A Trail Across Rudyard Kipling's Bundi

The charming town of Bundi served as the setting for his famous novel 'Kim' and is a haven for artists
Bundi is also known as a blue city
Bundi is also known as a blue cityShutterstock

A less-crowded, laid-back gem of a town, Bundi, is the perfect place for a weekend getaway. It carries the magic of Rajasthan in every corner, every haveli and every shop. Bundi was so magical that it enamoured the iconic British writer Rudyard Kipling. He stayed in Bundi for two years and completed his famous novel, Kim, here.

History Lessons

Bundi in Rajasthan is protected by the jagged hills of the Vindhya range. It was the capital of the Rajput Hara Chauhan line (who acquired the title of "Rao"), and their stronghold was the powerful Taragarh fort, which loomed over the tiny walled town. Their palace was perched on the hill beneath the fort's high walls. Rao Deva erected the fort in 1241, and the palace was completed between the 17th and 18th centuries, when Bundi thrived. The palace has numerous magnificent constructions, including the Ratan Mahal (made by Rao Ratan Singh, ruled 1607-31), the Chatar Mahal (constructed by Rao Chhatrasal, ruled 1631-58), and the Chitra Shali (built by Rao Umed Singh, ruled 1739-70). Bundi was a manuscript painting centre in the 17th century. Till date Bundi town is filled with Rajput-style havelis (mansions), temples, stepwells, and gardens. 

The Taragarh Fort, so named because of its layout like a tara (star), although worn out, has unforgettable and stunning views from its ramparts. Rudyard Kipling wrote this about the palace, “Jeypore Palace may be called the Versailles of India; Udaipur's House of State is dwarfed by the hills around 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 men.”

The Taragarh Fort, so named because of its layout like a tara (star)
The Taragarh Fort, so named because of its layout like a tara (star)Shutterstock

Inspiring Kim

Rudyard Kipling spent two years here and got inspiration for one of his most popular books in Bundi’s Sukh Niwas Mahal, where he resided. Staying true to its name, it is an epitome of peace and tranquillity. There's even a room devoted to the author's memories. Several rare images are displayed on the room's walls. Since Kipling’s stay has become their USP, the palace is also known as the Kipling Palace. The palace is also considered to be an architectural marvel, made almost entirely of locally mined stones. There is an entire chamber devoted to Bundi paintings where numerous traditional artworks adorn the walls. These paintings represent a variety of scenes, ranging from wars to courthouse processions.

Rudyard Kipling spent two years at Bundi’s Sukh Niwas Mahal
Rudyard Kipling spent two years at Bundi’s Sukh Niwas Mahal Shutterstock

An Art Lover’s Delight 

Bundi appears to be a haven for artists. You will find authentic art in every corner. Perhaps Rudyard Kipling too got inspired by the creativity that surrounds one here. There are numerous miniatures to fall in love with at the open-air art gallery, aptly named Chitrashala, which is a portion of the 17th and 18th century palace. Rao Ummed Singh, who governed Bundi from 1739 until 1770, commissioned the Chitrashala.

Just like Chitrashala, the town of Bundi itself is peppered with a plethora of different works of art, including architecture, baoris or stepwells, temples, and the numerous paintings and sketches on the façades of houses that are evocative of the famous Bundi School of Art.

If you walk into any handicraft shop, you can even purchase miniature paintings on the plain side of papers, typically old letters, bonds, and court orders.

Getting to Bundi

By Air: Kota Airport(40 km from Bundi) and Jaipur International Airport (210 km from Bundi) are the nearest options. 

By Train: Bundi Railway Station connects various cities in Rajasthan and Banaras, Agra, and New Delhi. You can also consider Kota Railway Station, with readily available buses and taxis for a smooth onward journey to Bundi.

By Road: The roads leading to Bundi are well-constructed and wide. Whether you're coming from Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Kota, or Agra, you'll find no shortage of buses and private taxis to bring you to Bundi.

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