Foreigners’ Guide To Exploring Rajasthan
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Rajasthan, the land of glistering golden sand and multi-colored fabrics is one of the most visited sates of India. The rich handicrafts, the ancient folk traditions, the delightful surprises presented by the sand dunes, the magnificent edifices like palaces, forts, the simplistic lifestyle of the natives, the religious shrines, the wildlife sanctuaries and the royal histories of the place together contribute to make Rajasthan a tourist’s paradise, so much so that it attracts the maximum number of foreigner tourists towards it as compared to any other state of India.
Rajasthan which is often called the land of colors’ is also rightly known as the ‘Land of the Kings’. This magical land set amidst the desolate desert with its architectural splendor and its rich heritage fascinates umpteen people who come from different parts of the world to visit this mystic place. The discussion below is meant to help foreigners in their attempt to visit Rajasthan and take back the best of memories with them.
Ideal Time To Visit
The ideal time of a year to visit Rajasthan ranges from the middle of October to the middle of March. Being the desert state, summers are unbearably hot and the scorching heat would not let any individual enjoy the wonders of this place. Filled with a large number of tourist destinations, Rajasthan is sure to promise a foreigner the best of his expeditions if visited during the time span just mentioned.
How To Reach Rajasthan
Enriched with a royal heritage and lined with imposing palaces and forts, the most romantic state of India, Rajasthan lets her travelers reach her through a number of ways.
By air: The three major airports of Rajasthan are Jaipur, Udaipur and Jodhpur. A large number of public and private airlines offer regular flights to arrive these places connecting them to major cities of India such as Delhi and Mumbai. In order to enter Rajasthan from Delhi, Jaipur is the most expedient entry point and again if a traveler plans to visit from Mumbai the Udaipur is undoubtedly the best option.
Rajasthan has a commendable railway network and the major railway stations are in Jaipur, Jodhpur, Ajmer and Udaipur all of which are connected with the significant Indian cities. However, the best way to reach Rajasthan experiencing a palatial journey is to avail the ‘Palace on Wheels’. This luxury tourist train provides the travelers on board marvelous royal grandeur of the land. The recently launched tourists’ train ‘Heritage on Wheels’ also covers a huge circuit presenting enchanting glimpses of magnificent heritage.
With the help of the networks of the National Highways and the State Highways of India, it is easy to reach Rajasthan by road. It takes merely five hours to reach Jaipur from Delhi by road. The attractive panoramic roadways beckon innumerable travelers to travel to Rajasthan by road.
Major airports have international flights like Jaipur. But you can also reach Rajasthan from any of the major cities in India like Delhi, which has 2-3 flights daily to the main cities here.
Exploring Rajasthan by Cycling
For the adventurous travelers, Rajasthan has ample surprises to offer. In order to experience the colorful state of Rajasthan in an exotic way, many could prefer to explore the place by cycling. He state has so much in store to awe the travelers; the palaces, the forts, the desert, the elephants, the camels, the snake charmers and so much more! The ideal way to explore Rajasthan by cycling is to plan out a fortnight trip.
Places to See in Rajasthan
Are you planning on getting married in India, well then this is the city to be. Jaipur, known as the ‘Pink City’ is richly lined with ancient palaces and forts, all exhibiting excellent architectural patterns and styles. Jaipur is an integral part of India’s Golden Triangle Tourist Circuit and still continues to attract foreigners with its legacy and the remnants of yesteryears. If you visit Jaipur, you are sure to get the feel of the times when monarchy was at its peak. You can check out many of the palatial hotels here and get them booked in advance or set up base in one of the smaller resorts outside the city, which also arrange for traditional weddings, with a slight twist for your taste.
If you want to just relax and stay king style, then the Udaipur Lake Palace hotel is the place to be. Another great wedding zone for foreigners too. Characterized by beautiful gardens, magnificent old mansions, grand palaces, temples with intricate artistic works and the gleaming lakes, Udaipur has its own share of charm and awe. The museum there displays the royal heirloom and many other memorabilia.
The adventure of Jaisalmer is unbeatable. Ride the camel or stay at the exotic tents in the dunes, which is a lifetime experience. You can actually touch roots with India with this city. Jaisalmer is that wonderful sandstone city which can be rightly described as a place that is directly connected to the romantic fables of the Arabian Nights. The spellbinding beauty and magnificence of the fort of Jaisalmer which rooms five palaces, a number of mansions and a few temples along with some residences and shops overlooks the entire city and still continues to awe uncountable people.
