India offers immense climatic diversity and topographical varieties. Deserts form the backdrop of many a legend in India, and in the present times, are touted as destinations of tourist interest.The Thar or Great Indian Desert is an arid region (800 km) long and (400 km) wide, in North West of India and East of Pakistan, between the Indus and Sutlej river valleys on the west and the Aravali Range on the east. Largely a desolate region of shifting sand dunes, broken rocks, and scrub vegetation, it receives an annual average rainfall of less than 25 cm. The sparsely populated region has a pastoral economy. Through the extension of canals fed with Sutlej and Beas waters, irrigation has reclaimed some land for agriculture along the northern and western edges.Nothing can prepare the visitor for the sheer magic and brilliance of the desert cities of Rajasthan. The camel rides on the sand dunes are an unforgettable experience as are the sunsets. These places boast of some very fine reminders of the glorious past – palaces, forts, temples and other elegant monuments of architectural and historical value and unforgettable treat for any visitor.
Explore the enigmatic desert of Rajasthan that will mystify your mind with its beauty and vastness. The gateway to the great Indian Thar desert through Jodhpur will take enchant you with a vast waste dotted with shifting sand dunes and sparse hamlets with cenotaphs called ‘Chattris’. At Jaisalmer in the heart of the desert the majestic golden fort is a memorable sight as is the camel ride at nearby Sam. Equally enchanting are the forts at Bikaner and Madwa, which drifts your mind to the medieval times.
Grandeur by the sand dunes – Founded in 1459 by Rao Jodha, Jodhpur was the capital of the princely state of Marwar, where the Rathor clan ruled. Set right at the edge of the Thar Desert, Jodhpur is strewn with forts and palaces that go back to the 15th century. On top of a hill, at the edge of the town, looms the Mehrangarh Fort, giving it a touch of medieval majesty.
Mehrangarh Fort – His formidable hilltop fort is one of the most impressive in Rajasthan. A series of gates lead into it, like Jayapol built by Maharaja Man Singh in 1806 and Fatehpol or ‘Victory Gate’ erected by Maharaja Ajit Singh to celebrate his victory over the Mughals. Inside the fort, see the palaces: Moti Mahal or ‘Pearl Palace’, Sukh Mahal or ‘Pleasure Palace’ and Phool Mahal or ‘Flower Palace’.
Jaswant Thada – Marble cenotaph built in 1899 as a memorial to Maharaja Jaswant Singh II.
Ummaid Bhawan Palace – Built by Maharaja Ummaid Singh in1943, this marble and sandstone palace is an imposing sight. The museum here has a fascinating collection of antique clocks and miniature paintings.
Shopping – At Mochi Galli. Look for embroidered leather shoes, tie and dye fabrics, lacquer ware, antiques and puppets.
Cuisine – Try makhaniya lassie- a delicious creamy drink. And popular desserts – mawa laddoo, mawa kachori, dhood firni.
Festivals – Marwar festival, A cattle fair in Nagaur, Shitlamata fair at Kaga, Gangaur Fair at Pipar.
The magic of a golden fortress.
Centuries ago, Jaisalmer was on the camel trading route between India and Central Asia. It is a city that rises from the desert like a golden mirage. Dominating the view is the awesome citadel on the hill – a fort built with the golden yellow stone of the area. Jaisalmer is a visual delight. Wander through its lanes and discover the ‘Havelis’ with delicately carved stone facades
Jaisalmer Fort – Built in golden yellow sandstone, this fairy-tale fortress stands on Tricuta Hill. Still inhabited, there are palaces and bazaars within the fortress.
Havelis – Healthy merchants built these exquisite Havelis, with profusely-carved stone facades. Don’t miss Patwon Ki Haveli, Salim Singh Ki Haveli and Nathmal Ki Haveli.
Rishabdeviji Temple, Ashta Padi Mandir & Sambhavnath Temple – Dating from the 12th to 15th century, these three exquisite Jain temples contain a treasure of Jain manuscripts.
Shopping – At Manik Chowk, pick up woven blankets and shawls, mirror-work textiles, silver jewellery and block-printed textiles.
Festivals – Annual Desert Festival.
