Rajasthan Tourism Information
“Padharo mhare desh” or ‘welcome to my country’ reverberating through this land of chivalry and romance is just not a welcome call or a greeting, but is the spirit of Rajasthan. A land where the guest is considered next to god and even enemies are given due regard on its soil, still holds on to its rich traditions and promises to e the most hospitable and fascinating land a visitor has ever seen. The legendary land strewn with tales of valour and sacrifices is an amazing assortment of history, culture, traditions, natural beauty, wildlife and friendly folks. It is indeed a land of paradoxes and has an unusual diversity in all its forms people, customs, culture, costumes, music, manners, dialects, cuisine and physiography. The beautiful landscape varies from golden sand dunes to lush forests and lofty peaks to fertile plans and is littered with formidable forts, magnificent palaces, sprawling havelis, sacred shrines, graceful gardens, lovely lakes and exotic wildlife. With a history of over five thousand years and origins shrouded in mythological legends, the State is literally a treasure house of history and archaeology. No doubt every town is studded with formidable forts and magnificent palaces, which have been silent sentinels to the turbulent past of the region. The numerous ancient shrines and cenotaphs seen all over the State confirms to the deep rooted religious faiths of the people of Rajasthan and their respect for the departed souls.
The benevolent rulers of Rajasthan were great lovers and patrons of arts and crafts. The Rajasthan were great lovers and patrons of arts and crafts. The Rajasthani handicrafts are matchless in concept, colours and craftsmanship.
The State is also well known for its rhythmic folk dances and music. The haunting music from the desert has become immensely popular. The festival time is full of life and zest, the ambience acquires a fairy tale like atmosphere. Colourfully dressed women wear beautiful jewellery, while men put on exotic turbans. The delectable cuisine is yet another attraction of the State. A large variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes can be tried out at the traditional restaurants of the State/ Dal, batti and churma have become house hold names.
For many, Rajasthan is the very essence of India, with crenelated forts and impregnable palaces that rise like giant fairy-tale sets above dusty sun-scorched plains and shimmering lakes. India’s second-largest state—similar in size to France—is largely covered by the ever-encroaching Thar Desert, but despite its aridity, Rajasthan was once remarkably prosperous: Traders from as far afield as Persia and China had to cross its dry plains to reach the southern ports of Gujarat, something the warrior princes of Rajasthan were quick to capitalize on. Today the principal attraction of Rajasthan—the post-independence name for Rajputana, literally “land of princes”— is the large variety of forts and palaces its aristocrats built throughout the centuries, making it one of the most popular destinations in India. But Rajasthan offers so much more than desert castles and culture— from tracking down tigers in the Ranthambhore jungle (incidentally, the best place to spot wild tigers in Asia) to gaping at the world’s most intricately carved marble temples on historic Mount Abu. Peopled by proud turbaned men and delicately boned women in saris of dazzling colors, the “land of princes” is rich with possibilities, and offers easy road access to the less-traveled state of Gujarat, discussed at the end of this chapter. You could plan to spend your entire trip to India in Rajasthan, which is within easy striking distance of Delhi (and the Taj) by train, plane, or road. Certainly you’ll need at least a week to take in the major destinations, of which the lake city of Udaipur and the desert fort of Jaisalmer—the only fort in the world still inhabited by villagers—are top highlights. Also vying for your time is the “blue city” of Jodhpur, which has the state’s most impressive and best-preserved fort as well as the largest palace in India; the tiny town of Pushkar, built around a sacred lake and host to the biggest camel mela (fair) in Asia; the painted havelis (historic homes or mansions) of the Shekhawati region, referred to as India’s open-air gallery; the tiny Keoladeo “Ghana” National Park, which boasts the largest concentration and variety of bird life in Asia; the untainted, almost medieval atmosphere of little towns like Bundi; and the bumper-to-bumper shops and bazaars in Jaipur (the state and retail capitals of Rajasthan). Shopping, in fact, is another of the state’s chief attractions: Because of the liberal patronage of the wealthy Rajput princes, skilled artisans from all over the East settled here to adorn the aristocrats and their palaces. Today these same skills are on sale to the world’s designers and travelers, and no one—from die-hard bargain-hunters to chi-chi fashionistas—leaves Rajasthan empty-handed. The question is how to choose from an unbelievable array of textiles, jewelry, paintings, handbags, rugs, pottery, diaries—even kitchen utensils— and then how to fit them into your bulging suitcase. But perhaps the best reason to visit Rajasthan is to experience its unusual hotels: The state has almost 80 heritage properties—castles, palaces, forts, and ornate havelis—many of which are still home to India’s oldest monarchies. This must be the only place in the world where, armed with a credit card, you can find yourself sleeping in a king’s bed, having earlier dined with the aristocrat whose forebears built and quite often died for the castle walls that surround it. Known for their valor and honor, and later for their decadence (see “Once Were Warriors: The History of the Rajput,” below), the Rajputs are superb hosts, and it is almost possible to believe that you, too, are of aristocratic blood, as a turbaned aide awaits your every wish while you marvel at the starry night from the bastion of your castle. Long live the king (and queen), for you are it.
