Rajasthan OverviewLocation :
North West IndiaCapital :
56.5 millionArea :
342,239 sq. kmLanguages :
Hindi and Rajasthani dialectsBordering state :
Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, PunjabBest time to visit :
September to April
"…architectural perfection of the Dilwara temples…world's biggest turban in Udaipur, 'the city of lakes'...few of the world's oldest, mightiest and aesthetically profound forts at Jaisalmer, Jaipur, Kumbhalgarh, and Jodhpur… interesting holy Kaba rats at the Karni temple… camel safaris on the unending sand dunes of the great Indian Thar desert at Bikaner…elephant ride to climb the Amer fort… the swirling ghoomar dance…full throated folk songs…delectable Daal-bati… camel trade festival of Pushkar …exciting tiger trails at Ranthambore… heritage bird's sanctuary of Bharatpur…"
No doubt, the above excerpt only beats about the endless list of royal, folk and natural appeals of Rajasthan, a destination so unique. As is the size and varieties in its rajasthani thali (food plate of rajasthan) so is the magnificence and touristy composition in its vast desert potpourri. With its rich, unique and living heritage of architecture, arts, crafts, music, dances, cuisines et al that evolved over a period of around 1000 years, this "Land of the Kings" offers a wholesome cultural feast. The feast is spiced up at the numerous local fairs and festivals when these colorful aspects of rajasthan come together and get unfolded on a grand scale. A wild & exciting turn to the rajasthani course comes at its treasure houses of exclusive biodiversity that the other regions of this world are falling short of.
A rich and strong cultural fabric woven out of the legacy of warriors, saints, artisans, musicians and the need of the time and a nature's blessed habitat for the wildlife, there are aspects that set rajasthan apart from the rest of the tourist's haunt:Awe-inspiring architecture
- Commanding forts, palaces, havelis, temples and other monuments embossing the rock and desert landscape
- The life-instilling and fine stonework and frescoes on the walls, jalis, friezes etc of these architectural masterpieces.
Not-to-be-missed are the Forts of Amber (Jaipur), Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Chittorgarh and Kumbhalgarh; Palaces of Jaipur and Udaipur; Havelis of Shekhawati and Jaisalmer; Temples at Ranakpur, Mount Abu (Dilwara) and OsiyanColorful Arts and crafts
- Clay work and blue pottery
- Interesting & beautiful art of bhandani (tie & dye textiles) and chapayi (hand block prints) of decorating bright colored ghagra (skirt), odhni (stole) and pagri (turbans) and bedcovers, cushion-covers etc
- The world famous gems and jewelries and minakari (enameling) & kundankari technique (lapidary)
- Miniature rajasthani paintings in their bright and bold lines depicting social, religious, ethnic, or royal influences of different times and regions
- Durries or Carpets of Persian design and depicting various themes, scenes and patterns
- Leather work to make jootis (shoes), purses, saddle, musical instrument like tabla, dhol etc
One can shop these arts and crafts of Rajasthan from Jaipur, which is the shopping center for the state. Multi-Cuisine kitchen
A wide array of delicious spicy rajasthani cuisine prepared out of pure ghee be it sulas (chicken, pheasant, mutton, or fish) for the non-veggies or daal-bati, misi-roti etc.Folk Music and Dance
Lively ethnic Music and Dance mark festivities and are accompanied by interesting folk instruments, props and songs - kalbeliya dance (snake dance), ghoomar, chari, gair dance etc. Fairs & festivals
There is no better place than Rajasthan to realize that India is a land of Festivals and fairs. Irrespective of their purpose - mythological, livestock trade, commemorate a hero or a saint or harvest or a new season or tourism demanded - more or less, these are the showcase of rajasthan's colorful and spirited social & cultural heritage that lives in its arts, crafts, music, dance, people and their camels and cattle.Heritage Wildlife
Rajasthan also boasts of a rich wildlife in the wetlands around the Bharatpur, sub-tropical forests of Mt.Abu, dry deciduous hill forests of the Aravallis and arid desert of the Thar. Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary at Bharatpur is a UNESCO World heritage property' for its unique resident and migratory bird's collection like Saras Crane (one of the world's rarest birds) and black-necked Stork (world's tallest stork). Ranthambore National Park is one of India's most frequented tiger reserveHeritage Accommodations and Train
Being in and around the dominating desolation and sandscapes of this largest state of India seems testing on its face. Instead, one experiences the full flavor of rajasthan from the royal comforts of around 40 heritage accommodations at forts, palaces and havelis, the 'Palace-on-wheels' train or overland safari across the vast and beautiful countryside. Above all, a colorful and very hospitable human touch offsets the otherwise inhospitable terrain.
