Given the temperatures, we headed for the fort first. So high up, we could only see its walls from the distance. Before that, we had to fend off a young man who offered to show us around the fort and keep the monkeys at bay. Not that we didn’t want a guide, but he was a real turn off. The mumbled, incomprehensible words kept pouring from his mouth like an avalanche and demanding 400 rupees for his services made it easy to put our foot down and say no. To put things in perspective, we paid 350 for an excellent three-hour tour of the Taj Mahal the year before.
The perfect decision – this way we could peacefully wonder around the fort with its overgrown ruins and enjoy the magnificent view of Bundi down below – a sea of blue houses. The monkey attacks our guide warned us of did not happen either.
From the fort the gigantic palace below was in full view, but its fading charm can only be enjoyed when wandering inside. Many parts are so damaged that they are closed for visitors. Only the rooms with the most stunning murals can be visited.
Like at so many historic places in India, the damage done by visitors is appalling. The fort, simply too big to be guarded closely, is even closed to Indian tourists, the main suspects in destroying their ancient heritage. Indian tour guides can get in a hysterical rage when talking about this issue. When you look at the graffiti in Hindi on the once beautifully painted walls, it seems not a prejudiced accusation.
At Bundi Palace, most of the ivory inlays of a gigantic wooden door had been stolen. A guard opened a room especially for us that is usually kept closed for that reason. Magnificent murals, or what is left of them! It is hard to believe but this palace deteriorated in a relatively short period. The Maharaja lived there until 1948, but of course we don’t know what it looked like back then. The Maharaja died unmarried and childless and now the huge palace belongs to his nephew who lives in far away Delhi. He would need to be a gold producing donkey in order to get this building back in shape and maintained. So it looks the way it looks with time gnawing away on its elements. Wandering around this palace, we could not avoid thinking of the wonderful movie “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, where the young owner tries to turn this dilapidating family mansion into a tourist hotel.