Discover the heritage of India with this city. The buildings painted in blue are responsible for Jodhpur being called the ‘Blue City’. It is the second largest city of Rajasthan and certainly the pride of Jodhpur. If you plan to visit Rajasthan during October, then you would be fortunate enough to witness the Rajasthan International Folk Festival which is held in Jodhpur every October. The Mehrangarh Fort gives the perfect view of the city and attracts many travelers.
e) Ranthambore National Park
This is a must visit for any nature lover. See the elegant and royal tigers and lions of India. Enriched with history, the Ranthambore National Park, one of the most famous sanctuaries of India bears the testament of many battles fought in this land leading to the rise and fall of different emperors. If you are lucky you could spot a tiger in the national par and this would surely be a memorable experience for you. The 10th Century Ranthambore Fort with its gigantic monuments, perished pavilions and a number of Hindu temples is found to dominate the landscape. The Ranthambore National Park has gained fame as a heritage site due to the picturesque leftovers of the fort within the park.
Want to see India the rustic and gypsy way, then come here. The small holy town of Pushkar which seems to be dormant for most of the time in a year is surprisingly found to attract a huge number of tourists. It is during the months of October and November that Pushkar comes alive with the Pushkar Camel Fair. This little town becomes extremely westernized during the season of festivity attracting umpteen foreigners.
g) Shekhawati Region
If you want to arouse your love for art, history and architecture, then you must drop in at the Shekhawati region. Often referred to as the largest open air art gallery of the world, this region of Rajasthan is flocked with old mansions or ‘haveli’ as they are locally called having walls decorated with intricate fresco paintings.
This desert town of Rajasthan is relatively less visited by tourists as compared to the other destinations. But if you want to have unlimited adventures, then you could park your cycle and take a camel safari here. The Old City and fort are worth your time and money.
The Must-Visit Tourist Destinations
Whether or not you are ready to explore by cycling, a well-organized trip to this iconic state of Rajasthan which is the land of deserts, lavish palaces, majestic forts vivid art, rich culture and traditions would remain incomplete without exploring the magnificent places discussed below, in addition to the ones already discussed.
I. Mehrangarh Fort
Built in 1459, the Mehrangarh Fort is one of the biggest forts in India. Situated on a 122m high hill and 400 feet above the city thee fort is surrounded by superlative thick walls and has as many as seven entry gates. Out of these, the travelers mainly search for the Lohapol or the Iron Gate that bears several small tragic hand prints, symbolizing the last marks of the widows of Maharaja Man Singh, all of whom jumped into his pyre. Such historical elements attract the attention of the visitors even today and arouse their curiosity to look deeper into the history and know more about the mysterious place.
II. Amber Fort and Palace
The Amber Fort and Palace also known as the Amer Fort is one of the most popular forts of Jaipur, Rajasthan attracting foreigners from all over the world. Constructed with the marble and red sandstone, the complex of this palace comprises of the Diwan-e-Aam or the hall for public audience, the Diwan-e-Khaas or the hall for private audience, the Sheesh Mahal also known as Jai Mandir and the Sukh Niwas or the hall designed for artificial cooling. This palace has been the imperial residence for the historical Rajput kings and their families.
III. Jain Temple
Get familiar with the religious side of Rajasthan. The Jain temple, located in Udaipur is one of the most stunning of its kind in India. Made from light-shaded marble, this temple has distinct peaks, domes, turrets and cupolas. The temple is strengthened by more than one thousand marble pillars displaying spectacular carvings which grab the attention of the spectators. The Temple has four faces representing the four directions of the invasion of the First Jain named Tirthankar.
IV. Kumbhalgarh Fort
Know more about Indian history with this fort. About 82 kms away to the north of Udaipur stands the royal Kumbhalgarh Fort. It is the second most important fort of Rajasthan, the first being the Chittorgarh in the Mewar region. Built in the 15th century by Rana Kumbha, Kumbhalgarh is the birthplace of Mewar’s great emperor Maharana Pratap. The fort is presently left open for the tourists to visit and on every evening it remains amazingly illuminated for a few minutes.
V. Dilwara Jain Temples
Around 2.5 kilometers from Mount Abu, the only hill station of Rajasthan, you would find the Dilwara Jain temples. Constructed between the 11th and the13th centuries by Chalukya, these temples hve been renowned all over the world because of their mesmerizing marble works. The five legendary temples of Dilwara are dedicated to five Jain Trithankaras and are revered as a Jain pilgrimage.
VI. Keoladeo Ghana National Park
The Keoladeo Ghana National Park which was once known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary is a famous avifauna sanctuary in India. A habitat to more than 230 bird species, it had been declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985. If you are an ardent bird lover and enjoy wildlife photography, then Keoladeo National Park is the best destination for you.
