Jain procession - Bundi
Our arrival in Bundi co-incided with a Jain procession. The crowd surrounded two naked monks, "sky clad" is apparently the translation. Hordes of women followed with pots on their heads. One's never certain what to photograph...
It's not a tourist town, it's small, blue painted, and dominated by the huge palace of the maharanas. Above that is the Star Fort, a good 20 mins slog up a steep hill. The previous Maharana won the VC in the Second World War, and died while staying with the Mountbattens in Romsey in the 70s. The son, something of a recluse, closed up the palace, which became semi derelict, and moved to a smaller place in town. Only in recent years has the palace been partially restored.
Palace and town
It rises up over the town. It's empty of furniture, but has dozens of surprisingly well preserved delicately painted murals, some dating back 300 years, and a few done much more recently by German and Italian POW's. (Did you know they kept POW's in India?) Our enthusiatic guide, Bullu, was knowledgeable and interesting. The top of the palace is still closed off, home at night to troops of monkeys that parade down to the town in the morning. Seeing them come out in file makes you think it's organised! During the day, bats roost there, and at dusk swarm out in huge flocks (??) It's a great sight, but not a pretty one.
We took a trip in the hotel's lovely old fashioned Ambassador car to nearby Kota, a big industrial town, to see the palace there. We passed an advertisement for the Humpty Dumpty Convent School.
We also passed hundreds of men in dhotis and turbans, heading for a protest about the quota system for government jobs - clearly their quota isn't big enough. At one point we saw a whole group of them sort of squatting/ crouching, then realised they were all having a pee. Dhotis don't have flies! Kota is an ugly town, with a huge power station in the middle, but the Maharao's Palace was fine. As the only foreigners in the place, the museum director (and Head ofSecurity as it said on the card he gave us) showed us round himself. He told us that "People like you can see the fine paintings on the upper floors, but we don't let the common people in there". We went on to the Chambal Gardens, where it's said there are crocodiles in the lake. We didn't take the boat ride.
Our last day in Bundi was spent just wandering, but included a visit to the Sukh Mahal, an attractive villa overlooking a lotus flower filled lake.
It's where Kipling wrote part of Kim. Kipling said it was so exquisite, the Bundi Palace must have been built by goblins. The quote was on a notice board by the Palace - "Built by cobbling". Walking on, a couple of youngsters invited us in to see their "family garden". It turned out to be a large farm with rice, maize, mango and lemon trees - and we had an interesting conversation with them, as they practised their English on us. Then we ended at the recently opened museum in the house of the present Maharao. There wasn't much there - photographs of his father (the VC man, who fairly obviously had been something of a playboy) with various film stars, Ava Gardner, Frank Sinatra...And there were several dozen stuffed tigers, some shot locally as recently as the '60s, some shot by "Dickie" Mountbatten, and one by Emperor Haile Selassie in 1951. How times change!