||Hindi, Rajasthani, Bhili, Panjabi, Urdu, Sindhi, English
Rajasthan, India’s desert state, was once a collection of princely kingdoms where feudal traditions still carry on amidst forts and palace hotels.
Bharatpur is famous for its 29 sq km bird sanctuary which has the largest concentration and variety of birdlife in Asia. Throughout the year Bharatpur’s native population of tree and water birds can be seen, the latter breeding in July-August. However, the sanctuary has gained worldwide attention as being the winter home of several migratory species including the endangered Siberian crane.
The capital city, Jaipur, was the stronghold of a clan of rulers whose three hill forts and series of palaces in the city are important attractions. Known as the Pink City because of the colour of the stone used exclusively in the walled city, Jaipur’s bazaars sell embroidered leather shoes, blue pottery, tie and dye scarves and other exotic wares. Western Rajasthan itself forms a convenient circuit, in the heart of the Thar desert which has shaped its history, lifestyles and architecture.
Jodhpur’s exquisitely lovely fort, now a museum; art deco royal palace converted into a hotel, and quaint markets, all vividly testify to the history of the princely state.
Jaisalmer, in the heart of the desert, is surrounded by sand-dunes which rendered the sand coloured fort impregnable. Today it is an inhabited city whose chief attraction is lacy filigree of pierced stonework facades of private houses, and a series of ornately carved Jain temples.
Bikaner too has echoes of the past in its sandstone palace, temples and cenotaphs.
In the north of Rajasthan, Shekhavati is approachable by road from Jaipur. The greatest attraction here are the deserted mansions of local merchants decorated with a profusion of wall paintings. The subjects and styles vary greatly, and are not encountered elsewhere in India. Nearby Dundlod and Mandawa are forts, now converted into charming hotels. Bundi is remarkable for its palace fort and gallery of fine frescoes, executed in the style for which the state is famous.
Approachable by road from Jaipur are Ajmer and Pushkar. Ajmer’s pre-eminence is due to the shrine of a Muslim saint who is believed to fulfill one’s wishes. Nearby Pushkar has one of the very few temples dedicated to Brahma the Creator. The sleepy town with its placid lake is catapulted into prominence for 10 days every November as India’s most splendid camel fair takes place here, attended by thousands of locals flashing jewellery and exuding colour. For the thousands of tourists who visit Pushkar, accommodation is in the form of tents which cater to all budgets.
Also in Rajasthan is the wildlife sanctuary of Sariska where a royal hunting lodge has been converted into a hotel. Sariska’s wildlife includes the tiger, panther, deer and antelope.