VII. Junagarh Fort
The Junagarh Fort in Bikaner is famous for its colossal majesty and historic appeal. Earlier known as Chintamani, the fort had been renamed in the early 20th century as Junagarh, meaning ‘Old Fort’. Although this fort has been attacked a couple of times in the past, it had never been captured by enemies. Endowed with tall towers and walls for defense, this fort is surely one of the remarkable monuments of majestic Rajasthan.
VIII. Chittorgarh Fort
The Chittorgarh symbolizes romance, high spirit and the pride of the Rajputs. Brimming with the historical evidences of sacrifices and heroism, the frightening fort of Chittorgarh in Chittorgarh city stands still beckoning umpteen adventurous travelers. This antique fort is regarded as one of the most stunning forts of India and the true pride of Rajasthan.
IX. Govind Devji Temple
The famous Govind Dev Ji Temple, located in Jaipur is devoted to Govind Dev Ji or Lord Krishna. The founder of Jaipur, Raja Sawai Jai Singh II had brought the idol of the Lord from Vrindavan and placed it inside the temple. The legendary tale associated with this attractive temple states that the idol of the Lord Krishna placed in the temple resembles the form of the Lord during His appearance on earth.
X. Sheesh Maha
Sheesh Mahal or the Hall of Mirrors is located in the Amber Fort in Jaipur. Constructed in the year 1592 with red sandstone and white marble, the exquisiteness of this fort is emancipated by the Maotha Lake. The unique construction of the Sheesh Mahal makes it one of the most magnificent forts of the world. The walls and ceilings of the hall are covered with mirrors that reflect every splash of ray and illuminate the hall instantly.
XI. Lake Pichola
The Pichola Lake of Udaipur is the biggest and most picturesque lake of Rajasthan. Built by Pichhu Banjara in 1362 this lake was enlarged later. It consists of several other lakes. Jag Niwas and Jag Mandir are two islands that situated within the lake offering mesmerizing views to the tourists.
XII. Jantar Mantar
Located in Jaipur, Jantar Mantar is one of the biggest astronomical observatories built during the reign of Maharaja Jai Singh II in the early 18th century. It had been designed for examining the astronomical positions with naked eye. The uniquely designed architectural structure is by far the best preserved historic observatories of the country.
XIII. City Palace of Udaipur
The City Palace of Udaipur situated on the banks of Lake Pichola is the most amazing palace complex of Rajasthan. Alhthough it was built by Maharana Udai Singh, the current appearance of the palace is the result of further additions done by the successors of the Maharana. The unique and interesting amalgamation of Medieval, Chinese and European architecture has been exhibited in the entire place which is built with granite and marble. The City Palace comprises of eleven stunning palaces akin to one other but constructed by different emperors.
XIV. Jaisalmer Fort
The Jaisalmer Fort, also known as the ‘Sonar Quila’ meaning the golden fort is one of the largest forts of the world and the second oldest fort of Rajasthan. Standing on the top of the Trikuta hill in Jaisalmer city, it was constructed in 1156 AD. The exquisite architecture of the fort simply represents the great Indian artwork and military splendor. Made of sandstones, this fort is indeed a jewel of the city.
XV. Hawa Mahal
The Hawa Mahal or the ‘Palace of The Winds’ is situated in the heart of Jaipur. This five-storey palace was constructed by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799. This antique edifice is believed to be built with pink and red sandstone in the form that resembles Lord Krishna’s crown. It was mainly built for the royal women to enjoy a view of daily life from the windows since they were not allowed to step out in public. The chief attraction of Hawa Mahal is its pyramid shape and its 953 windows, termed as ‘jharokha’.
XVI. Jag Mandir
Jag Mandir, also known as the ‘Lake Garden Palace’ is located on the southern island of Lake Pichola. Its construction was initiated by Maharana Amar Singh in 1551, and later got continued by Maharana Karan Singh and concluded by Maharana Jagat Singh I. In order to pay tribute for the great deeds of Maharana Jagat Singh, the palace has been named after him. The palace contains a museum and the eight life-sized elephants carved from white marbles are the chief interest of the palace.
XVII. Nahargarh Fort
Overlooking the city of Jaipur the Nahargarh Fort is perched on the rocky border of the Aravalli Hills. In order to strengthen the defense of Amber, the fort was built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in 1734. It was originally named Sudarshangarh Fort and later got renamed as Nahargarh, meaning the ‘abode of the tigers’. The fort exhibits the ideal mix of Indo-European architecture. It is a two storey edifice that was constructed for the emperor and his twelve queens. Primarily divided into nine apartments well equipped with the bedrooms, lobby, toilets, stores and kitchens, the fort remains one of the spectacular destinations of Rajasthan.
