Rajasthan is India's largest state by area (342,239 square kilometres (132,139 sq mi) or 10.4% of India's total area). It is located on the north-western side of the country, where it comprises most of the wide and inhospitable Thar Desert (also known as the "Rajasthan Desert" and "Great Indian Desert") and shares a border with the Pakistani provinces of Punjab to the northwest and Sindh to the west, along the Sutlej-Indus river valley. Elsewhere it is bordered by the other Indian states: Punjab to the north; Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to the northeast; Madhya Pradesh to the southeast; and Gujarat to the southwest.
Major features include the ruins of the Indus Valley Civilization at Kalibanga; the Dilwara Temples, a Jain pilgrimage site at Rajasthan's only hill station, Mount Abu, in the ancient Aravalli mountain range; and, in eastern Rajasthan, the Keoladeo National Park near Bharatpur, a World Heritage Site known for its bird life. Rajasthan is also home to two national tiger reserves, the Ranthambore National Park in Sawai Madhopur and Sariska Tiger Reserve in Alwar.
The state was formed on 30 March 1949 when Rajputana – the name adopted by the British Raj for its dependencies in the region – was merged into the Dominion of India. Its capital and largest city is Jaipur, also known as Pink City, located on the state's eastern side. Other important cities are Jodhpur, Udaipur, Bikaner, Kota, and Ajmer.
The first mention of the name "Rajasthan" appears in James Tod's 1829 publication Annals and Antiquities of Rajast'han or the Central and Western Rajpoot States of India, while the earliest known record of "Rajputana" as a name for the region is in George Thomas's 1800 memoir Military Memories. John Keay, in his book India: A History, stated that "Rajputana" was coined by the British in 1829, John Briggs, translating Ferishta's history of early Islamic India, used the phrase "Rajpoot (Rajput) princes" rather than "Indian princes".
Parts of what is now Rajasthan were partly part of the Vedic Civilisation and Indus Valley Civilization. Kalibangan, in Hanumangarh district, was a major provincial capital of the Indus Valley Civilization.
Matsya, a state of the Vedic civilisation of India, is said to roughly corresponded to the former state of Jaipur in Rajasthan and included the whole of Alwar with portions of Bharatpur. The capital of Matsya was at Viratanagar (modern Bairat), which is said to have been named after its founder king Virata.
Bhargava identifies the two districts of Jhunjhunu and Sikar and parts of Jaipur district along with Haryana districts of Mahendragarh and Rewari as part of Vedic state of Brahmavarta. Bhargava also locates the present day Sahibi River as the Vedic Drishadwati River, which along with Saraswati River formed the borders of the Vedic state of Brahmavarta where Vedic scriptures were composed after the great floods, about 10,000 years ago. Manu and Bhrigu narrated the Manusmriti to a congregation of seers in this area only. Ashrams of Vedic seers Bhrigu and his son Chayvan Rishi, for whom Chyawanprash was formulated, were near Dhosi Hill part of which lies in Dhosi village of Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan and part lies in Mahendragarh district of Haryana.
The Western Kshatrapas (405–35 BC), the Saka rulers of the western part of India, were successors to the Indo-Scythians, and were contemporaneous with the Kushans, who ruled the northern part of the Indian subcontinent. The Indo-Scythians invaded the area of Ujjain and established the Saka era (with their calendar), marking the beginning of the long-lived Saka Western Satraps state.
Gurjars ruled for many dynasties in this part of the country, the region was known as Gurjaratra. Up to the tenth century almost the whole of North India, acknowledged the supremacy of the Gurjars with their seat of power at Kannauj.
The Gurjar Pratihar Empire acted as a barrier for Arab invaders from the 8th to the 11th century. The chief accomplishment of the Gurjara Pratihara empire lies in its successful resistance to foreign invasions from the west, starting in the days of Junaid. Historian R. C. Majumdar says that this was openly acknowledged by the Arab writers. He further notes that historians of India have wondered at the slow progress of Muslim invaders in India, as compared with their rapid advance in other parts of the world. Now there seems little doubt that it was the power of the Gurjara Pratihara army that effectively barred the progress of the Arabs beyond the confines of Sindh, their first conquest for nearly 300 years.
