Rajasthan is the land of Maharajas, desert, and palaces, colourful people, the home of warriors. Immensely rich in culture and heritage monuments, temples, wildlife, sand dunes, thar desert and natural beauty it attracts tourists from all parts of the world.
Each city of this magnificient identity it has still kept alive its rich and vibrant culture which are echoed by the colourful and lively people, fairs and festivals and dance and music and the bazaars that are held in the centre of city, also its past glory is experienced through the impressive forts and palaces, havelis which described the story of great Rajputs.
Cities of Rajasthan
Ajmer is the most sacred of all Muslim places of pilgrimage in India. In 1193, after Prithviraj Chauhan had lost Ajmer to Sultan Mohammed of Ghori, the Persian saint, Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, who had come with Ghori, settled and preached here. Later in 1556, when Emperor Akbar captured Ajmer, he visited the tomb of Khwaja on foot to pray for a son. The boon was granted and the fame of Ajmer spread far and wide. Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti who died in Ajmer in 1236, was buried in a small brick tomb that is today surrounded by a large marble complex known as the Dhargah.
The Rose Pink City founded by Maharaja Jai Singh II (1693-1743), is the capital of Rajasthan. It is a major attraction for the first-time visitor. Jaipur is surrounded on all sides by rugged hills, crowned with forts & enclosed by embattled walls. Houses with latticed windows line the streets with their rose pink colour, lending enchantment to the scene which is almost magical at sunset. The Old City (Known as the Pink City) is a great place to wander around. The whole city was painted in Pink colour by Maharaja Man Singh II when Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, visited Jaipur in 1876.
Pushkar is one of the frequently visited tourist destinations of Rajasthan. Characterised by a picturesque valley, mountainous regions, uncommon scenic spots, and several pilgrimage sites of importance, Pushkar is known all over. It also makes one of the revered Hindu pilgrimage sites of India and houses the only temple dedicated to Lord Brahma in the world. The flow of tourists to Pushkar increases exceptionally during the time of the camel fair. The locals here are very hospitable and they dress up with their best during this much-awaited camel fair. Their colourful veils, turbaned heads, and colourfully dyed skirts, with sounds of the ektara and the soulful tunes of the Rajasthani folk songs make the nights of the Pushkar equally pleasing.
Located in the Aravalli ranges of Rajasthan, the city of Udaipur is situated at a distance of about 405 km from the state capital Jaipur. The city is well connected through air, rail, and road to other important cities of India like Jaipur, Delhi, and Mumbai. Udaipur is a fascinating blend of sights, sound and experiences. Right from the medieval times, the city has been an inspiration for poets, painters and writers. Udaipur became the capital of the Sisodia dynasty whose earlier capital was Chittor. According to legend, the Maharana was out hunting one day when he met a holy man meditating on a hill overlooking the Lake Pichola.
Jaisalmer is like the golden mirage in the heart of Thar Desert .This amber-hued city, in the heart of the desert, dazzles gloriously in the early morning. The sunset has a peculiar glow here. As the night descends, the sky goes up in flames, which fade leaving a few embers, till it becomes black. A breathtaking sight indeed. A commanding fort etched in yellow sandstone stands, with all its awesome splendor, dominating the amber-hued city. The city has an interesting legend associated with it, according to which, Lord Krishna, foretold Arjuna that a remote descendent of the Yadav Clan would built his kingdom a top the Trikuta Hill.
Set at the edge of the Thar desert, the imperial city of Jodhpur echoes with tales of antiquity in the emptiness of the desert. Once the capital of the Marwar state , it was founded in 1459 A.D. by Rao Jodha-chief of the Rathore clan of Rajputs who claimed to be descendants of Rama – the epic hero of the Ramayana. The massive 15th century A.D. Mehrangarh Fort looms on the top of a rocky hill, soaring 125 Mts. Above the plains. The city is encompassed by a high wall -10 km long with 8 gates and innumerable bastions. A major trade centre of the 16th century A.D. the fortress-city of Jodhpur is now the second largest city of Rajasthan.
Welcome to the only hill resort in the desert land of Rajasthan, Mount Abu. The lushness of Mount Abu makes the hill resort being referred to as the paradise of Rajasthan The natural and the man made beauty come together to make Mount Abu a place worth more than a visit. At the hill station you may enjoy the scenic beauty, the amazing architectural wonders and the archaeology too. The hill resort of Mount Abu is renowned for the Jain temples of Dilwara. The Dilwara Jain temples have often been compared to the Taj Mahal for their sheer elegance and beauty in marble. The temples date back to the 11th and the 13th century.
