From the cackle of its colour-charged cities to the luminous splendour of its sun-kissed desert, Rajasthan is romantic India wrapped in gaudy royal robes. Here the fearsome Rajput warrior clans ruled with gilt-edged swords, plundered wealth and blood-thick chivalrous codes.
A vast and wonder-laced state with treasures more sublime than those of fable, the Land of the Kings paints a bold image. Compiling a must-see list in Rajasthan can cripple the fussy traveller: Meherangarh looming over bright blue Jodhpur, the giant gold sandcastle at Jaisalmer, the palaces and pageantry of Udaipur, Pushkar’s reverent yet carnival charm, the storybook whimsy of Bundi and the havelis (traditional, ornately decorated residences) sprinkled through Shekhawati – see them all, and you’ll see a month fly by faster than the express bound for Pakistan. Like a microcosm of Mother India, there’s also abundant wildlife and warm people, glitz and camels, soulful music, glittering saris, tottering turbans and a surprisingly rich cuisine.
Yet Rajasthan’s largely rural population has grown tired of its own backward-looking image. Jaipur, the dusty pink capital, has rapidly become a fast-paced, modern Indian city, and literacy has made a rapid rise in the region. While the land is invariably harsh and droughts are a constant menace, imaginations are now fixed firmly on the future.
The state is diagonally divided into the hilly southeastern region and the barren northwestern Great Thar Desert, which extends across the border into Pakistan – now accessible via train. The highest point is reached at the pleasant hill station of Mt Abu.
Language of Rajasthan
The principal language of the state is Rajasthani, comprising a group of Indo-Aryan dialects derived from Dingal, a tongue in which bards once sang of the glories of their masters. The four main dialects are Marwari (in western Rajasthan), Jaipuri or Dhundhari (in the east and southeast), Malvi (Malwi; in the southeast), and, in Alwar, Mewati, which shades off into Braj Bhasa in Bharatpur district. The use of Rajasthani is declining with the spread of modern education, and its place is being taken by Hindi (the official state language of
Religion in Rajasthan
Hinduism, the religion of most of the population, is generally practiced through the worship of Brahma, Siva, Sakti, Vishnu (Visnu), and other gods and goddesses. Nathdwara is an important religious centre for the Vallabhacarya sect of Krishna followers. There are also followers of the Arya Samaj, a reforming sect of modern Hinduism, as well as other forms of that religion. Jainism is also important; it has not been the religion of the rulers of Rajasthan but has followers among the trading class and the wealthy section of society. Mahavirji, Ranakpur, Dhulev, and Karera are the chief centres of Jaina pilgrimage. Another important religious sect is formed by the Dadupanthis, the followers of Dadu (d. 1603), who preached the equality of all men, strict vegetarianism, total abstinence from intoxicating liquor, and lifelong celibacy.
Festival of Rajasthan
The spring festival Gangaur during late March to early April and the Teej festival between early and late August is important. The Teej welcomes the monsoon, when the state’s many lakes become full. The Pushkar camel and cattle fair during mid-November, the Nagaur festival during late January to early February and the Koolyat Fair at Bikaner during mid to late November are well known fairs. The Desert Festival at Jaisalmer during early to mid-February is a famous modern fair.
Geography and Climate of Rajasthan
In the west, Rajasthan is relatively dry and infertile; this area includes some of the Thar Desert, also known as the Great Indian Desert. In the southwestern part of the state, the land is wetter, hilly, and more fertile. The climate varies throughout Rajasthan. On average winter temperatures range from 8° to 28° C (46° to 82° F) and summer temperatures range from 25° to 46° C (77° to 115° F). Average rainfall also varies; the western deserts accumulate about 100 mm (about 4 in) annually, while the southeastern part of the state receives 650 mm (26 in) annually, most of which falls from July through September during the monsoon season.