Rajasthan Destinations / Experiences
|Destinations/ Circuits / Regions ||Experiences||Introduction|
|Jaipur Heritage Capital ||Forts, palaces, shopping, elephant ride, Festivals (elephant festival), Cultural performances||The cultural hub of India, Jaipur is one of the most enticing and consequently the best selling tourist destinations of the country. In the year 1727, the Rajput ruler Sawai Jai Singh commissioned a Bengali architect Vidyadhar Bhattacharya to design a city to accommodate the increasing population of his existing kingdom Amber. Vidyadhar also lived up to his expectations and designed the first planned city of India befitting the glamour, glory and grandeur of the Rajputs. The city was painted in pink, a color of hospitality, to welcome Prince of Wales in the year 1876.|
|Shekhawati region||Heritage & art in the form of paintings||The semi arid triangular region of Shekhawati that lies between Bikaner, Jaipur and Delhi may seem uninteresting in the first look but it is definitely of considerable interest for those who have a taste for art and paintings.|
The region does not have mighty forts as the other parts of Rajasthan. Come here to see minor forts, havelis & baolis, (mostly built between late 18th and early 20th century) that may not be grand enough to inspire you with awe but attractive enough to elicit praise. All of them are tastefully decorated with mirror work and fresco paintings in which blue and maroon colors dominate. Initially the subject of these paintings included the scenes from every day life of the natives, incarnations of Lord Vishnu, wars and battles but in the later years the interaction with the British and exposure to modern urban trends influenced the themes. Now the pictures of British with hats, motor cars, aeroplanes, gramophones and telephones became the favorites with the painters.
|Udaipur "City of lakes" ||Regal Heritage ||Capital of the legendary Sisodias of Mewar, who fought the fiercest battles against the foreign intruders, Udaipur, was built on the shores of Lake Pichola by Udai Singh II in 1559, when his former capital, Chittorgarh was sacked by the Mughal emperor Akbar. The 5 lakes that dot Udaipur have earned for it the sobriquet of 'The City Of Lakes'. The history savants throng the city to explore its palaces, havelis, museums while its fabled lakes, and beautiful surroundings make it a hot spot for the honeymooners. The picturesque city has lured many Hollywood and Bollywood big shots to shoot here some of the legendry movies like 'Octopussy' (a James Bond hit), 'Jewel in Crown', 'Guide' and recently 'Eklavya' further popularizing the city worldwide. |
Besides the local sightseeing options there are a few very interesting excursions that can enhance your experience of the destination. Among them, the fort of Chittorgarh and Kumbhalgarh testify the grandeur and might of the Sisodias while the Ranakpur temples exhibit their architectural refinement.
