Rajasthan, for some inexplicable reason, has been a place that always beckons me to visit, no matter how many times I have already been there (and I have been there 7 – 8 times already). Hence it’s not surprising that I ended up there yet again for a short holiday in October this year. And like always, this holiday didn’t disappoint us in fact we saw a completely new face of Rajasthan.
For this trip, I decided to visit Bundi (a small town in Rajasthan), drive through a few villages (a rural journey) and ultimately visit Pushkar (the temple town). You can read more on my travel planning and itinerary in my previous post – Travel Plans for a quick trip to Rajasthan.
We started our trip when our train dropped us at the Kota station at 5am on Day 1. We had booked a cab in advance (since it was early morning), but you can just reach the station and take a cab for Bundi directly. We found our dozing driver and then set off for our journey towards Kesariya Patan.
Kesariya Patan (named such after the Shri Keshavrai temple in 1601AD) is a very small town about an hour’s drive from Kota and is important for us for the Sri Munisuvrathnath Digambar Jain temple. This temple is very old and built on a higher level near Chambal River. It’s very old and has 3 levels (a basement, the ground floor and the top floor) with the river on one side and a small town / village on the other. The main attraction is an idol of Lord Munisuvratnath (Our 20th Jain Teerthankar) in the underground basement which is very beautiful, sitting in a cross-legged seating position, 4.5 feet in height and dark green in color. This basement also has 16 beautiful pillars and 6 other idols of various Teerthankars from the 13th century.
The miracle associated with this temple is that Mohammad Gaury, an Afghan invader, attacked this temple and tried to break this idol. However when the soldiers applied the chisel & hammer on the thumb of a foot, a flood of milk started from there and it scared the invaders away. Marks of attack on the body of idol are still visible. It is said that a visit to this temple still fulfills all desires of the devotees. I wish I had known this then
We reached this town just around sunrise and saw a beautiful sun coming out for the day from behind the clouds with a pink glow all around it. The scene around was of life awakening in a small village with women carrying water for their houses and fishermen taking their boats out in the Chambal river. I can surely say that it was one of the most beautiful and serene sunrises that I have seen. It was also supremely calming and it felt like the sun was saying that “rise and shine, as you have a fabulous day ahead of you”. We then visited this beautiful temple and did a darshan. Post that a friendly local cooked for us the most simple yet the most delicious breakfast in his house.
We then left this town and continued our journey towards Bundi. The drive to Bundi took us about 2 hours and then we checked in into our beautiful Bundi haveli hotel. This was an old haveli converted into a beautiful boutique hotel, with its old world charm intact, awesome views of the town and fort, and a great staff. We loved every minute of our stay here.
Now Bundi is a small town that used to be a capital of a major princely state, but its importance dwindled with the rise of Kota. It’s later claim to fame was that Rudyard Kipling stayed here and was inspired to write Kim. Today, Bundi is a small town where time seems to have stood still and it still looks as it would have a few decades ago. There are narrow lanes and small shops (like in typical old Indian towns), a small lake, blue houses, awesome people and a palace on a hill overlooking the city. All these individual components come together to make this town really quaint and a must experience.
We started our visit here with a trip to the local Bundi palace and fort. Since Bundi is a very small town everything is walkable and we walked up to the palace. Now beware of 2 things in this palace and fort –
- It is quite a steep climb and the way is made with rocks. So please wear the right footwear.
- There are numerous monkeys around and it’s a menace. So do keep a stick to scare them away.
First you explore the left side of the palace which is quite drab and plain and full of bats. So quite a disappointment and avoidable. Also, considering the price of the ticket charged they are doing nothing to maintain this beautiful structure. If they maintain this palace well then it is still a beautiful place.
Now on the right side of the palace is a Chitrashala (picture gallery) that has some lavish traditional murals and frescoes. These paintings depict stories from Krishna’s tales, some animals, flowers etc and are really gorgeous in terms of the detailing and the colors used. This part of the palace is a must visit.
After the Chritrashala there is a climb going towards the Fort. This Fort is on a hill-top and the only surviving feature of the once impressive structure is the peripheral wall and 3 reservoir tanks. It also provides fabulous views of the blue city below. On our way towards the exit we decided to check out a small gems and jewelry store and ended up buying some gorgeous pieces at amazing prices (since this place doesn’t see many tourists there was heavy discount on stuff).
We then went and saw the Nawal Sagar Lake, which is a large square-shaped artificial lake in the centre of Bundi and you can also see it from the palace and fort.
Unfortunately, our visit to Bundi was on the day of Dussera (an Indian festival) and hence a lot of local shops and eateries were closed. Thus post our visit to the palace, we decided to rest and enjoy lunch and tea in our hotel. In the early evening we set out to explore the famous step-wells here, but sadly they had closed for the day. So, that’s pending for our next visit to Bundi.
We then went about exploring the local Bundi market which was full of local shopping stuff and food. While generally walking around we stumbled upon another beautiful Jain temple which was all decorated and lit up for the Dussera function. And here we met some of the most amazing local people. These people didn’t know us at all but invited us in, insisted on cooking a meal for us and then fed us. And all this not for money, but just being polite and for our company and stories. These people were so warm, inviting and friendly that for the first time I actually experienced the saying “Atithi Devo Bhava” means “Guest is next to God”. This was one of my unforgettable moments during this trip. We spent close to 3 hours with everyone here and just didn’t realize it at all.
Post all this fun we decided to call it a night and started walking towards our hotel. En-route we came across a small local Dussera procession where kids were dressed up as various characters from Indian mythology and enacting scenes from those stories. It was a beautiful sight.
Later we returned to our hotel and had a good time taking some nice photographs of the lit-up palace and fort. We then decided to finally call it a night and start early the next day.
Tips for the trip –
- This is not a typical touristy place so if you decide to visit Bundi, then be mentally prepared for this fact.
- You can book a cab to Bundi from the Kota station itself and don’t need to book anything in advance.
- Kukki, a local Bundi based amateur archeologist, has discovered some rock painting close by that you can explore. We didn’t have time so didn’t check this out.
- Additionally, there are some beautiful step wells that you can check out here, which we again missed.