Rajasthan- The “Land of Kings” is India’s largest state by area (10.4% of India’s total area). It is placed on the north-western side of the country, where it covers most of the vast and inhospitable Thar Desert which is also known as the “Rajasthan Desert” and “Great Indian Desert”. It shares a border with the Pakistani provinces of Punjab to the northwest and Sindh to the west, along the Sutlej-Indus river valley.
The state was formed when Rajputana (the name adopted by the British Raj for its dependencies in the region- was merged into the Dominion of India) on March 30, 1949. The largest city and its capital is Jaipur which is also known as Pink City and is located on the state’s eastern side. Some of the other important cities are Jodhpur, Udaipur, Bikaner, Kota, and Ajmer.
Some of the most interesting and lesser known facts about this “Land of Kings” are:
1. Gurjars In this part of the country, Gurjars ruled for many dynasties. The region was known as Gurjaratra. Almost the whole of North India acknowledged the supremacy of the Gurjars with their seat of power at Kannauj up to the tenth century.
2. Gurjara-Pratihara From the 8th to the 11th century, the Gurjar Pratihar Empire acted as an obstacle for Arab invaders. The chief accomplishment of the Gurjara Pratihara Empire lies in its successful resistance to foreign invasions from the west. Historian R. C. Majumdar said that this was openly acknowledged by the Arab writers. He further noted, Indian Historians have wondered that the progress of Muslim invaders in India is slow as compared with their rapid advance in other parts of the world. Now, there seems a little doubt that it was the power of the Gurjara Pratihara army which effectively blocked the progress of the Arabs beyond the confines of Sindh, their first conquest for nearly 300 years.
3. Historical Tribes Traditionally, the Rajputs, Jats, Meenas, Gurjars, Bhils, Rajpurohit, Charans, Yadavs, Bishnois, Sermals, PhulMali (Saini) and other tribes made a great contribution in building Rajasthan. All these tribes suffered great difficulties in preserving their culture and the land. Millions of them were killed while trying to protect their land. A number of Gurjars had been wiped out in Bhinmal and Ajmer areas while fighting with the invaders. Bhils once ruled Kota. Meenas were rulers of Bundi and the Dhundhar region.
4. Major Rulers (i) Hem Chandra Vikramaditya: The Hindu Emperor Hem Chandra Vikramaditya was born in the village of Machheri in Alwar District in 1501. He won 22 battles against Afghans, from Punjab to Bengal including states of Ajmer and Alwar in Rajasthan. In 1556 at Battle of Delhi, he also defeated the forces of Akbar twice at Agra and Delhi before acceding to the throne of Delhi and establishing the “Hindu Raj” in North India although for a short duration, from Purana Quila in Delhi. While fighting against Mughals, Hem Chandra was killed on the battlefield at Second Battle of Panipat on 5 November 1556.
(ii) Maharana Pratap: In the famous Battle of Haldighati (1576), Maharana Pratap of Mewar thwarted Akbar and later operated from hilly areas of his kingdom. Maharana’s main allies were Bhils during these wars. These attacks were mostly repulsed even though the Mughal forces outnumbered Mewar Rajputs in all the wars fought between them. The war of Haldighati was fought between 10,000 Mewaris and a 100,000-strong Mughal force (including many Rajputs like Kachwahas from Dhundhar).
(iii) Maharaja Suraj Mal: Jat king Maharaja Suraj Mal (Feb 1707 – 25 Dec 1765) or Sujan Singh was the ruler of Bharatpur in Rajasthan. A contemporary historian has described him as “the Plato of the Jat people” and by a modern writer as the “Jat Odysseus”, because of his political intelligence, steady intellect, and clear vision.
Wildlife protection Rajasthan is also known for its national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. There are four national park and wildlife sanctuaries: a) Keoladeo National Park of Bharatpur, b) Sariska Tiger Reserve of Alwar, Ranthambore c) National Park of Sawai Madhopur d) Desert National Park of Jaisalmer Arid Forest Research Institute (AFRI) is a national level institute of the ministry of forestry is situated in Jodhpur which continuously works on desert flora and their conservation.
