Rajasthan

Nowhere can you find so many of the iconic images from the amazing culture of India as you can in Rajasthan. Known for its camels, forts, deserts, kings and legends of Maharajan royalty, Rajasthan is, to many visitors, the ultimate experience in Indian culture. Rajasthan is also home to many of the festivals in India, especially those celebrating desert heritages such as the Camel Festival in Bikaner, the Mewar Festival in Udaipur and the Elephant Festival in Jaipur. The majestic city of Jaipur, a hubbub of desert civilization dubbed the “Pink City”, contains numerous forts and palaces to attract those looking for sights from the spectacular reign of the Mughal kings. Udaipur, known as the “City of Lakes”, is undoubtedly the jewel of Rajasthan. Nestled on Lake Pichola, the stately palaces of Udaipur reflect off of the calm ripples of the water in the amber desert sunlight. With other cities of the region including Amjer, Jalsaimer, Bikaner, Pushkar and Jodhpur, Rajasthan is far and above one of the most outstanding examples of Indian desert culture and spectacle. Named the “Land of Kings”, Rajasthan presents its guests with countless examples of exquisite beauty and timeless romance through its art, music, food, fabric, jewels and dance. But don’t let Rajasthan’s bountiful treasures and legendary history keep you from exploring the other parts of the magnificent nation of India. Perhaps start here and let the magic of India lead you across the country for more unforgettable adventures.

 

Jaipur

Affectionately known as the “Pink City” for its strikingly uniform pink colored buildings, Jaipur is one of the most admired cities in India and is heralded for its orderly sectors and subdivided streets. With its streets all designed to coincide with the four cardinal points of the compass and an overall layout that resembles the sacred mandala, Jaipur allows even the most scattered tourist to navigate easily to the many historic features contained therein. The shopping districts, which include seemingly endless streets and alleyways filled with hundreds of shops, can satisfy and entertain even the pickiest shoppers. Jaipur has a semi-arid climate with hot summers and pleasant winters, so it can be enjoyed most any month of the year.  

 

HawaMahal: this is known as the “Palace of Winds” in Jaipur city , this impressive regal palace is ideally viewed in the warm glow of the rising sun as it is built of red and pink sandstone and resembles both the crown of the god Krishna and an enormous beehive. Its five-tied facade contains some 953 small windows, known as jharokhas, which allowed the royal ladies to observe everyday life in the street below without being seen. Those wandering the interior rooms of the Mahal will enjoy the walls of varying colored marbles, relieved by inlaid panels and gilding, while fountains spout cooling water from the center of the courtyard.

 

Nahargarh Fort: Perched on the edge of the Aravalli Mountains, this prominent fort over looks Jaipur with an inspiring sweeping view. Named the “Abode of Tigers”, the fort was built by Maharajah Sawai Jai Singh II, the founder of Jaipur. Visitors may tour the many Palace Apartments where Madho Singh II concealed his numerous concubines away from the eyes of his four wives and the many other members of the court.

 

JantarMantar Observatory: This collection of architectural astronomical instruments was built by Maharaja Jai Singh II as one of five located in prominent cities in India, the Jaipur observatory being the largest and best preserved. Wandering through the expansive outdoor grounds reveals fourteen major fixed geometric devices used for measuring time, predicting eclipses, tracking stars’ locations as the earth orbits around the sun, discover the declination of planets and control the space altitudes. SamratYantra is the world’s largest sundial, standing 27 meters tall, and can ascertain the correct time with an accuracy of 10 seconds.

 

JalMahal Translating to “water palace”, this breath-taking palace located in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake is accessible only via boat. The “floating” palace, built in red sandstone, is a five story building where four floors exist under the water level of the lake and only the top floor is exposed when viewed from the opposite shore. Guests wandering on the terrace of the palace may enjoy arched passages that frame a royal garden, each corner crowned with semi-octagonal towers and elegant cupolas. Recent restoration to the surrounding Man Sagar Lake has all but converted it into a veritable wildlife refuge and wildlife enthusiasts may witness many bird species alighting on the surface of the water during migration season.

