A photo story on the sleepy town of Bundi Rajasthan.

A photo story on the sleepy town of Bundi Rajasthan.

If someone asks me to define in one word what was the first lesson that travelling taught me then my answer will be patience or सब्र. As appealing my social media updates may seem to others with a planned grid showing one travel destination after the other it left no room for an update of what took up space in my life in between any two destinations. What most people do not know about those two years of my life on the road as an unemployed traveller was how there would be a period of gap with no next destination, no money, no volunteering opportunity figured out in order for me to hit the road again. A time where I would have nothing to do besides just sitting at home and trying to figure out where to go next and more importantly how. Questioning over and over again whether the path chosen, the decisions made would be worth it or not. Wondering if I was missing out on my time for professional growth by not taking a stable job or worse will I succumb to being an example of how life can go wrong for those who dare to be dreamers in a world full of grown-ups running on the fuel of practicality and crushed dreams.

I had just reached Delhi after spending one month in Ladakh & Spiti Valley back in 2017 when I accepted an offer to work as an Assistant Director for a short budget horror film in Mumbai. Why did I do that? Well because it was a month long project that was paying me and moreover the shoot was happening in Goa. It was like hitting two birds with one stone. Also after establishing the fact that being a storyteller was the purpose of my life, I always wanted to learn and explore the world of filmmaking as part of that journey. So there I was with my backpack straight from the Trans Himalayas of Ladakh to the Arabian Sea in Mumbai trying to live a yet another dream of mine or cheap thrills as Sia would call it.

But like most Bollywood endings which are always too good to be true. After working on the project for a good old month we were told the shoot was postponed and I decided to head back home in order not to exhaust any more money from my travel fund on living in Mumbai. I happily took my paycheck and left for Rajasthan feeling content that at least I earned some money which meant I could now travel more. Unfortunately this plan was crushed when I find out after two failed attempts to cash the cheque that I had been the victim of fraud and been conned. I tried to console myself by saying that many others had faced similar issues when starting out in the industry and if nothing else at least I now have a great story to tell one day about my one time run in with the film industry.

Life Update: After two years of backpacking across India as an Unemployed Traveller. I decided to give the city life a second chance, moved back to Mumbai and started working as an Assistant Director in a yet another Horror Comedy film in April 2019. Only this one is a legit project and has no room for cheap thrills of being conned. But more on that in a different blog post.

It was after this run in with Bollywood that left me nearly broke as I was now trying to look at all available ways of travelling without money that a friend invited me to come visit her for some days in the small town of Bundi, Rajasthan. She lived on a farm a little outside the town where her family ran a small homestay offering a safe haven for people looking for an escape from the big bad world out there.

Read more about my stay with them at Amourcasa Homestay in the below link: https://www.unemployedtraveller.com/how-slow-travel-and-living-on-a-farm-in-rajasthan-helped-me-embrace-self-love-and-slowing-down-in-life/

Why Bundi is the perfect town for explorers and wanderers.

Located in the Hadoti region of Rajasthan, Bundi is a destination that a lot of tourists miss out on while visiting Rajasthan. Only travellers searching for an offbeat and a less crowded destination or are simply lost stumble upon this small town that has lots to offer to whoever wishes to explore its old lanes, bazaars, stepwells and the magnificent fort that is completely different from any other fort you may come across in Rajasthan as it show you the underrated world of Bundi miniature paintings that are unique to the city.

Taragarh Fort also known as the ‘Star Fort’ has it’s history dating back to 1345 AD where it was built in green serpentine stone on a steep hillside in Bundi, Rajasthan.
The themes for the miniature paintings are inspired from mythological stories and nature which are then painted in naturally sourced and handmade colour pigments and dyes.
The city also has many shops selling all kinds of miniature paintings and scriptures. Some even offer classes for you to learn the art from artists who have been involved in this for generations.
The Bundi Hadoti region is filled with people belonging to various tribes. If you visit the villages on the outskirts of Bundi you may find people belonging from the gypsy tribe of Kalbelia, Gujjars, Bheels and most commonly Rabari or the indigenous tribal caste of nomadic cattle herders and shepherds.
A nomadic Shepherd belonging from the Bheel tribe which is an Indo-Aryan speaking ethnic group of Western India. The language mostly spoken by Bheels is known as bheeli.
An old man wearing the traditional red rabari safa (turban) selling wheat straw used for cattle feeding in the old bazaar of Bundi.
Did you know about the Hindu tradition of feeding a cow that is considered as a good deed and is believed to bring blessings and good karma in a person’s life?