Economy a) The economy of Rajasthan is primarily agricultural and pastoral. The state’s cash crops are Cotton and tobacco. b) Rajasthan is among the largest producers of edible oils in India and the second largest producer of oilseeds. c) Rajasthan is also the biggest wool-producing state in India and the main opium producer and consumer. d) The main industries are mineral based, agriculture based, and textile based. e) Rajasthan is the second largest producer of polyester fiber in India. f) Several prominent chemical and engineering companies are located in the city of Kota, in southern Rajasthan.
Demographics a) Rajasthan’s population is made up mainly of Hindus, who account for 87.45% of the population b) Muslims make up 10.08%, Sikhs 1.27%, and Jains 1% of the population. c) The state of Rajasthan is also populated by Sindhis, who came to Rajasthan from Sindh province (now in Pakistan) during the India-Pakistan separation in 1947.
Culture Rajasthan is culturally rich and has artistic and cultural traditions which reflect the ancient Indian way of life. There is rich and varied folk culture from villages which are often depicted and is symbolic of the state. a) Highly cultivated classical music and dance with its own distinct style is part of the cultural tradition of Rajasthan. The music has songs that depict day-to-day relationships and chores, often focused around fetching water from wells or ponds. b) Rajasthani cooking was influenced by both the war-like lifestyles of its inhabitants and the availability of ingredients in this arid region. c) Food that could last for several days and could be eaten without heating was preferred. d) The scarcities of water and fresh green vegetables have all had their effect on the cooking. e) It is known for its snacks like Bikaneri Bhujia. f) Other famous dishes include bajre ki roti (millet bread) and lashun ki chutney (hot garlic paste), mawa kachori Mirchi Bada, Pyaaj Kachori and ghevar from Jodhpur, Alwar ka Mawa (Milk Cake), malpauas from Pushkar and rassgollas from Bikaner. g) Originating from the Marwar region of the state is the concept Marwari Bhojnalaya, or vegetarian restaurants, today found in many parts of India, which offer vegetarian food of the Marwari people. h) 4 Dal-Bati-Churma is very popular in Rajasthan. i) The Ghoomar dance from Jodhpur Marwar and Kalbeliya dance of Jaisalmer have gained international recognition. j) Folk music is a large part of Rajasthani culture. Kathputli, Bhopa, Chang, Teratali, Ghindr, Kachchhighori, and Tejaji are examples of traditional Rajasthani culture. k) Folk songs are commonly ballads which relate heroic deeds and love stories; and religious or devotional songs known as bhajans and banis which are often accompanied by musical instruments like dholak, sitar, and sarangi are also sung. l) Rajasthan is known for its traditional, colorful art. The block prints, tie and dye prints, Bagaru prints, Sanganer prints, and Zari embroidery are major export products from Rajasthan. m) Handicraft items like wooden furniture and crafts, carpets, and blue pottery are commonly found here. n) The main religious festivals are Deepawali, Holi, Gangaur, Teej, Gogaji, Shri Devnarayan Jayanti, Makar Sankranti and Janmashtami, as the main religion is Hinduism. o) Rajasthan’s desert festival is held once a year during winter. p) Spirit possession has been documented in modern Rajasthan. Some of the spirits possessing Rajasthanis are seen as good and beneficial while others are seen as malevolent.
Tourism Rajasthan attracted 14 percent of total foreign visitors during 2009-2010 which is the fourth highest among Indian states. It is fourth also in Domestic tourist visitors. Many people from around the world are coming for Rajasthan Tour because of the following reasons:
a) The palaces of Jaipur and Ajmer-Pushkar, the lakes of Udaipur, the desert forts of Jodhpur, Taragarh Fort (Star Fort) in Ajmer, and Bikaner and Jaisalmer rank among the most preferred destinations in India for many tourists both Indian and foreign. b) Tourism accounts for eight percent of the state’s domestic product. Many old and neglected palaces and forts have been converted into heritage hotels.