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.
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. 
There was once a King and like all self-respecting kings of his time, he wanted a grand and imposing fort at an impressive location. One day, he came across the location of his dreams — an isolated hill. The King ordered his men to immediately clear the hill of inhabitants and lay the foundations for the construction of the fort.
Only one man lived on the hill — a man considered holy by the local people around and known as Chidiyawale Baba. He was called thus as he took care of birds and fed them and spoke to them. Chidiyawale Baba was so furious at being evicted from the hill that he cursed the King with recurrent drought in his kingdom. Shaken and now contrite, the King went to Chidiyawale Baba to ask for forgiveness and to request him to cancel the curse. The Baba said that words once uttered could not be taken back, but the effect of the curse could be reversed if a selfless sacrifice was offered. In other words, someone had to volunteer to die by being buried alive on the hill.
The King came away dejected as he did not think anyone would volunteer. But that very evening, a man by the name of Rajaram Meghwal presented himself before the King and volunteered for the deed. A relieved (and, I’m sure, delighted) King accepted and on an auspicious day and time and at an auspicious site on the hill, Meghwal was buried alive. Rao Jodha, the King, then laid the foundation to building the Mehrangarh Fort in 1459.
It was about 10.30 in the morning and vehicles were depositing tourists outside Bikaner’s Junagarh Fort. As I walked up to the Fort’s entrance, I overheard these comments:
“This is a fort? Isn’t a fort supposed to be, like, on a hill?”
“This is no fort. It looks more like a walled palace.”
“And why is it called Junagarh Fort? Junagadh is in Gujarat. Shouldn’t this be called Bikaner Fort or something?”
“Are you sure we are at the right place? Is this the only fort in Bikaner?
Now, if I had also been deposited outside the Fort in question like these people and was seeing the Fort for the first time, it is quite possible that I might have asked some of the questions myself. But since I had the opportunity to see the Fort from my hotel terrace the previous evening (see photo below), I knew that though it was not on a hill, it was a proper fort alright with a moat and all other fortifications befitting one.
I could also see Bikaner’s flat landscape from the terrace, which indicated that the builders of the fort had no choice in the terrain. And, yes, I could also see that this was the only fort around. The only answer that the view of the Junagarh Fort from the hotel terrace did not give was why it was called so.
I hoped that a tour of the Fort complex would answer questions for all of us.