RAJASTHAN

The home of Rajputs

AREA: 3, 42,239 SQ KM
POPULATION: 56,473,122
CAPITAL: JAIPUR
PRINCIPAL LANGUAGES: HINDI AND RAJASTHANI

HISTORY AND GEOGRAPHY


Rajasthan, the largest State in India in terms of area, prior to independence, was known as Rajputana or the home of Rajputs—a martial community who ruled over this area for centuries. The history of Rajasthan dates back to the pre-historic times. Around 3,000 and 1,000 BC, it had a culture akin to that of the Indus Valley Civilization. It was the Chauhans who dominated Rajput affairs from seventh century and by 12th century; they had become an imperial power. After the Chauhans, it was the Guhilots of Mewar who controlled the destiny of the warring tribes. Besides Mewar, the other historically prominent states were Marwar, Jaipur, Bundi, Kota, Bharatpur and Alwar, while the other states were only offshoots of these. All these states accepted the British Treaty of Subordinate Alliance in 1818, protecting the interest of the princes. This naturally left the people discontented.

After the revolt of 1857, the people united themselves under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi to contribute to the freedom movement. With the introduction of provincial autonomy in1935 in British India, agitation for civil liberties and political rights became stronger in Rajasthan. The process of uniting the scattered states commenced from 1948 to 1956, when the States Reorganization Act was promulgated. First came Matsya Union (1948), consisting of a fraction of states. Slowly and gradually, other states merged with this Union. By 1949, major states like Bikaner, Jaipur, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer joined this Union, making it the United State of Greater Rajasthan. Ultimately in 1958, the present state of Rajasthan formally came into being, with Ajmer state, the Abu Road Taluka, and Sunel Tappa joining it.

PLACES TO SEE


AJMER: The city was founded by Raja Ajay Pal Chauhan in the 7th Century A.D. and continued to be, a major centre of the Chauhan power till 1193 A.D. Then Prithviraj Chauhan lost it to Mohammed Ghoris, after which Ajmer became home to many dynasties. Today, Ajmer is a popular pilgrimage centre for the Muslims as well as Hindus. Especially famous is the Dargah Sharif-tomb of the Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, which is equally revered both by the Hindus and the Muslims. Ajmer is a centre of culture and education. The British chose Ajmer for its prestigious Mayo College, a school exclusively for Indian nobility at one time. However, now it is one of the best public schools in the country. Ajmer is also the base for visiting Pushkar (14 km.) which has the distinction of having the only Brahma temple in the world. The Picturesque Pushkar Lake is a sacred spot for Hindus.

BIKANER: Lying in the north of the desert State, the city is dotted with scores of sand dunes. Bikaner retains the medieval grandeur that permeates the city’s lifestyle. More readily called the camel country; the city is distinguished for the best riding camels in the world and hence boasts of having one of the largest Camel Research and Breeding farms in the world. The ship of the desert is an inseparable part of life here. A camel besides being a mode of transport, also works on wells. These are built on high plinths with slender minarets on each of the four corners and can be noticed even from a distance. The history of Bikaner dates back to 1486 when a Rathore prince, Rao Bikaji founded his kingdom. Bikaji was one the five sons of Rao Jodhaji the illustrious founder of Jodhpur. But Rao Bikaji was the most adventurous of them. It is said that an insensitive remark from his father about his whispering in the Durbar provoked Bikaji to set up his own kingdom towards the north of Jodhpur.


BUNDI: Bundi is a magnificent town, 36 Kms from Kota, once ruled by the Hada Chauhans. First destination is Hadoti set in a narrow inclining gorge. The palaces and forts have a fairy tale quality about them. Isolated and independent, this picturesque location has much to offer. Rajput architecture shines in the intricately carved brackets and pillars. Interesting places are Diwan-e-aam, Hathia Pol, and Naubat Khana.

