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RAJASTHAN

Amber FortRajasthan, the land of the Kings is one of the prime tourist destinations in India. Rajasthan has an incredible array of mighty forts, elaborate palaces and fanciful cities like Udaipur, Jaipur, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer etc; Hotels in Rajasthan provide a luxurious place to stay, from where the clients can explore the tourist attractions of Rajasthan, the cultural riches of this colorful region and experience the royal heritage of this desert state. The splendid structure of the palaces, the history of the Havelis, the inimitable experience and the incomparable comfort of the heritage hotels can be enjoyed at several places in Rajasthan including Rambagh in Jaipur, Umaid Bhawan in Jodhpur and Laka Palaces in Udaipur etc;

Rajasthan is famous for its traditional and colorful art. The block prints, ‘tie & dye’ prints, Bagaru prints, Sanganer prints, sari embroidery are major export products from Rajasthan. Handicraft items like wooden furniture and handicrafts, carpets, blue potteries are also very famous. Rajasthan is a shopper’s paradise.

Most of the luxury trains in India chug through Rajasthan. The 'Palace on Wheels' is an example of the best luxury trains in the world. With the royal treatment and the ravishing experience the journey becomes an unforgettable one. The comfort, the cuisine, the charm of the land when all of these ingredients are put together the travelers are bound to get a collection of unique memories. The Royal Orient and the Fairy Queen, the oldest running steam locomotive of the world are the other examples of train journeys that can be a lifetime experience.

The lavish landscape of Rajasthan is home to variety of birds and animals that are rare and even endangered, like the desert fox and the caracal. Amongst the best-known wildlife areas are the Ranthambore National Park, the Sariska Tiger Reserve, Keoladeo Ghana National Park or the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. The beauty of these places never fails to capture the hearts of the nature lovers. The Keoladeo National Park used to be the duck hunting reserve of the kings at one point of time but today features as one of the world heritage sites in India.

JAIPUR

JaipurJaipur, popularly known at the Pink City is the capital of the state of Rajasthan. It is a city with a timeless quality to it, a city where the ancient and the modern co-exist in complete harmony. Known for the beautiful palaces and forts, Jaipur is a city rich with culture and heritage. Some of its attractions include the landmark Hawa Mahal, the beautiful City Palace, the Jantar Mantar astronomical observatory. Jaipur was built in 1727 by king Jai Singh, after whom it was named. Its most striking feature is the pink wash applied to the buildings, giving Jaipur its universal title, the 'Pink City'. The Rajputs considered pink to be a colour associated with hospitality and are reputed to have daubed the city in preparation for the visit of Britain's Prince Alfred in 1853. Jaipur, a royal city with its fairy-tale palaces, rugged fortresses displays remarkable harmony in architectural splendor. Some of the palaces, once the residence of Maharajas have been converted into heritage hotels.

Today Jaipur is a city of broad avenues and remarkable architectural harmony, built on a dry lake bed surrounded by barren hills. It's an extremely colourful city and, in the evening light, it radiates a magical warm glow. The city has now sprawled beyond its original fortified confines, but most of its attractions are compactly located in the walled 'pink city' in the northeast of Jaipur. All seven gates into the old city remain, one of which leads into Johari Bazaar - the famous jewellers' market. The most obvious landmark in the old city is the Iswari Minar Swarga Sul (the Minaret Piercing Heaven) built to overlook the city, but the most striking sight is the stunning artistry of the five-storey facade of the Hawa Mahal, or the Palace of Winds. The palace was built in 1799 to enable ladies of the royal household to watch street life and processions, and is part of the City palace complex which forms the heart of the old city. Jaipur's craft, especially lacquer bangles are famous all over the world.

Hawa Mahal: This 'Palace of the Wind' (Hawa Mahal) is a part of the city palace. This is the most famous building in Jaipur. It was built for the ladies of the harem by Sawai Pratap Singh. The monument was originally conceived with the aim of enabling ladies of the royal household to watch the everyday life and royal processions of the city.

