Thursday 16 November 2023



The Bundi Palace with Taragarh Fort walls visible at the topmost portion

Jeypore Palace may be called the Versailles of India; Udaipur's House of State is dwarfed by the hills round it and the spread of the Pichola Lake; Jodhpur's House of strife, gray towers on red rock, is the work of giants, but the Palace of Bundi, even in broad daylight, is such a palace as men build for themselves in uneasy dreams-- the work of goblins rather than of men. Rudyard Kipling 1887

Bundi is a city and a municipality of approximately 95,000 inhabitants in the Hadoti region of Rajasthan state in northwest India. It is of particular architectural note for its ornate forts, palaces, and stepwell reservoirs known as baoris. It is the administrative headquarters of Bundi District. Bundi is situated about 35 km from Kota and 210 km from Jaipur.

Bundi Palace: General description or information about Bundi Palace is rather limited or just duplicated in most websites detailing Bundi today. Bundi (Garh) Palace takes pride of place amongst the Forts and Palaces in Bundi, situated on the side of the hill below but adjacent to the Taragarh Fort. The palace is accessed from the bazaar (north-western end. Originally thought to be built during the 16th and 17th centuries, using stone from local quarries, this outstanding palace represents classic Rajasthani architecture, liberally sprinkled with delicately carved brackets, pillars, balconies and sculpted elephants, crowned by breathtakingly dazzling friezes. However, its construction is now dated to 1598 CE. Moreover, confusion between the Hindu calendar and the Gregorian has led to overlapping periods of reign of various rulers. Rulers were permitted by the Mughals to call themselves Rao, then Rao Raja and finally, by the British, Rao Maharajas. The monuments are closed to the public.  

A closer look at the Palaces 

The Royal Lineage: The list of rulers relevant to this chronicle is given below.

  • Rao Bhoj Singh ( 1585- 1607)
  • Rao Rattan Singh (1607-31)
  • Rao Chhattar Sal (1632-58)
  • Rao Bhao Singh (1658-78) the eldest son of Chhattar Sal
  • Rao Anirudh Singh (1682 - 1696) grandnephew of Bhao Singh
  • Rao Budh Singh (1696 to 1735)
  • Rao Ummed Singh (1749-1770).14 years remain unaccounted for.   
  • Rao Raja Bishan Singh (1773-1821) 
  • Maharao Raja Ram Singh (1821-89)
  • Rao Raja Raghubir Singh (1889-1927)
  • The Core of Bundi Palace:

Rao Bhoj Singh’s audience hall, the Hathiyansal, facing Chattar Mahal (Rao Chhattar Sal’s creation) is the earliest of the major buildings remaining within Bundi Palace. Built by Rao Bhoj Singh (1585-1607), this remainder of Rao Bhoj Singh’s palace is dated S.1655 (1598 CE). Bhoj was the father of Rao Ratan Singh, who built his own audience hall, the Ratan Daulat, on a larger and different building concept, with unique style, sense of space, quality of work, and physical orientation. Ratan Singh’s palace, Ratan Mahal, is behind Ratan Daulat. The inference is obvious: The palaces of these three key rulers of Bundi are closely interrelated, physically as well as dynastically; they form the historic core of Bundi Palace, the core from which later buildings extended. 

Stepping Back Into History: 

The Palace of Raj Bhoj: The Hathiyansal, The Phul Mahal, and The Badal Mahal: When the palace was in use, Hathipol would have been very active. All arrivals and departures took place here, as you could access public/private quarters, including, via secreted passages, the zenana. A stepway on the right led to a raised gallery and into the Ratan Daulat, an audience hall built by Rao Ratan Singh (1607-1631).

This was a high and open hall overlooking the western entrance. At the opposite end, another passage led into a raised courtyard looking down on the Hathipol. The spaces of Bhoj Singh’s palace are small, common to all early Rajput structures. The audience hall of Bhoj Singh is named Hathiyansal for the fine sculptures of elephants (hathiyan) atop its pillars. Immediately above is a set of rooms called the Phul Mahal, with exceptional architecture and nineteenth-century paintings. The upper floor had a partly covered terrace and a jharokha, a window (now closed in) for the people of Bundi to get a glimpse of their Rao.  There is also a single painted room, about 4.2 x 7.5 metres, known as the Badal Mahal (“Cloud Palace”) because of the decorations on its ceiling. Here we sight something very different from anything seen so far and most memorable. The Badal Mahal paintings, composed and completed over decades, are the finest wall paintings in Rajasthan and fashion one of the greatest painted spaces in India.