|Jodhpur "Architectural delight" ||Heritage monuments and museums ||Standing on the threshold of the Thar Desert, Jodhpur is the second biggest city in Rajasthan after the capital city of Jaipur. It was founded by Rao Jodha, leader of the Rathore clan in 1459. The city seems to be capped by the rugged Meherangarh fort that rises majestically above the town area suggesting the turbulent past of Marwar. The old city is encircled by a 10 km long wall. The distinction between the old and new city is evident from the fort. While the old city has the impressive fort the new city has a large defense contingent, as it lies near Pakistan border, indicating that times may have changed but the military importance of it has not. |
From the fort it appears as if there is a blue sea beneath - a sea of blue buildings. The houses washed in blue, once painted so as to distinguish the residences of the Brahmins who formed the upper strata of the society from the others, have now become the hall mark of Jodhpur and earned for it the sobriquet of The Blue City. The famed city has been the shooting venue for Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book that features Sam Neill and John Cleese. The tight fit trousers worn for horse riding get their name Jodhpurs from Jodhpur city.
|Bikaner The Oasis town ||The rat temple, Kalibangan and Harappan sites, camel Safaris, ||The first impression of Bikaner is that of a town among scrub and sand dunes. The rocky outcrop in a barren landscape provides a dramatic setting for the Junagarh Fort, One of the finest in Western Rajasthan. The old walled city retains a medieval air and is home to over 300 Havelis, while outside the walls some stunning havelis survive. |
As scenic as Jaisalmer but far less commercial, further off, desert villages such as kakoo offer an accessible insight into rural desert life.
A little off the usual route, Bikaner is worth a visit and en route to Jaisalmer from Jaipur or Shekhawati.
|Jaisalmer Gateway to Desert ||Desert Safari on camel Back, Majestic Fort, Havelis ||A city as magical as Jaisalmer at the first sight appears to be a magnificent sand ship approaching towards you as you enter its rising city. |
Crenellated Sandstone walls and narrow streets lined with exquisitely carved buildings through which camel carts trundle leisurely - That is Jaisalmer for you.
Founded by the prince Jaisal in 1156, this city gradually grew to a strong trade route across the forbidding Thar desert from India to the west. The merchants prospered and invested a part of their wealth in beautifying the city by building temples and beautiful houses with the local sandstone.
Many of the settlements close to the city have become well used to tourists, so it's worth venturing a little further out to get an idea of life in the desert.
|Ranthambore National Park "Tiger Trail" ||Wildlife safari with the Tiger forming the highlight ||Thankfully, a former hunting ground for the maharajas of Jaipur, Ranthambore National Park is a favorite destination for the wildlife enthusiasts in India today. |
The park is a well spread 1334 sq kms of wildlife habitat guarded by the worn down ranges of the Aravalli and the Vindhya hills. It is majorly a rugged terrain with thick undergrowth disturbed by rocky outcrops and it covers a core area of 275 sq. kms. The river Banas on the north and river Chambal on the south and their off shoots drain the park's ecosystem and make it an ideal habitat for leopard, jackal, hyena, sloth bear, deer, sambar, nilgai and a variety of resident and migratory birds. However, the endangered Tiger eats the maximum footage in any sighting, travelogue, photo-album, souvenir, and brochure and of course, a travel agent's itinerary. And this Project Tiger Reserve since 1973 hardly disappoints anyone.
Safari Fee: Rs. 1350;
Vehicle Entry Fee: Rs. 125;
Guide Fee: Rs. 150
Rajasthan Suggested Holidays
Festival Calender of Rajasthan
|Festival name ||Time of the year ||Introduction|
|Pushkar Fair, Pushkar [135 kms from Jaipur and 12 from Ajmer] ||Oct - Nov [Hindu month of Kartik] ||One of the world's largest camel fairs takes place in Pushkar for a week. Pushkar fair is a grand display of rajasthan's cultural and social spirit - spellbinding folk music and dances, camel races, tug-of-war, camel beauty contests and a . During the fair, Pushkar turns into a bustling temporary tent town when thousands of tourists, pilgrims, local rural people, traders, and camels and more camels tread this otherwise sleepy setting.|
The grand affair actually centers on the trade mart of camels, horses and bullocks and the holy dip in the sacred waters of Pushkar lake and visit to the Temple of Hindu God of Creation, Brahma (the only one in the world). Tourists & pilgrims from around the world and traders from the nearby states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir flock in for their respective businesses.
