Exterior View of Jagmandir Island Palace © JAGMANDIR ISLAND PALACE

Rajasthan – India’s land of palaces and opulence
An insight into this wonderfully diverse country steeped in history
1 May 2024

Rajasthan is the home of the Rajputs, a group of warrior clans who have ruled this part of India for over a thousand years with a code of chivalry and honor which is akin to that of the medieval European knights.

Geographically, Rajasthan is a somewhat dry and inhospitable destination, but it’s extremely varied. A line drawn southwest to northeast divides the state into the hilly and rugged south-east region and the barren north-east Thar desert, which extends all the way across the border to Pakistan.

Rajasthan today has the blueprint of a truly extravagant holiday laid out for you. This is an Indian state that offers you an opportunity to go somewhere extraordinary. It is exclusive, unusual and has an atmosphere far removed from standardized samenes, as well as having heartfelt hospitality. 

Jaipur – India’s Pink City

The capital city of the state of Rajasthan, is popularly referred to as the ‘Pink City’ from the pink colored sandstone, from which the edifices in the old, walled part of the city are constructed. This fascinating city is remarkably harmonious and is located in the midst of a desert-like landscape, surrounded by barren hills.

The city owes its foundation to the erstwhile royal warrior-astronomer – His Excellency Maharaja Jai Singh II (1699-1744) who laid out the city with its quintessential walls and six rectangular blocks by adhering to the principles of town planning as laid down in the ancient Indian treatise on architecture – the Shilpa Shastra.

The Old City is situated to the northeast of Jaipur while the new settlements have spread away to the south and west. As dusk descends, this part of Jaipur attains a magical glow, courtesy of the pink and orange colored edifices which is befittingly complemented by the brightly clothed Rajasthani folks.

Udaipur – The Lake City

The lake city of Udaipur is a cool oasis in the dry landscape of Rajasthan and probably the most romantic city in a state where every city has some romantic or exotic tale to boast off. Udaipur dates back to 1567 and was founded by His Excellency Maharana Udai Singh and is enclosed by the remains of a city wall that sprawls away on the east side of Lake Pichola. Being the capital of the erstwhile Mewar Dynasty (568 AD), this romantic city is abundant with tales of heroism and valor of the redoubtable Rajput warriors.

Bikaner – Jewel of the Thar Desert

This surreal desert town is ideally located to the north of Rajasthan and was founded by His Excellency Rao Bikaji. The quintessential feature of Bikaner is its high, battlemented fortification which is 7km long with five entrance gates, built way back in the 18th century. In the days of yore, it used to be an important staging post on the great caravan trade route.

Apart from the impregnable fort, Bikaner has carved a niche for itself as a camel breeding center and there is a camel breeding farm in close proximity to the city, which is unique in an Asian context. There are hundreds of camels here and rides are available.

One of Bikaner’s prized possessions is the imposing red sandstone Palace – Lallgarh Palace, built by the erstwhile Maharaja Ganga Singhji in the year 1902. This oriental fantasy designed by Sir Swinton Jacob, is one of the most magnificent specimens of the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture. Today, this exemplary Rajput Palace has been converted into a luxurious heritage hotel, standing tall with its rich heritage which plays host to a number of dignitaries from all over the world.

Exterior View of Gorbandh Palace in Jaisalmer © GORBANDH PALACE

Jaisalmer – India’s most exotic city

This is one of Rajasthan’s, nay India’s, most exotic and unusual cities. It is as remote as it is splendidly isolated. This medieval-looking place is something right out of the tales of the ‘Arabian Nights.’

Centuries ago, its strategic position on the camel train routes between India and Central Asia brought great wealth to Jaisalmer. The merchants and townspeople built magnificent mansions (Havelis), carved out of the rarest variety of golden-yellow sandstone. Even today, new edifices must be designed so as to blend harmoniously with the old.

The Patwon Ki Haveli is the most elaborate and magnificent of all the havelis of Jaisalmer. It stands on a narrow lane and one of its apartments is painted with beautiful murals. There is also the Salim Singh Ki Haveli, which is more than 300 years old. The Old City is surrounded by an impregnable fort and from within this a hill rises with more fortified walls. The ancient Jain temple and an old palace are ideally located on this hilltop.

There are some fascinating locales around Jaisalmer which are best explored by embarking on a camel safari – a stupendous experience in itself. The usual tours take four days and three nights in a circuit around Jaisalmer via Mool Sagar, the Sam sand dunes and back via Lodruva passing through fascinating Rajput, tribal and abandoned villages. The more adventurous ones may opt for the longer duration camel safaris that stretch to seven days and some even to 11 days, which take the discerning travelers through some of the most amazing desert landscapes anywhere in the world. 

* Subhasish Chakraborty is a Travel Journalist and Tourism Consultant.
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