 

Arts and crafts: Historically, the rulers of Jaipur patronized a great many arts and crafts, inviting skilled artisans and craftsmen from across India and beyond to ply their wares. As a result, Jaipur became a major hub for various kinds of arts and crafts and remains so today. Ardent shoppers will enjoy the selection of crafts including Bandhani (tie-dye), block printing, stone sculpture, jewel and wood inlay, zari (metallic threaded fabrics), gota (embroidery), silver jewelry, fine gems, KundanKeshri (gem setting), meenakari (fired enamel), miniature paintings, blue pottery, ivory carving, shellac woodwork and leatherware.

 

Ajmer

Nestled within the majestic Aravalli Mountains, Ajmer is blessed with the presence of two large man-made lakes, AnaSagar and FoySagar, which provide recreation for its residents and habitat for migrating birds. Ajmer was settled in the 7thcentury and has a storied past of being conquered again and again during the ensuing millennium. It is also a significant pilgrimage site due to its numerous temples as well as its being adjacent to the popular city of Pushkar.

 

Taragarh Fort: The fort guarding  around Ajmer is reputed to be one of the oldest hill forts. Built by King AjaypalChauhan in 1354 on the summit of Taragaṛh Hill overlooking Ajmer, it has fallen into ruin with overgrown vegetation but is still a novel place to explore.

 

The Dargah Sharif of KhwajaMoinuddinChisthi: Situated at the foot of the Taragaṛh hill, this site consists of several white marble buildings arranged around two courtyards.  Mughal emperor Akbar and his queen Jodha Bai came to ajmer by foot on pilgrimage from Agra each year in observance of a vow when they prayed for a son.

 

Adhai Din KaJhonpda: This Vaishnanva Hindu temple, built in 1153 and then converted into a mosque in 1193, is situated on the lower slope of Taragarh hill.  Apart from the mosque, called JamaIltutmish, nearly the whole of the ancient temple has fallen into ruins but the relics are still unsurpassed as examples of Hindu architecture and sculpture.

 

 

Ranthambhore National Park

Named for the historic 10thcentury Ranthambhore fortress contained within its boundaries, this national park is one of the largest animal preserves in all of India. It is known for its large population of tigers and leopards as well as many species of mammals, reptiles and birds. The park consists of dry deciduous forests with mixed grassland areas and numerous small bodies of water supporting the 539 species of flowering plants. Visitors can participate in interactive wildlife viewings which take place twice daily via a multitude of jeeps as they scurry about the dusty roads in search of photo-worthy creatures. Due to the extreme temperatures surrounding the middle of the day, safaris take place at dawn and at dusk thus allowing both the animals and their human visitors to take a relaxing and much needed nap during the warmer midday periods. Although the big cats can be elusive, the tiger population here is so accustomed to jeeps in the park that they may very well come out to investigate the visitors to satisfy their own curiosity. Some of the more intriguing nearby lodgings can take the form of tented accommodations where guests can relax in luxuriously rustic and spacious rooms while the canvas walls rustle gently in the warm evening breezes.

 

Udaipur

Often called the “City of Lakes”, Udaipur can arguably be considered one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in India. Located on the beautifully placid Lake Pichola, this grand city contains some of the most remarkable palaces located both on the shore and within the lake itself. Visitors may venture out for a late afternoon boat cruise and enjoy the soft amber reflections of the many shoreline palaces as mirrored off of the gently lapping water.

 

Udaipur City Palace Complex: A massive and ornately detailed set of structures built of yellow sandstone, this stately palace skyline dominates the landscape and affords views of all parts of the city as well as many of the surrounding lakes. The main city palace contains numerous displays of local history and culture including art, textiles, automobiles, furniture and a spectacular collection of crystal from 1877. Wandering through the many rooms and countless passages, visitors may find themselves completely absorbed into the history of this regal palace and its former occupants.

 

Lake Pichola Often heralded as the scenic centerpiece to this picturesque city, this stunning lake is home to many prominent palaces from the 17thand 18thcenturies, some of which take up entire islands for their properties.  Those looking for a serene cruise over the lake will find pilots at numerous locations to offer both private and group jaunts across the placid lake.

 

Jagmandir: Built in 1620 by Maharaja Karan Singh on an island in the middle of Lake Pichola, this splendid palace contains lakefront walkways that are often the site of splendid photos of the lake with the silhouette of the Aravalli Mountains highlighting the setting sun. The palace is also known for its serene garden courtyard and dining opportunities.

