Rajasthan, literally meaning “Land of the Kings”, is one of the most attractive tourist destinations in Western India. The vast sand dunes of the Thar Desert attract millions of tourists from around the globe every year.
Chandramahal in City Palace, Jaipur, Rajasthan, built by Kachwaha Rajputs.
While its colour-charged cities throb with the crowds and noise and confusion of newly appearing India, the treasures of the past hold pride of place in mind and spirit. There‘s beautiful Mehrangarh near and threatening over sea-blue Jodhpur, the golden sandcastle at Jaisalmer, the palaces of Udaipur, Pushkar‘s respectful yet (big show with lots of food and fun things to do) charm, the storybook fun of Bundi and the painted havelis (beautifully decorated residences) sprinkled through Shekhawati. Rajasthanis are rightly proud of their rich and mixed-up history and there‘s a recognisable admission/response/recognition of the economy‘s dependency on tourism.
Jaipur, the City of Victory, has a habit of tickling travellers pink. Here you‘ll find a well-preserved and living past – stunning hilltop forts, beautiful palaces and humming, bargain-filled shops – as well as a large number of change (to help someone)/place to live and sleep and dining options. From the always-existing shops of the old city to the (huge/very tall) malls of glass and chrome, which seem to be sprouting everywhere, there is an amazing organized row of items for sale – Rajasthani crafts, fabrics, art and, of course, gems.
This safe place is worth visiting with or without the attraction of the tiger. The 800 sq km reserve is also home to nilgai, sambar, chital (spotted deer), wild wild pig and many species of bird. It also has some fascinating sights within and around its edges/borders, including the amazing hilltop Kankwari Fort (22km from the Forest Reception Office), and Bhangarh, a deserted, well-preserved 17th-century city that‘s in a very well-known way haunted.
Rajasthan’s famous special celebration (with fun events) is less about the (when something is named after someone) camels and more about a playin’ good time, though the dunes outside of Pushkar are still a sight (and a smell) to look at when the cameleers come to town. Drawing in 50,000 camels and 200,000 people, the fair is apparently (on the surface) when Rajasthani farmers gather to buy and sell their camels, (cows, bulls, etc.) and horses – most of the trading, however, is completed in the days leading up to the fair. When the special celebration (with fun events) proper begins, the camels go to the outer as moustache competitions and sporting events take centre stage. For the camels it‘s a time of lounging about the dunes, riding visitors through the grounds and participating in races and dance competitions.
This national park is 1334 sq km of wild jungle scrub surrounded (in a bad way) by rocky ridges. At its centre is the 10th-century Ranthambore Fort and scattered nearby are very old temples and mosques, crocodile-filled lakes, chhatris (memorials to the dead) and hides. The park was a maharajas‘ hunting ground till 1970 – a curious 15 years after it had become a safe place. Ranthambore is the best place to spot wild tigers in Rajasthan.
Udaipur is Rajasthan‘s, maybe India‘s, most romantic city, a tag that was first applied in 1829 by Colonel James Tod in his Recorded events & Very old, valuable things of Rajasthan. Framed by the very old Aravalli hills, the old city is ruled by the (dome on top of a building)-crowned City Palace, which rises suddenly from the glassy waters of Lake Pichola. The palace‘s (small platforms that stick out from a room) look over the lake towards the city‘s other famous hugely important – the Lake Palace – a (mirror-like/related to carefully thinking about past events), fairy-story sweet, baked food shining by day and spotlit by night.
Mighty Mehrangarh, the muscular fort that towers over the blue city of Jodhpur, is a beautiful sight to see and an architectural masterpiece. The difficult/impressively strong walls appear to grow organically from its rocky perch. Down below, the old town, a jumble of Brahmin-blue cubes, sprawls into the haze. The ‘blue city‘ really is blue! Jodhpur proper stretches well beyond the 16th-century border, but it‘s the (attention-getting nature of something that’s happening right now) and buzz of the old blue city and the larger-than life fort that capture travellers‘ imaginations.
Still run by the (children, grandchildren, etc.) of the Maharaja of Jodhpur, Mehrangarh is fascinating. As you approach, the walls fly (beautifully)/increase overhead in a fascinating/hypnotizing demonstration of the skills of the builders. Inside the fort walls is a deep-terracotta coloured, (made of crossed strips of wood, metal, etc.) palace complex and network of (open spaces next to buildings), beautiful examples of the (left and right side not matching) and (having a left half that’s a perfect mirror image of the right half) that mark Rajput buildings. Of the fort‘s seven gates, look out for Lohapol (Iron Gate), which has many sad tiny hand prints, the sati marks of Maharaja Man Singh‘s widows, who threw themselves upon his funeral fire in 1843. They still attract loyal (to God) attention and are usually covered in red powder.
The fort of Jaisalmer is an amazing sight: a huge sandcastle rising from the sandy plains like a mirage from a time from long ago. No place better reminds people of/brings out fancy camel-train trade routes and desert mystery. Ninety-nine huge protections (or strongholds) encircle the still-lived-in narrow streets. Inside are shops wrapped in clothing in bright (decorations of thread patterns), a royal palace and many businesses looking for your tourist rupee. Despite the business it is hard not to be haunted/impressed by this desert castle/fort. Beneath the (huge protecting walls) the twisting lanes of the old city hide beautiful havelis of crumbling beauty. The havelis, the fort and its enclosed palace are all carved from the same golden honey sandstone, that’s the reason for the city‘s name/label as the Golden City.
The Desert National Park has been established in the Great There Desert, 42km from Jaisalmer. One of the most popular trips is to the sand dunes on the edge of the park. This is Jaisalmer‘s Sahara-like desert, with huge, silky, moving (in a wavy pattern) folds of sand. It‘s best to be here at sunrise or sunset, and many camel safaris spend a night here, but it‘s still possible to frame pictures of single/alone camels against lonely dunes.
Bundi is a fascinating town, with narrow lanes of Brahmin-blue houses, mixed temples and a beautiful palace. This – or at least the old town beneath the palace – is the Rajasthan of the travel (short documents that describe a business or place), almost free from noisy (adding unwanted things to/making dirty) engines and choking crowds. It still has an atmosphere of past wonders (as Kipling appreciated while he lived and wrote here), most easily felt around the (dome on top of a building)–covered fairy-story palace that spills down the hillside. From January to March, delicate pink poppies fill surrounding fields. Here you will find a welcome break from the usual/usually done tourist trail. Bundi is still the place to explore laneways or just sit and soak up the history or look at modern life.