Medieval and Early Modern
Traditionally the Rajputs, Jats, Meenas, Gurjars, Bhils, Rajpurohit, Charans, Yadavs, Bishnois, Sermals, PhulMali (Saini) and other tribes made a great contribution in building the state of Rajasthan. All these tribes suffered great difficulties in protecting their culture and the land. Millions of them were killed trying to protect their land. A number of Gurjars had been exterminated in Bhinmal and Ajmer areas fighting with the invaders. Bhils once ruled Kota. Meenas were rulers of Bundi and the Dhundhar region.
A portrait of Hem Chandra Vikramaditya from the 1910s.
Hem Chandra Vikramaditya, the Hindu Emperor, was born in the village of Machheri in Alwar District in 1501. He won 22 battles against Afghans, from Punjab to Bengal and defeated Akbar's forces twice at Agra and Delhi in 1556 at Battle of Delhi, before acceding to the throne of Delhi and establishing the "Hindu Raj" in North India, albeit for a short duration, from Purana Quila in Delhi. Hem Chandra was killed in the battlefield at Second Battle of Panipat fighting against Mughals on 5th Nov. 1556.
Maharana Pratap Singh, legendary sixteenth-century Rajput ruler of Mewar.
Maharana Pratap of Mewar resisted Akbar in the famous Battle of Haldighati (1576) and later operated from hilly areas of his kingdom. The Bhils were Maharana's main allies during these wars. Most of these attacks were repulsed even though the Mughal forces outnumbered Mewar Rajputs in all the wars fought between them. The Haldighati war was fought between 10,000 Mewaris and a 100,000-strong Mughal force (including many Rajputs like Kachwahas from Dhundhar).
Jat king Maharaja Suraj Mal (February 1707 – 25 December 1765) or Sujan Singh was ruler of Bharatpur in Rajasthan. A contemporary historian has described him as "the Plato of the Jat people" and by a modern writer as the "Jat Odysseus", because of his political sagacity, steady intellect, and clear vision.
Rajput families rose to prominence in the 6th century CE. The Rajputs put up a valiant resistance to the Islamic invasions and protected this land with their warfare and chivalry for more than 500 years. They also resisted Mughal incursions into India and thus contributed to their slower-than-anticipated access to the Indian subcontinent. Later, the Mughals, through skilled warfare, were able to get a firm grip on northern India, including Rajasthan. Mewar led other kingdoms in its resistance to outside rule. Most notably, Rana Sanga fought the Battle of Khanua against Babur, the founder of the Mughal empire.
Hawa Mahal ("Palace of Winds") in Jaipur
Over the years, the Mughals began to have internal disputes which greatly distracted them at times. The Mughal Empire continued to weaken, and with the decline of the Mughal Empire in the 18th century, Rajputana came under the suzerainty of the Marathas. The Marathas, who were Hindus from the state of what is now Maharashtra, ruled Rajputana for most of the eighteenth century. The Maratha Empire, which had replaced the Mughal Empire as the overlord of the subcontinent, was finally replaced by the British Empire in 1818.
Following their rapid defeat, the Rajput kings concluded treaties with the British in the early 19th century, accepting British suzerainty and control over their external affairs in return for internal autonomy.
The Mehrangarh Fort at Jodhpur was built by Rao Jodha in 1459.
Modern Rajasthan includes most of Rajputana, which comprises the erstwhile nineteen princely states, two chiefships, and the British district of Ajmer-Merwara. Marwar (Jodhpur), Bikaner, Mewar (Chittorgarh), Alwar and Dhundhar (Jaipur) were some of the main Rajput princely states. Bharatpur and Dholpur were Jat princely states whereas Tonk was a princely state under a Muslim Nawab.
Rajasthan's formerly independent kingdom created a rich architectural and cultural heritage, seen even today in their numerous forts and palaces (Mahals and Havelis), which are enriched by features of Islamic and Jain architecture.
The development of frescos in Rajasthan is linked with the history of the Marwaris (Jodhpur-pali), who played a crucial role in the economic development of the region. Many wealthy families throughout Indian history have links to Marwar. These include the legendary Birla, Bajaj, Dalmia, and Mittal families.