XVIII. Jal Mahal
The Jal Mahal or the ‘Lake Palace’ is situated on the Man Sagar Lake. Surrounded by the mighty Aravalli Hills and ancient forts on one hand and ‘Pink City’ or Jaipur on the other, this palace was constructed by Jai Singh II in the 18th century. The structure is simple with a porch and terrace garden. It is believed that the royal family had constructed it to enjoy pleasure of cool gentle wind coming from the lake. The amazing designs of the palace and the attractive surroundings have made this palace a tourists’ delight.
Shopping in Rajasthan
For a foreigners exploring Rajasthan the
above-mentioned destinations would be perfect to make the trip complete.
But before they go back to their native place, they might love to take
along some interesting mementoes which would remind them of their
memorable trip to Rajasthan later. Thus a trip to Rajasthan would be all
the more special with the shopping experience which is indeed
delightful. The traditionally rich land which has earned a name by its
art, handicrafts and handlooms is sure to arouse the shopping spree of
any and everyone. So in order to have a pleasant shopping experience,
you could consider the following suggestions.
- Rajasthan is
blessed with local artisans who can craft out extraordinary jewelry from
the semi-precious and precious stones that are widely available in this
desert state of India.
- Both leather and textiles are used as
medium in Rajasthan’s handicrafts. The use of vibrant colors by the
craftsmen make the handicrafts look all the more tempting.
it comes to Indian art, Rajasthan’s painting stands out offering the
perfect blend of tender lines and sparkling colors.
- The leather
and craft industry of Rajasthan is famous. You would find it to keep
aside anything when you come across the wide variety of bags, sandals,
shoes, purses and many such utility items made in Rajasthan. The leather
work done in Jaipur is a combined effort of the men and the women folk.
While tanning, cutting and stitching are done by men, women concentrate
on the embroidery part. Jaipur is the hub of the best quality camel
leather products. You could opt for both a contemporary as well as a
traditional look from the leather items sold there.
- The most
famous shopping items of Bikaner are the camel leather products
comprising of shoes, chairs, rugs, belts, bags, wallets and also
miniature paintings on camel hides. Bikaner would also delight you with
the arrangements of uncut stones, mainly diamonds into gold for
decorating sweet boxes, swords etc
Food of Rajasthan
The original cuisines of Rajasthan are tasty and extremely spicy. It is likely for a foreigner not be able to eat the original cuisines of Rajasthan are tasty and extremely spicy. The typical Rajasthan platter is so rich that unless a foreigner is used to having rich food containing a huge variety of spices, he or she may not find it tongue-friendly. Hence, it would be better for a foreigner to go to the star hotels and opt for continental or western dishes. Tasting the spicy dishes and snacks of Rajasthan could be good for a change; but this might not suit on a continual basis.
Travelling the mysterious lands of Rajasthan is extremely difficult without the help of tour guides. Especially when it comes to moving around the forts and palaces, a foreigner could get lost unless he or she has a guide along. Finding the right person to assist is also import. It is better to look for such guides with the help of reputed travel agencies. There are people called ‘thug’ who cheat on foreigners and take undue advantage by asking for lump sums and then end up not guiding them through the destinations as promised earlier. Thus good hotels and travel agencies can be the best sources to fix local guides for sight-seeing.
Camel Safari Guide
One of the most thrilling experiences is Rajasthan is the camel safari. As one rides through the rippling sand dunes on the back of the desert kings or camels witnessing the rustic rural life, the essence of traveling the unknown beauties of Rajasthan becomes unforgettable. But here again, being a foreigner can be difficult unless one gets through the right kind of tour managers arranging the camel safaris. It is best to avoid local arrangers who can promise something big before one would book the rides with them and end up not fulfilling those promises.
But if a foreigner tags along with reputed travel agencies, then the camel safaris can be the most exciting ones. For enjoying a nicely planned and organized camel safari, there are many companies to get in touch with. In fact the travelers are given the freedom to choose their routes. With so many companies, it is easy to get the most competitive prices. With regard to the duration of camel rides, the foreigners can again exercise their discretion; they can either go for a daylong camel ride or stay back for a couple of days and nights.
Things to Carry in Rajasthan
Even if a foreigner visits Rajasthan during the autumn and winter months, the midday sun can be tough to bear with. Again nights can be extremely cold. So for traveling the sand dunes of Rajasthan, it is wide to carry the following items.
- A hat or a turban or a cap.
- Sunscreen lotion and sunshades.
- Long-sleeve white dress for traveling during daytime and lots of warm clothes for the nights if the travel is during the winter.
- Solid shoes to keep the feet completely protected.
- A first aid kit.