A City Walk across the walled city of Bundi.

Experiencing the hill and countryside vibes in this part of Rajasthan was quiet refreshing for me. Considering how different it was from the countryside vibe I had experienced growing up as a kid who’s ancestors hailed from the land of sand dunes and camels in Jaisalmer.

But more interestingly I found my unplanned walk around the old city of Bundi to be something that I enjoyed the most. This was because when I decided to ditch the must see touristy monuments and landmarks in Bundi and chose to experience the city in it’s most archetypal manner I did not realise that the city was prepping up for the most celebrated festival of Holi which was starting from the very next day. I saw men and children on the roads, gallis, roundabouts digging up the ground (and in one case breaking the tar road) for setting up the Holika Dahan which is a pyre ceremony celebrated on the eve of Holi as a symbol of the good overcoming the evil based on the story of Prahlad and Holika in Hinduism.

A dry tree branch erected outside a temple in preparation for the Holika Dahan pyre.
The Lanka gate bustling with a colourful array of locals busy shopping for Holi a day before the festival in the old city bazaar.

Celebrating Holi at AmourCasa like a local and with the locals.

Being a history geek I am going to share a little history lesson with you about the Rajput culture and traditions.

Rajputana – translated as the land of Rajputs – was a region in Medieval India that constituted the Indian state of Rajasthan among parts of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and some areas of Sindh which lies in present day Pakistan. During the glorious days of Rajputana with it’s monarch rule being divided amongst the multitudes of Princely States and Thikanas, the common people, all kinds of artists, dancers, musicians would collectively gather at the palaces and forts of the ruling family of the region to come together and be part of the grand royal celebration of all festivals and auspicious days of the year. This tradition continues to stay alive in the modern day democratic state of Rajasthan where the Maharajas and Thakurs who had been erstwhile state-holders are till date visited by the local villagers, folk artists etc on all festive days throughout the year in order to pay homage to them and celebrate with them like their ancestors did.

I spent my holi at AmourCasa Homestay in Bundi which showed me a total different and culturally inclusive experience of the festival. Something I had not experienced before as a girl who was only used to playing holi within the walls of her city home with the family members. Which is why visiting and staying at AmourCasa Homestay Bundi during the festival of Holi is definitely something that I would suggest to you if a cultural and traditionally immersive experience is something you seek. I can vouch for the unimaginable fun, love, colours and unlimited rajasthani food you will be getting to gorge on along with a traditional fix of entertainment for you.

The Bheel men and woman dancing and celebrating Holi at the house of one of the Thakurs of the village I was staying at near Bundi.

Being a believer of a slow traveller (read about my blog on understanding slow travel here) I did miss out on few touristy things like the magnificent Rani ji ki Baori, Chaurasi khambo ki chatri, Chitrashala-Umed Mahal among other things. But during my citywalk I did manage to accidentally stumble upon hidden gems like old restored havelis in the old bazaar, Dadbhai kund (stepwell), old traditional temples, the intricately carved Hathia Pol, killer rooftop cafes and views and lastly the most interesting, unexpected and quirky tea stall/artwall.

