Rajasthan is a vibrant, exotic state where tradition and royal glory meet in a riot of colour against the vast backdrop of sand and desert. The word Rajasthan literally means the land of the Rajas. Its history is woven with tales of courage, chivalry, friendship, loyalty, and romance. The history of Rajasthan is also dotted with courtly intrigue and interstate warfare. It has an unusual diversity in its entire forms-people, customs, culture, costumes, music, manners, dialects, cuisine, and physiographic.
It’s a magical land that springs surprises at every turn, takes your breath away at every bend. In Rajasthan, cities sprang up around the citadel. They still retain their medieval flavour with forts and palaces, with havelis for people to stay, and with temples and mosques for people to pray.
The land is endowed with invincible forts, magnificent palace havelis, rich culture and heritage, beauty and natural resources. It is a land rich in music, dance, art & craft, and adventure, a land that never ceases to intrigue & enchant. There is a haunting air of romance about the state, which is palpable in its every nook and corner. This abode of kings is one of the most exotic locales for tourists the world over. The state has not only survived in all its ethnicity, but owes its charisma and colour to its enduring traditional way of life.
Rajasthan is surrounded by western Pakistan, Madhya Pradesh, southeast, southwest Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh in the north-east, north and Punjab.
Rajasthan handicrafts are the richest in India. It is quite known for its exquisite handicrafts. Depicting the rich culture & tradition of the state, the beautiful handicrafts of Rajasthan keep their exclusivity. The Handicrafts of Rajasthan are an add-on to the attractions of the state. Travellers and tourists love to see and purchase exquisite handicrafts while on Rajasthan tours. Exquisite handicrafts of the state proudly depict the masterful creativity of the Rajasthan people.
Rajasthan has blended its reach and colourful age-old traditional textile industry with the latest technology-savvy textile industry. The textile industry of Rajasthan has a presence across the entire textile value chain – from spinning to garments and made-ups. Bhilwara is the biggest centre for the production of viscous and polyester textiles in India. Almost half of India’s PV suitings and yarn are contributed by Rajasthan. Pali, Balotra & Jodhpur are the renowned locations in the country for processing, dyeing and production of low-weight, low-cost fabrics. Jaipur has earned a name for the export of fashion garments. Rajasthan is a major producer of printed and dyed fabrics for the fashion garment industry and the Rajasthani prints of Bagru and Sanganer have gained international recognition. Khadi and hand-woven Kota Doria are also gaining popularity among fashion designers. Made ups and textile handicrafts products from Rajasthan have found a market across the globe. More than 2000 garment/textile handicrafts, including made-up units, are operational in Rajasthan.
Jewellery for women in Rajasthan plays a vital role in their lifestyle. Rajasthani jewelleries are a part of the daily ornamentation and a mark to describe their present status as well. The traditional pieces of jewellery in Rajasthan are strictly followed according to the status of the person, adorning the woman’s complete figure from head to toe.
It is considered auspicious and worn on every joyous occasion. The Karanphool Jhumka (a bell-shaped earring), Toti (parrot-shaped earring), Lathan (grape) and Pipal Patti (heart-shaped ornament) are the most common earrings worn by Rajasthani women. The necklaces are of varied types, but the favorites are the Chandan Haar, the Mohanmala, the Champakali, the Adah, the Mohrun, the Tussi, the Jugnu, and the Hansli. Rajasthani women adorn their arms with a bewildering range of amulets, bracelets, bangles, and rings. Baju Bandh, Gokhru, Bala, Kada, Chuda, and Hathpol are common bangles and bracelets, while the Arsi, a ring, is considered a must-have for the newly wed bride. Toe rings such as Anvat and anklets such as Jhanjhar or Pajeb are owned by almost every woman. Other favored ornaments include the Timaniyan, Gajra and Jod.
Leather items from Rajasthan are also popular. In particular, mojaris and jutis with beautiful embroidery work are loved by people. The pattern and design of embroidery vary from region to region. However, Jodhpur and Jaipur are the places known for their beautiful mojaris and jutis.
Mojari are made by artisans, mostly using vegetable-tanned leather. The uppers are made of one piece of leather or textile embroidered and embellished with brass nails, cowry shells, mirrors, bells, and ceramic beads. Even the bonding from the upper to the sole is done by cotton thread that is not only eco-friendly but also enmeshes the leather fibers with great strength. Some product ranges also use bright and ornate threads.
