Rajasthan

Photo © Sairajs

Travel Guide Asia India Rajasthan

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Introduction

Curious Children

Curious Children

© All Rights Reserved Ardy

Rajasthan is your typical India and is one of the most visited regions of the countries. With opulent Maharaja Palaces, gigantic Forts, some great wildlife, crumbling but delightfully painted merchant havelis and even a pink and blue city, you won't be disappointed when travelling around this fascinating area in the northwest of India.

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Brief History

Rajasthan , known as “the land of Kings” is the largest state of India by area. It is located in the west of India. It comprises of the area of the large, Thar Desert, which is also known as the Great Indian Desert. Rajasthan is also bordered by Haryana to the northeast, Gujarat to the southwest , Madhya Pradesh to the southeast and Punjab to the north. Jaipur is the capital and the largest city of the state.

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Geography

The main geographic features of Rajasthan are the Thar Desert and the Aravalli Range, which runs through the state from southwest to northeast, almost from one end to the other, for more than 850 kilometres. Mount Abu lies at the southwestern end of the range, separated from the main ranges by the West Banas River, although a series of broken ridges continues into Haryana in the direction of Delhi where it can be seen as outcrops in the form of the Raisina Hill and the ridges farther north. About three-fifths of Rajasthan lies northwest of the Aravallis, leaving two-fifths on the east and south direction.

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Sights and Activities

Thar Desert

Ship of the desert.

Ship of the desert.

© All Rights Reserved daveh

The Thar desert is arid region in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent. It covers much of Rajasthan, extending from here into the southern Haryana and Punjab states and into northern Gujarat state. Apart from India, it also covers the astern Sindh province and southeastern Punjab province in Pakistan. The Sutlej and Indus Rivers and Aravalli Range and Rann of Kutch form its natural boundaries. It is a hilly desert, with large areas of sand dunes, athough the central part is more of a plain with no dunes at all. Unlike much of India, it hasn't got a monsoon season as wet as other parts of the country, although also here the wetter months are from July to October. It's also a good region to see lots of animals typical for this part of India and there are some interesting cities within its boundaries as well, including Jodhpur and the 'capital' of the desert Jaisalmer, where camel rides into the desert are one of the more popular trips.

Other Sights and Activities

Jaisalmer - safari camel sunset vertical

Jaisalmer - safari camel sunset vertical

© All Rights Reserved Camerowska

  • Jodhpur Flying Fox
  • City Palace
  • Hawa Mahal" Palace of the Winds
  • Galta Monkey Temple
  • Jantar Mantar Observatory
  • Monsoon Palace
  • Lake Pichola and Fateh Sagar Lake
  • Jaswant Thada
  • Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park
  • Clock Tower and Old City Markets
  • Chittorgarh Fort
  • Jaisalmer Fort
  • Mehrangarh Fort
  • Ranthambore National park
  • The Painted havelis of Shekhawati - The havelis of Shekhawati region - comprising of many small villages/towns- transports you back in time. The region had immense wealth in years gone by and the rich merchant families made big, palatial houses comprising some of the finest wall paintings you will find in India. The region is famously known as the biggest open art gallery in India. Unlike the biggest cities of Rajasthan, which bears imprints of one maharaja or another, Shekhawati was a region made and decorated by the people. Amongst the region, the best havelis lay in the towns of Churu, Ramgarh and Nawalgarh though a number of other towns also have few havelis worth visiting. While several of these havelis are now renovated into heritage hotel properties, most are unattended and are disintegrating fast. Address: North west of Rajasthan

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Events and Festivals

Pushkar Festival

The Pushkarfestival is one of the biggest camel fairs in the world, held in Pushkar. Thousands of people during this day go to the banks of the Pushkar Lake where the fair takes place and where livestock livestock, including camels, cows, sheep and goats, is sold. A camel race marks the start off the festival, and music, songs and exhibitions are held throughout the day. Although the dates of Pushkar Fair depend upon the movement of the moon, traditionally it mostly falls in November. It falls on the day of Poornima (full moon night) in the month of Karthika. On this day, according to legend, the Hindu god Brahma sprung up the lake, so thousands of Hindu devotees take dip in the Pushkar lake, washing away the sins. The water of the lake is believed to have healing properties.

Desert Festival, Jaisalmer

The Desert Festival is organized in Jaisalmer, usually in the month of January or February. The duration of the festival is three days and it comes to an end on Poornima, the full moon day. The main purpose of the Rajasthan Desert Festival is to display the rich and colorful culture of the state. Dressed in vibrant and colorful attire, the people of Rajasthan dance to the tunes lingering ballads of heroism, romance and tragedy of the local heroes.