The City Palace complex: It is the citadel of the Kachchawah Rajput rulers of Jaipur. The palace houses a museum with a superb collection of costumes and armoury of Rajputs & Mughals. The vast complex occupies one seventh of the walled city and is a wonderful blend of Rajput and Mughal architecture.

Jantar Mantar (Observatory). It is literally known as 'Instruments for measuring the harmony of the heavens. It was built between 1728 to 1734 by Jai Singh. Each instrument of this observatory is used for a particular function and gives an accurate reading. The different Yantras placed clockwise at the observatory is narrated below. The Samrat Yantra is a large sundial (triangular structure) marked with hours and minutes. The arc on the left shows the time from sunrise to midday and on the right, shows the time from midday to sunset. The time is read, where the shadow is the sharpest. The Dhruva Yantra locates the position of 12 zodiac signs and the Pole Star at night. The Narivalya Yantra is a sundial with two dials. Next is Jai Singh's seat (Observer's seat). The Kranti Yantra is used for direct measurement of the longitude and latitude of the celestial bodies. The Raj Yantra is the King of Instruments used only once in a year to calculate the Hindu calendar. The Unnsyhsmsa Yantra is used for finding the altitudes of the celestial bodies and Disha Yantra points to the north. The Dakshina Yantra used for observing the position and movement of heavenly bodies when passing over the meridian. During Guru Purnima, the holy full moon night, in the month of July/August, this Yantra is used to predict the length and heaviness of the monsoon for the local area. The Rashivalayas Yantra has 12 sundials for the signs of the zodiac and is operated in the same way as Samrat Yantra. The instruments enable readings to be made at the instant each zodiacal sign crosses the meridian. The Chakra yantra gives the angle of an object from the equator.

Albert Hall Museum: It is erected in the middle of Ram Niwas Garden of Jaipur. It was built in 1876 to mark the visit of Prince of Wales to the city. This sandstone building contains a fine collection of sculptures, paintings, decorative art objects, natural history specimens and an Egyptian mummy as well.

Statue Circle: The full length exquisitely carved statue of Sawai Jai Singh in white marble in the centre of the circle is a landmark in a newly planned residential area to pay homage to the founder of Jaipur. The big circle attracts large crowds in the evenings.

Ram Niwas Garden: Built in 1868 by Sawai Ram Singh, Ram Niwas Garden is located in the center of modern Jaipur. It spreads over 33 acres of land and houses the Albert Hall Museum, the state Zoo and Ravindra Manch Theatre.

Jal Mahal: It is a picturesque palace amidst the Man Sagar lake which was built by Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799 A.D for royal duck shooting parties. During winter, a large number of migratory birds arrive at the lake. The red sandstone palace is located 6.5 kms from Jaipur on the road to Amber.

Jaigarh Fort: It is one of the few military structures of medieval India built in 1726 by Sawai Jai Singh. Situated north of Jaipur, on a cliff and surrounded by huge battlements with inside walkways, the fort houses the 'Jai Ban' the largest cannon in Asia, supposed to have been test fired only once. This fort of Victory has a museum which displays a collection of weapons and cannons used by the Rajput rulers. There are fine views of the Amber fort from here.

Nahargarh Fort: Nahargarh meaning 'abode of the tigers' was built by Jai Singh II in 1734 to bolster the defense of Amer. Located 6km north west of Jaipur, on the rugged Aravali Hills, there is a wonderful view of the Mansagar lake and the Jal Mahal Palace from the fort.

Govinddev Ji ka Mandir: The presiding deity of Jaipur is Govindeoji, Lord Krishna. The temple is located between the Chandra Mahal and the Badal Mahal in the city palace complex, so that the rulers of the state could view the temple from their residences. The temple attracts a large number of devotees specially on the 'Janmashtmi', the day of Lord Krishna’s birth.

