Posted on: 19 March 2013

Palace at Bundi - 1847

This is plate 16 from James Fergusson's 'Ancient Architecture in Hindoostan'. Built on a steep hillside of the Vindhya range, the town of Bundi was the capital of a Rajput state until it succumbed to the Mughals in 1658. In Fergusson's sketch, the street of the principal bazaar is in the foreground, leading to the gate of Bundi Palace. He thought the street "one of the most picturesque streets of Malwa, and some of it of antiquity". He did not see the interior of the palace, but he thought the exterior a "combination of forms ... as pleasing a piece of architectural scenery as I have seen anywhere even in India, where such effects are common." The different buildings of the palace were built between the 16th and 17th centuries, examples of fine Rajput-style architecture. Bundi was a centre of Rajput painting, and the palace's Chatar Mahal and Chitra Shali are decorated with traditional murals.

Copyright The British Library Board


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Never ceases to amaze me how extraordinarily gifted these Company artists were. Look at the verisimilitude and the astonishing wealth of detail! Even photographs don't attain this.

Absolutely agree with you JJ!... but I have to look up the dictionary for the meaning of verisimiltitude. : )

J.J : Fergusson was not a ' Company artist ', as such. He started off in the Indigo trade - as one of the new wave of independent businessmen/ entrepreneurs post-1813 (when the E.I.C. lost its monopoly) . The small fortune that he subsequently amassed in this capacity allowed him to travel around the Indian sub-continent on the back of a camel (perhaps one of those included in the illustration above ?), indulging his artistic & architectural interests, very much at his own pace and at his own leisure....

Money well spent I should think, if he left these treasures for posterity.

Re: " Money well spent I should think, if he left these treasures for posterity." Well - I dare say that James Fergusson represents the sort of colonial figure that drives latter-day Indian nationalists to distraction (one must simply read some of the remarks further down the page to find confirmation of this !) - a wealthy foreign industrialist who swanned his way casually across the sub-continent postulating theories about and passing Euro-centric judgements upon the culture that he came into contact with - and there is an element of truth in such perceptions - but - only one element amongst many others. The Western ' orientalists' and their thirst for knowledge, and their capacity for dilligent and painstaking inquiry were quite remarkable in many respects ... Even if some (but by no means all) of their interpretations of Indian society and its history have subsequently been found to be erroneous, or lacking in objectivity, or in some other way wanting, we should all still extend a certain degree of respect towards such long-dead individuals - for they really were the intellectual pioneers of their own times ... Another factor in the make-up of men like Fergusson, Princep (and many, many others) that is seldom acknowledged was their essential modesty. They really did believe that they were working for the ' universal good ' rather than for personal glorification or self-interest. I forward (below) an extract from Fergusson's " An historical inquiry into the true principles of beauty in art, more especially with reference to architecture" (published in 1849) that, to my mind, captures something of the essence of the man, and reveals something of his motivations and, interestingly, a certain apprehension on his part about his own suitability to be held up as an 'expert' of any sort : " Few men have, either from education or the professional pursuits of their life, been less prepared for such a work as this. From boyhood I was destined to the desk. From school I passed to the counting-house; from that to an indigo factory from this to becoming an acting and active partner in a large mercantile establishment, from the trammels of which, in spite of every endeavour, I have never been able to free myself... I had leisure to see a great deal of [ Indian ] art; and, what is of far more importance, I have had time to think over and reflect on what I saw. For months together I lived among buildings and the works of art they contain, and I have looked on them long and steadfastly, and until I could read in the chisel marks on the stone the idea that guided the artist in his design, till I could put myself by his side, ... but, I never felt satisfied [ in my understanding]."

brings back memories...studied in primary school on the right in an old haveli, before starting the climb to palace gate......

truly treasures from the past...

"of Malwa"? This is Haraoti

Beautiful water colour

Julian I think that confessional statement of Fergusson's is truly remarkable, and as you say, it reveals the underlying humility of a great many of these scholars. They were conscious of being in the presence of cultures and civilisations far removed from their own, and they tried grappling with them, frequently with bemusement, often with a sense of bafflement, but with the will and determination to come to terms with them; and the first step in that direction was the visual representation of what they saw with whatever accuracy their talents were capable of. True, some, or even a great many of their interpretations or conclusions may (inevitably) have been wrong, but that did not detract from the earnestness of purpose, the scholarly application.

Bundi became part of the Mughal Empire in 1569 during the reign of Akbar. The 1658 episode refers to an attack by Aurangzeb because the Bundi rulers remained loyal to Shah Jahan and Dara Shikoh in the civil war that resulted in Aurangzeb becoming emperor.

I am proud to say ,Bundi "The Gem of Hadoti " city of Step wells & Temples " very serene & picturesque City in Rajasthan.

That's a beautiful plate I would like to copy & send to my fellow travellers if you don't mind as we visited the Palace recently.