The Palace Explored Further: 

Ummed Singh contributed the most to the beautification of various halls, staterooms, other rooms and galleries. Kishen Singh, nephew of the issueless Rao Bhao Singh, was given the territory of Gugaur to govern. His son, Anirudh Singh, was adopted by Rao Bhao Singh and ascended the throne in 1682 CE. Traditionally, Rajasthani palaces were compacted from the private spaces of predecessors, as each ruler added new and more extensive quarters to reflect his accession. Palaces were therefore always under construction or renovation. This definite compaction is clearly visible in the photograph above. None of their abodes is open to the public, though an appendage, the exquisitely painted Chitra Shala, a gallery in another Mahal called Sheesh Mahal, is open all week between 9am-5pm. This Chitra Shala, also known as Ummed Mahal, replete with miniature Rajasthani paintings, was built on the express orders of Ummed Singh, dating it to his reign in the 18th century.

The renowned Bundi murals may be seen by a privileged few at Chattar Mahal and Badal Mahal, both part of the vast palace complex.  

Chattar Mahal can be accessed by only one passage, a steep, cobbled ramp. Entry to the palace is through the Hazari Pol or Gate of the Thousand, leading into a small courtyard and the Naubat Khana or the Refreshment Room, then the Hathi Pol (Elephant Gate) with its two prominent elephants and old water clock, the Ratan Daulat which was the main audience hall built by Rao Ratan Singh (1607-1631), and the Diwan-e- Aam (Hall of Public Audience), where there is a marble throne. The famous murals are located on the upper floors, the parts of the palace that are closed to the public. Flash photography is not permitted. Kipling had unfettered access when he visited Bundi In 1887 and his observations may be used to visualise Bundi Palace as it existed in its heyday. 

The palace is wedged into and out of the hillside, in the enormous terrace on the existing terrace, and dominates the whole of the city. Since there has been little change in the Palace or the city since then, Kipling’s notes provide a perspective when going through the palace today. Access to the abode of the Rajas is through “Hathipol” ( Elephant Gate ) to a courtyard, a stable for the King’s favourite horses, with their grooms. 

Aniruddha Mahal and Rang Vilas: 

You have to go through the complex structure at Bundi with a guide officially cleared to unlock the many closed areas. You meander around to see what lies behind the locked doors. Kipling found private quarters, treasuries, courtyards, audience halls and a verdant garden which had a tank for goldfish. This garden is today a garden in name only. 

The large Aniruddha Mahal, an end-17th-century construction is to its west. For want of a source of information, we need to rely on the omnipresent Kipling. You have to step up to Rang Vilas from Aniruddha Mahal. Rang Vilas has a small and open interior courtyard facing the garden, with three sides under covered verandahs. Five inner rooms open onto the courtyard.

These are a room with wall paintings, once a bedroom; a Shish Mahal (a room with mirror work); a store room (with images of Saraswati,  

Gaj Laxmi, and Ganesh over its entrance); a toilet (entrance marked by images of Shiv and Nandi, Durga on a tiger and Ganesh) ; and the Poojaghar (prayer room) of Rao Raja Ummed Singh (1749 to 1770), marked by inlaid ivory doors. At one corner of the garden is a Hamam, or Turkish bath. 

The Rang Vilas has historical pictures and paintings on its panels, with frescoes in black, white and red, of elephants engaged in combat running along the floor. The Rang Vilas, which also has a separate exterior entrance, was the most visited space within the palace with murals which Kipling found fascinating, but which are common throughout Rajasthan. Rang Vilas was probably the Rao Rajas’ private apartment.

The Chattar Mahal: 

Portraits of Rao Raja Ummed Singh are also seen on in another major complex within Bundi Palace, Chattar Mahal. This huge Mahal was built by Rao Chattarsal, [1631-1658] in S.1701 (1644 CE), a Rao killed fighting for Shah Jahan. A beautifully decorated inlaid ivory door leads you into a darkened room containing locally fashioned gilt and silver four-legged beds and portraits of the dead nobility of Bundi. The door in the Chattar Mahal remains, but the furniture and portraits (framed photographs) have apparently been taken away in the recent past.   

A Panoramic View of Bundi and its Palace

How to get there:

By Air : Nearest airport is Jaipur.

By Bus: Bundi is approachable by road from Kota (35 km), Jaipur(210)     and  many other cities.

By Train: Train links from Kota, Agra and many other cities.

Getting around: Cycle - rickshaw and tongas are available.

Map: Courtesy


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