Introduction: Rajasthan, the largest state of India is located in the north-western part of the subcontinent. It is bounded to the north and north-east by the states of Punjab and Haryana, to the east and south-east by the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, to the south-west by the state of Gujarat, and to the west and north-west by Pakistan. The southern part of the state is about 225km from the Gulf of Kutch and about 400 km from the Arabian Sea. Jaipur is the capital city and lies in the east-central part of the state.
History: The history of Rajasthan is about 5000 years old and the mythological origin of this gigantic land is related to the famous myth of Ram, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. In the ancient period, Rajasthan was a part of different dynasties including the Mauryan Empire . The first batch of Aryans who came to India settled in the region of Dundhmer and the first inhabitants of this area were the Bhils and the Minas. The earliest Rajput dynasty that emerged around 700 AD was the Gurjara and Partiharas and since then Rajasthan was known as Rajputana (the land of the Rajputs). Soon, the Rajput clan gained supremacy and the Rajputs were divided into 36 royal clans and 21 dynasties. The armed conflicts and the struggle for supremacy among the Parmars, Chalukyas, and Chauhans resulted in a lot of bloodshed.
In the medieval era, the major regions of the state such as Nagaur, Ajmer and Ranthambhore became a part of the Mughal empire, which was headed by Akbar. The most famous Rajput warriors of this era were Rana Uday Singh, his son Rana Pratap, Bhappa Rawal, Rana Kumbha and Prithviraj Chauhan. With the end of the Mughal regime in 1707, the Marathas gained supremacy and captured Ajmer in 1775. The Maratha ascendancy ended in the late 17th century with the arrival of British. The present state of Rajasthan was formed in 1956.
The land: The Aravalli Range forms a line across the state running roughly from Guru Peak (1,722 metres), near the town of Abu (Mount Abu) in the south-west, to the town of Khetri in the northeast. About three-fifths of the state lies northwest of this line, leaving two-fifths in the southeast. These are the two natural divisions of Rajasthan. The north-western tract is generally arid and unproductive, although its character shifts gradually from desert in the far west and north-west to comparatively fertile and habitable land toward the east. The area includes the Thar (The Great Indian) Desert. The name Thar is derived from t’hul, the general term for the region’s sand ridges.
National parks and wild life sanctuaries: The diverse landscape of the state, houses a number of well-known wild life sanctuaries and national parks. It is a home to some of the most majestic beasts that the whole world is struggling to save. Here one can have a rendezvous with a variety of animals which include the world-famous Indian tigers, chinkara, black bucks, the greatly threatened caracal and the great Indian bustard. Exotic birds like the common crane, ducks, coots, pelicans and the rare Siberian cranes, imperial sand grouse, falcons, buzzards flock to the state to escape the bitter cold in their homeland. Rajasthan has two national parks, over a dozen sanctuaries and two closed areas. Most of these are open for tourists around the year except for the monsoon months. Ranthambhore National Park and Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary are both known worldwide for their tiger population and considered by both wilderness lovers and photographers as the best places in India to spot tigers. Prominent among the wildlife sanctuaries are Mount Abu Sanctuary, Bhensrod Garh Sanctuary, Darrah Sanctuary, Jaisamand Sanctuary, Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary, Jawahar Sagar sanctuary and Sita Mata Wildlife Sanctuary.
Economy: The economy of the state is primarily agricultural and pastoral. Wheat, barley, pulses, sugarcane and oilseeds are the main food crops, while cotton and tobacco are the state’s cash crops. A major portion of edible oils is produced by Rajasthan, which is also the second largest producer of oils seeds. Rajasthan is the biggest producer of wool and opium in the country. The crops are irrigated using water from wells and tanks. The north-western region of the state receives ample water from the Indira Gandhi Canal.
Mineral-based, agriculture-based and textile industries dominate the scenario in the state. Rajasthan is the second largest producer of polyester fibre and cement in India. Several prominent chemical and engineering companies are located in the city of Kota, in southern Rajasthan. The state is also known for its marble quarries, copper, zinc mines and salt deposits in Sambhar Lake.
Barmer district in Rajasthan ranks second in crude oil production in the country. Currently, the state government in collaboration with Cairn India, is in the process of setting up an oil refinery in Barmer.
Demographics and administration: Rajasthan has a population of 68,621,012 as per the 2011 census. The population growth over the last ten years has been around 21.44%. The sex ratio of Rajasthan is 926 per 1000 males. The largest cities of Rajasthan are Jaipur, Jodhpur and Kota. The state of Rajasthan has 33 districts and 25 Parliamentary constituencies. Rajasthan has a single-chamber legislative assembly with 200 seats. The state sends 35 members to the Indian national parliament: 10 to the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) and 25 to the Lok Sabha (Lower House). Local government is based on 30 administrative districts. In politics, Rajasthan is dominated by two major parties: the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indian National Congress (INC).
Education: The literacy rate in Rajasthan has increased significantly in the recent year. From an average of 38.55 % (54.99% male and 20.44% female) in 1991, the state’s literacy rate has increased to 67.06% (80.51% male and 52.66% female) in 2011. Rajasthan has a number of well known universities and more than 250 colleges. It has more than 50,000 primary and 7,000 secondary schools. There are many engineering colleges with an annual enrolment of approximately 11,500 students. The state has more than 20 polytechnics and more than 100 Industrial Training Institute (ITIs) which impart vocational training.
