Bundi, erstwhile capital of Hada Rajput province known as Hadauti located in south-eastern Rajasthan, is one of the historical small towns which is largely unknown despite having rich architectural heritage. Bundi is also known as City of stepwells, blue city and also as Chotti Kashi.
Garh Mahal in Bundi is unique in the sense that it’s on the steep slope overlooking the valley below, providing a view of vast surrounding hinterland. Garh Mahal became the focus and an imposing landmark on skyline of Bundi was visible from the valley below. External use of colour on external façade of houses imparted a unique radiance and vibrancy to streets of Bundi, rarely witnessed anywhere else in India, except in Jodhpur. Most houses in Bundi have Jharokhas with some screens on upper floors opening on to street, providing light and ventilation. Apart from enabling movement and connectivity, these streets also performed the important role as facades of settlement fabric of walled city.
Bundi presents best example of medieval Indian city exhibiting water harvesting methods adopted at settlement level as well as finest examples of water architecture. Location of Baoris and Kunds outside the walled city was also influenced by social considerations as access to baoris and kunds were located within walled city was controlled.
Bundi was also known as Chotti Kashi owing to presence of over hundred temples within and around the hada capital. Temples constructed in early phase of Bundi’s growth were is classical Nagara style, while in later phases new temple typologies emerged from amalgamation of architectural form of traditional haveli with the classical Nagara style. Jain temples formed third type of temple type constructed in an introvert form, integrating typical Jain temple features like serpentine Torna gateways at entrance, large cuboid opaque mass and central courtyard with and Nagara style shikars on its garbhagriha. A fourth temple type emerged in the form of raised or elevated temple. Absence of monumentality in their scale is a distinctive feature of temples in Bundi. One of the reasons for this was close relationship. The diversity in temple forms and liberty exercised in this creation departing from classical, established norms is indicative of freedom and involvement of local communities.
Taragarh Fort, constructed by Rao raja Bair Singh in 1354 on a hilltop 1426 feet high, is another noteworthy heritage of the region. In the centre of the fort is located Bhim Bhurj on which was once mounted a particularly large cannon called Garbh Gunjam, or ‘Thunder from the Womb’. With its curved roofs topping pavilions, excess of temple columns and elephant and lotus motifs, the palace is a tribute to Rajput style. The fort includes Hazari Darwaza, Haathi Pol, Nau Dhaan, Ratan Daulatkhana, Darikhana, Ratan Niawas, Chatra mahal, Badal Mahal & Moti Mahal.
Bundi has more than 50 stepwells and rightly known as city of stepwells. Raniji ki Baori, also known as ‘Queen’s Stepwell’, is a famous stepwell built in 1699 by Rani Nathavati Ji, the younger queen of the ruling king Rao Raja Anirudh Singh of Bundi. This multi-storied stepwell displays excellent carvings of Gajraj with his trunk turned inwards, giving the impression of having drunk from the baori on its pillars. Its high arched gate gives it an inviting appearance.
As the name suggests, the 84 Pillared Cenotaph is a structure supported by 84 columns. Commissioned by Rao Anirudh, the Maharaja of Bundi, this cenotaph was constructed in memory of his nurse, Deva, under whose love and guidance the prince grew up. A popular tourist attraction, this impressive structure is decorated with carvings of deer, elephants and apsaras.
The rich heritage of Bundi was recently presented in the Ministry of Tourism’s Dekho Apna Desh Webinar series titled “Bundi: Architectural Heritage of a Forgotten Rajput Capital” by Charudatta Deshmukh, an Architect-Urban Planner, an urbanist with over 25 years of experience in managing planning and design of urban infrastructure and development projects including Airports, Special Economic Zones, Transportation & Urban Redevelopment, Metro Rail, Environmental Sustainability and Slum Rehabilitation.