Rani Sisodia's Garden and Palace: The terraced garden is located 8 kms from Jaipur on the Agra route. Sawai Jai Singh built it in 1728 for his Sisodia Queen from Udaipur. The beautiful landscaped garden laid in Mughal style has murals of the life of Lord Krishna in the interior apartments.

Amber Fort and Palace: It is one of the most magnificent destinations in Jaipur located on the hills 11km out of Jaipur. It was built by Raja Man Singh in 1600 AD, continued by Raja Jai Singh and then completed to its present form by Sawai Jai Singh in the eighteenth century. The fort is an example of a fascinating blend of Hindu and Muslim architecture built in red sandstone and white marble.

AJMER & PUSHKAR

The city of Ajmer is famous as a pilgrim place. It houses the Dargah or tomb of the popular 13th century, Sufi Saint Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Hasan Chisti. Various architectures of the mughal era add to the flavor of the place. The city is also known for its traditional handicrafts. Ajmer city was founded by Ajayadeva, a 11th century local Rajput ruler. Ajmer became part of the mighty Mughal Empire during the medieval period and was an important military center. Military campaigns against local Rajput rulers were initiated from Ajmer. Akbar built a fort here. The first contact between the Mughals and the British also happened in Ajmer, when Jahangir met Sir Thomas Roe in 1616. Shah Jahan built marble pavilions around the Ana Sagar Lake in the 17th century. Scindia rulers of Gwalior took over Ajmer, which was later taken over by the British in 1818.

Ajmer is also the travel base for visiting Pushkar (11 km.), the abode of Lord Brahma, lying to its west with a temple and a picturesque lake. Nestled in the midst of a picturesque valley and mountainous regions, Pushkar is one of the hot-spot travel destinations of Rajasthan. The uncommon scenic spots and several pilgrimage sites of importance - there are more than 400 temples - that attract tourists to travel to Pushkar every year. Pushkar is among the five dhams or pilgrimages that are held in high esteem by Hindus, the others being Badrinath, Puri, Rameswaram and Dwarka. It is said that in battle lord Brahma killed the demon Vajra Nabh with a lotus flower, whose petals floated down to earth and landed in three places in and around Pushkar where lakes sprang up. Legends have it that Pushkar Lake was surrounded by 500 temples and 52 palaces (several rajas and maharajas maintained palaces here for pilgrimage) at one point. The Brahma temple is the most important temple here and is, in fact, the only Brahma temple in India. It is interesting to note that Brahma is not worshipped, even though he is one of the Holy Trinity of Hinduism. Brahma, it is said, had descended on earth to perform a Yagnya (fire-sacrifice). His wife Savitri was not with him at that time and the Yagyna would be incomplete without her. Therefore, Brahma married a local girl and sat down for the Yagnya. Meanwhile Savitri landed on earth and, upon finding this new bride sitting next to Brahma, cursed him that he would never be worshipped anywhere else on earth.

The Mahadeva Temple (built of white marble depicting Mahadeva with five faces), Rangji Temple (dedicated to Vishnu), Varaha Temple (dedicated to Varaha, the boar incarnation of Lord Vishnu), and Man Mahal (built by Raja Man Singh of Amber), the Savitri Temple (dedicated to Goddess Savitri) are other major tourist attractions of Pushkar. Savitri Temple is on a hilltop. It takes a one-hour trek to reach the temple, but it has a beautiful view of Pushkar Lake in the morning. Other important places to visit in Pushkar are numerous ghats that run down the lake. This famous pilgrimage center in India, Pushkar is also popular for hosting one of the most colorful fairs of Rajasthan - the Pushkar fair. The Pushkar fair coincides with the bright half of the moon during the months of October-November.

