Culture of Rajasthan
The culture of a region is largely inspired by its past. And when we talk about Rajasthan, its glorious past and heritage cannot be missed. The region has been balancing traditional values with modernity in a perfect manner. The villages and interiors of Rajasthan are still very connected to the values and customs, while the cities have moved ahead with the times. The people are warm and the state has a multi-cultural society. People from different parts of the world visit Rajasthan and leave traces of their culture which is warmly welcomed by the people of the state.
Dance and Music of Rajasthan
Folk music is an indispensable part of Rajasthani culture and heritage. It was originally limited to the various tribes, but today the folk music has become quite popular. ‘Kesariya Baalam, padharo maare desh’ is one of the most epic folk songs of Rajasthan. Rajasthani Music has a diverse collection of musicians. Major schools of music include Udaipur, Jodhpur and Jaipur.
Jaipur is a major Gharana which is well known for its reverence for rare ragas. Jaipur-Atrauli Gharana is closely associated with Alladiya Khan (1855–1943), who was among the great singers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was trained in Dhrupad and Khyal styles. The most distinguishing feature of Jaipur Gharana is its complex and soul stirring melodies.
Groups of Rajasthani Folk Music
Rajasthani Folk Music which was once patronised by the Rajputs has been kept alive by the local villagers and groups like Panihari, Dholis, Mirasis, Langas, and Manganniyars. These groups and the audiences following this group has a unique relation. Though most of the rajasthani folk musicians and singers are Hindus; the Langas and Manganniyars are Muslims while the Mirasis has benevolence of both Hindu and Muslim saints. Panihari is traditional music of the women of Rajasthan revolving around the well.
Rajasthani Folk Music Tradition
Rajasthani Folk Music has its own ethic characteristic which is passed down from generation to generation. If one listens carefully to Rajasthani Folk Music will understand that the lyrics are prosaic and narrate tales. They are not songs as we would love to call them but lyrical poetry. Folk songs mostly depict domestic chores like Panihari songs which centres round waters and wells. The songs usually describe seasons or change of seasons, harvest and festivals or customs. Some songs also depict heroic exploits of several Rajput rulers.
Of all the various forms of folk music, Maand Folk Music is one of the richest forms of folk music. It was originally sung by court singers or nomadic performers who would move from one court to another in caravans. Though one cannot find nomadic singers any longer, many professional singers have mastered the art which are usually ballads of Moomal Mahendra, Dhola-Maru and other legendary lovers and heroes of Rajasthan. The Langas are caste singers providing musical service to Sindhi Sipahi community. Their music is woven around marriage, birth and death ceremonies. The ship of the desert, the camel is praised in Gorbund, a special Rajasthani folk song talking about a decorative string for a camel.
Instruments in Rajasthani Folk Music
Another interesting aspect of Rajasthani folk music is the use of instruments. Most of them sing in
groups and have a melodic flavour and use instruments such as kamaycha, sarangi, shehnai , khartal, dhol, nagara and satara.
Popularity of Rajasthani Folk Music
Rajasthani Folk music over the years have gained popularity, thanks to the tourism industry of the state. These desert musicians have become very popular both among the Indians and foreigners. Even Indian directors have used Rajasthani folk music in their films. Some of the recent movies where Rajasthani folk music have been used are:
Kangna Re from the movie Paheli
Dholi Tarao Dhol Baje from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam
Think of dance in Rajasthan and the first name that rings a bell is the effervescent Kalbelia dance. This majestic dance form has become the identity of the state. The main occupation of the tribe is catching snakes and trading snake venom. Traditionally the men of the tribe used to carry snakes in their basket from door to door and the women used to dance and ask for alms. But as the time progresses, the dance formed moved to the cities as well.
The dance is particularly performed by the Kalbelia tribe and is popular all over the state. No celebrations and occasions in the region are complete until a session of Kalbelia dance is performed. Both men and women take part in this exquisite dance form. The women wear elaborate black attires which symbolizes the serpent. The traditional jewelry adds to the glamour of the overall look. The men usually are involved with the music aspect – singing and playing the instruments which include dufli, pungi, been and khanjari.