|Desert Festival Jaisalmer ||Feb 3 days ||A recent addition to colorful festivals of rajasthan is the desert festival of Jaisalmer. It is a celebration of rajasthan's rich arts and crafts. Besides, the lively folk music and dances, colorful bazaars what makes this event delightful is the venue itself, which is the golden Sam's sand dunes near Jaisalmer. Mr. Desert contests, Camels races, Camel Polo, turban-tying contest and a contest for the longest moustache are the highlights of the event. |
|Elephant Festival Jaipur ||Feb - Mar On the Festival of Holi ||India's national festival of Colours, Holi, in Jaipur, is the day to witness yet another kind of festival. Amazingly caparisoned elephants, the symbol of strength, take the center stage - elephant parades, elephant races, elephant polo matches, elephant beauty pageant and elephant vs. man tug-of-war. The Royal Chaugan stadium of Jaipur is the setting for this spectacular jamboree that culminates with colorful melee created by throwing of flowers and colors at each other to celebrate the festival of spring, Holi,. Folk songs, music, dances, camels, and horses complete the patchwork. |
|Nagaur Fair Nagaur (137 km from Jodhpur towards Bikaner) ||Feb 3-4 days ||Thousands of camels and other livestock and thousands of rural people and tourists visit Nagaur, a small town in the Thar desert, to witness a smaller version of Pushkar. |
While the days are busy in the camel races, cock fights tug-of-war etc the late evening show is enlivened by the songs, music and dances of the desert.
|Camel Fair Bikaner ||Jan 2 Days ||It is an annual festival in honor of the Camels, 'Ship of the Desert', organized by the Department of Tourism, Art and Culture, in Bikaner. Considering the role and significance of camels on Rajasthan's vast unfriendly terrain, since the beginning of the desert civilization, it is certainly a rightful attempt. |
Thousands of foreign and Indian tourists migrate to the deserts of Bikaner to enjoy the 2 days of extravaganza showcasing camels at their best - as competition is open for the best-decorated camel, best fur-cutting design on the camel, best breed of camel and fastest camel.
The camels are well groomed for the occasion and ornamented with colorful bejeweled harnesses, saddles, anklets et al from face, neck and withers to the feet. It is certainly a delightful sight to see charms of these creatures all gracefully spruced up for the processions and dances, and contests.
|Festival||Place||Usual Time as per Hindu Calendar|
|Camel Festival||Bikaner||Jan (2 days)|
|Nagaur camel Fair||Nagaur||Feb (4 days)|
|Desert Festival||Jaisalmer||Jan - Feb (3 Days)|
|Baneshwar Fair||Baneshwar (Dungarpur)||Jan - Feb (5 days)|
|Elephant Festival||Jaipur||Feb - March (1 Day, on Holi)|
|Brij Festival||Bharatpur||Feb (2nd -4th Feb)|
|Sheetla Ashtami||Jaipur||March (1 day)|
|Gangaur Festival||Jaipur||March - April (2-3 days)|
|Mewar Festival||Udaipur||March - April (1-2 days)|
|Keladevi Festival||Sawai Madhopur||March - April (1-2 days)|
|Mahavirji Fair||Mahavirji||March - April (7 days)|
|Summer Festival||Mount Abu||May (3 days)|
|Teej Festival||Jaipur||July - Aug ( 2 days)|
|Kajli Teej||Bundi ||Aug (2 days)|
|Ramdeora Fair||Pokharan||Aug - Sep (2 days)|
|Marwar festival||Jodhpur||Oct (2 days)|
|Dussehra Fair||Kota||Oct - Nov (1 day)|
|Pushkar Fair||Pushkar||Oct - Nov (9 days)|
|Chandrabhaga Fair||Jhalawar||Nov (3 days)|
|Kolayat Fair||Bikaner||Nov (10 days)|