Planning Your Trip to Rajasthan
Rajasthan has so much to see, with long travel distances between top sites, that a trip here requires careful planning (particularly if you’re going to hire a car and driver, which is the best way to tour the state). The following overview can help you plan your itinerary. The three biggest cities in Rajasthan, all with airports, are Jaipur, the “Pink City”; Jodhpur, the “Blue City”; and Udaipur, the “White City.” All are worthwhile destinations, not least because they offer easy access to great excursions. The tiny Jaisalmer, or “Golden City,” is the most awkward to reach, and although some find it the highlight of their Rajasthan trip, others feel it isn’t worth the schlep it takes to get there. For most, the entry point is the state capital of Jaipur, near the eastern border, which is the third point (the others being nearby Delhi and Agra/Taj) of the muchtraveled Golden Triangle. Should you choose to start your trip here, you are in fact well positioned to visit some of Rajasthan’s top sites: Only a few hours from the city is Ranthambhore National Park—where you have your best chance of spotting a wild tiger––and Bharatpur’s Keoladeo National Park, a must-see for birders, and virtually on the way from Agra. Jaipur is also within driving distance of Bundi, an untouched, off-the-beaten-track rural town that lies some hours away by train or car, as well as nearby Ajmer, gateway to the sacred lake of Pushkar and site of the state’s most famous camel fair. Other than its proximity to these sites, however, as well as the excellent rail and flight connections to the rest of India, the only good reason to dally in Jaipur itself is to indulge in some retail therapy (or stay at Rajvilas, one of India’s best hotels). Most visitors planning to travel farther by car circle Rajasthan in a counterclockwise direction, starting off in Jaipur and traveling the rather circuitous route west to Jodhpur (with a sojourn in Pushkar—a highly recommended option, particularly for younger travelers); then, from Jodhpur, you make the 51⁄2- to 6-hour drive west to Jaisalmer for a few nights before you return to Jodhpur. An alternative route to Jaisalmer, which means you don’t have to travel both to and from Jodhpur, is to travel from Delhi through the Shekhawati region to Bikaner, and from there on to Jaisalmer, before you travel east again to Jodhpur. (The other alternative is to skip Jaisalmer altogether, and if you’re short on time this is what you may have to do, but we think it’s a must-see city.) From Jodhpur you then travel south to Udaipur and, finally, head back north to Jaipur, stopping en route at one of many lovely palace hotels (or at Amanbagh) for a most relaxing end to your journey. For someone with limited time (say, only enough to visit one of Rajasthan’s cities), it’s far better to fly direct to Udaipur—with great lodging options in all price brackets, this is arguably Rajasthan’s most attractive city (though the recent drought has had a severe impact on the beauty of the City of so-called Lakes; do check the status of the lakes before planning your entire trip around it). From Udaipur you can take a wonderful (but long) day trip to Kumbhalgarh Reserve to take in Ranakpur’s exquisitely carved Jain temples and impressive Kumbhalgarh Fort before overnighting at Devi Garh, one of India’s top hotels. Alternatively, you can head east from Udaipur to Bundi, via the historic fort of Chittaurgarh, and then move on to Ranthambhore National Park. Or take the short trip directly south to the relatively undiscovered palaces of Dungarpur, or head out west to Mount Abu, the state’s only hill station and sacred pilgrimage of the Jains, who come to visit the famous Dilwara Temples. Jodhpur and its majestic Mehrangarh Fort lie only 5 hours north of Udaipur by road, and you can break up the trip by overnighting at one of the recommended heritage properties along the way. The state’s other must-see city is Jaisalmer, which is rather inconveniently situated on the far-flung western