Welcome to Royal Rajasthan
( LAND OF MAHARAJAS - FORTS & PALACES )
Area: 342,239 sq. km
Population: 49.7 million
Main Language: Rajasthani, Marwari & Hindi
Best time to visit: mid October to mid March
Rajasthan, the land of Kings and Warriors, is India at its exotic and colourful best with its palaces of breathtaking grandeur, battled scarred forts and whimsical charm, its riotous colours and even its romantic sense of pride and honour. The State is diagonally divided into the hilly and rugged south-eastern region and the barren north-western Thar Desert, which extends across the border into Pakistan. There are plenty of historic cities, incredible fortresses awash with legends and rare gems of impressionistic beauty, such as Udaipur. There are also a number of centers that attract tourists from far and wide such as Pushkar with its holy lake and the Desert City of Jaisalmer, which resembles a fantasy from The Thousand & One Nights.
The State is the home of the Rajputs, a group of warrior clans who have controlled this part of India for 1000 years. According to a code of chivalry and honour akin to that of medieval European knights. While temporary alliances and marriages of convenience were the order of the day, pride and independence were always paramount. The Rajputs were therefore, never able to present a united front against a common aggressor. Much of their energy was spent squabbling among themselves and the resultant weakness eventually led to their becoming vassal states of the Mughal Empire. Nevertheless, their bravery and sense of honour was unparalleled.
Rajasthan CultureWith the decline of the Mughal empire, the Rajputs gradually clawed back their independence, through a series of spectacular victories, but then a new force appeared on the scene in the form of the British. As the Raj expanded, most Rajput states signed articles of alliance with the British, which allowed them to continue as independent states, each with its own Maharaja or similarly titled leader, subject to certain political and economic constraints. These alliances proved to be the beginning of the end for the Rajput rulers. At Independence, India's ruling Congress Party was forced to make a deal with the nominally independent Rajput states in order to secure their agreement to join the new India. The rulers were allowed to keep their titles, their property holdings were secured and they were paid an annual stipend commensurate with their status. But this couldn't last forever, given India's socialist persuasion. The crunch came in the early 1970's when Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of the country abolished both the titles and the stipends and severely sequestered their property rights. While some of the rulers have survived this by converting their palaces into luxury hotels, many have fallen by the wayside, unable to cope with the financial and managerial demands of the late 20th century.
As castle, forts and country estate are steadily being converted into hotels even Rajasthan's most romantically inaccessible outposts are opening up. From the richly painted havelis (mansions) of Shekhawati in the north to the magnificent Jain temples of Mount Abu or Ranakpur in the south, the state's wealth of history and art provides a unique opportunity to see something of a disappearing world.
Rajasthan literally, "Land of Kings" or "Land of Kingdoms"), is India's largest state by area (342,239 square kilometres (132,139 sq mi) or 10.4% of India's total area). It is located on the western side of the country, where it comprises most of the wide and inhospitable Thar Desert (also known as the "Rajasthan Desert" and "Great Indian Desert") and shares a border with Pakistan along the Sutlej-Indus river valley. Elsewhere it is bordered by other Indian states: Gujarat to the southwest; Madhya Pradesh to the southeast; Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to the northeast; and Punjab to the north. Its features include the ruins of the Indus Valley Civilization at Kalibanga; the Dilwara Temples, a Jain pilgrimage site at Rajasthan's only hill station, Mount Abu, in the ancient Aravalli mountain range; and, in eastern Rajasthan, the Keoladeo National Park near Bharatpur, a World Heritage Site known for its bird life. Rajasthan is also home to two national tiger reserves, the Ranthambore National Park in Sawai Madhopur and Sariska Tiger Reserve in Alwar. The state was formed on 30 March 1949 when Rajputana - the name adopted by the British Raj for its dependencies in the region - was merged into the Dominion of India. Its capital and largest city is Jaipur, located on the state's eastern side.
Rajasthani is a language of the Indo-Aryan languages family. It is spoken by 20 million people in Rajasthan and neighbouring states of India and Pakistan, or 50 million if Marwari is counted as Rajasthani, as it often is. It is one of the languages descended from old western Rajasthani, aka Maru-Gujar or Maruwani, the other being modern Gujarati. Most of the Rajasthani dialects are chiefly spoken in the state of Rajasthan but are also spoken in Gujarat, Haryana and Punjab.
How to Reach
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NH 8 between Udaipur and Ahmedabad.
Rajasthan is connected by many national highways. Most renowned being NH 8, which is India's first 4-8 lane highway. Rajasthan also has an inter-city surface transport system both in terms of railways and bus network. All chief cities are connected by air, rail and road.
There are three main airports at Rajasthan- Jaipur International Airport, Udaipur Airport, and Jodhpur Airport. These airports connect Rajasthan with the major cities of India such as Delhi and Mumbai. There are two other airports in Kota and Jaisalmer, but are not open for commercial/civilian flights yet. Jaisalmer airport is open for civilians but only during season time (from August to March).
Rajasthan is connected with the main cities of India by rail. Jaipur, Alwar, Kota, Bikaner, Ajmer, Udaipur, Abu Road and Jodhpur are the principal railway stations in Rajasthan. Kota City is the only Electrified Section served by three Rajdhani Expresses and trains to all major cities of India. There is also an international railway, the Thar Express from Jodhpur to Karachi. However, this is not open to foreign nationals.
Rajasthan is well connected to the main cities of the country including Delhi, Ahmedabad and Indore by State and National Highways and served by Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation (RSRTC) and Private operators.
