When One Life to Travel (OLTT) announced a trip to Bundi sometime in August/September last year, I signed up for it immediately and crossed my fingers, toes and eyes for luck. This was because my plans for visiting Bundi hadn’t worked out in the past — not once, but twice — and I didn’t want to take any chances this time around.
As it happened, I got third time lucky with the Bundi trip. Not only that, in the period between signing up and actually leaving, the trip had evolved into something bigger. It was no longer a 3-day trip; it had become an 8-day trip instead. Part of the trip was to be done with OLTT, and part of it with a friend. And most importantly, it was no longer only a Bundi trip; it had expanded to become a Hadoti trip that would take me to Jhalawar, Jhalarapatan, Ramgarh, Kolvi, Bijoliya, Baroli, Kota and Bundi.
When I got off the train at Bhawani Mandi railway station on that nippy November morning, it was with a heightened sense of anticipation. While I wasn’t sure what exactly you had in store for me, I was sure that you wouldn’t disappoint. That last bit turned out to be quite an understatement for not only did you manage to surprise, delight and wow me, you also brought up the unexpected, even in the expected, regularly. 🙂
Like the well-documented paintings at Taragarh Fort Palace in Bundi. Though I had never seen them before, I was familiar with them thanks to enough information about them available both online and offline. And yet, in one corner of the Palace, I unexpectedly came across paintings that I hadn’t read about before. The real surprise, however, were the painted rooms at the Kota Garh Palace and the Jhalawar Garh Palace. The Jhalawar paintings, in particular, were of a finesse and quality that I had not seen before, each one more breathtaking than the other.
While the architecture or scale of your palaces and forts may not be as grand as the ones in other parts of Rajasthan, the surprises and treasures within more than made up for it, and translated my visits into unique and enriching experiences.
Be it the sculptures, paintings or manuscripts at the Jhalawar Garh Palace or the painted rooms in the Kota Palace, or the location and paintings at the Taragarh Palace in Bundi, or the view from Gagron Fort — everything was a discovery of delight.
And where do I begin even talking about the temples and shrines that I visited, not to mention the rock-cut Buddhist caves at Kolvi? The composite sculptures, new styles (for me, that is), their location — especially that of the Bhand Devra Temple — left me asking for more.
I have a sneaky feeling that you had laid out a special show for me. Did know in advance that I love temples and temple architecture and art?
The very name Rajasthan conjures up a dry and arid region and while I am aware that this is not a uniform feature across the state, I was still surprised by the abundance of water bodies in Hadoti. From rivers to lakes to ponds to stepwells — it was difficult to wrap my head around so much water in Rajasthan.
It was just as shocking to see the state of the stepwells and the colossal mismanagement of water resources that you are blessed with.
You made the geologist in me very, very happy. The variety in rocks, as well geological features and structures saw me clambering up and down inclines, stopping on highways to examine an interesting outcrop or exposure, and bringing back rock samples with me to Mumbai.
I may also have danced a little jig when l saw features straight out of my college level Geology books like the vertically inclining rocks at Gagron or the gorgeous red sandstones and quartzites exposed along the Chambal river at Kota, or the very special and very unexpected columnar basalts near Kolvi.
What was not so nice was to see the numbers of quarries and mines taking over farmlands / agricultural lands.
One of the things that makes a place special and memorable are its quirks. And you didn’t disappoint me in this ‘department’ either.
Be it the larger than life statues of Ravan’s family or the Ravan Darbar at the Chandrabhaga Fair grounds near Jhalarapatan, or the relief of Gajalakshmi at the 84 pillared cenotaph in Bundi or the seven wonders of the world at Kota or the many flavoured paani ke pataashe — I could not decide which was the quirkiest !
My Hadoti trip was very special. Yes, I know that every place I visit or travel to is special, but the reasons differ. In your case, two things made my visit memorable and special (that is, apart from the places I visited!). The first is the people involved in the trip: friends who gave me suggestions for places to visit (Arjun and Shubhra); friends I travelled with (Niti and Jayanti of OLTT); and the many people I met during the trip, one of whom has become a dear friend.
I am talking about Mahijit ji, my host at Jhalawar. Without his guidance, I wouldn’t have known about the fabulous library set up by his grandfather, Sir Bhawani Singh, the Maharaja Rana of Jhalawar; or the sacred grove and the remains of the old English cemetery, or the city’s connection with the Parsi community, and so much more. I would also not have known that Kota Garh Palace was full of painted rooms; which would be opened only if one requested for it. In other words, without Mahijit ji’s inputs, my trip would have been incomplete.
I arrived in Jhalawar, the first stop of my Hadoti trip, on November 8, 2016, the day demonetisation was announced, leaving travellers like me stranded. Usually, I carry cash of varying denominations with me, but this time I had only 1000 and 500 rupee notes, both of which could not be used.
The trip could have turned into a nightmare, but as it came to happen, I didn’t have to worry. My 1000s and 500s not only got accepted, but people went out of their way to ensure that I got change because I was their guest.
This experience is what made my Hadoti trip truly memorable. I managed the entire trip with the cash I had and arrived in Mumbai with Rs. 64/- in usable denominations !
Thank you, Hadoti for your hospitality and your kindness.
Thank you for showcasing the best that your region has to offer from the little known Jhalawar to the hippy-ish Bundi.
Thank you also for showing me an untouristy side of Bundi, for the peace and solitude at Kolvi, for the art history lessons at the temples of Bijoliya, Baroli, Bhand Devra and Jhalarapatan, and for some Geology lessons as well. I can’t wait to write more in detail about each of the places I visited and my experiences there. Watch this space !
A question I’m often asked is which state in India I have covered or travelled the most. My answer is quick and ready: Rajasthan. As if on cue, the next question comes up on whether I have covered all the regions of Rajasthan? Till the Hadoti trip In November last year, I would hesitate a bit and say well, all regions except Hadoti. But not anymore, for my answer is now an emphatic and happy “yes” ! 😀
Disclaimer: Part of the Hadoti Trip was done with One Life to Travel, and it was NOT a free, sponsored or discounted trip. The words, as always, are mine.