After a day long bus ride from Pushkar we turned a steep corner and suddenly there was Bundi – blue, pink and yellow painted dwellings nestled by a lake hosting two temple islands, overlooked by the imposing Taragarh Fort built in the 1660s. Atop the surrounding hills are battlement walls with domed lookouts perched on the peaks. Rudyard Kipling wrote Kim here and the magnificent fort which is a short walk up the hill from the town is home to one of the best collections of Indian miniature paintings.
During our time here we had a truly extraordinary experience. We were joined on tour by a local rock painting expert, Kukki pronounced cookie, but as he cheerfully reminded us he is not and never has been a biscuit! Kukki took us to a place he described as the Indian savannah and it was indeed reminiscent of the type of landscape one associates with Africa. There’s a lot of water here and after a relatively short bus ride we ended up at Bhimlat Falls, quite a well known tourist spot in the Bundi area.
After walking through the bush a little way Kukki pulled us up at a large rock and started rubbing and watering some stones to make pigment paints. What followed was a veritable frenzy of bush art as we tried out various rock colours and textures.
Serious fun and you can see here our new Texan friend, Suzanne, displaying some of her work. Others in the group got some amazing results, my sister among them, with what is essentially ground down stones mixed with water. Making art really doesn’t get more real and spontaneous than this.
Kukki topped that by taking us onto a cave with rock paintings dating back to the Mesolithic period. The paintings in this cave make me think Carl Jung was right about one thing – the collective unconscious. They looked very much like pictures I’ve seen from the Lascaux Caves in France and Kukki informed us that these works pre-dated those works by a slight margin. He also said that he believed paintings like these were a form of guidepost for the next traveller and schooling for the next generation – passing on knowledge about where to hunt, what plants to eat, which ones to avoid and so on.
This cave also doubles as a wandering Shaman’s shelter and, being so close to Diwali, there’d been a recent visit. Over years of such visits smoke from the fire has blackened the cave roof. As a labour of love Kukki has started cleaning away these smoke marks to reveal more rock paintings. He believes it is his calling to have originally discovered, to preserve these cave paintings, and to educate people about their origins. His enthusiasm for this project is truly infectious and his generosity in passing on his knowledge is such a gift to us all.
A big wow of a day.