The songs on which dances are performed are based on mythology and folk tales and stories that have been passed from generations. The folk song and dancing of Kalbelia has been included in the Intangible Heritage List of UNESCO in 2010.
Ghoomar is another popular folk dance form of Rajasthan. It was originally done by the Bhil tribe and later was adopted by many other communities of the state. Ghoomar is usually performed by the women of the society. The name has been derived from ‘ghooma’ or pirouettes. The dance is performed in a circle and goddess Saraswati is worshipped during the dance.
The colorful costumes, swaying movements and the traditional music are the highlights of the dance form. The measured steps and well-coordinated movements is what makes the dance form a delight to watch. It is performed on festivals and weddings
Also Read: Culture of Jodhpur | Culture of Jaipur | Culture of Udaipur | Culture of Jaisalmer | Culture of Bikaner | Culture of Pushkar
Food of Rajasthan
Dal Bati Churma, Bikaneri bhujia, pyaaz kachori, gatte, ghewar….well these are just some of the delectable delights that Rajasthan has for you. The food of Rajasthan is spicy and greatly loved in different parts of India. The rustic flavor of the cuisine is its highlight. The rich past of the region has influenced the food of the region as well. The scarcity of rainfall affects the food type as well. Instead of fresh vegetables and fruits, legumes, pulses and dried beans are used. Also milk products like buttermilk, butter and curd are widely used. Also Read: Dal Bati Churma in Jaipur | Food in Jaipur | Food in Udaipur | Food in Bikaner | Bikaneri Bhujia | Ghevar of Baran | Cuisine of Baran | Food in Beawer | Food in Kota | Food in Mount Abu | Food in Pali
Fairs and Festivals of Rajasthan
Talk about the fairs and festivals in Rajasthan and one cannot miss the very famous Pushkar Fair
. The small town of Pushkar comes alive during the fair. Pushkar Fair is an annual camel and livestock fair. It is in fact the world’s largest camel fair. People from far and wide come to buy camels and livestock. It is also very popular among foreign travelers and they specially visit Pushkar during the fair months. The fair also has stalls selling traditional handicrafts, textiles, tribal jewelry and exquisite fabrics.
This five day fair is held in Kartik month of the Hindu calender (October – November). Apart from buying and selling of camels and livestock, the fair also has some interesting competitions like – longest moustache competition, bridal competition and matka phod competition. The main highlight of the fair is on the full moon night when thousands of people take a dip in the holy Pushkar Lake.
Jaisalmer Desert Festival
The Jaisalmer Desert Festival is one of the most famous festivals of Jaisalmer region. This three day festival is held each year during January – February. The main aim of the festival is to showcase the rich heritage and culture of Rajasthan.
The major attractions of the Desert Festival of Jaisalmer include snake charmers, puppeteers, acrobats, folk dancers and singers. Apart from this, camel shows are the main highlight of the festival. Camels take part in a number of events, the most famous and unique being camel polo and camel dance.
Gangaur Gangaur festival
is one of the most popular festivals of Rajasthan. The festival is dedicated to goddess and is celebrated in the first month of Hindu calendar (March – April). It begins on the subsequent day of Holi festival and goes on for fifteen days. The word Gangaur is derived from 'Gan' which is the synonym for Lord Shiva and 'Gaur' that stands for Gauri or Goddess Parvati.
Gangaur is mainly celebrated by women. Women observe fast during the festival and eat only once a day. Married women seek blessings of goddess for marital bliss while unmarred girls pray for an ideal husband. Ladies apply henna on their hands and wear new clothes. The idol of goddess Parvati is worshipped in each home and colorful processions are carried out on the streets of all major cities. In addition to this, ladies also sing songs of Gangaur and are given gifts in the form of money, ghee, sweets, jaggery, etc. by the elders of the family as a token of their love and blessings.