 

Jagdish Temple: A large Hindu temple in the middle of Udaipur, this temple is a great example of Indo-Aryan architecture and it frequently busy with throngs of animated devotees chanting and making offerings inside its decorated walls. Brightly dressed sadhus roaming the grounds make prime photo subjects and a small donation will get you a personal blessing.

 

GulabBagh and Zoo: As the fourth oldest zoo in the Indian sub-continent, this facility also contains gardens stocked with plants of medicinal value and numerous types of trees including many species of mangoes, guavas, grapes, lemons, mulberries, pomegranates, bananas, tamarinds, camphor, citron, limes, ficus, and jasmines.

 

Jodhpur

Situated on the eastern edge of the Great Thar Desert, Jodhpur remains as one of India’s prominent destination cities. Host to the immense Mehranghar Fort, an imposing sandstone fortress perched on a large central bluff, this bustling city is also known as “the Blue City” for its multitude of pale blue houses that surround the fort. Strategically located between Dehli and the trade center of Ahmadabad, Jodhpur remains a large marketplace for textiles, agriculture and minerals.  A dynamic industry exists here for the manufacture of such items as glass bangles, cutlery, carpets and marble products. Guests will enjoy not only the notable landmark sights but also an abundance of shopping opportunities.

 

Mehrangarh Fort: This immense fort is situated high above the city and contains several individual palaces known for their intricate carvings and expansive courtyards. There are seven gates built by Maharaja Man Singh to commemorate his victories over the armies of Jaipur and Bikaner and the imprints of cannonball hits by the attackers from of Jaipur warriors, we could still watch on the second gate of mehrangarh fort. A narrow and winding road leads up to the fort from the city below but exiting from one of the lesser gates will afford visitors a twisting, yet fascinating, tour through the twisting back streets of the city on the way back down.

 

Jaswant Thada: An ornate white marble mausoleum dedicated to Maharajah Jaswant Singh II, this jewel of a structure is located high atop a hill and affords splendid views of the city below. The monument is built entirely out of intricately carved sheets of marble known as jali. These stone panels are so thin and polished that they emit a warm glow when graced by the warm rays of the rising or setting sun.

 

Umaid Bhawan Palace: This vast and splendid palace is one of the world’s largest private residences. This place has more than 347 rooms and still serves as the main house of the of the former royal family of Jodhpur.

 

Bikaner

Established in 1488, this city is located in the middle of the Great Thar Desert and was considered an oasis on the trade route between central Asia and the Gujarat coast due to its abundant spring water. Bikaner is famous for Bikanneri Bhujia, a spicy snack made from dal, oil and spices; its handicrafts and leather articles; as well as its intricately carved Jharokas, the red sandstone stone jali screens found on the windows of the forts, temples and havelis of Northern India.

 

Junagarh Fort: Built in the late 16thcentury, this impressive fort is graced with a myriad of carved surfaces, all decorated with exquisite paintings, inset colored glass panels or inlayed semi-precious stones. Located deep within the recesses of the massive fort, opulent rooms clad in gold and jewels lay in stately repose as they now hold only the memories of the many rulers and prominent businessmen who graced the chambers many centuries ago.

 

LaxmiNiwas Palace: this is a former home of royal family of Bikaner province of Maharajah Ganga Singh, a British Architecture named Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob had designed this great Palace  in the year 1898. Built in the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture, the magnificent red sandstone structure is one of the most popular destinations in Bikaner. It has been converted into a luxury heritage hotel and offers the upmost in opulence for those looking to live like the kings of centuries past.

 

Lalgarh Palace: Built as an expansion of the LaxmiNiwas Palace, this grand structure was constructed between 1902 and 1926 in a hybrid of Rajput, Mughal and European architectural styles. It contains several grand halls, lounges, cupolas and pavilions and features grand detailing such as magnificent pillars, elaborate fireplaces, Italian colonnades and intricate latticework.

 

Camel Research Farm: Located on the outskirts of the city, this scientific facility is far more than just for research. This complex houses a museum, large open stables to view the camels and a walk-up cafe where you can savor numerous delicious ice-cold treats made from camel’s milk. Camel rides are also available onsite for those wanting a quick jaunt without venturing out into the desert.

 

Bhandasar Jain Temple: this is one of twenty seven beautiful Jain temples embellish the landscape of Bikaner, The temple is famous for its wall paintings and Usta art, a method characterized by painting miniature translucent and opaque floral patterns on camel leather, architectural elements and other objects and often embossed with gold. The temple is built of red sandstone and is divided into three floors, the top of which affords a panoramic view of the skyline of Bikaner.