Rajasthani (Devanagari: ?????????) is a language of the Indo-Aryan languages family. It is spoken by 20 million people in Rajasthan and neighbouring states of India and Pakistan. Marwari mostly spoken in Jodhpur division or thar desert area. It is one of the languages descended from old western Rajasthani, aka Maru-Gujar or Maruwani.
Rajasthan is culturally rich and has artistic and cultural traditions which reflect the ancient Indian way of life. There is rich and varied folk culture from villages which are often depicted and is symbolic of the state. Highly cultivated classical music and dance with its own distinct style is part of the cultural tradition of Rajasthan. The music has songs that depict day-to-day relationships and chores, often focused around fetching water from wells or ponds.
Special Jodhpuri Mirchi vada
Rajasthani cooking was influenced by both the war-like lifestyles of its inhabitants and the availability of ingredients in this arid region. Food that could last for several days and could be eaten without heating was preferred. The scarcity of water and fresh green vegetables have all had their effect on the cooking. It is known for its snacks like Bikaneri Bhujia. Other famous dishes include bajre ki roti (millet bread) and lashun ki chutney (hot garlic paste), mawa kachori Mirchi Bada, Pyaaj Kachori and ghevar from Jodhpur, Alwar ka Mawa(Milk Cake), malpauas from Pushkar and rassgollas from Bikaner. Originating from the Marwar region of the state is the concept Marwari Bhojnalaya, or vegetarian restaurants, today found in many parts of India, which offer vegetarian food of the Marwari people. 4 Dal-Bati-Churma is very popular in Rajasthan. The traditional way to serve it is to first coarsely mash the Baati then pour pure Ghee on top of it. It is served with the daal (lentils) and spicy garlic chutney. Also served with Besan (gram flour) ki kadi. It is commonly served at all festivities, including religious occasions, wedding ceremonies, and birthday parties in Rajasthan. "Dal-Baati-Churma", is a combination of three different food items — Daal (lentils), Baati and Churma (Sweet). It is a typical Rajasthani dish.
"Up-down" dolls are found in the roadside shops of Jaisalmer.
The Ghoomar dance from Jodhpur Marwar and Kalbeliya dance of Jaisalmer have gained international recognition. Folk music is a large part of Rajasthani culture. Kathputli, Bhopa, Chang, Teratali, Ghindr, Kachchhighori, and Tejaji are examples of traditional Rajasthani culture. Folk songs are commonly ballads which relate heroic deeds and love stories; and religious or devotional songs known as bhajans and banis which are often accompanied by musical instruments like dholak, sitar, and sarangi are also sung.
Traditional musical instruments of Rajasthan
Rajasthan is known for its traditional, colourful art. The block prints, tie and dye prints, Bagaru prints, Sanganer prints, and Zari embroidery are major export products from Rajasthan. Handicraft items like wooden furniture and crafts, carpets, and blue pottery are commonly found here. Shopping reflects the colourful culture, Rajasthani clothes have a lot of mirror work and embroidery. A Rajasthani traditional dress for females comprises an ankle-length skirt and a short top, also known as a lehenga or a chaniya choli. A piece of cloth is used to cover the head, both for protection from heat and maintenance of modesty. Rajasthani dresses are usually designed in bright colours like blue, yellow and orange.
A traditional folk singer practising in front of Jodhpur fort.
The main religious festivals are Deepawali, Holi, Gangaur, Teej, Gogaji, Shri Devnarayan Jayanti, Makar Sankranti and Janmashtami, as the main religion is Hinduism. Rajasthan's desert festival is held once a year during winter. Dressed in costumes, the people of the desert dance and sing ballads. There are fairs with snake charmers, puppeteers, acrobats and folk performers. Camels play a role in this festival.
Spirit possession has been documented in modern Rajasthan. Some of the spirits possessing Rajasthanis are seen as good and beneficial while others are seen as malevolent. The good spirits include murdered royalty, the underworld god Bhaironji, and Muslim saints. Bad spirits include perpetual debtors who die in debt, stillborn infants, deceased widows, and foreign tourists. The possessed individual is referred to as a ghorala ("mount"). Possession, even if it is by a benign spirit, is regarded as undesirable, as it entails loss of self-control and violent emotional outbursts.