Jodhpur International Desert Kite Festival
The Jodhpur Kite festival began just a few years ago and ever since it has become one of the most popular festivals of the region. The main aim of the festival is to celebrate kite flying and give people a platform to showcase their kite flying talent. It is a three day festival starting from January 14th (Makar Sankranti) each year and is held at Polo Ground, Jodhpur.
It attracts the best kite flyers of the country and is very popular among foreign travelers as well. The festival is celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm and zeal. During International Kite festival, two competitions are conducted namely, the Fighter Kite Competition and the Display Kite Competion. The finals of the competitions are held at the lawns of the Umaid Bhawan Palace. On the final day of the festival, prizes are given to the winners of each category followed by a farewell dinner with the Maharaja.
Marwar festival is a very popular festival of Jodhpur region. It is celebrated each year in the month of Ashwin of Hindu calendar (September - October). This two day festival honors the heroes of Rajasthan. The main attraction of this festival is the folk music centered on the romantic lifestyle of Rajasthan's rulers. The music and dance of the Marwar region is the main theme of this festival. Folk dancers and singers come together to give a vivid insight into the culture and traditions of Rajasthan. The other attractions of the festival include camel show and polo. The venues of the festival include Umaid Bhawan Palace, Mandore and Mehrangarh Fort.
is another colorful festival that is an integral part of Rajasthani customs and traditions. The festival falls during the monsoon months of July – August and is primarily dedicated to Lord Shiva and goddess Parvati. The festival symbolizes growth and prosperity. It is also known as the festival of swings.
Married women seek blessings of Lord Shiva and goddess Parvati. During the festival one can find a lot of decorated swings in parks and gardens. Women dress up in green clothes and sing songs to welcome monsoons. Also the idol of goddess Teej (an incarnation of goddess Parvati) is decorated and then worshipped.
Colorful processions are carried out on the streets of various cities and people celebrate this festival with great enthusiasm.
Art and Craft of Rajasthan
Art is an integral part of the culture of any region. Be it handicrafts or paintings, literature or pottery, one can find art in any and everything of Rajasthan. This princely state is particularly known for its richly varied art and craft. Some of the most sought after examples include the following.
Different regions within the state have varied styles of pottery. The most famous out of all the styles is the blur pottery of Jaipur. The rich designs talk about the vivid culture of the region. The origins of blur pottery are Turko-Persian, but over the years it has become an insignificant part of the identity of Jaipur. The name blur pottery is because of the blue dye used in the products. Jars, vases, pots, tea sets, dinner sets, decorative showpieces, jugs, mugs and cutlery holders are some of the most popular items of blue pottery.
Terracotta pottery is also very famous in Rajasthan. Molela, a small village near Udaipur has the choices collection of terracotta pottery items. Alwar is known for its paper-thin pottery while Bikaner's painted pottery with tinted lac colors is very popular. In addition to these, the white and red clay articles of Pokhran with their distinct geometric designs are also very famous.
Puppets are one of the most popular souvenirs that travelers take back home from Rajasthan. The cotton puppets with traditional Rajasthani attires are extremely popular and are used in puppet shows as well. It is popularly known as Kathputli and is one of the most famous forms of puppetry of India. No village fair, no religious festival and no social gathering in Rajasthan can be complete without the Kathputlis or puppet show.
Tie and Dye
Tie and Dye, which is commonly known as Bandhani is one of the most popular art forms of Rajasthan. The cloth is first tied and then dipped in the color, that’s why the technique is known as tie and dye. The traditional turbans of men and the odnis (dupattas of women) were made of bandhani print. The main colors used in tie and dye are yellow, red, blue, black and green. It is also known as bandhej. From a simple dupatta to the ones decorated with sequins, mirror work and gota, you can find them all in Rajasthan. Jaipur and Udaipur are the main cities to buy bandhej work.