Founded in 1488, Bikaner is a desert built on an elevation and surrounded by a long embattled wall pierced by five gates. A magnificient fort built betwen 1588 & 1593 by Raja Raj Singh dominates the city. Best season to visit is between October to March. Sheer beauty in the desert is the royal fortified city of Bikaner. Lying at the northern tip of the famous triangle of the desert cities, Bikaner is a beautiful medival town. The genesis of Bikaner dates back to 1488, when a Rathore prince, Rao Bikaji, son of Rao Jodhaji of Jodhpur, chose a barren wilderness called ’Jangladesh’ and transformed it to a charming city called ’Bikaner’, after the founder’s name.
Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary at Bharatpur is one of the most important breeding and feeding grounds for migratory birds in the world. More than 30 sq.km of shallow lakes and scrubby woodland harbour over 350 bird species from as far away as Europe and Siberia. It is possible to see 150 species in a day and as many as 10 species nesting in a single tree. The main migratory season is from mid October to mid February, but many residents nest and breed in the sanctuary during the hotter months and monsoon. The sanctuary owes its origins to Maharaja Suraj Mahl of Bharatpur.
Chittorgarh is located in the southern part of the state of Rajasthan, in the northwestern part of India. It is located beside a high hill near the Gambheri River. It is 112 km from Udaipur and 182 km from Ajmer. The climate of Chittorgarh is arid. Summers are quite hot (April-June) and winters are cool (October-February). It experiences scant rainfall between June and August. Chittaurgarh ! the town known for its massive fort atop a hill, crowned on a 6 kms. long hill, covering an area of 280 hectares with fortifications, temples, towers and palaces. The city can be single out for its glorious past and valor, unique to the Rajput tradition.
Pilgrimages in Rajasthan
Rajasthan – resounds with the pure and beautiful melodies of hymns, sung with love and devotion. It is blessed with a rich tradition and a golden heritage that spreads all around. The sanctified pilgrim centres in Rajasthan are not only places of worship but also monuments of great artistic beauty. The very sight of these centres evoke feeling of purity and devotion, in the hearts of the pilgrims and draws them close to the Drive. The monuments make one feel that eternity has been preserved by mortal men, who have built brilliant architectural wonders to act as places of worship.
The famous Birla Mandir or The Lakshmi Narayan Temple is situated just below the Moti Dungari. It is a replica of a Scottish castle .This temple is one of the most revered Hindu temples, dedicated to Shri Lakshmi-Narayan. This is a modern temple built of white marble on top of a hill, dominating the skyline of south Jaipur. The temple has three domes, each portraying the different approaches to religion. The presiding deities here are Vishnu (One of the Hindu Trilogy Gods) called Narayan and his consort Lakshmi Goddess of wealth and good fortune.
Ajmer is the most sacred of all Muslim places of pilgrimage in India . In 1193, after Prithviraj Chauhan had lost Ajmer to Sultan Mohammed of Ghori, the Persian saint, Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, who had come with Ghori, settled and preached here. Later in 1556, when Emperor Akbar captured Ajmer , he visited the tomb of Khwaja on foot to pray for a son. The boon was granted and the fame of Ajmer spread far and wide. The entrance to the complex is the Dargah Bazaar, through a high gateway that leads into the first courtyard. Devotees sprinkle rose petals over the grave when they pray here.
The Jain Dilwara temples of India are located about 2½ kilometers from Mount Abu , Rajasthan’s only hill station. These temples dating back from the 11th to the 13th century AD are world famous for their stunning use of marble. The five legendary marble temples of Dilwara are the sacred pilgrimage of the Jains. The temples reside amidst mesmerizing surroundings of mango trees and wooded hills. A high wall, shimmering luminous in the sunlight, shrouds the temple complex. There are 5 temples in all, each with its own unique identity though together they are named after the small village in which they are located.
Ranakpur Jain Temple is located in the mountain ranges of Pali district, 23 kms away from the Phalna railway station. The Ranakpur Jain temples were built during the region of the liberal and gifted monarch Rana Kumbha in the 15th century. The entire temple area is enclosed within a wall. The main ‘Chamukha’ temple is dedicated to the trithankara Rishabdeoji and a four-faced image is enshrined in the inner sanctum, open on all four sides. An enormous basement cover 48,000 sq. feet are. There are four subsidiary shrines, twenty four pillared halls and eight domes supported by over four hundred columns.
