In the historical novels India Treasures and India Fortunes, the fictional fortress and town of Mangarh are modeled in large part on the town and fortress/palace of Bundi in Rajasthan.

If an Indian town can appropriately be called “charming,” perhaps it’s Bundi, with its setting of close-in surrounding hills, the picturesque lakes, the impressive palace and fortress, the narrow winding streets, and the step-wells and many-pillared monuments.

The large palace in lower part of this photo is actually a complex of palaces, with parts built by different rulers in different times. The main Chhattar Mahal dates from around 1660 and is in the pure Rajput style (without the Mughal influences that appear in many Rajasthani palaces). The structure features numerous elephant and lotus motifs, ornate brackets, arched roofs, and pavilions. The living quarters are known for their wall paintings in the local Bundi style of various subjects from mythology and court life.

Historically, Bundi is part of the region known as Hadoti, after the area’s ruling Rajputs. The following brief historical note is from the web site of the local Hadoti Tourism Development Society (https://www.kotatourism.in/about-us.html).

“Prithviraj Chauhan was the last Hindu ruler of Delhi. He was defeated by Mohamad Ghori in 1191 A.D. In the 12th Century one of his sons established their rule at Fort Bambaoda, 10 km from Menal.

“This Chauhan clan later came to be known as the HADA Rajputs. The area ruled by the Hadas – Bundi, Kota , Baran and Jhalawar – came to be known as the Hadoti Region. Bundi was captured in 1241 by Rao Deva Singh from the Chief of the Meena tribals.”

In the Bundi palace itself, on one of the upper levels is a pleasant garden courtyard with a splendid view over the town and hills.

Higher up yet, atop the hill and covering a large area is the Taragarh or “Star Fort,” designed as a retreat from the lower palace in times of attack. There were said to be many underground tunnels to various points to proved escape routes for the defenders.

The town of Bundi has a medieval feel, with its narrow, winding, hilly streets and interesting markets. Recent travelers describe it as still relatively quiet compared to the larger cities that are more popular tourist destinations. Bundi is also known for its many step wells, with a couple of the largest and deepest conveniently in town.

North of the town is the Jait Sagar lake, and on its north side is the Sar Bagh, a garden that has been the cremation site for the rulers over hundreds of years, with a large number of royal cenotaphs, many of them exquisitely carved chhatris (domed, pillared pavilions), such as the one pictured.

All in all, Bundi and its setting were an almost perfect inspiration for the town and fort of Mangarh in my historical novels.

Gary Worthington

Gary Worthington's books include the epic historical novels India Treasures , also published in South Asia by Penguin India as The Mangarh Chronicles ; and India Fortunes. His articles have appeared in Traveler's India magazine and elsewhere.
Of India Treasures/The Mangarh Chronicles, a review in The Statesman of New Delhi said, "Worthington has wonderfully captured the mystique and adventure-soaked atmosphere of Rajasthan, with its golden forts and the awe-inspiring desert. A delight to read."