Bikaner the royal fortified city stands on a slightly raised ground and is circumscribed by a 7 km long embattled wall with five gates. The magnificent forts and palaces created with delicacy in reddish-pink sandstone bears testimony to its rich cultural heritage. Bikaner more popularly called the camel country is renowned for the best riding camels in the world.
Junagarh Fort – The Junagarh Fort, built by Rai Singh between 1588 and 1593, has a 986-metre-long wall with 37 bastions, a moat and two entrances. Situated at a height of above seven hundred feet above sea level, it towers over the city and can be seen from a distance. The fort and its palaces are profusely decorated with magnificent stone carvings. The major buildings within the fort include the Anup Mahal, Diwan-e-Khas, Hawa Mahal, Badal Mahal, Chandra Mahal, Phool Mahal, Rang Mahal, Dungar Mahal, and Ganga Mahal. The Chandra Mahal has remarkable frescoes. Beautiful mirror work adorns the walls of Phool Mahal while golden pen work decorates the Anup Mahal.
Lalgarh Palace – Built by Maharaja Ganga Singh in memory of his father, the Lalgarh Palace is situated 3 km north of Bikaner city. Designed by Sir Swinton Jacob, the palace is quite imposing with overhanging balconies and delicate latticework. Peacocks and blooming bougainvillea in the garden welcome the visitor to the palace. To promote tourism, the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation has converted a portion of this palace into a hotel.
Ganga Golden Jubilee Museum – One of the best museums in Rajasthan, the Ganga Golden Jubilee Museum has one of the richest collections of terracotta ware, weapons, miniature paintings of Bikaner school and coins dating back to Harappan civilization and Gupta and Kushan era.
Raj Ratan Bihari and Rasik Shiromani Temple – These temples are situated inside the Ratan Bihari Park on the northern side of KEM road. Built in early 19th cent by Ratan Singuji and Sardar Singuji. They are of red sandstone and constructed in a mansion style of architecture.
Barmer, located in the western part ofÂ Rajasthan, is a desert town just 153 km fromÂ Jaisalmer. It forms a major part of the Thar Desert. The original name of the village was Bahadmer which means the hill fort of Bahada. The town has many historical sites and is a popular tourist destination. The trip to Barmer can be very interesting and offers fascinating sights as one gets to pass through rural Rajasthan. One will see small villages with mud-houses decorated with folk motifs, and colorfully attired people on the way. Though a barren land with harsh climate and tough terrain; Barmer is known for its rich crafts, dance and music.
Â Barmer Fort:The tourist attractions in Barmer are the Barmer Fort. Actually the Barmer town sits atop a rocky hill, where one can find the ruins of the old Barmer Fort scattered all over.
Balark Temple:The Balark Temple, dedicated to Balark (the Sun God) and the ancient ruins of Juna Barmer are other interesting tourist attractions in Barmer.There are three Jain temples, an inscription of 1295 AD and a massive pillar in the hall of the largest temple of Maharaja Kula Sri Samanta Sinha Deva, a ruler of Barmer, which are worth visiting.
Kiradu:At a distance of 35km on the foot of a hill near village Hathma in Barmer is Kiradu, which boasts of a beautifully carved temple with fine details of temple architecture. Once the capital of Punwars, Kiradu was called Kiratkoop, as revealed in the 1161 AD inscription found here. The ruins of five ancient temples-one dedicated to Lord Vishnu and other four dedicated to Lord Shiva are of major interest to archaeologists and art lovers, alike
Shopping:The city is well known for its excellent wood carvings, carved wooden furniture and hand block printed textiles. The main centre for buying embroidered clothes is Sadar Bazaar, whereas woodcarvings are found along the Station Road. Carpets, pottery, intricate embroidered fabric and pouches, Pattius’ Dari, rugs, blankets and shawls can also be purchased here.
Fairs and Festivals:
Tilwara Cattle Fair: A major cattle fair lasting a fortnight, held in village Tilwara.
Nakoda Parasvanath: The festival held in Mevanagar village commemorating the birth anniversary of Parasvanath.
Veeratara Mela: Held at Veertara (12 km from village Chohatan), the fair venerated goddess Vakaldevi and is held thrice a year in the month of Chaitra, Bhadrapada & Magha.
Khed Fair: A big religious fair held on Purnima (full moon) in village Khed.