Sunday, June 24, 2012. Bundi, Rahasthan, India.
Distance driven: 2,192 KM / 1370 miles.
Our first stop today was a group of Shiva temples from the Gupta period. Although mostly ruins, there are some fine carvings including some pretty erotic ones.
The main temple is over a thousand years old and the side temples are as much as 1,300 years old. These are located at a waterfall, which makes a picturesque setting. We also saw a number of birds here, including some very colorful blue kingfishers.
Then it was onward to our destination, the town of Bundi. The road was very rough, and even driving slowly we got bounced all over the place.
Once we got in, we had lunch at our hotel then took a nap before heading out in the late afternoon to explore. Bundi is less visited than many of the other towns in Rajasthan and has some nice features.
We walked through the old town and up to the fort and palace, which was a pretty good hike in the heat. The fort and palace ended up having one of the more expensive entry fees – they require separate tickets for the fort and palace, each at RP100 per person and RP50 per camera, which is really a bit cheeky, as I think this really should be only one ticket.
Unfortunately both locales are pretty rundown, despite the fact that the fort was vacated only about 50 years ago. At the palace you can see some vestiges of its former glory, but you have to walk over the monkey poo and bat guano to see what is left.
One area of the general palace is in somewhat better preservation and this was the main courtyard where on one side the Brahman priests would hang out. In the courtyard was a small pool that was only for royal usage.
The ladies quarter, or Zennana is in better shape as this is separately maintained by the Indian government and the gatekeeper unlocked and showed us around pointing out special things and explaining the pictures.
We particularly enjoyed the image with a bull and an elephant tussling, but if you look closely, you’ll see that in fact there is only one head and one eye for the animals – the artist has skillfully made the same form work for both animals’ heads.
The docent pointed out a trapdoor between the men’s courtyard and the zennana, which was only for the Maharaja’s use. Ben termed this “the hanky panky gate”!
Kelly sat for a photo on the the queen’s seat in the garden, even though she wasn’t feeling 100%.
We then hiked on up to the fort, which was an even steeper climb. Mostly there were just ruins to be seen there, and things were in worse shape than he palace. One interesting element was the stepwells, which were designed to hold the fort’s water supply and feature inset steps so that citizens could descend further and further into the stepwell as the water level dropped. The stepwells are a particular feature of the town of Bundi.
Just as the sunset and we started to leave, a troop of monkeys came through the fort.
On our return to the hotel we stopped for dinner at what Trip Advisor listed as the #1 restaurant in Bundi. The meal was okay, in a very basic place. If this was the best that Bundi had to offer, it really wasn’t saying much.
Back at our hotel I has some tea and got chatting with a group and their guide who are staying at the same place as us tonight. After all the travellers went to bed, it was just the guide, the hotel operator and me and we had a nice chat.
They told me that the last Maharaja didn’t really have any relatives or even much connection with the town anymore. He mostly lived in Delhi and just came back to sell the odd property or two. Most of the castle and palace is owned by him, but he puts no resources into it, hence the state of dilapidation. It would be better if he gave the property to the government, but pride or sense of ownership prevented him from doing so.
Our hotel, the Ishwari Niwas, is about 100 years old and is owned by the operator’s uncle. Their grandfather was a prime minister and this was his house. It later became a guest house for foreigners under the British. Lord Mountbatten was a friend of the then Maharaja and used to frequent Bundi, staying with him.
He mentioned a few places that we should check out before we leave Bundi, so we’ll stop there in the morning our our way out.
Above left photo is the restaurant where we had dinner. As we headed out, a cow started up the steps. I don’t know exactly why, but I found this kind of funny.