Deserts in Rajasthan
The Desert Safari in rajasthan has become a popular circuit with the tourists. One of the major questions while taking up a Rajasthan desert safari is the destinations to be covered. Rajasthan desert Safari takes you through breathtaking sand dunes with friendly folks, camping on the solitary oasis, enjoying the dark starry nights and jiving to musicians playing a haunting, stringed instrument.
Thar Desert or Great Indian Desert, extensive region of sandy desert in northwestern India and eastern Pakistan. The Thar Desert covers an area of 44.6 million hectare (mha), of which 27.8 mha lie in India and the rest in Pakistan. The desert is bounded by the Aravalli hills in the east, by the fertile Indus and the Nara valleys of Pakistan and the salt marsh of the Rann of Kutch in the west, and by the alluvial plains of Haryana and Punjab in the north. In India, most of the area of the Thar Desert is situated in western Rajasthan. Of the total area of the Thar, nearly 60 per cent is being farmed, with varying intensities of cropping, and 30 per cent is open pastureland.
Camel Safari is one of the unique way to explore small villages in Rajasthan. Riding a camel is not easy as people consider. It is neither a great test for endurance. It is a great experience to explore The Thar – a vibrantly, living, desert, very colourful and hospitable. About the only thing you will have to get used to, when you plan a camel safari, is the the balancing act and getting use to the movement of the camel. The camels may look aloof, but they are known as the lifeline for the desert people, whose major mode of transportation depends on camels only, also known as the “Ship of the desert”.
SAM SAND DUNES
There is no point coming to the Thar Desert if you don’t go for the Desert Safari. That is why Sam sand dunes are becoming the major attraction in Jaisalmer. This is the closest place from where you can loose yourself in ‘the Great Thar Desert’. Sam has a truly magnificent stretch of sweeping dunes, with sparse or no vegetation. The best way to get here, of course, is on camelback. Join a camel caravan at Jaisalmer on your Rajasthan tours and ride along the breathtaking crests and troughs. Enjoy the romance of solitude as your camel takes you deep in the hearts of the Thar Desert.
Forts & Palaces in Rajasthan
The forts of rajasthan showcases close association between the men and their close possessions.They are built over the hilltops, in the middle of enormous deserts, and inside the wild world in Rajasthan . Many of these while look rugged and rough from their exteriors; the interiors take you to an altogether different world. Surprises are the second name of these architectural marvels spread throughout the land of Rajasthan.
The Hawa Mahal, a multi layered palace, was built by Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799 AD and Mr. Lal Chand Usta was the architect. It is famous for it’s beehive like structure. The Hawa Mahal is an interplay of red and pink sand stone, carefully and painstakingly outlined with white borders and motifs. The palaces and forts of yesteryears, which were witness to the royal processions and splendours are now living monuments, accepted quite naturally into the lifestyle of the people of the “Pink City” Jaipur. The palace, overlooks one of Jaipur’s main streets and was originally constructed to offer women of the court an upper hand.
The fort is on a 280-hectare site on the top of a 180-metre-high hill, which rises abruptly from the surrounding plain. The main places of interest within the precincts of the fort are the two towers known as the ‘Kirti Stambh’ (Tower of Fame) and the ‘Vijay Stambh’ (Tower of Victory). The Kirti Stambh is dedicated to the first Jain tirthankara or spiritual teacher, Adinath, and has an impressive five-feet-high statue of the saint. It is a seven-storied structure with a cramped stairway of 54 steps. It is dated approximately around the 12th century AD. The Vijay Stambh can even be seen from the town, which is located below the fort.
The stunning Jaisalmer Fort made of golden yellow sandstone set is like an amber jewel in the Rajasthan desert. Situated on Trikuta Hill in Jaisalmer, this magnificent fort was built by Raja Jaisal in 1156 A.D. It is one of the oldest forts in Rajasthan. The golden – yellow sandstone of Jaisalmer Fort, over 800 years old, crowns the Trikuta Hill. Within its walls, defended by 99 turrets, lies the old city, nearly a quarter of modern Jaisalmer. Seen from outside, the sight must be almost identical to what was seen by merchants on their overland camel caravans to central Asia.
The fort is located in Bikaner. It is one of the finest of Rajput monuments. Raja Rai Singh, Akbar’s contemporary started building Junagarh Fort in 1587. Often attacked, Junagarh is one of the few forts in India, which was never conquered. It consists of 37 palaces, pavilions and temples built by different Kings stand protected by massive ramparts and round towers. Many of the inner rooms of the palaces are beautifully decorated and painted in traditional style. The walls of the Badal Mahal or Palace of Clouds, are covered with fresco paintings of Krishna and his consort Radha in the midst of rain clouds.