BHARATPUR: The history of Bharatpur dates back to the epic age, when the Matsya Kingdom flourished here in the 5th century BC The Matsya were allies of the Pandavas in the Mahabharata war. According to tradition the name of Bharatpur is traced to Bharat, the brother of lord Rama of Ayodhya who’s other brother Laxman was given the high place of family deity of the ruling family of Bharatpur. His name also appears in the state seals and coat-of-arms. Bharatpur is also called the Eastern gateway of Rajasthan. Maharaja Suraj Mal. Apart from being a brave General was also a great builder. He built numerous forts and palaces across the kingdom including the Pleasure Palace complex at Deeg. Bharatpur is today known the world over for its Keoladeo Ghana National Park.

JAIPUR: Jaipur is 260 km from Delhi and 240 km from Agra and forms the golden triangle of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. It a bustling capital city and a business centre with all the trappings of a modern metropolis but yet flavoured strongly with an age-old charm that never fails to surprise a traveler. The old Jaipur painted in Pink can grip any visitor with admiration. Stunning backdrop of ancient forts: Nahar Garh, Amer, Jaigarh and Moti Doongari are apt testimonials of the bygone era and a reminder of their lingering romance and chivalry.Jaipur is named after its founder, the warrior and astronomer sovereign, Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh (ruled 1688 to 1744). The decision to move out of his hilltop capital Amer was also compelled by reasons of growing population and paucity of water. Moreover in the early 17th century the power of the great Mughals was dwindling with its aging Monarch Aurangzeb. After several centuries of invasions the north was now quiet and the wealth of the kingdom had considerably increased. Seizing upon this opportune time, Jai Singh planned his new capital in the plains. Jaipur is a corroborative evidence of Sawai Jai Singh’s strong grounding in science and astrology and of a Bengali architect Vidyadhar with a strong instinct for planning.

JAISALMER: The name Jaisalmer evokes utter magic and vibrancy of the desert. It’s straight out of an Arabian Nights fable. The hostile terrain notwithstanding the warmth and colours of people is simply overwhelming. One of the main draws is the daunting 12th century Jaisalmer Fort. The beautiful Havelis which were built by wealthy merchants of Jaisalmer are yet another interesting aspect of the desert city. And you can let your eyes caress the sloping sand dunes while you ramble your way in a camel safari. The desert citadel is truly a golden fantasy in the Thar Desert. Bhati Rajput ruler Rawal Jaisal, after whom the city finds its name, founded Jaisalmer in 1156 AD. On advice of a local hermit Eesaal he chose the Tricut Hills as his new abode, abandoning his vulnerable old fort at Luderwa just 16 kilometers northwest. In Medieval times, its prosperity was due to its location on the main trade route linking India to Egypt and Arabia. The Bhati Rajput rulers lined their coffers with gains from traditional taxes levied on passing by caravans. They also amassed wealth through questionable means.

JODHPUR: This bustling desert city is the second largest in Rajasthan after Jaipur. It was founded by Rao Jodha, the leader of the Rathore clan, in 1459 AD. The mammoth, imposing fortress (Mehrangarh) has a landscape dominating a rocky ridge with the eight gates leading out of fortress. The new city is outside the structure. The Rathores enjoyed good relations with the Mughals. Maharaja Jaswant Singh (1678) supported Shah Jahan in the latter’s war of succession. The relations with the Mughals soured during the reign of Aurangzeb who launched a crusade against the Hindus, made preparations to bring the state of Marwar under his control, ordered demotion of temples and revival of Jeziya. After Aurangzeb’s death, Maharaja Ajit Singh drove out the Mughals from Ajmer and added it to Marwar.In the reign of Maharaja Umed Singh Jodhpur grew into a modern city. The quintessence of Jodhpur was its valour and equestrian skill. Polo has been the traditional sport of the Jodhpur nobility since medieval times. Jodhpur has two railway stations – City and Rai ka Bagh. Both the railway stations are outside the walled city. Jodhpur is also an army and an air force station. It has a large cantonment and airbase.