In ancient times, these were worn by the multitude and royalty. As it evolved through the centuries and is being produced by individual artisans, products vary in designs and colours. It encapsulates cultural diversity, local ethos and ethnicity.
Rajasthan, recognized for its royal heritage, also has a prominent and well-established craft industry. Craft remains a tradition in Rajasthan, preserved over centuries by the stronghold of the Royal Rajput family. Within the craft industry are smaller occupations. These include fabric colouration and embellishment, decorative painting and puppetry. Craft workers see this not as an occupation, but rather a mark of respect for their heritage. In the process of fabric colouration, woven fabrics are treated by methods such as tie-dyeing, resist dyeing, and direct application.
Interiors of homes are painted with floral motifs; similar bindi (dotted) designs are seen on garments. The clipped camel is unique to Rajasthan. In this, patterns are imprinted on the hide of the camel, taking place during the Pushkar and Nagaur festivals by the Rabari caste.
Rajasthani quilts are popular among people. The most famous place is Jaipur, where you can purchase quilts. The specialty of Jaipuri quilts or Jaipuri rajais is that they are light and soft as feathers, and, more importantly, they are of high quality. They are available in many varieties, like cotton block printed, velvet printed, etc.
Rajasthan Quilts are famous for their extra lightness. The lightness of the quilts is the property of the special cotton used in filling these quilts. These beautiful quilts provide an amazing degree of warmth and coziness. The quilt is brilliantly hand block printed in the Sanganeri style of printing.
Block printed quilts were patronised by the kings of Rajasthan and they proudly owe a worldwide reputation for them. So enjoy this winter by curling up with one of these quilts in total relaxation and comfort. Sanganeri block printing is the most ancient and famous hand block printing industry in India. Wooden blocks are soaked in natural or chemical colors and then dyed clothes are printed with those wooden blocks.
Fairs & Festivals:
Rajasthan in India is a colourful desert. The unconvincing Thar Desert of Rajasthan, and with it all the barren land of Rajasthan in India, has much to offer through the plethora of celebrations. Festivals and fairs in Rajasthan, India, with all the music and dances, turn the land into a creative, fertile basin. Rajasthan is a vibrant, exotic state in India where tradition and royal glory meet in a riot of colors against the vast backdrop of sand and desert. Referred to as the “Desert Jewel of India”, Rajasthan shimmers with even more vibrancy during the time of its colourful fairs and festivals. The desert glitters with the colors of joyous celebration and gay abandon with every fair and festival in Rajasthan, India. There is a celebration for every religious occasion, every change of season, and every harvest, all invariably a reflection of the genius of their arts and crafts and their ascetic refinement.
These festivals of Rajasthan, born out of age-old traditions, adorn the golden land and unveil the best in vulnerable colours. The festive colours of Rajasthan are alive and unrestricted and unify each soul who visits this magic land of Rajasthan in India. There’s a rhythm, there’s a jest, a passion, a spirit of romance, valour, and a feeling of being one with the blonde landscape. This spirit of celebration is like Desert Rains, hidden in the Aravalli bosom, unfolding its feathers with each festival. Rajasthan is known as the most vibrant, colorful, and culturally rich state in India. The vibrant and lively people of Rajasthan are famous for their passion for colorful costumes, dance, music and various festivals. In fact, the true color of Rajasthan can best be seen in the colorful and passionate celebration of various festivals and fairs all round the year. Each region has their own form of folk entertainment, their own traditions, and their own dialect, adding to the Indian diversity. Be it men or women, young or old, everyone wears new and colorful costumes. Everywhere you can see men wearing red turbans and women wearing vibrantly colored lehangas and odhnis, which show the joyous spirit and passion of the people towards life. Various colorful cultural programs of folk dance and music add to the charm of these fairs and festivals. Folk dances, folk music, puppet shows, buying and selling of cattle, cock fights, bull fights, camel races, colorful clothes, and all the other paraphernalia associated with rural festivals can be seen at the massive annual gatherings that mark these fairs and festivals in different parts of Rajasthan, India.