Paintings Miniature paintings –
Talk of paintings of Rajasthan and you cannot miss the beautiful miniature paintings. They are a heritage in itself. The miniature paintings have been a part of the culture and heritage of Rajasthan since many generations. During the royal times these paintings were done on an ivory base. But now they are done on paper. A balance of Mughal and traditional Rajasthani style, these are the best souvenirs that you can take back from Rajasthan. From day to day activities to festivities, celebrations and wars, these paintings depict each aspect of life with great finesse. Cloth paintings –
Cloth paintings are particularly popular in Rajasthan. These include ‘Phad’ and ‘Pichwai’ (the cloth used to hang behind a deity like Shreenathji at Nathdwara). These paintings are done in bright colors and bold outlines and have a religious significance.
Jootis and Mojris
The first thing that comes to mind when we think of leather ware in Rajasthan is jooti. Rajasthani jootis and mojris are famous all over the world. They are known for their intricate detailing, designs and bright colors. The best places to buy jootis are Jaipur and Jodhpur. Apart from leather footwear, bags and pouches are also popular leather products of the region.
Also Read: Handicraft of Jaipur | Kundan Jewelery of Jaipur | Famous Jaipuri Print | Jaipur Artisan Industry
Costume of Rajasthan
The traditional attire of Rajasthan has a riot of colors and patterns. Bold patterns and different type of materials add to the overall look. The traditional attire of Rajasthani men includes – dhoti, kurta and a turban. In some regions, the traditional dhoti is replaced by a churidar pajama. Each region has a different style of wearing a dhoti and tying the turban. From solid colors or colorful prints of leheriya, one can find various types of turbans. The dhoti which is generally white is worn with an Angrakhi or a Jhari (jacket). It is a short frock styled jacket worn by men. In addition to the turban, the other headgear includes – Pencha, Sela, Saafa, Potia and Pagri, Pagri being the most famous. It is 82 feet longs and 8 feet wide. The pagri indicates the socio-economic status of the man wearing it.
Women generally wear lehenga, choli and dupatta which is known as odhni. The traditional attire is never complete until the woman is wearing some jewelry. Rajasthan is known for its tribal and silver jewelry. Tie and Dye, Bandhani and block printed textiles are the common choice. One can also see a lot of mirror work, embroidery and zari work in the clothes of Rajasthan. The Ghagras are generally short extending up to the calf while the Lehengas are longer and reach up to the ankles. With the advent of modern culture, the traditional attire is only limited to the villages and the interiors of the state. The city dwellers are like any other metropolitan and experiment with western and Indian clothes. Also Read: Jodhpuri Pants | Ghagra Choli of Bikaner
Leheriya is a traditional art form of Rajasthan. It got its name from the Hindi word ‘leher’ or wave. The dyeing pattern gives a wave effect, thus the name – leheriya. The zigzag pattern of lines is the unique identity of a leheriya print cloth.
The most popular item of leheriya print is a dupatta. Flowing fabric with bright colors is the highlight of this dyeing technique. It is very popular throughout India and among foreign tourists as well. These days one can also find exquisite leheriya print sarees and scarves as well. Leheriya turbans were a part of the attire of the men of Rajasthan. During the 19th and early 20th century, traders and businessmen of Rajasthan used to wear leheriya turbans. The best places to pick up leheriya in Rajasthan are – Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur and Nathdwara.
Block printing in Rajasthan has a deep rooted history. Since earlier times printing a cloth using wooden blocks has been a tradition in the region. The cloth is laid flat on the work bench. The block is dipped in paint and then pressed onto the cloth. Traditionally natural dyes were used for this technique, but now synthetic colors are used. Over the years the type of cloth used and its utility has varied, but the technique still has its essence.
Bagru is a small city near Jaipur, which is the hub of block printing in Rajasthan. The other significant regions where block printing is done are Sanganer, Pali and Barmer. In block prints, colorful prints of birds, flowers, animals, human figures and gods and goddesses are very popular. The Barmer block print of Rajasthan is famous for its prints of red chilies with blue-black outlines and there are flower-laden trees in the surroundings. And the Bagru printing is particularly done on a light brown background.