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History and Heritage of Rajasthan

History and heritage of Rajasthan

History of Rajasthan

Bravery and chivalry of the Rajput warriors

It is said that long ago, Rama aimed an arrow at Lanka, the island where his wife Sita was held captive by the demon king Ravana. However, the annihilating power of the arrow was such that the gods implored Rama to give up his project. The latter refused, pointed the arrow towards the sea and let it go. The heat generated by the arrow dried up the sea and gave way to an immense, dry, arid and hot desert.

Unsurprisingly, myth and reality merge. Fossils found in the Thar Desert attest to marine life, memory of the sea that once shimmered here. It is towards this arid desert that man headed centuries ago. The first inhabitants were part of an urban civilisation that arose 4500 years ago. Recent excavations of the remains of the Indus civilisation have revealed that settlements penetrated to the heart of the desert.

The causes of the decline of the Indus civilisation remain unknown. At that time, in other parts of the world, other civilisations arose, developing a sophisticated network of trade that was linking the different continents. Maritime activity made it possible to connect Europe to Asia using the trade route that stretched from Western Asia to China, via the Hindu Kush mountains (Afghanistan and Pakistan), the vast desert spaces and the rich plains of Hindustan.

These caravans attracted additional commercial services, and the caravanserais of the desert became colonies. The invaders followed. And then came the colonists who, in exchange for the protection they offered the caravans, imposed a tax on the goods that passed through their territory. Thus began the transformation of the desert.

The kings were Rajputs, of the clan of Kshatriya warriors who once held much of Hindustan in their grip. But turf wars, the arrival of stronger enemies, and foreign invasions caused kingdoms to falter and centres of power to crumble. Deprived of their territories, they sought opportunities and places to establish their new command centres. The Thar became their refuge.

The Rajputs therefore settled here, in a country where the hills of the Aravallis formed like a beam across the desert. And it is here that they built magnificent citadels, seats of their power. These kings had found their place, and for a long time: today, the region where their mighty kingdoms once commanded respect, is called Rajasthan, the land of kings.

The history of Rajasthan is as rich in tales of bravery and chivalry as it is in folklore. Deeply religious, men built, in addition to fortifications and palaces, magnificent temples, complex wells, beautiful houses and monuments commemorating their dead. Celebrated for their bravery on the battlefield, the princes are just as renowned for their sensitivity and the support they offered to artists. No wonder Rajasthan is recognized as one of the richest arts and crafts centres in the world.

It is here that all the armies have held headquarters: from the invaders to the Marathas and from the Mughals to the British. While the kingdoms celebrated many victories, some defeats were cataclysmic. But many years later, when peace returned, the rulers created sumptuous palaces outside their forts, most of which are now open to visitors, transformed into hotels or museums. Camels and cars coexist as means of transport and the expertise of craftsmen meets the needs of international designers.

Today, little has changed in Rajasthan because its past is inextricably linked to its present. This explains why, sometimes, during a trip to rajasthan, when the wind sings, the sand shifts and the voice of a minstrel echoes through the courtyards of an abandoned palace, it is easy to imagine being transported to a time long gone where even fairy tales could have been true.

Histoire du Rajasthan
patrimoine du rajasthan
Histoire et patrimoine du Rajasthan
Heritage of Rajasthan

Heritage of Rajasthan

Exceptional architectural treasures

In Rajasthan, it is as if each rocky outcrop had its own fort and each lake its graceful palace. If the crenellated stone walls of the forts evoke troubled times, the graceful architecture of the palaces recalls an era of peace and opulence. A Rajput saying defines a man as one who must "in times of need wield a sword and in other times write and draw with pen and brush". The Rajput warriors lived up to this ideal: they created a completely self-contained world within the protective walls of their hilltop citadels and, in addition to austere military quarters, built luxurious palaces, temples and pavilions decorated with delicate sculptures and brightly coloured frescoes.

Immense fortunes were spent, many craftsmen came, from near or far. Prisoners of war were put to work and simple walls grew into mighty walled fortresses, dressed and equipped to withstand ever more inventive and stronger armies.

However, inside the defensive walls, luxury, pomp and ostentation also found their place. Fabulous palaces were built for the favourites, some were erected high up simply to enjoy the desert air or the view, others on the whim. In any case, these buildings form an exceptional architectural heritage of great beauty.

Among these treasures, at least one of the following will be on your program during a tailor-made trip to Rajasthan. These are the most imposing among the dozens of more or less important buildings that dot the Rajasthani territory.

Chittorgarh Fort : probably the largest medieval fort in India (Unesco 2013).

Junagarh Fort : the rooms of the interior palaces, richly decorated, in Bikaner, are among the best preserved. 

Kumbhalgarh Fort : perched in the Aravallis, it is the largest fortification in the world after the Great Wall of China (Unesco 2013).

Mehrangarh Fort : one of the most amazing forts in Rajasthan built on a hill overlooking the city of Jodhpur.

City Palace : royal residence enlarged over the centuries by the 21 maharanas of Udaipur until the Independence of India.

Jaisalmer Fort : emerging from the sands, the fort with 99 bastions houses the richly decorated houses of former merchants (Unesco 2013).

Amber Fort : royal residence close to Jaipur built to rival the opulence of the Mughals. It is one of Rajasthan's jewels (Unesco 2013).

Taragarh Fort : surrounded by hills, in Bundi, the fort is renowned for housing some of the most beautiful murals in Rajasthan.

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