A lively and colorful event, the Camel Festival is organized by the Department of Tourism, Art and Culture, in Bikaner every year. January is just the right month for a desert spree, and Bikaner is just the right place to see the ships of the desert. In the camel country, Bikaner, these desert leviathans pull heavy cartloads, transport grain and even work at wells. The Camel Festival begins with a colorful procession of bedecked camels against the red sandstone backdrop of the Junagarh Fort. The festivity advances to the open sand-spreads of the grounds, followed by the best breed competition, the tug-of-war contest, camel dance, acrobatics, etc.
The camels display amazing footwork, dancing gracefully to the slightest direction of their trainers. Bridles, bridles, bejeweled necks, jingling anklets and long, lanky camel shadows on dusky sands cast a magical spell. Hundreds of tourists and thousands of locals and dignitaries revel in this man-and-animal affair organized especially for tourists. The evenings close with a different tenor and tempo altogether: a traditional rendezvous of renowned artistes from Rajasthan and the local folk performers. The jubilant skirt-swirling dancers, the awe-inspiring fire dance, and the dazzling fireworks light up the fortified desert city of Bikaner.
This eight-day fair, held every year during the months of January-February, is popularly known as the cattle fair and is the second largest in Rajasthan. Nagaur Town is the most picturesque of the Rajput townships. The town becomes a sea of animals, trading over 70,000 bullocks, camels, and horses every year. Bullocks are known for their fleetness. Not only are the animals lavishly decorated, even their owners flaunt their colorful turbans and long moustaches.
From shearing sheep to handsome Marwari horses to spices, all compiled into one fair. Attractions include the‘mirchi’ bazaar (the largest red chilly market in India), wooden items, iron-crafts and camel leather accessories. Sports like tug-of-war, camel races, bullock races, and cockfights; jugglers; puppeteers; and exciting campfire evenings are held to entertain the tourists. Folk music of the Jodhpur variation echoes the tranquil desert sand.
Teej is one of the most widely celebrated festivals in Rajasthan. Swings, traditional songs and dancing are the unique features of Teej celebrations in Rajasthan. Women perform traditional folk dances dressed in green colored clothes and sing beautiful Teej songs while enjoying their sway on swings bedecked with flowers.
Teej is celebrated with immense fun and fanfare in the capital city of Jaipur. On this day, women and young girls wear their best clothes and adorn themselves with fine jewellery. They gather at a nearby temple or a common place and offer prayers to Goddess Parvati for the well being of their husbands.
On the occasion of Teej, markets in Jaipur are stocked with the trendiest women’s accessories and clothes. Most of the fabric clothes display ‘laheria’ (tie and dye) prints. Sweetshops keep different Teej sweets, but ‘Ghevar and Feeni’ is the main sweet of the season.
All over Rajasthan, swings are hung from trees and decorated with fragrant flowers. Women, both married and unmarried, love to swing on these swings to celebrate the ‘Sawan festival’.
The Pushkar Cattle Fair is one of the largest in India and the only one of its kind in the entire world. During the fair, lakhs of people from rural India flock to Pushkar, along with camels and cattle, for several days of livestock trading, horse dealing, pilgrimage and religious festivals.
This small town becomes a cultural phenomenon when colourfully dressed devotees, musicians, acrobats, folk dancers, traders, comedians,‘sadhus’ and tourists reach here during the Pushkar fair. According to Hindu chronology, it takes place in the month of Kartika (October or November), beginning on the ‘ashtmi’ 8th day of the Lunar Calendar and continuing till the full moon (‘Poornima’). The camel and cattle trading is at its peak during the first half of the festival period. During the latter half, religious activities dominate the scenario. Devotees take dips in the holy “Sarovar” lake, as the sacred water is known to bestow salvation.This small town is transformed into a spectacular fairground, as rows of make-shift stalls display an entire range of objects of art to daily utility items. Decoration items for cattle, camels, and women. Everything is sold together. Small handicraft items are the best bargain for buying souvenirs. The camel and horse races have crowds to cheer. Camel judging competitions are quite popular with animal lovers. Each evening brings different folk dances and music from Rajasthan, with performers delivering live shows to the roaring and applauding crowds.
Pushkar fair has its own magic and it’s a lifetime experience for travellers. It has featured in a number of travel shows, films and magazines. According to the Lonely Planet: “It’s truly a feast for the eyes. If you are any where within striking distance at the time, it’s an event not to be missed.
