The Bundi Utsav Festival – Rajasthan

Bundi in the Hadoti region is a real slice of Indian past, still slightly off the beaten tourist track. Located only 39 km north-west of Kota in the south-east of Rajasthan, it’s a picturesque and captivating little town, and part of its appeal lies in fewer tourist crowds finding their way here. Tucked away in a gorge, it has remained relatively isolated and independent, and the nearby Chambal River even offers opportunities for water adventures.

Bundi’s palace alone justifies a visit, a splendid piece of Rajput architecture that houses the famous Chitrashala paintings that are unique to the region. Rudyard Kipling, born in Bombay of British India in 1865, who became one of the world’s most praised short story writers and children’s book author (ie The Jungle Book), found inspiration for his novel Kim here after staying in the Sukh Mahal for a few days in the late 19th century. He is quoted to have said ‘The Taragarh Fort must have been built by angels not by human beings’.

The town fully comes to life during the 3-day Bundi Utsav festival, held every year in November, a cultural event complete with traditional music, folk dance, kabaddi, horse riding and camel races, fireworks and a moustache as well as a turban-tying competitions that bring the streets alive and draws locals from surrounding villages.

The Rajasthan Tourism Board estimates that 90% of the region attends the festivities, plus the odd few hundred tourists that find their way here who are generously invited to participate in the competitions.

In the evenings of the festival, different sites around town are lit with little clay lights to celebrate a small version of the festival of light (Diwali – the victory of light over darkness).

During the Deepdan ceremony, men light the candles for women who then carry them to the river and let them float with prayer and chants.

For any traveller en route through southern Rajasthan, Bundi is a great stopover also outside the festival dates, as it has great heritage hotels and traditional havelis to offer combined with very affordable, home-made and delicious Rajasthani cuisine. Bundi can be reached by bus and/or by train via Kota.