The Cultural Hub of India
A vibrant tourist destination, Rajasthan offers an array of attractions. Purvi Kamaliya suggests you take a break from your itinerary and relish the lesser-known flavours of this historic state.
Palaces, forts, luxury and a vibrant culture trademark the state of Rajasthan. The state gives you a glimpse of the Royal Rajputana that was known for its gallantry, traditions and extravagant lifestyle. Through tourism, most of its colours have been brought out to shine, but there are many experiences that you miss while simply following your fixed itinerary. So, let me bring before you those hidden jewels and fantastic experiences you just shouldn't miss.
Clicking the iconic step-well
When the directors of The Dark Night wanted the best, geometrically designed prison for the adventure of Batman as a saviour, they couldn't find a match better than this beautiful well, constructed centuries back by the Rajput Kings in Rajasthan. The step-well, known as Chand Baori, is located at Abhaneri village. The actual purpose of the well, that has a three storied residence on one side, was to serve as a summer holiday home for the kings of the time. Its architectural brilliance keeps it cool during summers and warm during winters. The step-well even served as a source of drinking water till very recently. The complex around the well has some ancient idols of Hindu Gods and carvings.
It is a charming experience roaming around the village of Abhaneri, adorned with tiny mud houses, where the ladies cook on traditional stoves while wearing bright yellow saris. Also worth visiting is the Harshat Mata Temple. Regular buses and private cabs ply to Abhaneri, located on NH-11 or the Jaipur-Agra road, 95 kms from Jaipur.
Walk around India's Ancient Open Art Galleries with Frescos
Not too far from the royal city of Jaipur, lived the richest merchants of the time who traded in opium and zari (golden thread) on the silk route. The group of villages they lived in came to be known as the Shekhavati villages. Each of the merchants were said to be richer than the richest kings of the Rajputana Empire. They showed off their wealth by decorating the walls of their havelis (royal homes) with frescos depicting the foreign merchants' lifestyle and stories from Indian mythology. A few of them even had their ceilings embellished with real gold sheets.
One of these villages, Churu, has huge havelis with around 11,000 windows. Each village in Shekhavati presents you with a new surprise as you walk around the streets awestruck at the paintings.
The merchants abandoned their havelis when they got the opportunity to settle in big cities like Kolkata and Mumbai during the British Era. One of these havelis belongs to one of the richest businessmen in the United Kingdom, Laxmi Mittal. The best villages to stroll around are Churu, Mandava and Nawalgarh. Rajasthan Tourism, as well as many travel agencies, provide a special package tour to these villages.
Explore the City of Lakes
At the heart of the otherwise barren land of Rajasthan lies a city adorned with a number of lakes. Udaipur can be called the epitome of luxury and royal beauty. Apart from its splendid palaces, havelis and hotels, the city provides you with an excellent cultural experience. Its traditional puppet shows, folk music and dance at Gangaur Ghat on the lake, and visits to its exquisite temples are a few such experiences.
Moreover, this is the only city that lets you enjoy a stay right in the middle of a lake. The Taj Lake Palace Hotel at Udaipur is located in the centre of Lake Pichola with a grand view of the palace on one side and the sprawling range of the Aravali Hills on the other.
Sleep under the Stars
Have you ever wished to wake up to a star-studded ceiling in the middle of the night? That's exactly what you get while camping in the dunes of the Thar Desert in Jaisalmer. While the city itself reflects the golden granules of sand in its pastel yellow architecture, the Thar Desert itself makes you fall in love with the stark beauty of the place. Besides dune camping, the Youth Hostel Association of India offers you trekking in the desert along with camel and car rides on the inaccessible dunes.
Heritage Walk in Bikaner
While the havelis at Shekhavati take you on a historic trip to a bygone era, the Rampuria havelis at Bikaner give a glimpse into the lifestyle of a rich Rajput family. It is said that this family was so rich that even the king asked them for loans in times of urgent need. Many families in Bikaner owned their own havelis resembling palaces and lived like royalty. With intricately carved walls and doors and architecture inspired by British palaces, the Rampuria Havelis are unique structures and also resembles the grand old buildings of New York City.
Vibrant Palaces of Bikaner
Grand corridors with artistically painted walls, flanked by elegant windows, pillars and antique artefacts add to the aesthetic elegance of Junagadh Palace. The palace is an epitome of art and boasts of many masterpieces in wall paintings. The colourful rooms at Lalgarh Palace and Lakshmi Niwas Palace are also equally astonishing. Staying in one these palaces, now luxury hotels, can be a surreal experience.
Walk Around the Second Longest Wall of the World
The fort that is the birthplace of the legend named Maharana Pratap, the brave king of Mewar, is still guarded by a mighty wall fringing the fortified area for 36 kilomteres. A walk on this wall, in the early morning, gives you a panoramic view of around 360 Hindu and Jain temples built across the fort, and a lofty palace overlooks the vast area at the other end, guarding the land that once flourished under the devoted subjects of the Rana Kings.
Dance to the beats of Folk Music in an Old Haveli
As the sun bids adieu and paints Lake Pichola with its vibrant colours in the city of Udaipur, the traditional dancers are all ready in their colourful attire to give you a glimpse of the astounding culture of Rajasthan. Bagaro ki Haveli, tucked on the banks of the Lake Pichola, seems abandoned and quiet from its exterior, but the moment you enter, you are welcomed by the soothing sound of the shehnais, accompanied with the resonating sound of the dholak. And, the evening is filled with joy as the dancers amaze you with their graceful moves and their jingling anklets. Kalbeliya, Ghoomar, Terataali, Matki Bhavai and other folk dances performed here would take you back to the bygone era of the Rajput kings.
Marvellous Marble Architecture of Ranakpur & Mt. Abu
The man-made marvels of Ranakpur and Mt. Abu would definitely leave you awestruck with their delicate designs carved in white shining marble. The temples are perfect specimens of the craftsmen's hard work, skill and spirituality. Both the temples are located a few kilometers away from each other, and were completed only due to the dedication of their builders. The work continued even after the builders bade goodbye to their earthly home. The temples startle you with their flowers, devil faces and other symbols of Jainism carved on pillars, doors, and walls of this place of worship.