Rajasthan is an ancient land and has been, from time immemorial, at the forefront of activities that have had a great bearing on the historical, political as well as the cultural landscape of India. Situated in the north-western part of the country, bordering Pakistan, Rajasthan is a unique collection of paradoxes, all finely blended into a colourful concoction that leaves any visitor to this regal state bedazzled and bewildered.
On one hand you have the Thar Desert, popularly known as the Great Indian Desert, and on the other hand you have the Venice of the East, the city of lakes: Udaipur. While the ‘Ship of the Desert’, the camel, is found in abundance in the desert areas, the ‘King of the Jungle’, the tiger, roams majestically in the dense forests of Ranthambore and Sariska.
Ancient wonders like formidable fortresses, splendid palaces and serene temples stand proudly with the modern day marvels like swanky beautiful malls, all jostling for your attention. Coupled with the legendary hospitality that Rajasthan is globally acclaimed for, the state truly is a special travel destination.
We present to you a list of known/unknown facts about Rajasthan that will bring out a new facet to the state, as we know it today.
1) Rajasthan once used to be a part of the world’s oldest civilisation, the pre-historic Indus Valley Civilisation. Excavations at Kalibangan, a town in the Hanumangarh district, about 200 kms from Bikaner have revealed artifacts dating back to the ancient civilisation along with the discovery of ploughed fields, probably the world’s earliest ones.
2) In Hindu mythology, the state of Rajasthan has an importance all of its own. It is believed that Lord Ram of the Hindu epic Ramayana spent sometime in the jungles of Rajasthan during his 14 year long exile, as did the Pandavas from another Hindu magnum opus, the Mahabharata.
3) The ancient city of Mandore, about 10 kms north of Jodhpur, is believed to have been the hometown of Mandodari, the chief wife of the demon king Ravana of Lanka, who was killed by Lord Ram.
4) The mystic Saraswati River, one of the main ancient rivers revered by the Hindus, is believed to have disappeared under the sands of the Thar Desert, due to the emergence of the Aravali range of mountains.
5) The Aravalis are the oldest mountain range in India, even older than the Himalayas.
6) The Thar Desert is the largest desert in India and the world’s 18th largest sub-tropical desert.
7) Present day Rajasthan was formed on 30th March, 1949 after the merger of 22 kingdoms and principalities into a single geographic entity. Today, it is the largest state in India with Jaipur, the largest city as its capital.
8) The city of Jaipur was founded by the king Sawai Jai Singh II on 18th November 1727 and is arguably India’s first planned city as per the ancient Hindu doctrines of architecture, Vastu Shastra and Shilpa Shastra. It was planned by a Bengali architect and scholar Purohit Vidhyadhar Bhattacharya, whose descendents still live in the city.
9) Jaipur is also known as the Pink City on account of the pink color that was used to coat the buildings of the walled city, as a mark of respect for the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1876.
10) The sun city of Jodhpur is the second largest city of Rajasthan and is known as the Blue City on account of the bright blue painted houses that surround the hill on which the formidable Mehrangarh fort is situated.
11) The Mehrangarh fort in Jodhpur has been the site for many Bollywood and Hollywood movies, the most famous being the Batman blockbuster The Dark Knight.
12) The city of lakes, Udaipur, is also known as the White City on account of the predominance of white-coloured structures in the city.
13) A preferred shooting location, Udaipur too is a favourite for Bollywood and Hollywood movies. The enchanting Lake Palace on Lake Pichola was immortalised as the lair of Octopussy, in the swashbuckling James Bond movie of the same name.
14) Rajasthan is home to some great UNESCO World Heritage Sites like Keoladeo Bird Sanctury (Bharatpur) and Jantar Mantar (Jaipur). Six forts – Kumbhalgarh Fort, Chittorgarh Fort, Ranthambore Fort, Amer Fort, Jaisalmer Fort and Gagaron Fort (Jhalawar) – are a recent addition to the existing list.
15) The walls of the virtually impregnable Kumbhalgarh Fort extend to 36 kms and are believed to be the second-longest continuous wall in the world after the Great Wall of China.
16) The ancient Jaisalmer Fort is unique in that it is still lived in. The fort is still the home to a large mass of population making it perhaps the only inhabited fort in the world.
17) Pokhran, a town in Jaisalmer, has a great place in modern Indian history. It was the site of India’s first nuclear test in 1974 as well as the second nuclear test in 1998.
18) The nondescript village of Chotilla in Pali district about 40 kms from Jodhpur has a very extraordinary temple – that of Om Banna, or the “Bullet Baba”. The presiding deity here is a ‘Bullet’ motorcycle and the preferred offering is alcohol.
19) The Karni Mata Temple at Deshnok, about 30 kms from Bikaner, is also out of the ordinary. Here more than 20,000 black rats reside within the temple and are said to be the reincarnated male heirs of the presiding deity Karni Mata.
20) For the believers of supernatural powers, there are many haunted abandoned ruins to explore in Rajasthan. The ghost village of Kuldhara, 18 kms from Jaisalmer, became deserted overnight one fateful night in 1825, and both this settlement and the cursed town of Bhangarh in Alwar district have achieved cult status.
The list could go on and on – these 20 facts are too insufficient to really bring out the essence of the wonderful state of Rajasthan.
*Image of two camels in the desert near Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India via Shutterstock