MOUNT ABU: During the period of the Maharaja’s, it was used as a place of leisure by the royalties and semi-royalties. The place presents an interesting contrast of British style bungalows and holiday lodges of the royals (Thikhana) with various tribal communities residing amidst the thick lush forest on the hills surrounding the region. The flora and fauna enjoys the adulation of the tourist to the fullest. The highest point of the Aravalli is the ‘Guru Shikhar’ with a vast sanctuary that shelters a number of species like langur, wild boars, Sambar, leopards and many more along with a number of flowering plants and trees, which enhance the beauty of the whole scenery. A rich collection of monuments of different religious sects like the famous shrines of Jainism are also found here. The tribal community of this area still maintains its pristine ways of living despite progress of the modern times. The Delwara temple is famous for its architectural splendour. The intricate carving on the marble stone is simply mesmerizing. A cluster of Hindu temples also marks the land with their historical past. The Brahmkumari ‘Ashram’ is another world famous religious community center.

RANTHAMBORE: Ranthambore National Park, once a princely game conserve is the scene where the celebrated Indian tigers are best seen. Ranthambore Tiger Reserve lies on the junction of Aravalli and Vindhyas just 14 Kms from Sawai Madhopur in Eastern Rajasthan. It sprawls over a varying and undulating landscape. The scenery changes dramatically from gentle and steep slopes of the Vindhyas to the sharp and conical hills of the Aravalli. A tenth century fort also blends amicably with the background. Pure sands of Dhok (Anogeissus pendula) interspersed with grasslands at the plateaus; meadows in valleys and luxuriant foliage around the canals make the jungle. Three big lakes – Padam Talab (meaning Lake), Malik Talab and Raj Bagh – are similar turquoises studded in the vast forest that abounds with aquatic vegetation including duckweeds, lilies and lotus. The tiger is not the only attraction at Ranthambore. A variety of birds including owlets, the ubiquitous langur (monkey), leopard, caracal, hyena, jackal, jungle cat, marsh crocodiles, wild boar, bears and various species of deer are the other attractions.

SHEKHAWATI: This is a semi desert region in north Rajasthan and is situated entirely within the triangle formed by Delhi-Bikaner-Jaipur. Shekhawati represents a region and not just a town or fort. It derived its name from its ruler Rao Shekha. Shekhawati means the garden of Shekha.The towns of Shekhawati region are known for their amazing painted Havelis. So varied and architecturally rich are the Havelis that this region is dubbed as the “open art gallery of Rajasthan”. The plethora of painted Havelis in rich artistic tradition makes them fascinating. Most of the buildings are dated from 18th century to early 20th century. The Shekhawati region is dotted with so many Havelis that tracking them is something akin to a treasure hunt. Various forms of fine art adorn the walls and the ceilings of these structures as a contrast to the otherwise flat and barren land. The Havelis are noted for their frescoes depicting mythological themes and huge animals. Some later day frescoes reflect British influence in the form of steam locomotives and trains depicted on them.

UDAIPUR: Udaipur is often called ‘Venice of the East’. It is also the ‘city of lakes’. The Lake Palace (Jag Niwas) located in the middle of Pichola Lake is the finest example of architectural and cultural marvel. The grand City Palace on the banks of the lake along with the Monsoon Palace (Sajjan Garh) on the hill above enhances the beauty of this magnificent city. Udaipur is also the centre for performing arts, crafts and its famed miniature paintings. The Shilpgram festival is a great crowd-puller on new year.Maharana Udai Singh founded Udaipur in 1559 AD. According to a legend Udai Singh was guided by a holy man meditating on the hill near Pichola Lake to establish his capital on that very spot. Surrounded by Aravali Ranges, forests and lakes this place was less vulnerable to external invasion than Chittorgarh. Maharana Udai Singh died in 1572 and was succeeded by Maharana Pratap who valiantly defended Udaipur from Mughal attacks. Maharana Pratap is the most revered Rajput icon who gallantly fought the Mughals at the battle of Haldighati in 1576. Mewar continuously defied foreign invaders and has a history of bloody battles until the British intervention in the nineteenth century when a treaty was signed to protect Udaipur. Upon independence, Udaipur merged with the union of India.

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