The north Indian state of Rajasthan is a paradise for international and domestic tourists. Once known as Rajputana – the abode of Rajputs (from Sanskrit raja-putra, son of a king), Rajasthan is a land of valour, colour and traditions. Attributed with diverse topographical features and distinct geographical zones, Rajasthan has always been placed among top destinations in India. Although, the state boasts of numerous tourist spots that offer magnificent sites, sceneries and rich historical accounts, the conventional tours so far have been majorly restricted to cities like Jaipur – the capital, Udaipur, Ajmer, Chittorgarh, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Mount Abu. Most travelers coming to Rajasthan make a trip round the “Golden Triangle”, an immensely popular route starting at Delhi, proceeding to Agra – for the famous Taj Mahal, and then moving to Jaipur, the Pink City. Another route covers Ajmer-Pushkar, Chittorgarh and the most exotic lake city, Udaipur. Further down south is Rajasthan’s only hill station, Mount Abu. Desert lovers head towards Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Bikaner. For those who prefer to wander in dense forests and thick natural vegetation find excitement in terrains surrounding Alwar and Sawai Madhopur towns.
All these destinations are exquisite and make memorable itineraries, but have now become crowded and commercially overwhelming. If you are among those who love to tread the lesser travelled tracks, there are some places that largely remain excluded from the common expeditions, yet offering a trail of rich, robust and mystic experiences. The countryside environs and rural life that these sojourns exhibit shall fill you with warmth, peace and unique sense of connectedness with humanity. Here is an account of 5 such less travelled places that you can consider while planning your future journeys across the princely state of Rajasthan.
- Bundi – a pearl amidst Aravali Hills
Located 210 km south of Jaipur, Bundi is a sweet small town with a big colourful history. The city lies adjacent to a narrow gorge and is surrounded on its three sides by lush green Aravali Hills. Once a princely state during the heydays of Rajput rulers, Bundi remained independent even under British rule and became part of India only after independence in 1947. In ancient times, the region was inhabited by numerous tribal groups. Bundi is said to derive its name from a Meena tribesman, Bunda Meena. Later, the region came under the powerful rule of Rao Deva Hada, who defeated Jaita Meena in 1342 and established a princely state, Bundi. The surrounding area came to be known as Hadoti – the land of great Hada Rajputs.
Bundi is a very tourist friendly city. Here, the spirit of “atithi devo bhava” (guest is god) pervades the mood of local residents who always extend a warm welcome to visitors. Famous for its vibrant miniature paintings, Bundi has many attractions for tourists:
- The Taragarh Fort: The most imposing structure is the Taragarh Fort that was constructed in 1354 AD on top of a steep hillside overlooking the city of Bundi. In 16th century, a huge bastion, named as Bhim Burj was added that supported a grand cannon called Garbh Gunjam (thunder from the womb) to combat the invaders’ assaults. The fort has three large water tanks that are said to never dry up even in extreme hot summers that characterize this part of the world. These tanks are marvels of advanced methods of construction and engineering that prevailed during medieval times. The Taragarh Fort offers an exquisite view of the city from top.
- The Bundi Palace: Situated adjacent to the Taragarh Fort, along a hillside is the Bundi Palace, remarkable for its spectacular murals, frescoes and miniature paintings. The palace is an excellent example of Rajput architecture with a splendid entrance, Haathi Pole (the Elephant Gate), built in 1607, that leads to a large open courtyard where – as the history goes – mahouts used to participate in staged fights among their liquored elephants. Such fights were the favorite entertainment of the Maharaja who watched from the balcony above. Inside the palace, you can savour the stunning paintings on the walls. Themes of these paintings range from mythology to love tales and from combats to dances. The age old legacy of this art has been carried by the native artists who live and work in Bundi. You can even get a miniature elephant or a peacock painted on your fingernails.
- The step wells: Bundi is known as the Step Well City, having more than 50 step wells, called Baori. These Baoris date back to 550 AD and were constructed to serve as huge water tanks with multiple stairs to access water at any depth. These water reservoirs are architectural masterpieces that not only served as wells, they were also considered the sacred spots where residents used to pray and meditate. The most impressive and largest is Raniji ki Baori, built in 1699 by Queen Nathawatji. Magnificently carved, this step well is 46 meters deep with 200 steps and is still a meeting point for city folks. Another popular step well is Dabhai Ka Kund that resembles an inverted Egyptian Pyramid.
- The Nawal Sagar: This is a large square shaped manmade lake located in the centre of Bundi city. It contains many small islets and a temple dedicated to Varuna, the Vedic god of rains that stands partially submerged in the middle of the lake. This artificial lake has an ecological significance as it feeds city’s step wells by creating an elevated water table in the region.