 

Karni Mata Temple: The world famous shrine of Karni Mata, an incarnation of Goddess Durga, can be found 30km south in the town of Deshnoke. This temple is famous for its rats which can be seen everywhere in the temple and are treated with great respect. Although it may take nerves of steel, allowing one of the rats to scurry over one’s bare feet is considered to be of the utmost sanctity.

 

The Bikaner Camel Festival: By far one of the largest and most popular of festivals in India, this two day event is a grand spectacle praising the glorious camels, or ships of the desert, at their finest. The festival starts with a procession from the nearby fort of hundreds of camels, all of them decorated in typical Rajasthani attire which includes colorful bridles and saddles. Spectacular and unusual events include camel races, camel dances, and the rambunctious camel rides that take place at this event. Competitions take place for the best decorated camel, camel milking and the best camel haircut followed by races where the best camels compete for the honored prizes. In the evenings, the celebration continues with performances by folk singers and dancers of Rajasthan where jubilant swirling performers and awe-inspiring fire acrobats entertain visitors. In the grand finale, a magnificent display of fireworks takes place, illuminating the sands of the desert city.

 

Jaisalmer

Known as both the “Golden City” and the “Sun City”, Jaisalmer lies deep within the center of the Great Thar Desert which makes it a prime location for those travelers seeking an iconic desert adventure. This jewel of a city stands on a ridge of yellow sandstone and boasts the impressive Jaisalmer Fort, which rises majestically from the dunes of the surrounding desert. With its legendary history of camel caravans and prominent trade routes, the nearby sands of the desert beckon visitors to take a romantic camel ride into the golden sands for an overnight excursion that will reveal an expanse of star-filled skies like none other. Located on the far west end of India, the surrounding austerity of the desert landscape can be as demanding as it is alluring. Although summer temperatures can reach well above 40C, the haunting desert landscapes can be a wonderful way of unwinding in the late fall and winter months.

 

Jaisalmer Fort: This imposing fort is situated high above Jaisalmer on Meru Hill. Its big sandstone walls hold a colored soft tawny on the day and evening when is going down it turns to the magical honey gold color. This is still a living fort and about a quarter of city’s population still lives inside its strong walls. Strolling within the confines of the fort offers visitors a dual view of the India of today mixed with the India of centuries past. 

Merchant Havelis: These large houses, often built by wealthy merchants, typically served as mansions for local families. Some being hundreds of years old, these beautiful homes were either built from ornately carved wood or crafted from golden sandstone and sported many floors and countless rooms, all decorated with elaborately carved windows, archways, doors and balconies. Some havelis have been converted into museums and some into heritage hotels but most in Jaisalmer are still occupied by the descendants of the original families who built them. Patwon-ki-Haveli, this the biggest and most beautiful and most elaborate of Jaisalmer’s havelis, it is five-stories high and took fifty five years to complete. Salam Singh-ki-Haveli – beautifully haveli constructed in the year1815. Haveli Shreenath, built by the Vyas family in the 15thcentury, is still occupied by the descendants of the original family. Visitors may stay in one of the five rooms that are decorated with doors and ceilings of old carved wood as well as brass and iron fittings.

Sam Desert:

Now a national park, this area of sand dunes near the village of Sam is an iconic view of the desert sands seen in so many Hollywood movies. This huge expanse of gently rippled sand provides panoramic views of the vast undulating mountains of grains that drift with the winds. Both daytime and nighttime camel safaris are available here, with the most picturesque moments happening at sunrise and sunset. Overnight safaris are also common, with a chance to sleep out under the billions of stars overhead, an opportunity not to be missed.

Shekhawati

This semi-arid desert region of northern Rajasthan is well known for its finely painted havelis. This region known as the “open art gallery of Rajasthan”,  Mandawa, one of the larger cities in the region is a popular destination for desert culture.           

Mandawa Fort:

this fort was founded in the eighteenth century by the  thakur nawal Singh Jee, the fort hold the town with a painted arched gateway decorated with Lord Krishna and his cows. Built with a medieval theme, the fort is adorned with many beautiful frescoes on its walls.

Hanuman Prasad Goenka Haveli:

This haveli, graced with two entrance gates, has a monumental facade decorated with elephants and horses.

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