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  /  Rajasthan   /  Rajasthan – The Land Of Sand And Sky

Rajasthan – The Land Of Sand And Sky

From rugged fortresses and stark deserts to idyllic lakes and extravagant places, Rajasthan is a land of memorable sights and startling contrasts.
Rajasthan, the ‘land of the Rajputs’, is perhaps the most iconic of all the India’s 29 states. Home to some of the country’s most unforgettable sights, this is a land of vivid colors and even more arresting fortresses conceal exquisitely decorated palaces, havelis and temples, while further south the sands of the Thar Desert give way to the craggy and densely forested hills and river valleys of the Aravalli’s, the haunt of antelopes, leopards and one of the world’s largest population of wild.

People Of Rajasthan

The people of Rajasthan have thrived in its harsh environment and developed fascinating and varied societies and cultures.
people of rajasthan
Rajasthan’s inhabitants are noted for their ability to shape and decorated their environment, and no visitors to the region will fail to notice the colorful local dress, vibrant traditions of music and dance, and the murals painted on many walls. Ecological adversity and a long federal history has made Rajasthan a fascinating land of palaces and forts, but left the state with very low agricultural productivity and a near-total absence of modern industry until just a few decades ago. It is not uncommon for large tracts of Rajasthan to face water, food and fodder scarcity for several consecutive years, even in years of normal rainfall, in many villages women daily trudge several miles to fetch water. Despite this, the people have managed to develop lifestyles which sustain then in this harsh environment.

Religion, Myth and Folklore

Although predominantly Hindu. Rajasthan is also home to a number of important Muslim and Jain communities and shrines.
Religion in Rajasthan ranges from the worship of local deities to austere Sanskritik ritual. Most Rajasthanis are either Hindus, Jains or worship Adivasi deities, but there is also a substantial Muslin population as well as small number of Christians. Religious tolerance has also been a striking feature of Rajasthan’s history, with Hindus, Muslims, Jains and the followers of other faiths living together in relative harmony, even during times of great national communal strife such as the 1947 Partition and the anti-Sikh riots following the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984.

Music and Dance

Rajasthan has a huge variety of performance traditions that continue to entertain locals and visitors alike.
Rajasthan is home to a fascinating range of music and dance, which varies from region to region and is often associated with local festivals. Particularly important is the long and complex history of patronage that sustained many different groups of performers. 

Rajasthan's Top Attractions

Discover Rajasthan’s most unmissable sights, from the vibrant bazaars of Jaipur to the majestic fort of Chittaurgarh, the wild tigers of Ranthambore and the idyllic lakeside city of Udaipur.


city palace
Jaipur’s glory dimmed following the death of Iswari Singh. As the Marathas pushed up through northern India, they kept close control over their puppet rulers in Jaipur. Suddenly, the tables were turned when the Marathas quarrelled amongst themselves. The British then swapped sides to defend the Rajputs, closing their pincer-hold on the princes. An alliance with Jaipur in 1803 helped further counter Maratha onslaughts, and although Jaipur sacrificed independence for British domination and protection, life for the rulers was good. Massive amounts of wealth poured in. And, after 1835, Jaipur had no wars to pay for, so rulers indulged themselves and their fancies in their luxurious City Palace. The main entrance to the City Palace complex  (9.30am–5.30pm; entrance and video charge) is through the grand Tripolia (triple-arched gate), cutting through the centre of the southern wall just beyond the Iswari Minar, although this is now only used by Jaipur aristocracy on major festive occasions. Lesser mortals now enter through Atish Pol (Stable Gate, also known as Udai Pol) further along on the left.
From Atish Pol, walk through another tunnel-style gateway and turn right turn to reach Chandni Chowk (Moonlight Square), a small courtyard which is home to the palace’s stables. Gainda ki Deorhi (Rhinoceros Gate), round the corner, leads into the heart of the palace. The whole complex is arranged around two main courtyards, with the private quarters of the ruler beyond, featuring a flamboyant array of buildings mingling Hindu and Mughal styles.


junagarh fort
A few hundred metres northeast of the old city is Junagarh Fort (daily 10am– 5.30pm; entrance, camera and video charge), in 1587 one of the finest in Rajasthan, despite lacking the commanding hilltop setting of the forts at Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Amber, Chittaurgarh and elsewhere. Construction of the fort began during the reign of Akbar’s contemporary, Rai Singh and was largely complete by the mid 1590s, although subsequent rulers added numerous additions and embellishments, giving the complex its eclectic architectural character. There are 37 separate palace apartments, pavilions and temples within the fort complex, protected by the massive enclosing ramparts and round towers and connected by paved courtyards, painted galleries and staircases narrow enough to be defended by a single warrior. Bikaner’s crimson and saffron standard still flies over this Rathor stronghold, cared for by a family trust. Despite its relatively unprotected setting, Junagarh is one of the few forts in India which was never conquered, although it was often attacked. Women who committed sati down the centuries left their handprints on the wall facing the huge spiked gate – the Daulat Pol – leading to an eerie enclosure which opens on the main courtyard. Behind the multi-storied Anup Mahal façade lie well-preserved chambers where the rulers lived, surrounded by relations and retainers. From the latticed windows women watched the outside world without breaking purdah. For four centuries Junagarh was the heart of an important autonomous kingdom where the public came daily, as a matter of right, to lay their problems and petitions before their maharaja, or to eat at the communal kitchen from which no one could be turned away hungry. 
The fort houses a number of historic treasures which are on public display. The rarest of these is the ancient pugal or sandalwood throne of the Kanauj kings, possibly the oldest piece of furniture existing in India. This was one of the Rathor heirlooms brought from Jodhpur by Bikaji after the deaths of his father and elder brother. Another is Bikaji’s small silver-legged bed. Remembering how his grandfather, Rao Riddmall, was tied to his own bed and treacherously killed at Chittaurgarh by enemies who had hidden under the bed, Bika always slept on a low, narrow bed under which no one could hide. Sitting or sleeping on this bed is strictly taboo even for members of Bika’s dynasty. Entering the fort and continuing on through Daulat Pol, a passageway lead visitors up into the intimate Vikram Vilas courtyard, beyond which is the fort’s main courtyard, surrounded by some of the palace’s oldest and most beautiful rooms.
The walls of the 17th-century Karan Mahal are so skillfully painted with gold leaf and jewel tones that it seems like outrageously expensive pietra dura inlay, although in fact the walls are not even marble, but simply lime plaster polished to perfection with shells. Above the chamber you can see a traditional punkah, a kind of fan which was operated by a rope pulled by a specially appointed servant, the punkah-wallah, and which was the best that even the rulers of Rajasthan enjoyed in the way of air-conditioning before the advent of electricity. The enclosed area beyond Karan Mahal is the lovely Rai Niwas, part of Rai Singh’s original palace. The white marble pool here not only beautifies the palace but also functions as a cooling system.