outreaches of Rajasthan’s Thar Desert. To get there, you have to either set off from Jodhpur, or travel via the less-than-spectacular desert town of Bikaner—both routes involve a lot of driving (Jodhpur is a 51⁄2- to 6-hr. drive away; Bikaner a 6- to 7-hr. drive). You can opt to travel from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer by overnight train, but make sure to get a berth in the air-conditioned compartment of the Delhi–Jaisalmer Express (even though the desert nights can be bitterly cold, this is your most comfortable option) and carry a warm blanket. You can fly between Rajasthan’s major cities and hire a vehicle and driver from one of the recommended operators for the duration of your stay in each region, but the long-term hire of a car and driver is highly recommended—this is really the best way to tour Rajasthan because it means you can travel at your own pace, avoid public transport (or the daily grind of haggling with taxis), and get right off the beaten track. That said, Rajasthan’s potholed roads make for slow going, drivers have unknown rules (but clearly the big trucks and cows rule, no matter what the circumstances), and traveling by night is only for the suicidal—even day trips will have you closing your eyes in supplication to some higher being. Many operators are not keen to provide a breakdown of pricing, leaving you with the distinct feeling that you are being ripped off. To avoid this, get a per-kilometer rate for the specific kind of car you wish to hire, and the overnight supplement for the driver. Establish a ballpark per-kilometer rate from the RTDC Transport Unit—their rates are usually slightly higher than those offered by private operators, so it’s worth going there first for a quote.
Udaipur, the ‘City of lakes’ sprawling picturesquely on the slopes of a low ridge along the banks of Pichola and Fateshsagar lakes was founded by Maharana Udai Singh in 1559. It became the new capital of the Ranas of Mewar, after the death of Maharana Pratap in 1597. The beautiful city is surrounded by an amphitheatre of low hills and studded with placid blue lakes, white marble palaces, graceful gardens and sacred shrines. << Udaipur Tour Packages >>
Mount Abu Tourism
Mount Abu, nestled amidst lush forested hills of Aravalli’s is the only hill station of Rajasthan and is equally important for pleasure seekers and devoted pilgrims. It is said to be named after serpent Arbuda (Abu in short), the son of Himalayas, who came here to rescue nandi, the wahan (Mount) of Lord Shiva
Jaipur is perhaps the first planned city of India and was laid with great precision on the basis of principles of ‘Shilp Shastra’, the ancient Hindu treatise on architecture. The city was built in the form of a rectangle divided into blocks (Chowkries) with roads and avenues running paralledl to the sides. In 1863, Jaipur dressed itself in Pink to welcome Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria and the colour became an integral part of the city. Today, the city is a fine fusion of antiquity and modernity, excellent planning, unique architecture and colourful lifestyle of the city can excite even the most seasoned tourist.
Ajmer is associated with many important historical events of national importance. Sir Thomas Roe, the ambassador of King James I of England, presented his credentials to Jehangir in Ajmer, on 10th January 1616. Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Shah jahan was born here and the war of succession between the sons of Shah Jahan was won in 1659, by Aurangzeb in the battle of Dorai near Ajmer.
Jaisalmer, the golden citadel of the Thar desert has emerged as one of the most popular tourist destinations in this part of the world. Few places can match the magnificence and grace of this ‘museum city’.
Kota, a treasure house of history is set on the eastern bank of river Chambal. Today, the beautiful town has emerged as an important industrial and education centre and is a fine blend of traditions and modernity. Kota is also famous for its Dussehra celebrations.