Urs – Ajmer:
The lakeside city of Ajmer is located in central Rajasthan, and is held in great reverence by devotees of all communities who call it ‘Ajmer Sharif’ (Holy Ajmer). It is here that the mortal remains of the highly respected Sufi saint Khwaja Moin-ud-din Chishti lie buried.
The Khwaja came from Persia and established the Chishti order in India. He is popularly known as Gharib Nawaz (protector of the poor) because he dedicated his entire life to the service of mankind. His spartan life spanned almost a hundred years and he embraced death in solitude while he had withdrawn to his cell for six days, asking not to be disturbed. The Dargah Sharif in Ajmer is the place where the Saint’s mortal remains lie buried and is the site of the largest Muslim fair in India. More than five lakh devotees belonging to different communities gather from all parts of the subcontinent to pay homage to the Khwaja on his Urs (death anniversary) during the first six days of Rajab (the seventh month of the Islamic calendar.)
The pilgrims who come to seek the blessings of the Khwaja make rich offerings called ‘nazrana’ at the holy spot where the saint has been entombed. The offerings of rose and jasmine flowers, sandalwood paste, perfumes and incense contribute to the fragrance that floats in the air inside the shrine. Also offered by devotees are the ‘chadar’, ‘ghilaph’, and ‘neema’, which are votive offerings for the tomb. These are brought by devotees on their heads and handed over to the ‘khadims’ inside the sanctum sanctorum. Outside the sanctum sanctorum of the ‘dargah’, professional singers called ‘qawwals’ sing the praises of the saint in a characteristically high-pitched voice.
Heritage & Culture:
The Thar is known for being the most colourful desert in the world. A spirit of celebration permeates the very air of this province. Reflected in Rajasthan’s colourful streets and in the costumes of its people is the spirit of joie de vivre. Over centuries, Rajasthan has hosted various civilizations, each bringing its distinct flavour to this cultural melting pot. Settlers ranged from ancient Indus Valley urbanites to pastoral Aryan herdsmen, Bhil forest dwellers, Jain merchant princes, Jat and Gujjar cultivators, Muslim craftsmen, and the Rajput warrior aristocracy. All shaped this region, called the land of kings. Dance, music, celebration, fanfare, festivals, art and aesthetics relieve the tedium of coping with this harsh and demanding land. Travel to Rajasthan, savor its splendors, imbibe its enviable heritage and immerse yourself in its cultural melange.
Rajasthan has a wide diversity in its stunning and interesting culture. The colourful culture of Rajasthan is reflected in its music & dance, costumes & ornaments, delicious cuisine, tradition & customs, and fairs & festivals. Colourful costumes, festivals, and customs relieve the boredom of coping with a harsh, demanding land. People come here to savor its splendors and imbibe its enviable heritage. Discover it all in the fairs and festivals like Pushkar and DesertFestival, dances like Kalbelia, Rajasthan cuisine, and crafts of Rajasthan.
Rajasthan has a rich tradition of cuisine – for this land of princes had some of the finest cooks in the palaces. The common-folk also took epicurean delight in the culinary art. It has been said that the royal kitchens of Rajasthan raised the preparation of food to the level of a sublime art. It is not surprising, therefore, that the ‘Khansamas’ (the royal cooks) who worked in the state palaces kept their most prized recipes to themselves. Some recipes were passed on to their descendants and the rest were passed on as skills to the chefs of the semi-states and the branded hotel companies.
One special feature of Rajasthani cooking is that it has its roots in the lifestyle of medieval Rajasthan, when the chieftains were mainly at war. The focus was on edible items that could last for several days and could also be eaten without heating. Food was also prepared out of necessity rather than choice. It depends on the items available in particular regions. Furthermore, the scarcity of water as well as fresh green vegetables has had some impact on their art of cooking.
In the desert belt of Jaisalmer, Barmer and Bikaner, cooks use a minimum of water and prefer, instead, to use more milk, buttermilk and clarified butter. A distinct feature of Maheshwari (a trading company) cooking is the use of mango powder, a suitable substitute for tomatoes, scarce in the desert, and asafetida, to enhance the taste in the absence of garlic and onions.
One always ends up licking his fingers.Each region is distinguished by its popular sweet-Mawa Kachori from Jodhpur, Alwar ka Mawa, Malpuas of Pushkar, Rasogullas of Bikaner, Jaipur Ghevar, just to name a few. Your tummy will scream “No more!” But you won’t stop!!!