December 11, 2008
Somewhere in Rajasthan there is a magical place called Bundi. Unlike Jodhpur, Pushkar and Udaipur, it is still untouched by mass-tourism.
The Palace at Bundi is one of the most beautiful palaces in Rajasthan. It is famous for its miniature painted walls and indeed every single room, every single inch of wall is covered in the most strikingly colored miniatures.
Complete legends unfold across a string of rooms. No detail is spared, from the pleats of the ladies’ muslin dresses to the enamored king’s eyelashes.
Typically a Rajput palace, it is a succession of tiny rooms, anterooms and windy staircases. Its architecture is an intricate masterpiece of delicate arches, carved balconies, alcoves, jalis and hidden pleasure rooms. In the women’s courtyard, a swing’s structure is still standing.
I have always been a bad tourist, reluctantly sight-seeing while all I want to do is roam around the streets and absorb the city’s pulse. But that day in Bundi I went from room to room in a trance.
As I said before, Bundi is still relatively off the tourist track. The word is spreading, but when I went four years ago I was the only person in the palace. At least that’s what I thought, until I heard a crisp English voice coming from an adjacent room. The man, in his early thirties, was talking to his guide. The Englishman sounded agitated, so I followed from afar, trying to eavesdrop on his feverish monologue. I came closer and listened. At first I couldn’t believe it. How could I possibly be hearing this, in a desert, forgotten Indian palace, miles away from everything?
The Englishman was telling his local guide, with much details, echo effects, and almost to the word, the story of King Lear.