Dargah Sharif: At the foot of a barren hill, is situated India's most important pilgrimage center for people from all faiths. It is equally revered by the Hindus and Muslims. It is the splendid tomb of the Sufi Saint Khawaja Moinuddin Hasan Chisti more popularly known as Khawaja Saheb or Khawaja Sharif. The shrine is next only to Mecca or Medina for the Muslims of South Asia. The Mughal Emperor Akbar used to make a pilgrimage to the Dargah from Agra once a year. The mausoleum has a gigantic gate, which was built by the Nizam of Hyderabad. The two massive cauldrons in the courtyard are of particular interest and on the right side of the courtyard is the Akbari Masjid built in white marble. There is another mosque in the courtyard built by Emperor Shahjahan.

Shah Jahan's Mosque: In the corner of the inner court of the Dargah is a magnificent building in white marble with a long (30.5 m) and narrow courtyard having a low arcade and delicate carvings with trellis work. It is the most marvelous of all the sanctums within the sanctuary of the Dargah.

Adhai-din-ka-jhonpra: A remarkable structure, this is a masterpiece of Indo-Islamic architecture located on the outskirts, of the city, just beyond the Dargah. As the legend goes, its construction took two and a half days (adhai-din) to complete. It was originally a Sanskrit college, built within a temple. In 1193 A.D. Mohhamed Ghauri conquered Ajmer and converted the building into a mosque by adding a seven arched wall in front of the pillared hall in just two-and-half days (adhai-din) and hence the name.

Taragarh Fort: A steep one and a half hour climb beyond the Adhai-din-ka-jhopra leads to the ruins of the Taragarh Fort, perched on a hill. One can have an excellent view of the city from here. The fort was the site of the military activity during the Mughal period, later used as a sanatorium by the British.

The Museum: Once the royal residence of Emperor Akbar, the museum houses a rich repository of the Mughal and Rajput armour and exquisite sculptures.

SARISKA TIGER RESERVE & NATIONAL PARK

Sariska located just 200 kms from Delhi, is the closest National Parks to the capital. Sculpted out of the Aravali hills, it spreads over 800-sq kms and is home to the deer, neel-gai, partridges, wild boar, fox, gaur, sambar, chital, hyena, the four-horned antelope and above all, tigers. Project Tiger, the project launched in India to protect and preserve the tiger, has been in charge of the sanctuary since 1979. The dry deciduous forests are a perfect home to the jungle cat and the Siliserh Lake which lies at the edge of the Park is the watering hole that has preserved the natural habitat of the region, despite it being close to the desert. The landcape of Sariska is dominated by sharp cliffs and narrow valleys of the Aravali hills. This park also contains ruins of temples, as well as a fort and pavilions, built by the maharajas of Alwar. The Sariska Fort, despite being in a state of ruin, offers a magnificent view of the sunset.

SHEKHAWATI

The Shekhawati region is a cluster of townships having homes and temples decorated with colourful murals which interpret tales from Indian mythology or record events from the past. Shekhawati is 30,000 sq. kms region that comprises the semi-arid districts of Jhunjhunu, Churu and Sikar. Today the entire region of Shekhawati is known for its exquisite frescoes and popularly called the open air art gallery. No other region, anywhere in the world has such a large concentration of frescoes. Its' prosperity dates back to the time when trade flourished in this region, situated on a caravan route between Central Asia and the rest of India. At that time, the area teemed with wealthy Marwari traders whose family names, even today read like a who's who of present day Indian enterprise - Morarkas, Poddars, Birlas, Ruias, Singhanias and Kedias. Their homes, or havelis, were grand edifices, exquisitely designed, and reflective of a lifestyle that began in the mid-19th century and lasted for 150 years. Subsequently, the British took over and developed ports on the Indian coast, and the rich Marwari merchants moved to other parts of India. The old trade routes changed and Shekhawati was left to decay. Until recently, when concerned residents realized they were the unwitting guardians of a cultural treasure trove, and started taking action to preserve what is left. Mural painting in India is an ancient art that dates back several centuries. Each region has a distinct style, but the profusion and perfection of Shekhawati's frescoes is unmatched.

