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

Tale of Three Baolis

Baolis, or baoris, or vavs, or step-wells, are underground water sources that have been popular in India for a long time, especially in the dry areas of this subcontinent. These step-wells generally consisted of two parts, a rectangular tank or kund, and a circular well that extended down to reach the water table. The well provided potable water for drinking, while the tank or kund was primarily used for bathing, washing, and watering crops. During summers the baolis with attached rooms also served as cool resting places for the pilgrims, passing caravans, and other travellers. These architectural marvels were generally commissioned by members of the royal families or by wealthy patrons, for the benefit of the common people.

While varying in style, where the baolis could vary from a L-shaped structure, to a rectangular one, to a circular form, they showed some common features too, such as a flight of stairs that led from the ground level to the water below. Many baolis built under Hindu patronage also served as temples that had figures of gods, goddesses, and animals; shaded pavilions with trabeate columns; corbelled domes; and elaborate carvings. Baolis under Islamic patronage had less ornamentation, no human or animal forms, and had the true domes and arches. In the later periods, often both styles were fused. Both types had circular wells for potable water, where a pulley system was sometimes used for drawing water.

The earliest step-wells in India were first seen in the 3rd century CE. These were basic in architecture, and were designed more out of necessity to store monsoon rain waters for use during the arid summer months. It was necessary to have a year-round water supply, especially in the dry north-western parts of India. Over the centuries, the basic baoli forms gave way to complex architectural structures. According to the historians, by early 19th century there were several thousand step-wells, built on various scales, thriving in India.  However, by the early 2oth century, only few baolis remained in functional condition, as the British viewed these structures as unhygienic. So they were often filled in, or simply destroyed. Besides this, modern technology brought in plumbing lines and the tap water system that made baolis redundant. Currently the government has started with the preservation and conservation of baolis that still remain, marking them as heritage/ancient monuments.


Abhaneri or Chand baoli built in 8th -9 th CE in Rajasthan beside the Harshad Mata temple. The arches seen here in the upper parts are clearly a later addition, as true arches were not in use in India when the baoli was built. Indian architects, before the Islamic invaders came in, used trabeates (lintel and beam) for making arches. Lower parts show the trabeate form of columns and niches that were a part of the orginal structure of the baoli.

Dholpur baoli (Rajasthan)

Hidden behind the Ghazra ka tomb, is this pretty red sandstone 19th centory baoli. The structure, though unknown to most that visit this little town, is unique for its beautiful double pillars and delicate arches that surround its long rectangular tank and a circular well at the back. Hemmed in by buildings on all sides, the structure looks better conserved  than the neighbouring Ghazra ka tomb, though in terms of cleanliness much needs to be done. The tank water, as usual, remains dirty, though the well water appeared clean.


the Dholpur baoli- surrounding residences and unclean waters of the tank fail to dim its unique beauty


unique double pillars and delicate arches are the main attractions of the Dholpur baoli


the well at the back, which is double-storied


the circular pattern of the well (the arches show distinct Mughal influence)


the circular well water looks relatively clean

Gwalior fort step-well (Madhya Pradesh)

Inside the Gwalior fort is a step-well, situated on the left side as one enters the palace complex gates. It is a single, circular, deep well, situated beside a many-pillared hall, which earlier held a shiva-lingum that was thrown down the fort walls by Emperor Jahangir, later to be discovered by a peasant tilling his grounds, and is now placed inside a temple outside the fort gates.


entrance gate to the baoli (note the arches) within the Gwalior fort


The circular baoli with its mossy green waters. There is a pillared passage that runs round the well. The entrance to the well is closed, with the steps plastered off to stop people from reaching the waters down below.


The circular baoli with pillared hall at top

Raniji ki baoli at Bundi (Rajasthan)

Raniji ki baoli is a beautiful step-well, situated in Bundi. According to the signboard outside the baoli complex, the story goes that in late 16th century the king of Bundi married Rani Nathavati, as his previous queen failed to produce an heir. Rani Nathavati in due course gave birth to a son, which led to the previous queen turning envious. After placing her son under custody of the elder queen, Rani Nathavati devoted her entire life in caring for her subjects, wherein she built this step-well in 1699. The baoli has beautiful carvings mainly of elephants and is 46 meters deep. It has high-arched gates with niches for various deities.  At the entrance is a gate comprising of four tall pillars, joined beautifully at the top by elephant figures on beams and S –shaped (ogee) slender arches (brackets).


The gate as one enters the Raniji ki baoli. Beautiful elephants and S-shaped arches adorn it


the intricately carved arch above the tank water, with two elephants serving as brackets at two corners. The arches are distinctly Mughal influenced


the well wall at the back, with an imposing arch and a small passage in the foreground separating the well from the tank in front


deities carved in niches on the well wall at the back


figures of elephants carved on the passage (balcony) wall that separates tank from well


intricately carved elephant (with a mahout on its back) serving as a bracket in Raniji ki baoli


delicate carvings on the four pillared gate at the entrance

By Monidipa Bose

The author can be contacted at or Moni Gatha

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.