Stepwells of Bundi, Indigenous architecture, Art and Architecture, Baoris, Stepwells of India, Rajastham Bundi, Hadoti Trip, Hadoti, Vernacular architecture

The stepwells of Bundi

This post is dedicated to Kukkiji without whom, it would probably never have been written.


It was past 8 in the evening and our OLTT travel group had just returned to our hotel in Bundi after a day’s exploration of temples and palaces. It had been a wonderful, but long, day and I was tired in the best possible way.

It was also the last day of our Bundi trip and we would all be returning home the next day — most would head off to Delhi in the morning, while Niti (my friend and co-traveller for the Hadoti Trip) would leave for Mumbai in the afternoon.

Saraswati

As I was getting out of the vehicle, Kukkiji, our guide stopped me. [1]

“Sister, one minute. Don’t go for I want to show you something.” Saying this he passed his cell phone to me which had a picture (left) on its screen.

“Where is this?” I asked in wonder.

“Here. In Bundi only. Just a couple of kilometres from your hotel.”

“Which temple is it in?”

The response was broad smile and a “It is not in a temple; this is at the entrance to a baori (stepwell).”

Baori? You mean there are more baoris in Bundi? More than the four you showed us?

“Sister, Bundi city alone has around 52 baoris and there are more outside the city limits. I knew you would be interested in them; that is why I showed this photograph to you.”

“I want to see this, Kukkiji. I have to see this. I want to see all the baoris.”

“Meet me outside your hotel at 9 am tomorrow. You can’t see all, but you can see some of the baoris before you leave,” said Kukkiji.

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The painted rooms of Bundi Palace

When our group arrived at the ticket counter for the Bundi Palace on that November morning in 2016, the sight before me took my breath away. A path ascended and disappeared seemingly into nowhere, while part of the Palace loomed up above me, soaring up to the skies. In the distance, walls of the Taragarh Fort snaked away, disappearing into the mountainside it was built on.

Taragarh Palace, Taragarh Fort, Bundi Palace, Art, Painted Rooms of Bundi Palace, Royal Wall Paintings, Bundi School of Painting, Travel, Rajasthan, Incredibl India

If I had been awed by that first sight of the Palace and Fort when I had arrived in Bundi, I was spellbound now. I couldn’t help but recall Rudyard Kipling’s words when he first saw the Fort and the Palace at Bundi in the winter of 1887.

such a Palace [is] … the work of goblins rather than of men. It is built into and out of the hillside, in gigantic terrace on terrace, and dominates the whole of the city.

Our group was at the palace to see the paintings within and our explorations weren’t too different from Kipling’s. Like him, we too walked up a steep, stone-paved path and entered the Bundi Palace Complex through the Hathipol, and then explored its many corridors, rooms, halls, etc. with a guide authorised to unlock the many closed areas and tell us stories about them. [1]

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Bundi, Boondi, TRavel, Rajasthan, That and this in Mumbai, Non-touristy, Relaxing in Bundi

That and this in Bundi

When I arrived in Bundi, the last leg of my Hadoti trip, I had been travelling in the region for 4 days with my friend, Niti. That first sight of the imposing Taragarh Palace from the road was a sight to behold.

We were to join the group from One Life to Travel (OLTT) in Bundi, a place that had long been on my list of places to travel to. Thanks to OLTT, I was finally in Bundi looking forward to exploring it over the next couple of days. And yet… something was not quite right.

I was overcome with a sense of fatigue — not physical, but mental. Actually, fatigue is not the right word for what I was feeling; overwhelmed would be a more accurate term. Overwhelmed from all that I had experienced in the last four days — temples, museums, palaces, a fort, rock-cut caves, etc. all of which had been unexpectedly beautiful, enriching and thought-provoking. If you have been following my posts on this trip, you’ll know what I mean.

As I sat, listless and lethargic, having my evening tea in the lawns of the hotel we were staying in, I wondered what to do. I had the evening free for the rest of the OLTT group would be arriving late that night. Should I go to bed early or should I read a racy thriller I had with me or should I just sit in the lawns and listen to some music?

Let’s go for a walk and wander around in Bundi, suggested Niti.

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Badoli Temple, Baroli Group of Temples, Temples of Rajasthan, Temples of India, Indian Art, Indian Architecture, Indian Aesthetics, Travel, Rajsthan, India

The temples at Badoli

My visit to the temples at Badoli in November last year turned out to be a memorable one.