CITY PALACE – JAIPUR
Located in the capital of Rajasthan, the City Palace of Jaipur or the main palace is an imposing blend of traditional Rajasthan and Mughal architecture. The vast palace complex occupies one seventh of the walled city of Jaipur. Originally built by Maharaja Jai Singh II of the Kachhwaha clan of Rajputs, additions have been made to the palace complex by many of his successors. The complex is divided into a series of courtyards, sprawling gardens and buildings. It is home to several palatial structures like the Chandra Mahal, Mubarak Mahal, Badal Mahal, Shri Govind Dev Temple and the City Palace Museum.
CITY PALACE – UDAIPUR
The majestic white City Palace located in the heart of Udaipur, was originally built by Maharana Udai Singh of the Sisodia Rajput clan and extended to its present form by subsequent Maharanas. Built in granite and marble and surrounded by crenellated fort walls, the largest palace complex in Rajasthan stands on a crest overlooking the Pichola Lake. A blend of Medieval European and Chinese architecture, the palace complex has a number of remarkable buildings of immense beauty, gardens and fountains, well planned and finely executed over the years.
LALGARH PALACE – BIKANER
Built in the memory of maharaja Lal Singh, Lalgarh Palace has a graceful facade of red sandstone, and is one of Maharaja Ganga Singh’s great achievements. The state especially prospered under his rule. In the fort museum which is housed in the red sandstone Ganga Niwas, built during the reign of Maharaja Sir Ganga Singh, here can be seen a unique collection of miniature paintings, manuscripts, weaponry and even a world war I bi-plane. The shri Sadul museum forms a part of the palace, and houses vast collections of books, photographs, manuscripts and albums that span several generations.
Parks & Sanctuaries in Rajasthan
Rajasthan boasts of three national parks and over a dozen sanctuaries. Most of these areas are open to visitors round the year but are closed briefly during the monsoon. The wildlife sanctuaries in Rajasthan offer some of the best wildlife tours in India and can be explored either by jeep or on elephant back. For those looking for adventure, these wildlife sanctuaries of Rajasthan provide the kind of excitement that really makes the adrenaline flow.
BHARATPUR BIRD SANCTUARY
It is the bird kingdom, where time takes wing. Spread over an area of little over 232 sq kms, Keoladeo derives its name from the Shiva Temple in the heart of the sanctuary. Formerly known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, ornithologist Salim Ali, is credited for bringing this park to public notice. The park supports a population of 375 species of birds, numerous mammals and reptiles. With the onset of winter, migratory birds from all over world come here. They arrive by August and leave in February. Visitors include Coot Snipes, Spanish Sparrow, Red Crested Porhard, Rosy Pelican and Flamingo.
RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
Ranthambore national park’s abandoned fortress, lakes and above all it’s `friendly’ tigers have made it one of the most filmed wildlife reserves in the world. Ranthambore was decalred a wildlife sanctuary in 1955 and became part of Project Tiger in 1973. Ranthambore National park is famous for its tigers and is one of the best places in the country to see these majestic predators in the wild. The tigers can be easily spotted even during the day. A good time to visit between November and May when the nature of the dry deciduous forests makes sightings common.
SARISKA WILDLIFE SANCTUARY
Established in 1958 as a Sanctuary, 1979 as a Tiger Reserve, 1982 as a National Park, Sariska National Park lies in the Aravalli hills and is the former hunting preserve of the Maharaja of Alwar. Sariska itself is a wide valley with two large plateaus and is dotted with places of historical and religious interest, including the ruins of the Kankwari Fort, the 10th century Neelkanth temples, the Budha Hanumab Temple near Pandupol, the Bharthari Temple near the park office, and the hot and cold springs of Taalvriksh. The large Siliserh Lake is at the north-eastern corner. The forests are dry deciduous, with trees of Dhak, Acacia, Ber and Salar.
DESERT NATIONAL SANCTUARY
The Desert National Park is located at a distance of 40kms. from Jaisalmer and exemplifies the unusual ecological biodiversity of the renowned Thar desert. The park is teeming with wildlife and some of the resident species include chinkara, hare, desert fox, black buck, wolf, desert cat to name just a few. One of the most sought after vantage points of the park is the Sudashri watch tower from where one can observe the varied resident wildlife species of the sanctuary. The Sudashri tower offers excellent wildlife photography opportunities and you can shoot your cameras to your hearts content.