National Events and Festivals

  • Holi is quite popular in the Indian sub-continent and is traditionally celebrated on the day after the full moon in the month of Phalguna (early March), according to Hindu calender. Holi is a thanksgiving festival, where people offer prayer to God for good harvest and fertility of the land. Holi is a festival of freedom from social norms and caste inhibitions are shed for a day as people indulge in fun and merry-making. Colors and 'gulal' are showered on the people dressed up for the occasion and the whole community seems to merge into one big family under the guise of colors, without any distinction whatsoever. Children with face smeared with colors run around with 'pichkaris' (big syringes to splash colored water) and play amongst themselves. People exchange good wishes, sweets and gifts. Holi is also marked by vibrant processions which are accompanied by folk songs, dances and drum beating. Parties are also organized where snacks and the traditional milk-based drink “Thandai” is served which is often intoxicated with “Bhang”. Of late, lots of foreigners have started taking interest in this festival and they even enjoy the colors and the intoxicating drink. It is advised to cover your hair with a cap and eyes with sunglasses to avoid the colors splashing the eyes and damaging the hair.
  • Republic Day - Republic Day is a national holiday in India every January 26 to commemorate the adoption of the Constitution in 1950 and the declaration of independence in 1930. The capital of New Delhi is the focus of the celebrations, including a flag raising ceremony, wreath laying, 21-gun salute, Presidential speech, and presentation of awards for selflessness and bravery. A massive military parade includes elephants ridden by children who have received national accolades.
  • Gandhi Jayanti - Gandhi Jayanti is a national public holiday commemorating the birth of the peaceful activist, Mohandas Gandhi on October 2, 1869. The celebration coincides with the United Nations’ International Day of Non-Violence. In India, Gandhi is remembered through statues, flower and candle offerings, prayers and singing the devotional hymn Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram. The Indian government issues special mint rupees and postage stamps bearing his picture.
  • Diwali - Diwali is the five-day festival of lights held in India in late October or early November each year. The widely celebrated Hindu event marks Lord Rama’s victory over the demon Ravan. Homes and streets are decorated with lights, candles and small clay lamps, and new clothes are worn and sweets are exchanged.

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Weather

The coolest, driest time over most of the country is from December to February, when light northerly winds bring clear skies and little rain, and nights can even be chilly. Rajasthan is extremely hot from March to May, with temperatures sometimes exceeding 50 °C, and averages are well into the 40's. From June to October temperatures drop a bit but it stays hot and humid, with sometimes severe showers, though not the extreme rainfall compared to many other parts of India.

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Getting There

By Plane

  • Jaipur International Airport (Airport code JAI) is located around 13 kilometres from the city and has a number of flights linking the city to all the major cities of India. Recently the airport has been upgraded to an international airport and to begin with flights are available to Sharjah, Dubai and Muscat. Other destinations include Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Nagpur, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Jammu and Srinagar. The airport can be easily reached from the city centre by taxis, autorickshaws and city buses.
  • Domestic flights are available from the Jodhpur airport (JDH) which is located around 5 kilometres from the city. Regular service carriers like Indian Airlines, Jet Airways, and Kingfisher Airlines operate flights from the airport to cities like Delhi and Mumbai.
  • Udaipur Airport, known as Dabok airport is located around 23 kilometres from the city centre and has a number of flights linking Udaipur to Delhi and Mumbai. Recently the airport has been upgraded to an international airport but is yet to begin international flights. Unfortunately there is no public transport from the airport to the city centre and taxis cost around 200-300 Indian rupees.

By Train

Rajasthan has 4600 km of railway track. This railway network connects Jaipur and other major cities with Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. The head quarter of North-West Railways is based at Jaipur.

By Car

The state has length of 8627 kilometres of state highway and 5655 kilometres national highway. Four lanes NH8 passes through the Jaipur and Udaipur and Agra is connected to Jaipur through a four lane road. The road is excellent and connects Delhi to Mumbai. Though Mumbai may be too far away, this is the most popular way to travel to Jaipur from Delhi as the road is in excellent condition and the drive can easily be completed in under 4 hrs.

By Bus

Rajasthan Tourism and Rajasthan State Transport operate luxury air conditioned Volvo bus services between Delhi and Jaipur. The first bus departs at 5:25 and the last, at 01:00, with a frequency of approximately every half hour daily. This bus is equipped with personal LCD TV, charger and (in some trips) Wi-Fi. These buses are very comfortable and the most desired travel option between Delhi and Jaipur. Tickets can be booked online on the Rajasthan State Transport website or a visit to Scindhia House New Delhi (near India gate). Buses start and end at Scindia House in Delhi and Sindhi Camp in Jaipur. Private agents generally not allowed to book tickets for this route, so if anybody offers to book a ticket for you, be wary. Rajasthan Tourism and Rajasthan State Transport also operates luxury air conditioned Volvo bus services between Delhi and other cities in Rajasthan, with 2 or 3 trips per day. These buses may depart from any of several different areas of Delhi (Scindia House, Kashmiri Gate ISBT, and Sarai Kale Khan ISBT); a phone call to Rajasthan State Transport office will give you all the information.

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Getting Around

All the cities have public transport in form of buses. Also available are jeeps on hire, but beware of jeep drivers who overcharge tourists.

Railways can be the better travel mode as it is quick and the service on most trains is excellent. But in Rajasthan, roads may be more enjoyable for short distances as the sights of the desert with the hills are beautiful. A popular drive is from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer, which is because the flight takes longer overall and the road is excellent.