Tourism: Rajasthan’s historical forts, palaces, art and culture attract millions of national and international tourists every year. Endowed with natural beauty and a great history, Rajasthan has a flourishing tourism industry. The palaces of Jaipur, lakes of Udaipur, and desert forts of Jodhpur, Bikaner and Jaisalmer are among the most preferred destinations of many tourists, Indian and foreign. As a matter of fact, Jantar Mantar in Jaipur and the hill forts of Rajasthan which include Chittorgarh Fort, Kumbhalgarh Fort, Ranthambore Fort, Gagron Fort, Amber Fort, Jaisalmer Fort and Amber Fort have recently been declared world heritage sites by UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific Cultural Organisation. Tourism accounts for eight percent of the state's domestic product. Many old and neglected palaces and forts have been converted into heritage hotels. Tourism has increased employment in the hospitality sector.
Culture: The state is known for its rich and varied artistic and cultural traditions, which depict the Indian way of life. The inspiration for the dances and the music of Rajasthan has been derived from nature, as well as the day-to-day relationships and chores, more often focused around fetching water from wells or ponds. Ghoomar dance from Udaipur and Kalbeliya dance of Jaisalmer have gained international recognition. Folk music is a vital part of Rajasthani culture. Kathputali, Bhopa, Chang, Teratali, Ghindar, Kachchhighori, Tejaji, parth dance are the examples of the 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 (often accompanied by musical instruments like dholak, sitar, sarangi etc.) are also sung. Rajasthan is famous for semi-precious stones and handicrafts, and for its traditional and colourful art. Rajasthani furniture has intricate carvings and bright colours. Block prints, tie and dye prints, Bagaru prints, Sanganer prints and Zari embroidery are major export products from Rajasthan. The blue pottery of Jaipur is quite famous.
People: Rajasthan has large indigenous populace–The Meo and Minas (Minawati) in Alwar, Jaipur, Bharatpur, and Dholpur areas. The Banjara are travelling tradesmen and artisans. The Gadia Lohar is the ironsmith (lohar) who travels in bullock carts (Gadia); they generally make and repair agricultural and household implements. The Bhils are one of the oldest peoples in India, and inhabit the districts of Bhilwara, Chittaurgarh, Dungarpur, Banswara, Udaipur, and Sirohi and are famous for their skill in archery. The Grasia and nomadic Kathodi live in the Mewar region. Sahariyas are found in the Kota district, and the Rabaris of the Marwar region are cattle breeders. The Oswals hail from Osiyan near Jodhpur are successful traders and are predominately Jains. While the Mahajan (the trading class) is subdivided into a large number of groups, some of these groups are Jain, while others are Hindu. In the north and west, the Jat and Gujar are among the largest agricultural communities. The Gujars who are Hindus dwell in eastern Rajasthan. The nomadic Rabari or Raika are divided in two groups the Marus who breed camels and Chalkias who breed sheep and goats. The Muslims form less than 10% of the population and most of them are Sunnis. There is also a small but affluent community Shiaite Muslims known as Bhoras in southeastern Rajasthan. The Rajputs though represent only a small proportion of the populace are the most influential section of the people in Rajasthan. They are proud of their martial reputation and of their ancestry.
Cuisine: Rajasthan has a rich tradition of cuisines – 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. Aptly has it 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 semi States and the branded hotel companies.
Festivals: Falsely accused of being devoid of life, Rajasthan celebrates the generosity of nature through its countless festivals and fairs. Such is the spirit of its people that the state capital was lovingly anointed ‘The City of Festivals’. Festivals hold an unusual lure for the Rajasthanis and they need little reason to celebrate, be it the turn of a season, a wedding or simply a dry time of the year, the desert folk are in love with gaiety. The frequent pageantry serves well for trade too as it makes for a thriving market, of which live off its artists and tradesmen. Each region boasts of its own form of folk entertainment, traditions and dialect, adding to the state’s diversity. The festivals make way for fairs. Originally a congregation of cattle breeders and small vendors, these gatherings retain their rustic charm, but today they are far from being merely utilitarian. Of the several hundred fairs that have grown over the years some major ones, like the Pushkar Fair, the Desert Festival, Elephant Festival and Camel Festival. Other fairs, like Kajli Bundi, Kaila Devi Fair, Ramdevra Fair and Banehswar Fair to name just a select few, were purely celebrations of faith and remain so even today.
At a glance
|Date of formation: November 1, 1956|
Size: 342,239 sq km
Population: 68,621,012 (census 2011)
Population density: 165/sq km
No. of districts: 33
Lok Sabha seats: 25
Judicature: Jodhpur High Court
Languages: Hindi and Rajasthani
Rivers: Beas, Chambal, Banas, Luni
Minerals: Zinc, mica, copper, gypsum, silver, magnesite, petroleum
Industries: Textiles, woollen, sugar, cement, glass, zinc smelters
Airports: Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur
Forests and national parks: Sariska Tiger Reserve, Keoladeo Ghana NP, Ranthambore NP, Dhawa WS
Neighbouring states: East: Madhya Pradesh; North-east: Uttar Pradesh; North: Haryana and Punjab; West : Pakistan, South: Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh
State animal: Chinkara
Main crops: Mustard, jowar, bajra, maize, gram, wheat, cotton, millet
- It is the world's 18th largest subtropical desert.
- The Thar Desert is the most densely populated desert in the world, with a population density of 83 people per square km.
- India exploded its first nuclear bomb in the Thar Desert on May, 1974.
- It is the biggest wool-producing area in India.
- There are ten times more animals per person in Rajasthan than the national average.