Romance in Murals – Expression of Love at Chitrasala in Bundi

‘That slender one should send a letter

Couched in artistic language

Written on a Kettaki leaf, scratched by Kasturi and wrapped by a silken thread

Having a symbol of her breasts smeared with sandal paste

With her name inscribed on upper portion’



‘Forgetful of worldly attachments

Lost in his thoughts

Suffering from fever caused by his memory

She heaves deep sighs, neglects her food, walks or rest

Without bothering to listen to her friends’



‘High palaces and blossoming lotuses

Do not give the pleasure any more

She throws the ornaments being placed on her body by her friends

Nor is she delighted by acts of entertainment

Having achieved an objective she is restless

Is desirous of engaging in such pursuits

Which she could not in the presence of her lover’


The 18th-century Chitrasala of Bundi palace in Southeastern Rajasthan is a chock-a-block of romantic depictions of Shringar Rasa in the form of large murals. Most of Chitrasala murals are inspired by Rasikapriya, a love poem written by Keshavdash of the 16th century.


Bundi takes its name from a narrow valley Bandu – Ka – Nal (Bandu was a chieftain of the Meena Tribe and Nal means the narrow ways). Rao Deva conquered this terrain in 1342 CE and renamed as Hadoti. The Aravali Mountains surrounding Bundi present the most picturesque view with its flowing rivers and lush green forest, in the whole of Rajasthan.

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Rasikapriya is portrayed as the vehicle of emotion. The description of the countryside, cities, forests, hermitages, rivers, gardens, tanks, sunrise, moonrise and the seasons are beautifully illustrated by the artists of Chitrasala. There are seven colours, namely, white, black, yellow, red, grey, blue and mixed tones that have been primarily used in Chitrasala murals.

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Keshavadeva defines a nayaka or hero as a man who is young, expert in the art of love, emotional, proud, selfless, generous, handsome, rich and reframed in taste and culture. A nayika is a heroine whose very sight fills a male’s heart with shringar rasa. There are four categories of naikyas according to Rasikapriya.





Padmini – Padmini is a beautiful nayika, soft as lotus, intelligent, cheerful, clean and soft-skinned, free from anger and has a golden complexion. She loves clean and beautiful cloths.

Travel Tips

Bundi is located in southeastern Rajasthan at a distance of 50 km from Kota, the largest city of the region. Bundi can be reached from Kota by regular bus services and shared vehicles. While at Bundi one can also explore the surrounding hill terrains rich in prehistoric rock art. There are many stay options in Bundi ranging from budget homestays to high end. Keep three days for your Bundi trip if you love a more relaxed slow trip.




Chitrani – Chitrani is adorned with diverse beauties. She is fond of dancing and singing. She is fond of perfumes and her lover’s portraits.

Sankini – Sankini means short-tempered and clever. She is a luxuriant growth of hair, likes red garments and pinches hard when excited. She is shameless and unhesitant.

Hastini – She has a thick figure, a fat face and large feet. Her lower lip and eyebrows are thick and her voice is rough.

Another draw of Chitrasala is the Ragini murals. Ragas are primary sources of all musical renderings in India. Each Raga or Ragini has an emotional situation based on different facets of love, either in union or separation. Ragas are ascribed to Shiva and his consort Parvati and Raginis are ascribed to Brahma and his consort Saraswati.











The important features of Ragini murals at Chitrasala are strong eyes, pointed chin, projected nose, round face, Jahangir style turban, narrow patka with geometrical designs, transparent chakadar jama, attractive black pompoms and shading under the armpits. Ragini Todi, Ragini Megha Mallar, and Ragini Asvari are important examples of this sect.

The depiction of zenana or women’s harem is yet the attraction of Chitrasala murals. Zenanas are large palaces built for women. These palaces are divided into different apartments allotted to the royal women or queens, less important ladies who hold various managerial positions and attendants. In these wings, only the kings and princes are allowed. Some common zenana scenes that appear in Chitarasala are princes playing chaupar, palace gardens, palace ponds, palace terraces, the celebration of Teez festival and women listening to music, feeding the fish and enjoying wine and smoking huqqua.






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The love murals of Chitrasala are a treat to eyes. They follow shringar at all its spell and intensity – when the passion strikes a woman after seeing her lover she sweats and is thrilled with romance and such is the intensity of her involvement she does not see even her friend standing nearby.  They integrate with the landscape of Bundi and the cycle of seasons. There are joy and delight everywhere.

Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at

Bundi Paintings from an Artist’s Perspective

Between 16th and 19th centuries AD, the Rajput courts in Rajasthan and Central India had patronized miniature paintings and wall murals of mythological and court themes in an epic scale. Though many of them have faded with the ravage of time, yet whatever are left constitute an integral aspect of South Asia’s visual history and heritage. Each of the Rajput courts had evolved with a distinctive style of murals done on the walls of palaces, inner chamber of the forts and havelis.

Most of these styles however had emerged combining indigenous as well as foreign influences (Persian, Mughal, Chinese, European and also from Gujarat, Deccan and Eastern India). In Rajasthan, the Hadoti region with its capital at Bundi was among the four principal schools that had evolved within the state.

The Bundi School had evolved at the Hadoti Court in the early 17th century in the time of Rao Bhoj Singh, while him overseeing Chunnar near Varanasi as the governor of the province. During his governorship, he came in direct contact with Persian artists (these artists had been brought by Humayun) and commissioned them to illustrate a Ragmala series. The style with strong Mughal influence was first experimented at Badal Mahal in Bundi. In richness and brilliance, the Badal Mahal paintings have affinity also with paintings of Deccan, a region with which the rulers of Bundi were often in contact.

The style emphasized on hunting, court scene, processions, life of nobles, lovers, animals, birds and scenes from Krishna’s life.

The Chitrasala or the Ummaid Bhavan built in the 18th century by Rao Ummaid Singh shows the climax of Bundi paintings, a style characterized by a fondness of lush vegetation, dramatic night skies, a distinctive way of depicting water by light swirls against a dark background, and vivid movement. The walls and ceilings of this palace are completely covered with paintings of the Bundi School and can be compared with among the best of pre-modern paintings anywhere in the world.

Two remarkable themes of these paintings is the Ragamala and Baramasa series depicting moods and sentiments of men and women, seasons and 36 ragas and raginis linked to the seasons, times of the day and the mood of the moment. Under Rao Bishen Singh (1771-1821 AD), hunting and wild animals became favorite subjects.

Bundi School of painting today has survived among a handful of artists, who still paint themes depicted in the Chitrasala. A few have also made some fresh innovations in filling the negative spaces and in colour schemes. Yug Pratap, a young Bundi artist shares his idea on Bundi paintings and his experience as an artist. Yug runs a small studio ‘Yug Art’ near Surang Gate in Bundi.

More on the video.

Bundi Fort – A Confluence of Ideas

In Southeastern Rajasthan, on the lap of Aravali lies Bundi, a picturesque Rajput fortified town. The territory was settled in the 13th and 14th centuries AD by Hada Rajputs, a sub-group of Chauhan Dynasty that migrated from Nadol in Pali District following its defeat by Qutb-ud-Din Aibak in 1197 AD.

Till 16th Century, there was not much happening in Bundi, but its fortune changed with the arrival of Emperor Akbar. Rao Surjan of Bundi broke his relationship with the rulers of Mewar and established friendship tie with Akbar. It was a turning point in Bundi’s history. Then on, Bundi as a result of this alliance became a major centre of cultural creativity. Surjan was immediately awarded prestigious governorship that took him to Chunnar near Varanasi on Ganges.

This was the time of extra ordinary artistic and intellectual creativity being witnessed in North India. Interactions between different communities, religions and cultures were leading often to innovative and exciting results.

Chunnar was a major centre of paintings on Hindu themes in Persian style. Ragamalas that would become the most popular themes at Bundi were first experimented at Chunnar with extraordinary sophistication. An inscription says: ‘the pupils of Mir Sayyid Ali and Khwaja Abd al Samad’, two great artists employed by Emperor Akabar. They had been brought from Iran by Humayun, Akbar’s father to introduce Persian style in India.

Rao Bhoj Singh of Bundi (son of Surjan) when started overseeing Chunnar as the governor of the province came in direct contact with these artists and commissioned them to paint Ragamala series. A new idea was born which later influenced the world famous Bundi style, first executed on walls and ceilings of Badal Mahal, a Rao Bhoj creation.

As parts of imperial campaigns Rao Bhoj also visited Kabul, Gujarat, Odisha and Deccan and was influenced by painting and architectural styles of these regions. In Bundi, one of the major traits drawn from the Mughal/Persian miniatures is evoking a moody night sky.

Rao Bhoj’s successors Rao Raja Ratan Singh and Rao Raja Chhatrasal both continued the trend and added features to their palace and in Bundi. Chitrasala became the iconic painting gallery in the whole of India and famed Bundi worldwide. Creation of several lakes, such as Nawal Sagar, Jait Sagar and baoris like Raniji ki bowri established Bundi as a prominent centre of water architecture.

Come, let’s discover the world renowned artistic heritage of Bundi and appreciate the confluence of ideas that were seen at Bundi in 16th-18th centuries AD.