market area next to a girls college.
It’s a beautiful monument with steps made in symmetry. There is a temple inside the Kund, where I have not seen anyone.
Dhabhai Kund was made sometime in 16th to 17th century to store the water because Bundi is arid region and there is always a scarcity of water in the summer months.
Dhabhai Kund was a functional structure where was water was stored in rains and then it was used in dry months. This place looks like an amphitheater where people gather for the celebration.
Two grand cenotaphs are made in the Dhabhai Kund complex. There are beautiful paintings inside the roof of these domes.
When I visited Dhabhai Kund, it was dry because it rained very less in the season. There is no entry ticket for this place and may be due to this there is no maintenance. A lot of garbage was littered on the steps of Bhabhai Kund. It will be better to have an entry ticket for it, which can be used for the maintenance.
Babaji ki Baori
This Baori is less decorated and simple in architecture as compared to Raniji ki Baori. It is clean and it seems they perform puja here regularly. There were some dramatic element related to the puja ceremony in the Baori. An interesting place to spend a few minutes.
We went to see far off places on our second day in Bundi Rajasthan. Shikarbadi is situated in the forest area away from the population. In earlier days it was jungle lodge for kings of Bundi where they stayed during their hunting trips. There is a small temple in this lodge.
Nowadays this lodge is abandoned and we saw only monkeys jumping around on the walls and roofs.
Chauth Mata Mandir Bundi
This temple is situated on a hilltop and can be reached by climbing stairs. We didn’t climb to the temple at the top. There are a big entry gate and a small market at the bottom of the hill.
Walking tour of the market
All major attractions in Bundi Rajasthan are in close proximity and can be visited by walking. We started with Taragarh fort and Garh palace, then crossed the market area to reach Raniji ki Baori & Dhabhai Kund.
In Bundi market you can buy every day’s items as well as souvenirs. There are shops on both sides of the road in the market area and it was quite a busy place.
Near the fort area are many small restaurants and eating joints.
Food in Bundi Rajasthan
There is nothing spectacular about food in Bundi. I could not find a restaurant selling traditional Rajasthani food. Most of the restaurants near the fort are selling Indianised fast food or North Indian Vegetarian food to cater the tourists. To be honest, the quality of food was very average everywhere we ate.
There were some shopped with signboard “best masala chai”, “best coffee in Bundi” and “fruit lassi”. I tried a few of these and I can say that people running these shops are friendly but nothing special to mention about drinks.
Some information about Bundi hotels
There are many big and small hotels in Bundi and its outskirts. Mostly old Havelis are converterrd into hotels. It is advisable to choose a hotel near the Nawal Garh lake because then you can visit most of the places by walking.
Things to remember when visiting Bundi Rajasthan
* Kota to Bundi is 40 Km and RSRTC bus or taxis are available.
* Bundi has a small railway station and it is connected with 2 direct trains every day from Delhi.
* The nearest airport of Jaipur is 220 Km from Bundi.
* Most of the monuments in Bundi can be visited by walking and for other places, autorickshaw is the easiest & economical mode of transport.
* The composite ticket for Ranji ki Baori, 84 pillars, and Sukh Mahal is valid for 2 days and it costs 75 INR.
* Mostly vegetarian food is available in the market. Few restaurants in the hotels serve Non-vegetarian food.