Volume 67 Number 3, March 2016

Bundi Fort: A Rajput World

Edited by: Milo Cleveland Beach
Binding: Hardcover
Specifications: 148 pages, 140 illustrations
ISBN: 978-93-83243-11-2
Dimensions: 305 x 241 mm

The wall-paintings in the fort at Bundi in Rajasthan include the earliest and finest examples of court painting known in India. Only recently accessible for sustained study, these help to define the religious, literary and artistic interests of the court; the functions of the spaces they adorn; the political aspirations of the rulers; and the evolving relationships between one court, its Rajput neighbours, and its Mughal overlords. On a more mundane level, the Bundi wall-paintings also provide some of the most brilliant and attractive decorations found anywhere in India.

True understanding of the wall-paintings is impossible without knowledge of the walls that support them, the ceremonials they surrounded, and the events, conflicts and alliances which brought the court (and the painters) into contact with other regions and cultural traditions of India. Scholars have recently located historical chronicles and literary texts in Hindi that yield important new information about court life. Additional projects have produced measured drawings of the buildings within the fort, as well as photographic documentation of the wall-paintings in situ. This new information and discoveries will transform understanding of Rajput painting and architecture.

Milo Cleveland Beach held curatorial positions at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, before serving as Professor and Chairman of the Department of Art, Williams College, Williamstown, and as Director of the Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. His most recent book is The Bundi Wall-Paintings in Rajasthan (2014), with photographs by Hilde Lauwaert.

1. Introduction
Milo Cleveland Beach

2. Architectural Structures and Spaces in the Fort Palaces at Bundi
Domenico Catania, Attilio Petruccioli, Claudio Rubini

3. The Wall-Paintings of the Badal Mahal
Milo Cleveland Beach

4. Elephants, Hunting and Mughal Service: The Martial Lordship of Rao Ratan
Cynthia Talbot

5. The Rulers of Bundi in Mughal-Period Literary Culture
Allison Busch

6. Painted Palaces: Early 17th-Century Rajput Architectural Decoration
Edward Leland Rothfarb

7. The Rang Vilas Garden at Bundi: An Unusual Rajput Chaharbagh
D. Fairchild Ruggles

Bibliography

Index

Contributors

Introduction
Beach, Milo Cleveland
Vol. 67 No. 3, March 2016; ISBN: 978-93-83243-11-2, pp. 18-33

The introduction outlines the evolving relationships between the kingdom of Bundi, its Rajput neighbours and their Mughal overlords, the series of alliances expanding the world of the Bundi rulers. It introduces readers to the various structures that make up the Bundi Fort and discusses Rao Chhatarsal’s inauguration of impressive traditions of historical documentation, literary activity, royal portraiture and the illustration of such themes as Baramasa and Ragamala. It is only recently that the extraordinary power and importance of Bundi painting has been recognized, which is the result of new and easier access to the wall-paintings of the Badal Mahal along with other recent studies on the subject.

Architectural Structures and Spaces in the Fort Palaces at Bundi
Catania, Domenico and Petruccioli, Attilio and Rubini, Claudio
Vol. 67 No. 3, March 2016; ISBN: 978-93-83243-11-2, pp. 34-47

Using their own measured drawings of the fort and its palaces, and the town of Bundi, Attilio Petruccioli and his colleagues and students at the School of Architecture of the Polytechnic University of Bari discuss the chronology, evolution, dating, and functions of the architecture. This is completely new information.

The Wall-Paintings of the Badal Mahal
Beach, Milo Cleveland
Vol. 67 No. 3, March 2016; ISBN: 978-93-83243-11-2, pp. 48-79

This chapter discusses the wall-paintings of the Badal Mahal, one of the greatest achievements of Rajput art and architecture which powerfully embodies and celebrates the Rajput character. It shows how the paintings follow a carefully conceived programme that demonstrates the power of the Raos of Bundi over the natural world and their easy movement among the gods. Started by Rao Bhoj, it continued under Rao Ratan Singh with depictions of hunting and elephants. Other scenes decorating the walls include the courts of Krishna and the Raos, the realm of the gods on the ceiling above and a complete set of Ragamala which became a way to indicate the universal sensibilities of the rulers.

