Rajasthan Travel Guide


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Quick Facts About Rajasthan :
Capital : Jaipur
Population : 56,473,122
Area : 342,236 km˛
Official languages : Hindi, Rajasthani
Literacy : 61.03 %
Major Tourist Destination : Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Pushkar
Best Time To Visit : September To March
Take a desert - burning sand in the long summers, large tracts of dune-decked plains, with scare water and even scarcer vegetation- and create a habitation with the mind's eye, if you can. And then come to Rajasthan to see if your imagination can begin to match where reality takes over.

Aeons ago, it is believed, Shri Ram drew an arrow in his bow. The target was Lanka, the island capital where his wife was held captive be the demon king Ravana. However, such was the power of its annihilation that the gods pleaded with Ram to desist from his intended purpose. Unfortunately, the arrow, once drawn, could not be withdrawn. Ram pointed the arrow at a distant sea, and let it escape. The heat generated by the arrow dried the sea, and in its place there arose a desert, dry, arid, and hot.

Desert of Rajasthan

Not surprisingly, myth and reality coalesce. Fossils excavated in the Thar desert reveal the remains of marine life. And the sand on the surface of the desert ripples and moves, forever creating new layers of waves as the wind dances across its surface. For in its unconscious heart, perhaps, lies the memory of the sea that once shimmered in its place.

It was to this arid desert, centuries ago, that man journeyed. Its earliest inhabitants were part of an urban civilization that arose 4,500 years ago. Recent excavations of the remains of the Indus Valley Civilization reveal that the settlements penetrated deep into the heart of the desert. Archaeologists and art-historians have theorised that the citadels and the manner of building along narrow lanes that dissect each other at right angles are uncannily similar to more recent settlements.

The Indus Valley civilization went into decline, the causes for which still remain unknown, though there is academic speculation on everything from earthquakes to invasions as the probable cause. It is easy to imagine that nothing but the desert winds howled here for centuries. In other parts of the world, other civilizations arose, and with them developed a sophisticated network of trade that linked different continents. When maritime activity arose, for the most part Europe was linked to Asia along a trade rout that traversed West Asia and journeyed through the vest spaces of the desert to the rich plains of Hindustan, and then on to the Hindukush mountains and beyond, to China.

These caravans attracted supporting commercial services, and the sarais of the desert soon became settlements. The invaders followed. And then came the settlers who, in return for the protection they offered these caravans, levied a tax on the goods they carried through their territory. So began the transformation of the desert.

Camels In Desert of Rajasthan

The kinds were Rajputs, part of the Kshatriya clan of warriors who had once held much of Hindustan under their sway. But with internecine wars, the coming of stronger foes, and sustained foreign invasions, their centres of power collapsed. Bereft of their kingdoms, they looked for the opportunity, and the place, where they could lay the foundations once more for kingdoms they could command. The Thar became their refuge.

Here they came, the Rajputs, to a land where the Aravalli hills lay like a beam across the desert. And here they built themselves magnificent citadels to their power. These kings, and the sons of the kings, ruled once more, and today the region where their once-mighty kingdoms commanded respect is called Rajasthan, the land of the rulers.

Rajasthan's medieval history is as rich in tales of valour and chivalry as it is in folklore. Deeply religious, the people built, besides their fortifications and their palaces, splendid temples, elaborate wells, handsome mansion, and memorials to their dead. Celebrated for their valour on the field, the rulers were also known for the sensitivity with which they offered patronage to artists. No wonder, Rajasthan is also known as the world's richest centre for arts and crafts.

Today, little in Rajasthan has changed because the history that was its past is inextricably linked with its present. It was here the armies of everyone from invaders to those of the Marathas, the Mughals and the British laid siege. While the kingdoms celebrated their victories, their defeats were cataclysmic: the warriors went to the battlefield to kill or be killed, and when they lost, their womenfolk underwent the elaborate if slightly macabre act of jauhar or voluntary acceptance of death by jumping in a ritual fire-pit.

Rajasthani Men

In later years, as peace became common, the rulers created stately palaces outside their forts, most of which are now open to visitors as hotels or museums. Camels and cars coexist as means of transportation. The handcrating skills of the craftspeople cater to international designer needs with the same expertise as local ones.

Which is why, sometimes, when the wind sings, and the sands shift, and the voice of a passing minstrel finds an echo in the halls of a deserted palace, it is easy to imagine oneself transported into an age long ago when even fairy tales might have been true.

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