I have made two trips to Bundi so far and yet a lot of things remain to be seen. But this time I managed to do what I refused to even think about on the previous occasion. I climbed up to the top of the hill to visit the remainders of the Taragarh Fort including a couple of Baolis.
So, what’s the big deal?
The thing is, it is one thing to trek in the cooler climates of the Himalayas but under the unforgiving sun of Rajasthan, it takes a bit of psychological effort even to start climbing a little hillock. Last time I just did not feel like doing it. I also didn’t have enough time and didn’t want to rush to the top. But that time I gave a lot of time to the Chitrashala. So, this time I skipped Chitrashala and started climbing towards the top of the hills. I wasn’t fully sure if anything is up there at the top apart from the walls.
Have a look at the picture above the understand what I am talking about here. The lower part houses the palace that includes the Chitrashala, which has been maintained very well by the ASI. But the main part of the fort is at the top of the hill. It takes some going and it is not also it has not been maintained very well. It is a 20 to 40 minutes hike depending on you speed and stamina.
So, I started hiking, in an effort to reach as soon as possible. As a matter of fact, it is a sprawling fort, with the walls spread all over the hill. Apparently, there are tunnels underneath too, connecting various parts. But they are no longer accessible. After a while, I gained enough elevation to get a clearer view of the town with the Nawal Sagar lake in the middle.
It still took a bit of effort but eventually I reached a big gate. There was no sign of any caretaker, and I opened the gate myself and reached what was now a bunch of ruins but must have been an engineering marvel of its times.
It was built originally during the 13th and 14th century and there must have been additions in the later era. Apart from what must have been a royal palace, the most striking feature here is the step well or bawri (baoli). I have seen scores of baolis over the years in Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat, MP, and other places. Bundi itself has dozens of them. The very technology of a baoli in these parched regions must be a thing of wonder and pride for the locals. But even I found it hard to imagine these two baolis, so high up the hill. And although it now lies abandoned, there was still water in it. How did they even build it and how did they make it function?
After spending some time around the step wells, I entered the palace. This one also has the similar examples of Bundi art that I saw in Chitrashala and elsewhere in the city. But these frescoes are now fading away, probably in a hurry to reunite with their creators. But they are still worth meeting, especially the knight descending the staircase.
It is actually a pretty elaborately constructed edifice. There are several compartments inside, connected by multiple stars at various levels. I even got lost a couple of times in the maze, kept circling, only to emerge at the same point repeatedly. After half an hour I finally located the actual, narrow staircase that I had originally taken but then completely forgot about.
I believe there is more to see out there at the hilltop. But without any guidance or information, I could not do much. The views from the top were nevertheless great. As I have said on earlier occasions, Bundi is also a Blue City that can be mistaken for Jodhpur. Also, the entire fort is now infested with primates. Beyond Chitrashala, there will not be any official to help you and so don’t openly carry food if you are going that way.
In case anyone is wondering, there is a restaurant and shop to buy souvenirs at the entry point, just after the ticket counter. Get a bottle of water from there before you start the climb. As far as I am concerned, I am not yet done with Hadoti. I will have to return this winter again.