Elephants, Hunting and Mughal Service: The Martial Lordship of Rao Ratan
Talbot, Cynthia
Vol. 67 No. 3, March 2016; ISBN: 978-93-83243-11-2, pp. 80-95

This article examines the conception of martial lordship in early 17th-century Bundi as expressed in both visual and literary texts from the period. A band of murals at the Badal Mahal of the Bundi palace, painted during the time of Rao Ratan Singh (r. 1607–31), contains numerous depictions of elephants around the palace grounds, as well as scenes of warriors hunting.  Through the use of these two symbols of war – the elephant and the hunt – Bundi artists presented the Hada lords as warrior kings in their own right. Elephants also feature frequently in the biography of Rao Ratan in Shatrushalya Charitra, a Sanskrit poem composed around 1635 AD, where they similarly signify martial vigour. Instead of hunting prowess, however, the poem lauds Rao Ratan’s successes in battle and thus has to acknowledge his military service on behalf of the Mughal empire, with considerable ambivalence about his subordination to them.

The Rulers of Bundi in Mughal-Period Literary Culture
Busch, Allison
Vol. 67 No. 3, March 2016; ISBN: 978-93-83243-11-2, pp. 96-111

This chapter explores portrayals of the Bundi rulers in Mughal-period literature, with a special emphasis on the Hindi archive. Hindi literature served as an important tool of royal self-presentation for early modern regional courts and the chapter proposes fruitful grounds for comparison between poetry and painting because both served encomiastic functions and inscribed dynastic memory. Another theme is political ethics, for Hindi poems produced at Bundi and beyond offer clues about the value systems that undergirded the relationships between the Mughal emperors and Rajput rulers. We also see signs of how Rajput courts perceived one another. Rajput kings on occasion contested the political status quo, although what strikes a modern reader most is the consonance between Mughal and Rajput political idioms. A better understanding of Hindi sources, in any case, provides a valuable perspective that complements the more usual Persian sources on this period.

Painted Palaces: Early 17th-Century Rajput Architectural Decoration
Rothfarb, Edward Leland
Vol. 67 No. 3, March 2016; ISBN: 978-93-83243-11-2, pp. 112-129

This chapter focuses on early 17th-century wall paintings at the Rajput courts of Orchha, Amber and Bundi, kingdoms that had forged alliances with the Mughal empire in the late 16th century. Such alliances fostered greater power and wealth for Rajput rulers who began building impressive new palaces beginning in the very late 16th century. The painted decoration of these palaces exhibits an intriguing and vibrant array of artistic choices drawn from multiple sources.  Not only is there a heightened development of local styles grounded in Rajput artistic traditions but there is also evidence of increasing exposure to Mughal courtly and visual culture through the adaptation of Mughal styles and iconography associated with the reign of Jahangir. Each of these courts negotiated its own architectural and decorative style according to its resources, the messages it wished to communicate and its ambitions.

The Rang Vilas Garden: An Unusual Rajput Chaharbagh at Bundi
Ruggles, D. Fairchild
Vol. 67 No. 3, March 2016; ISBN: 978-93-83243-11-2, pp. 130-143

In the Bundi palace the Rang Vilas’s courtyard has the plan of a chaharbagh with a central pool and paved walkways dividing it into quadrants. Murals in the adjacent hall show the palace surrounded by a landscape of pleasure gardens and one courtyard chaharbagh that seems to represent the Rang Vilas garden itself. The chaharbagh in this Rajput setting is like the many other artistic and architectural techniques and motifs exchanged between Hindus and Muslims in South Asia in which forms were embraced, but symbolic meanings were changed in the process. The garden in Bundi clearly did not represent the paradise promised to the Muslim faithful in the afterlife. Instead it celebrated nature as a place of beauty, ease, pleasure and order.