Shekhawati's magnificent havelis (mansions of rich merchants), display a unique architectural style that evolved around the courtyards to ensure safety and privacy of the womenfolk and protection from the heat of the long and harsh summers. The havelis, painted predominantly in blue, maroon, yellow, green and indigo have beautiful wall paintings that adorn their walls. The earlier wall paintings were largely based on the mythological themes, depicting local legends, animals, portraits, hunting and wrestling scenes and a glimpse of everyday life. The turn of the 19th century saw the appearance of new motifs, an outcome of the Raj's influence upon Indian culture. Now, cars replaced elephants and traditional Indian miniatures mingled with naturalism of western paintings to produce interesting hybrid results. The mythological themes depicting gods, heroes, epics and legends were substituted by European oleographs, lithographs and photographs. Trains, cars, balloons, telephones, gramophones, English men in hunting attires and portraits of the haveli owners primly dressed, were painted all over the walls - thus making the havelis interesting for both Indian and foreign travellers. The Rajasthan Government Tourism Department estimates that there are at least 5,000 havelis in the region.

BUNDI

A must-visit destination while traveling through Rajasthan, Bundi, a small rustic town, is known for its palaces, baolis (step wells) and water tanks. The monuments and their architecture reflect the splendor of the local Rajput chiefs. The walls of the palaces at Bundi are decorated with life-size frescoes depicting the glory of its rulers. The small sleepy town of Bundi, a rather unexplored city with rich historical wealth, is surrounded by the Aravali hills on three sides and is circumscribed by a massive wall with four gateways. Isolated and independent, this picturesque location has much to offer.

Tourism in Bundi opens a world of monumental marvels, especially the Taragarh Fort. The Taragarh Fort, built in 1354, with its imposing structure of stone, is situated on a steep hill and has massive battlements and ramparts. The fort welcomes vacationers through an enormous gateway. Once inside the fort, visitors can see the Bhim Burj, the largest battlement, and a huge water reservoir carved out of solid rock. From the fort, one can see the entire town. The fort is also a magnificent point to see the sunset over the Rajasthan horizon. Bundi Palace, which is situated on a hill, adjacent to the Taragarh Fort, is known for its traditional murals. These murals give the traveler a glimpse of the splendor and lifestyle of the rulers of Bundi and their exploits.

Bundi is famous for its waterworks. It has a number of impressive baolis or step wells. Raniji-ki-Baoli, (Queen's step well) is an important place to visit. It is a 46-m-deep step well, built in 1699 by Queen Nathavatji, and is known for its carvings. The Nagar Sagar Kund, a pair of identical, step wells is near Raniji-ki-Baoli, in the center of the town. Nawal Sagar, the artificial lake near the palace is a good tourist spot and one can see a shrine at the center of this lake. Other waterworks worth visiting are Dhabhai Kund and Bhora-ji-ka-Kund. Bundi came under the Chauhan rulers in the 12th century and was an important state at the peak of Rajput glory in medieval times. The association with the Mughals led to the decline of Bundi. Although the state lost its glory, it continued to be an independent state within the British rule and became a part of India when it gained independence.

UDAIPUR

Udaipur, the white city built around the azure waters of crystal clear lake Pichola, is popularly known as the city of lakes. It is also known as "the Venice of the East." Its intricately carved temples, majestic palaces and lush green surroundings all contribute to making it a much sought after destination. Added to this the place is also culturally very rich. Udaipur is also known as the most romantic city in India.

