Rajasthan as had a glorious history. It is known for many brave kings, their deeds; and their interest I art and architecture. Its name means “the land of the rajas”. It was also called Rajputana (the country of the Rajputs); whose codes of chivalry shaped social mores just as their often bitter and protected feuding dominated their politics.
From this same sandy tract the world heard the bangs of India’s nuclear test program – first during the regime of Mrs. Indira Gandhi and, quite recently when Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee as Prime Minister. The nuclear blast that caused a world-hunting polarization of leading nations was made in an insipid belt of Rajasthan known as Pokhran. Also famous for its painted mud Potteries, Pokhran has become the recent sanatorium if India associated with the pride of its people.
Such is Rahasthan, the land of Rajput warriors—bold and beauteous, simple and yet difficult, welcoming and yet self-conscious, full of valour and full of romance. In its diversity lie around the Great Indian desert, mountain ranges, lakes, dense forests, lush green valleys, barren fields and attractive oases. Spread in a vast stretch of 342,214 sq. Km Rajasthan is the largest state of India with a population over 45 million. In most parts the climate is dry. The Aravalli mountains stretching southwest across the state separates it into desert and semi-desert areas. The vast desert tract is known to all as Thar Desert.
Travelling into Rajasthan is a thrilling experience but more abiding impression is of the people of Rajasthan. They are simple and happy people in spite of all the difficult conditions they are put to face. The dryness and insipidity of their surroundings has taught them the value of colors, which they reflect in their costumes, in their paintings, in their handicraft and even in their thoughts. It is not amazing therefore that Rajasthan has been the birthplace of many noted artists of India including the internationally known Sitar maestro Pt. Ravi Shankar and renowned dancer Uday Shankar.
Many people know the story of Padmini, the queen of Chittaur, whose surpassing beauty led Alauddin Khilji, the Sultan of Delhi, to wage a ruthless war.
The same beauteous women are also known in history for their “Jauhar”-an act they used to perform to save themselves from falling into impious hands. When their husbands died in the battles and enemies invaded their forts, they would enkindle wood fire and jump into it to join their husbands in the next world. In this same land of sacrifice, men of eminent velour were produced who lived and died for the sake of dignity. Here was born Rana Sanga, the great lion of the medieval India, who was alleged to have lost his one eye, one leg and one arm in the battles and had 80 wound marks on his body. Yet when he would enter the battlefield on his stallion, he would create havoc in the Mughal ranks. Created in the Mughal army. And here was born Maharana Pratap of Chitaurgarh who lost his kingdom, suffered extreme hardships and exile with his family members but did not succumb to Akbar, the Mughal emperor, who wanted Chitaaur to accept his sovereignty.
Being a land of velour and struggle and cradle of so many Rajput kingdoms, almost the whole of Rajasthan seems teeming with palaces, royal, monuments and above all, picturesque forts. Forts are many and it is difficult for anyone to survey them all as one can find a number of Forts even in deep jungles. Some of them, which deserve special attention, are Gagron Fort, Mehrangarh Fort of Jodhpur, Kumbhalgarh Fort, and Amber Fort of Jaisalmer and, last but not the least, shittaugarh Fort. Associated with Maharana Pratap, always bears a special significance as it stands for a warrior king’s love and sacrifice for the freedom of his motherland.
For those who believe in luxury and can afford it, the best way to explore Rajasthan is through “Palace on wheels”. Palace on Wheels (POW), a luxurious air-conditioned train service inaugurated in 1982 by Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation in collaboration with the Indian Railways, provides a unique and memorable experience to the tourists visiting Rajasthan. It has 14 Sallons decorated with royal taste and equipped with bath and shower, lounge, library, music channel, bar and a sophisticated pantry providing traditional Indian, Continental and Chinese cuisine.