A very popular but expensive option is Palace on Wheels which is a week long luxury train ride through interiors of Rajasthan.

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Language

Most people speak Rajasthani dialects, Hindi and sometimes broken English. In tourist places like Jaipur and Jodhpur, you will find trained English, German and French guides too. You may not be able to understand some people due to the dialect that they speak and at times, they may add words from these dialects while speaking Hindi. This does not mean that they are unable to understand you. In Rajasthan, Hindi is universally understood whereas English is spoken among the educated. Bear in mind that Rajasthani languages are more likely to be spoken by older people rather than younger people.

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Eat

Savory food is generally very spicy - to be enjoyed in moderation for first timers. Dairy-based sweets are also very popular in this part of the country. Restaurants are mostly vegetarian. Finding restaurants serving good non-vegetarian food could be difficult, and in general, non-vegetarian stuff in road side eateries should be avoided. Bread, both leavened and unleavened, is readily available.

A typical Rajasthani meal would include daal-baati-churma. Daal is lentil curry; baati are round balls made out of wheat flour and baked on a charcoal fire; churma is a dessert made out of crushed wheat balls rolled in jaggery/sugar and topped with ghee.

What not to miss in Rajasthan?

  • Mawa KachoriI - A Indian Kachori with sudar syrup and mawa. Available at all sweet shops.
  • Ghewar - Ghewar is a deep fried dish. Try having it at Johri Bazar and Rawat Sweets
  • Mirchi Bada - Green chillies dunked in besan and are deep fried.
  • Rajasthani Subji - Rajasthani curry, Pakodi, Ker Sangri and Gatte ki Subji

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Drink

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Keep Connected

Internet

There's good coverage over most of India for Internet cafes. However, following the recent terror attacks in Mumbai and some other cities, all internet cafes have been instructed by the authorities to maintain a register and note down the identification details of all persons using internet. Sify iWay is a reliable and cheap cafe with over 1,600 cafes over India. iWay also allows you to open a pre-paid account that you can use all over India. Whenever you have Internet access probably the best and cheapest way to call family and friends at home is software that allows users to make voice calls over the Internet such as Skype.

Wifi hotspots in India are, for most part, limited. The major airports and stations do offer paid wifi at around RS.60-100 an hour. Delhi, Bangalore, Pune and Mumbai are the only cities with decent wifi coverage. At Mumbai airport, you get to use WiFi internet free, for an hour or so.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The country code for India is 91. To dial outside the country from India, prefix the country code with 00.

The general emergency number is 100 (emergency response police & fire), while for ambulance you should dial 102 or 112, though some regions have 108 for this emergency. 108 is used in in the Indian states of Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Goa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Odisha,Assam, Meghalaya, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. 108 can be called for medical, crime, fire, or any other emergency from any phone.

Local phone numbers can be anywhere from 5-8 digits long. But when the area code is included, all landline phone numbers in India are 10 digits long. Cellphone numbers usually start with '9', '8', or '7'. Toll-free numbers start with 1-800.

If staying longterm it is probably wise to think about investing in a mobile phone. You'll possibly need to provide a photocopy of your passport and itinerary, so come prepared. Make sure you arrange it upon arrival in a big city, as it can sometimes be difficult to organise with language barriers and such in more regional areas. You can buy a cheap nokia for about RS.1,200 with a pre-paid plan. Airtel is a good carrier to think about as they have great coverage, and constant offers for cheaper calling. To recharge, most shop vendors with phone carrier signs can do it via their own phone. You give them your mobile number, they put it in their phone and you'll both get messages as to whether or not the recharge has been successful. Also, if possible, buy the phone in the state where you do the most travelling as the charges are higher in the states where you did not originally buy the phone.

Over the entire country there are plenty of public phones, even in the middle of the countryside. Although most of the time these phones are not very well maintained and have horrible connections. Therefore remember when using one of these public phones one must be extremely patient.
For international calls from payphones, you'll have to visit a reputable internet cafe with a phone-booth. Mobile phones are usually a better and cheaper option.

Post

India Post is the national postal service of India, and on their website you find details about prices to send postcards, letters and parcels, both domestically and internationally. For most postcards to send internationally, it is better to visit the post office before writing on the card as you may need quite a few stamps. Parcels must be taken to a tailor, he will then sew it up in white linen. Make sure he seals it with red wax, otherwise the post office may refuse to send it or try to get you to pay them to do it. Sewing up a parcel should only cost RS.50 to 200. In general, post offices are open from 10:00am to 1:00pm and 1:30pm to 4:30pm in most bigger towns and cities, though there are regional variations and some might keep longer hours or be open during (part of) the weekend as well. Ask around.

If you want to send bigger packages/parcels, it might be better, faster and sometimes even cheaper, to contact a private company like DHL, TNT or UPS.

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Accommodation in Rajasthan

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Rajasthan searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Rajasthan and areas nearby.

Contributors

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Rajasthan Travel Helpers

This is version 32. Last edited at 12:15 on Aug 14, 17 by Utrecht. 26 articles link to this page.

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