MOUNT ABU SANCTUARY
Mount Abu Sanctuary was declared as a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1960. In shape this sanctuary is long and narrow but the top spreads out into a picturesque plateau which is about 19 km. is length and 5-8 km. in breadth. The rocks are igneous and due the weathering effect of wind and water, large cavities are common the rocks. This feature is typical of Aravali and particularly of Mt, Abu. Toad Rock in Mount Abu is one such example. Mt. Abu is not only a sanctuary but also a fascinating hill station of Rajasthan. It is a living example of an inextricable mix of religion and tourism.
Kumbhalgarh is just 90 kms. from Jodhpur on the Udaipur – Pali – Jodhpur road. This jungle adjoins the historical Kumbalgarh Fort and used to shield the fort from invaders. Now it protects the rare species of animals, struggling for their survival. Situated in the lush green region of Udaipur, Kumbalgarh is Wolf-a rare sight the only sanctuary of Rajasthan, where activities of the rarely found wolf can be seen. More than forty wolves inhabit the Joba area of the sanctuary. During summer, when water becomes scarce, pack of wolves roaming around water holes is a common sight.
GAJNER WILDLIFE SANCTUARY
The Gajner wildlife Sanctuary is located at a distance of 32 kms. from the town of Bikaner. In the days of yore Gajner Wildlife Sanctuary used to be royal hunting grounds of the Maharaja of Bikaner. There is a sparkling lake inside the sanctuary and in the sweltering summer months one can see a variety of wild animals that come to the lake to quench their thirst. Apart from being a perennial favorite with the resident animal species of Gajner Wildlife sanctuary, the lake also draws a variety of avian species. The Imperial Sand Gouse is particularly conspicuous by its presence in the winter months. Truly, the sanctuary is a bird watcher’s delight.
Havelis in Rajasthan
The awe-inspiring Havelis are spread throughout the land of Rajasthan and have been successful in keeping alive the surprising, yet beautiful culture and traditions of this state.The magnificent and colorful havelis are a testimony to the glorious royal history of Rajasthan. The yellow sandstone walls, alleys and exotic buildings with intricate carvings evoke the minds of all.
HAVELIS OF SHEKHAWATI
Shekhawati’s magnificent havelis or mansions, built by rich merchants of the region, display a unique architectural style that evolved around the courtyards to ensure safety and privacy of the women folk and protection from the heat of the long and harsh summers. The havelis, painted predominantly in the blue, maroon, yellows,green and indigo have beautiful wall paintings that adorn their walls. The earlier wall paintings (1830 A.D. -1900 A.D.)were largely based on the mythological themes, depicting local legends, animals, portraits, hunting and wrestling scenes and a glimpse of everday life.
HAVELIS OF JAIPUR
This unique atmosphere of the contemporary and the historic gives Samode Haveli a warm & friendly atmosphere enabling guests to relax and treat it as a home away from home! With its understated luxury, antique furniture, furnishings and original work-of-art, the hotel is a celebration of traditional values and gracious living.The Samode Haveli was built over 150 years ago by Rawal Sheo Singhji, a Prime Minister in the Jaipur court, who belonged to the family of Samode, tracing their relation to the Jaipur Maharaja the fabled Prithviraj Singhji the 17th prince of the Kacchawala Rajputs.
PATWON – JI – KI HAVELI
Patwon-Ji-Ki-Haveli is one of the largest Haveli in Jaisalmer and stands in a narrow lane. It is five storeys high and is extensively carved. It is divided into six apartments, two owned by archaeological Survey of India, two by families who operate craft-shops and two private homes. There are remnants of paintings on some of the inside walls as well as some mirror work.
SALEM SINGH KI HAVELI
Salem Singh haveli is an Arabian Nights structure, which, like a wild flower, blossoms at the top. This haveli was built about 300 years ago and a part of it is still occupied. Salim Singh was the prime minister when Jaisalmer was the capital of the princely state and his mansion has a beautifully arched roof with superb carved brackets in the form of Peacocks. The mansion is just below the hill and it is said that once it had two additional wooden storeys in an attempt to make it as high as the maharaja’s palace, but the maharaja had the upper storey torn down.
NATHMAL KI HAVELI
This haveli belongs to Nathmal, a later day prime minister who gifted it to the Rawal and was allowed to retain it. Built by two brothers in 1885, this haveli has two identical looking portions, which are in fact two different parts united by a common facade. So ethereal and charming, the carving never looked better. A perfect example of jeweller’s art applied to stone carving. The Muslim silavats (artisans) did a wonderful job here and left a marvellous legacy of craftsmanship excellent in detail and flawless in conception. If only for viewing these havelis a trip to Jaisalmer is more than amply rewarded.