Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bundi undiscovered treasures

The ornate designs of Bikaner are hidden, but at least the city lies on the tourist map of Rajasthan. Bundi, in the south-eastern part of the state does not feature on tourist itineraries, and is a sleepy town full of architectural treasures:

In this photo by Kurt Schulz, at the very top of the hill are the walls of Taragarh Fort, while the Garh Palace is built on the slope of the hill. At the foot of the hill is Bundi town, with the square-shaped Nawal Sagar Kund (reservoir) visible in the photo. Water and water resources are found aplenty in Bundi; the Chambal and Kushal rivers pass through the district. But the terrain is mostly a plateau with many hills and valleys, so natural water sources have to be tapped efficiently.

The Rajput rulers built many reservoirs, lakes, and baoris (stepped wells). Most famous is the Raniji-ki-baori in Bundi town, 46 metres deep and decorated with ornately carved pillars and delicately chiseled arches. Another stepped well is the Chudakalya baori, while the largest reservoir in Bundi is the Dabhai kund. Near Bundi is the Jait Sagar Lake, on which is built the summer palace Sukh Mahal, and which is used today for water sports.

Bundi was founded by the Hada Rajputs in the 14th century, much of the construction in the Garh Palace was done in the 17th century, including the Chattar Mahal, Hathi Shala (above), and the many temples. The style of construction is almost entirely Hindu with many animal motifs, like the elephants, rectangular pillars rather than rounded columns, and square brackets instead of curved arches. The material for construction is the local sandstone, a little of it red and yellow, but mostly brownish-green serpentine stone extracted from the Rajpura mines.

The interiors of the Garh Palace are painted with Rajput battle and hunting depictions, religious scenes, and romance elements. Bundi town seems frozen in place, with little tourist-related activity, since it stopped growing from the 18th century. Many of its undiscovered houses are built in traditional styles while its main markets, the Chaumaukh and Sadar bazaars, continue to sell colorful odhnis (long scarves for women), hand painted wood and metal wares, miniature paintings and jewelery.

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