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From palaces and folk music to colorful trinkets and festive animals, the state of Rajasthan in north India is nothing but magical.


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Rajasthan Tourism, Narayan Niwas


Today’s Rajasthan embraces both traditional values and modern developments, where you will find roads trafficked by shiny new cars, rickshaws as well as camel carts. Meaning “the land of the kings”, Rajasthan remains a rich and diverse destination with natural beauty, great history and a thriving culture. From the pink city of Jaipur, the “Venice of India” Udaipur to the desert festival in Jaisalmer, it takes at least a week to explore Rajasthan and even that would mean missing a lot of things. Why be in a rush when you visit a place where time seems to stand still?


Glorious Past

The maharajas and maharanis might have lived in bygone eras, but what they left behind still stands tall and enthralling, enduring the passage of time. There couldn’t be a better backdrop than the golden sand dunes to frame historical royal buildings where real gold must have decorated every surface. Rajasthan is filled with forts, palaces, temples and monuments from the past that tell the tales of bravery, opulence and glories to every visitor that passes through.

Jaipur is called the “pink city” not only for its extensive use of the locally abundant pink stone, but the color also represents the hospitality of Rajasthan’s capital city and is a symbol of romance and chivalry. Poet king Sawai Pratap Singh built the “palace of winds”, Hawa Mahal, for the ladies of the royal household to watch everyday life and processions from a comfortable, sheltered vantage point. Delicate, honeycomb-latticed pink sandstone windows on the façade remain iconic features of the city. In the heart of the walled city, the City Palace Complex was built by the founder of Jaipur, Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh. Aside from the architectural marvels, it also hosts a collection of royal costumes, exquisite pashmina shawls, Benaras silk saris and weapons and armor, among many others. The ex-royal family still lives in a wing of the palace.

The placid blue lakes of Udaipur enhance the beautiful gardens and marble palaces which seem to float on their surfaces like in fairytales. The prided Pichola Lake and Fateh Sagar Lake aren’t natural lakes, if you want to delve into details, but this fact doesn’t make them any less of a view – especially when they surround palaces such as The Lake Palace or Jag Niwas. Straying a bit far from the city is the Kumbhalgarh Fort, built in the fifteenth century and the second most important citadel after Chittaurgarh in the Mewar region. The fact that it’s hard to access and built on a hostile landscape shows how invisible and well-protected the fort was in the past.

Another must-visit fort is the Golden Fort of Jaisalmer, whose walls extend around the whole fortified city, although some parts have crumbled from the harsh climatic conditions. Gadsisar Lake, a rainwater conservation lake from the fourteenth century is now a popular tourist spot with many small temples and shrines around it. It’s also a popular spot to take photographs of the fort. Another impressive remnant of the past is the Bada Bagh, which, despite literally meaning “big garden”, leaves its gardens largely neglected. The main points of attraction are the cenotaphs of Jaisalmer royals, starting from the founder and Maharaja of Jaisalmer, Jai Singh II.

Many old and neglected grand buildings have been converted into heritage hotels, preserving history while providing visitors with a firsthand experience of the lives of royalty. You may even try staying inside one of the haveli: intricately painted, carved and embellished mansions, sometimes with architectural marvels of past riches up to three stories high and complete with courtyards. Or you can opt to spend your nights in the nineteenth century ancestral sandstone structures of Narayan Niwas Palace, also in Jaisalmer. Don’t forget to go on the camel excursion out into the desert like the wandering warriors of the past.


Celebrate the Present

To the people of Rajasthan, a lot of things are worth celebrating. Apart from the common festivals celebrated throughout the country, chances are you will come across local fairs and festivals in which you can participate. 

Early in the year, the Jaisalmer Desert Festival is a three-day extravaganza of color, music and festivities. Folk performers such as puppeteers and male Gair dancers give it their all while the locals dress in their best to see the camel races, camel polo matches, turban-tying competitions and even the contest to choose the next ‘Mr. Desert’. Camels are also the stars of the festival, with colorful accessories and trinkets covering their bodies. 

The town of Pushkar comes to life during the Pushkar Fair, usually held during October or November, which draws attention not only from the livestock being traded, but also unique competitions such as cattle milking and traditional wall-painting competitions. The fairground is packed with games, circus shows, and shops selling souvenirs and curios. The fair also includes spiritual events such as Deep Dan with beautiful candle lanterns floating on the lake.

Along with the festival come cultural performances you wouldn’t want to miss. The chari dance, for example, is where traditionally-dressed women dance to Rajasthani folk music. The highly popular dance is about the art of collecting water in a chari or pot as the women do on a daily basis, with the women dancing while balancing the ignited brass pots on top of their heads. 

Another celebratory dance is the Kalbelia, performed by a tribe bearing the same name, to represent their pride and identity as snake charmers. Where the ladies dance and twirl like serpents in flowing black skirts, the men use different instruments including pungi, which is traditionally played to capture snakes. But the snakes don’t seem to be only ones charmed by them, as the audience is always enthralled to see this rarely performed dance. 




International flights can reach the state of Rajasthan via Jaipur International Airport, Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai and Indira Gandhi International Airport. From there, you can ride airplanes, buses or trains to the respective cities. 


Where to Stay: 

There are various heritage hotels approved by the government to welcome you into the true homes of a Rajasthani, modernized to meet traveler’s comfort while retaining ancestral charms.


Narayan Niwas, Jaisalmer


Alsisar Haveli, Jaipur


Bal Samand Lake Palace, Jodphur



Explore by Trains: 

Travel at night and explore the state of Rajasthan and its surrounding cities during the day in the comfort of luxury trains. The oldest one, The Palace on Wheels, has been operating since 1982. There are also The Royal Rajasthan on Wheels and The Maharajas’ Express if you want to check out other routes. 



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