I usually do not take photos, but I just could not help take one outside this pretty hand painted entry to the Haveli Braj Bhushanjee which also happens to be the best place to stay within the old city of Bundi.
The beautiful insides of the restored haveli decorated with antiques.
Though Dadbhai Kund (stepwell) was a disappointment with its unkempt state of being and the scorching sun which almost killed me with dehydration and a heat stroke. But I did manage to get this new perspective of capturing the stepwell. I remember having my head covered with this hand dyed bandhani dupatta while I was trying to take “aesthetic photos” for the gram. Which is when it clicked me. Most women who would come to these stepwell to carry water back home would usually have their entire face covered with their odhnis or dupattas as per traditional dress code for women in Rajasthan. Leaving them looking at the world through a veil. A veil of not just fabric but of old rigid tradition and rules of patriarchy. So in the end I was happy with this thread of thought I had and the shot I got as I tried to imagine looking at not just this frame but my entire world through a veil for a brief moment.
A smaller version of the majestic Hathia Pol I found in the bylanes of old city Bundi.
Nawal Sagar Lake known best for offering a mirror image of the city with the fort being reflected in its waters.
Rooftop Cafe view from Dev Niwas Hotel. The food was not so great but the view made up for it. Though local sources have confirmed that the place to go for the ultimate food experience in Bundi is hands down the Morgan’s Place. A friendly cosy cafe serving the best Italian, Sicilian, Vegetarian and Vegan food. YES you heard it right!
Afternoon napping scenes where such a common sight everywhere I looked. Well no one can be blamed for that because the heat sure did a number on us all.
I always have a wonderful time capturing men who laugh.
The infamous Krishna’s Chai point. I could not believe that amongst the busy lanes and old houses there existed a space like this. Famous for its Special Tea (Chai with Bhaang) which I never got to taste because it was closed every time I have been to Bundi. But the imprinted artwork and graffiti left by the numerous travellers who had been here before me showed me how loved and special this place was for each of them. Every little detail weaving a story of its own which took me forever to read and admire as I sat down in the area outside the shop and let it all sink in.
Just another casual afternoon in Bundi with its Bougainvilleas and hand painted wall art.
Having grown up in Rajasthan I had been privy to many visits to the forts and palaces. Which is why I decided to give the fort tour a miss in Bundi and explore the city instead. Though I later found out that the fort is unlike any other in Rajasthan. Which is why I am going to try and cover it the next time I am in Bundi.
The city has various lakes and pools but my favourite one has to be the Jait Sagar Lake. A 1.5 km long lake that lies encircled with the Aravalli hills and has lotus floating and covering around 3/4th of the area in the months of monsoon and winter. Looking at the wide expanse of green from far, I remember accidently walking right up to the edge of the lake assuming it was land until I was one step away from stepping into the water.

A story about the time when the 23 year old unemployed me got invited as a Chief Guest.

During this trip I also got the chance to visit and attend an Annual Function that was being organised at the local Government School in the village outside Bundi where I was staying. My friend had been volunteering with the school for some time and was therefore invited as the Honourable Chief Guest at the event. The school staff was so kind that when they found out I was a writer and traveller who was accompanying my friend to the event. They were kind enough to make me the Chief Guest as well. I was so overwhelmed and humbled by this kind gesture. I remember giving a speech after the event to the children. Talking about how one must never shy away from doing great things in life no matter how insignificant or small our impact might seem to us or others around us. I remember trembling with joy, excitement and overwhelming emotions as I decided to end the speech with Akhtar Sahab’s words that always deeply resonated with me,

“Kyun dare zindagi mein kya hoga
Kuch na hoga to tazruba hoga.”

– Javed Akhtar
I remember the cheap thrill of getting to live this moment that would make for a crazy story of a time when an unemployed 23 year old backpacker got invited as the Chief Guest at a School’s Annual Function.
School boys bunking and sneaking a peek into the tent where the event was happening.

We even got the chance to distribute bicycles sponsored by the Rajasthan Government to all the 9th standard girls for their convenience in everyday commuting to school. As most of them lived in nearby villages and had to often walk for hours to get to school and back home everyday. It was a beautiful moment for me to see the importance being imparted towards educating the young girls in this small village outside of Bundi and getting to be a small part of it.

The teachers and administration was impressed with my little stint with Javed Sahab’s words during the speech. Which is why we later sat down and had a full swing little poetry session with some of the staff in the office over snacks. I remember sitting in that room trying to freeze the moment in my memory of four school masters reciting poems to one another.

So this trip which was supposed to be my filler in between my actual travel plans. Something I did in order to not stay at home and overthink about the decisions and financials of my nomadic lifestyle as I would try to go with the flow and learn the art of patience. I remember calling this phase of my life as, the Latin philosophical proposition, “Cogito Ergo Sum” by René Descartes that translated in english as “I think, therefore I am.”

At the end of my trip I remember telling my friend later how on a bad day when everything will seem gloom and I might question what I gained or learnt by saying no to jobs, financial security as a fresh Post Graduate who chose to live a nomadic life instead. I told her I am going to remind myself of this day, this moment and remember how magical it all had felt. Like I was exactly where I was meant to be and living exactly the way I should be.

September 2017, Bundi Rajasthan.

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