Udaipur is in the central part of the fascinating region of Mewar. The kingdom of Mewar, with which many legends of bravery are associated, was considered the most respectable of all Rajput princely states in Rajasthan. Claiming descent from the sun (Suryavansh), the Sisodia dynasty that ruled Mewar for 1200 years is one of the oldest dynasties in the world. With a lineage of 67 generations behind, this clan fought for its self-respect and freedom. Like other Rajput kingdoms of the time, it never married off its daughters to the Mughals. Of this brave and noble lineage were Rana Sanga and Rana Pratap, great warriors who fought to defend their kingdom from invaders. The capital of the Sisodia dynasty was Chittor till the 6th century, when it was moved to Udaipur, named after Maharana Udai Singh in 1568. According to legend, the Maharana was out hunting one day when he met a holy man meditating on a hill overlooking the Lake Pichola. The hermit blessed the Maharana and told him to build a palace at that very spot, as it would be well protected. The Maharana followed his advice and Udaipur came into being.

Udaipur, the City of Dawn, surrounded by the ancient Aravali mountains and set on the edge of three lakes, is a brilliant kaleidoscope of narrow lanes flanked by bright stalls, gardens, lakes, palaces and temples. Overlooking the aquamarine waters of the Lake Pichola stands the shimmering granite and marble Lake Palace, a harmonious arrangement of courtyards, pavilions, terraces, corridors, rooms, and hanging gardens. Eight marble porticos mark the spot where the Mewar sovereigns were weighed in gold, the equivalent value of which was then distributed to the poor. Within the City Palace are several architectural and artistic highlights such as the Mor Chowk, known for its stunning peacock mosaics and the Bhim Vilas Palace that has a series of lovely wall paintings. However, the most memorable parts of Udaipur are its lake palaces, shimmering like jewels on the Lake Pichola. Jag Niwas, the summer residence of the princes of Mewar, is today a magnificent luxury hotel. Jag Mandir, the other island palace, with a marble dome, is a marvel in red sandstone. It was a refuge for Prince Khurram (better known as Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan) when he was in exile following a quarrel with his father, Emperor Jahangir.

Just outside Udaipur, on a hilltop, lies Sajjangarh, a dramatic 18th century palace that gives a breathtaking view of the Mewar countryside. The palace was originally intended to be a five-story astronomical center, but was later abandoned and used as a monsoon palace and hunting lodge. Today, Udaipur is a one of the better-known tourist destinations of India and an integral part of any itinerary for Rajasthan.

MOUNT ABU

Nakki LakeMount Abu is the only hill station in the desert state of Rajasthan. ‘Abu’ according to a legend stands for the son of Himalaya, deriving its name from Arbuada, the powerful serpent who rescued Nandi, the sacred bull of Lord Shiva, from a chasm. Sprawling along a 1200m high plateau in the south of Rajasthan and situated at the southern tip of the Aravali range, Mt Abu is more than just a cool retreat in the dry desert of Rajasthan and is considered as the paradise in Rajasthan. The place is cool and owes its cool climate to the rich flora covering the entire hillside that includes coniferous trees and flowering shrubs. The road leading to Mount Abu is a curved one characterized by arid region dotted with huge rocks in weird shapes and high velocity winds. The road to paradise has never been easy and this one is no exception. Getting to Mount Abu is easier from Gujarat, since it is to the south of the state in the Aravali hills. The closest city, though, is Udaipur.

The only hill station in the region, it is dotted with a plethora of temples. Revered by Hindus and mainly by Jains, Mt. Abu is a pilgrimage site with the exquisite Dilwara temples with marble carving which are so intense and refined that they look as if they have been grown rather than constructed. These Jain temples are among the finest examples of Jain architectures in India and are often compared to the Taj Mahal. There are other shrines like Vimal Vasahi and Tejpal Temple which are dedicated to important Tirthankaras (spiritual teachers). The Nakki Lake is a big attraction and is the center of all the activity in town. It is surrounded by a unique rock carving in various shapes and sizes. Mount Abu is especially known for its picturesque sunsets, which are seen best past the hills from the Lake. Mt. Abu in summer is definitely a retreat from the heat of the plains. Several Maharajas built retreats here, now converted into elegant hotels.