First, my camera battery died on me suddenly and without warning. Then my iPad camera stopped functioning, and if that weren’t enough my temperamental cell phone decided to be on its worst behaviour. Talk about bad luck coming in threes ! The result? I have a total of 28 photos from all these 3 devices of the visit to the temples at Badoli.

Second, the temples at Badoli itself for there were many little surprises and discoveries waiting for me. Since I hadn’t read up or researched on the temples prior to my visit, everything about the place was unexpected. Of course, I read the information board placed at the entrance for some guidance, but we all know how detailed those are ! For example, the opening lines of the information board say that the:

Badoli Group is a cluster of nine temples that is stylistically dated to circa 10th-11th century AD [sic]. These temples are dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesha, Mahisasuramardini and Mataji, etc. [emphasis mine]

It then goes on to talk about the main Shiva temple there — the Ghateshwara Mahadeva Temple. As I was to find out, and you will too when you read the rest of the post, some of the most interesting and significant features of the Badoli temples were not mentioned in the board at all, unless we assume that the word ‘etc.’ in the lines above was meant to encompass everything else. 😛

Badoli Temple, Baroli Group of Temples, Temples of Rajasthan, Temples of India, Indian Art, Indian Architecture, Indian Aesthetics, Travel, Rajsthan, India
The temples at Badoli

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The Shiva temples of Bijolia

It is past noon on that November day in 2016, when Niti (my friend and co-traveller for the Hadoti Trip) and I arrive at the Bijolia Temple Complex. There are three Shiva temples here — Mahakal, Undeshwar Mahadev and Hajareshwar temples — built over a 200-year-old period. Except for the priests who are gathered under a tree and chatting away, we can’t see anybody else around. The Mahakal Temple is closest to the entrance and we decide to begin with exploring that first, which turns out to be empty and silent.

We have hardly been there for 5 minutes when the silence is broken. A group of women and children enter with pooja thalis in hand. They appear to be locals and walk past us with smiles full of friendliness and curiosity towards the garbha griha or the sanctum. After a little hesitation, we follow and watch them offer pooja.

Bijolia temples, Undeshwar, Mahakal, Hajareshwar, Baijnath, Hindu Temples, Shiva Temples, Indian Art, Indian Aesthetics, Rajasthan, Heritage, living Temple
Devotees offering prayers along with milk and flowers to the shiva lingam in the garbha griha of the Mahakal Temple

The Shiva lingam in the garbha griha is not visible because it is covered with flowers from earlier offerings. Or so I reason till one of the women explains that the lingam is subterranean with only the tip visible above ground, which she showed by pushing the flowers aside.

The women and children leave after performing a short and beautiful pooja, and we are alone at the Mahakal Temple once again, free to resume our exploration of the Bijolia Temple Complex. 🙂

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Travel, Rajasthan, Hadoti, Madan Singh Trust Museum, Kota Garh, City Palace, Painted Rooms, Palaces of Rajasthan, Museums of Rajasthan

The painted rooms of Kota Garh

When we arrived at the Rao Madho Singh Trust Museum in Kota on that November morning last year, I was taken aback to see the freshly whitewashed exteriors of the Museum building. I mean, why would a red sandstone structure be whitewashed over? The white is so blinding in the mid-morning sunlight that I had to shade my eyes to even look at it.

Travel, Rajasthan, Hadoti, Madan Singh Trust Museum, Kota Garh, City Palace, Painted Rooms, Palaces of Rajasthan, Museums of Rajasthan
The Madho Singh Trust Museum in the Kota Garh or City Palace

Travel, Rajasthan, Hadoti, Madan Singh Trust Museum, Kota Garh, City Palace, Painted Rooms, Palaces of Rajasthan, Museums of Rajasthan The Museum is located within the historic Kota City Palace or Kota Garh complex, which consists of many buildings, but none of the other buildings in the palace complex were whitewashed. In fact, the building next to the Museum has been spared the whitewash (except for the domes) and I was able to admire the intricate stone jaalis or lattice-work that covered the entire structure.

The building with the jaalis, however, was not open to the public, making me wonder if the whitewash was for the benefit of the visitors to the Museum, who (according to the website) visit it see its

rich collections of arms and armour, royal regalia and ritual paraphernalia, textiles and objets d’art, and world-famous miniature paintings and wall frescos.

As our group was entering the Museum, there was a moment of panic where I wondered if the interiors of the Museum have been whitewashed over as well, obliterating the wall paintings that I was most keen to see. But then just past the Elephant Gate (see header), I looked up and saw a gloriously painted ceiling (see photograph below) and I knew that all was well.

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