Rajasthan is culturally rich and has artistic and cultural traditions which reflect the ancient Indian way of life. There is rich and varied folk culture from villages which is often depicted and is symbolic of the state. Highly cultivated classical music and dance with its own distinct style is part of the cultural tradition of Rajasthan. The music is uncomplicated and songs depict day-to-day relationships and chores, more often focused around fetching water from wells or ponds.
Rajasthani cooking was influenced by both the war-like lifestyles of its inhabitants and the availability of ingredients in this arid region. Food that could last for several days and could be eaten without heating was preferred. Scarcity of water and fresh green vegetables have all had their effect on the cooking. It is known for its snacks like Bikaneri Bhujia, Mirchi Bada, Pyaaj Kachori and ghevar. Other famous dishes include bajre ki roti (millet bread) and lashun ki chutney (hot garlic paste), mawa kachori from Jodhpur, Alwar ka Mawa(Milk Cake), malpauas from Pushkar and rassgollas from Bikaner. Originating for the Marwar region of the state is the concept Marwari Bhojnalaya, or vegetarian restaurants, today found in many part of India, which offer vegetarian food of the Marwari people.
Dal-Bati-Churma is very popular in Rajasthan. Traditional way to serve it is to first coarsely mash the Baati then pour pure Ghee on top of it. It is served with the daal (lentils) and spicy garlic chutney. Also served with Besan (gram flour) ki kadi . It is commonly served at all festivities, including religious occasions, wedding ceremonies, and birthday parties in Rajasthan. "Dal-Baati-Churma", is a combination of three different food items - Daal (lentils), Baati and Churma (Sweet). It is a typical Rajasthani dish.
The Ghoomar dance from Udaipur and Kalbeliya dance of Jaisalmer have gained international recognition. Folk music is a vital part of Rajasthani culture. Kathputli, Bhopa, Chang, Teratali, Ghindr, Kachchhighori, Tejaji, etc. are the examples of the traditional Rajasthani culture. Folk songs are commonly ballads which relate heroic deeds and love stories; and religious or devotional songs known as bhajans and banis (often accompanied by musical instruments like dholak, sitar, sarangi etc.) are also sung.
Rajasthan is known for its traditional, colourful art. The block prints, tie and dye prints, Bagaru prints, Sanganer prints, and Zari embroidery are major export products from Rajasthan. Handicraft items like wooden furniture and crafts, carpets, and blue pottery are commonly found here. Rajasthan is a shoppers' paradise, with beautiful goods at low prices. Reflecting the colourfulculture, Rajasthani clothes have a lot of mirror-work and embroidery. A Rajasthani traditional dress for females comprises an ankle-length skirt and a short top, also known as a lehenga or a chaniya choli. A piece of cloth is used to cover the head, both for protection from heat and maintenance of modesty. Rajasthani dresses are usually designed in bright colours like blue, yellow and orange.
The main religious festivals are Deepawali, Holi, Gangaur, Teej, Gogaji, Shri Devnarayan Jayanti, Makar Sankranti and Janmashtami, as the main religion is Hinduism. Rajasthan's desert festival is held once a year during winter. Dressed in brilliantly hued costumes, the people of the desert dance and sing ballads. There are fairs with snake charmers, puppeteers, acrobats and folk performers. Camels play a role in this festival.
Spirit possession has been documented in modern Rajasthan. Some of the spirits possessing Rajasthanis are seen as good and beneficial, while others are seen as malevolent. The good spirits include murdered royalty, the underworld god Bhaironji, and Muslim saints. Bad spirits include perpetual debtors who die in debt, stillborn infants, deceased widows, and foreign tourists. The possessed individual is referred to as a ghorala ("mount"). Possession, even if it is by a benign spirit, is regarded as undesirable, as it entails loss of self-control and violent emotional outbursts.
Rajasthan attracted 14 percent of total foreign visitors during 2009-2010 which is the fourth highest among Indian states. It is fourth also in Domestic tourist visitors. Endowed with natural beauty and a great history, tourism is a flourishing industry in Rajasthan. The palaces of Jaipur and Ajmer-Pushkar, the lakes of Udaipur, the desert forts of Jodhpur, Taragarh Fort (Star Fort) in Bundi, and Bikaner and Jaisalmer rank among the most preferred destinations in India for many tourists both Indian and foreign. Tourism accounts for eight percent of the state's domestic product. Many old and neglected palaces and forts have been converted into heritage hotels. Tourism has increased employment in the hospitality sector.
Rajasthan is famous for its forts, intricately carved temples, and decorated havelis, which were built by Rajput kings in pre-Muslim era Rajasthan. Rajasthan's Jaipur Jantar Mantar, Dilwara Temples, Chittorgarh Fort, Lake Palace, miniature paintings in Bundi, and numerous city palaces and havelis are an important part of the architectural heritage of India. Jaipur, the Pink City, is noted for the ancient houses made of a type of sand stone dominated by a pink hue. In Bundi, maximum houses are painted blue. At Ajmer, the white marble Bara-dari on the Anasagar lake is exquisite. Jain Temples dot Rajasthan from north to south and east to west. Dilwara Temples of Mount Abu, Ranakpur Temple dedicated to Lord Adinath in Pali District, Jain temples in the fort complexes of Chittor, Jaisalmer and Kumbhalgarh, Lodurva Jain temples, Mirpur Jain Temple, Sarun Mata Temple kotputli, Bhandasar and Karni Mata Temple of Bikaner are some of the best examples.