lallgarh palace
Set in the open countryside around 2.5km (1.5 miles) north of the centre is Bikaner’s other principal royal residence, the Lallgarh Palace. Designed around 1900 by Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob for Maharaja Ganga Singh, the place complex is a splendid blend of Orientalist fantasy and European luxury. It now houses a pair of upmarket hotels (the Laxmi Niwas and the Lallgarh Palace; www.laxminiwaspalace.com and www.lallgarhpalace.com), while a museum occupies another wing. The rambling complex is built round an open garden court overlooked by the zenana (ladies’ apartments) windows. Local craftsmen carved the tracery of its cupolas, umbrella domes, balconies, balustrades, pillars, windows and walls with such skill that the solid red sandstone took on the look of delicate lace. Statues of Queen Victoria and King Edward VII greet visitors in the entrance hall. Beyond, a cloister of peacock arches surrounds the stately marble courtyard of the Laxmi Bilas. 
The main drawing room, library, billiard room, card room, smoking room, and guest suites are located here. All have Belgian or Bohemian crystal chandeliers reflected in huge mirrors over the fireplaces, and carpets repeating the intricate ceiling carvings or mouldings. The marble corridors connecting the whole palace are lined with hunting trophies, lithographs and bronzes. The Shiv Bilas dining room (seats 400), with its hunting trophies and wildlife paintings, remains unchanged, as do the original autographed photographs of European, Asian and India royalty in crested silver frames which hang in a reception hall near the ADC Room. Also within the museum complex is the Shri Sadul Museum (Mon–Sat 10am–5pm; entrance, camera and video charge), housing a vast collection of royal bric-a-brac including hundreds of historic photographs showing assorted colonial aristocrats and scions of the royal line, amongst them a picture of Ganga Singh himself at the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.


jaisalmer fort
Jaisalmer Fort At the heart of the old city is Jaisalmer Fort – or the Sonar Kila (Golden Fort), as it is also known – set on top the slope-sided Tricuta, the highest rock-hill in the vast surrounding plain, marooned amidst an undulating sea of ochre sand. The royal palace stands at the highest point of the fort and is contained within double ramparts almost 100 metres (325ft) above the marketplace. Thus, the royal apartments could be shut off in case of need. Entering through Ganesh Pol from Manik Chowk (main market) leads up a steep incline paved with large flagstones past Suraj Pol, the Sun Gate. The winding path is wide enough to have permitted four fully armed warriors to ride abreast. The silver Imperial Umbrella, symbol of protection, rises on Megh Durbar, the Cloud Tower, while nearby is another tower used as a sentinel’s look-out. Bhointa Pol, the Turn Gate, stands square on a sharp curve. Its name has been corrupted to Bhoota Pol, the Haunted Gate, as it has been the scene of many a bloody fight. Nearby is a temple to the Goddess Bhavani, a warlike aspect of the mother deity. As protectress of the warrior Bhattis, it is to her that the Rajputs offered puja (worship) before going into battle. Alongside is a smaller shrine to the benign elephant-headed god, Ganesh, remover of obstacles. 
No doubt he got his share of petitions from the departing soldiers for their safe return. Finally, Hawa Pol, the Wind Gate, stands sentinel to the royal palaces and leads to the main square within the fort, known as Dussehra Chowk or simply Main Chowk. This spacious square was where the Rawal could hear petitions, review troops or entertain visiting royalty to spectacular shows during festivals or marriages. It was also here that the johar took place.
Facing the palace, to the left is a flight of marble steps, at the head of which is an imposing white marble throne for the monarch. By its side is a disused covered well, Jaisal’s Well, which is said to have been built over a spring visited by Lord Krishna. Returning down the steps, to the right is a Kali Temple, dedicated to the goddess of destruction. Dominating the square is the stately Palace of the Maharawal, former residence of the city’s rulers, whose soaring, richly carved façade amongst the finest in the city. Much of the interior is now open as the Fort Palace Museum (daily 9am–6pm; entrance and video charge) with a sequence of richly decorated rooms, although built on a far smaller scale than other royal palaces around the state.