JODHPUR

JodhpurJodhpur is the second largest city of the state of Rajasthan. Jodhpur, famous for its magnificent forts and palaces, it has been drawing the attention of tourists from all over the world. Situated at the edge of the Thar Desert, Jodhpur stands on a range of sandstone hills surrounded by a strong wall nearly 10 kms in length with massive fortress and eight gates leading to different places of Jodhpur. Within the walls are royal palaces with priceless jewels and a striking collection of arms in Armories. About 4 miles away from the Jodhpur lay the Balsamand Lake and Garden. It is an artificial lake built in 1159 AD. Jodhpur is dubbed as the "Blue City" after the color-wash of its old town houses. Mostly the life of the city revolves around the Fort. The Rajput chief Rao Jodha had founded the city of Jodhpur in 1459. Earlier, it was the capital of the Marwar state of Rajasthan.

Mehrangarh Fort: A large fort located in the heart of the city, Mehrangarh was built by Maharaja Man Singh. With the strategically located cannons on the walls, the fort is spread over an area of 5 km at an altitude of about 125 meters. A bird's eye view of the city from above the fort is fascinating.

Umaid Bhawan: The only 20th-century-built palace, Umaid Bhawan is also called Chittar Palace. Made of Chittar sandstone, it took 16 years to complete. This majestic building is presently the residence of the former rulers with a part of it running as hotel and remaining part as a museum.

Jaswant Thade: Another example of Rajput glory is Jaswant Thade, which is a shrine built in memory of Maharaja Jaswant II in 1899. A story goes that Maharaja Jaswant succumbed to injuries in this place while fighting the Mughal king Jahangir.

The Mahamandir Temple: Built in 1812, the architecture and the cutwork of the temple are worth seeing. The temple dates back to 1812 and has as many as 84 carved pillars.

Osian: Situated on the Jodhpur-Bikaner highway diversion, Osian (58 km) is an oasis in the desert area of Rajasthan. The Osian sunset point is famous for its panoramic view of the setting sun over the golden sand dunes.

JAISALMER

RajasthanThe city of Jaisalmer shimmers like a mirage amidst the desolate beauty of the hot barren deserts of Rajasthan. The city was founded in 1156 AD by Rawal Jaisal, a Yadav clan and a Bhati Rajput on a hill called Trikuta as the new capital of his territory. Due to its strategic location on the camel trade route between India and Central Asia, once this desert outpost was an important gate for the trade route and Jaisalmer grew wealthy on the proceeds. But the advent of commercial shipping relegated the town to relative obscurity. The narrow streets in the old walled city still preserve a traditional way of life with craftsmen still working at the ancient crafts of weaving and stone carving, the making of silver jewellery and embroidery. The city is also famous for its beautiful embroidery.

The Golden sandstone city of Jaisalmer, set so deep in the heart of the desert that one would expect barren near-desolation, this frontier town is today one of Rajasthan's best-loved tourist destinations. Local colour and warmth prevail over the inhospitable and forbidding terrain, imbuing the medieval town with a special magic. Jaisalmer has a large number of tourist sites of unsurpassed architectural wealth. The Jaisalmer Fort, perched atop the triangular-shaped Trikuta Hills, contains some gems of Jain temple buildings, while beautifully decorated havelis are scattered throughout the town. The havelis (mansions) which are the pride of Jaisalmer’s architecture and a part of the national heritage should be seen and admired at an unhurried pace. Jaisalmer is a combination of culture and harsh climatic conditions, together amounting to a memorable experience for the visitor.

Desert Festival: Once a year in winter, the empty sands around Jaisalmer come alive with the brilliant colour, music and laughter of the Desert Festival. The very rich and colourful Rajasthani folk culture is on show here for a few days. The usual fair attractions; snake charmers, puppeteers, acrobats, folk performers do brisk business. Camels, the lifeline of the desert, play a major role. Proud mustached villagers, dressed in their ethnic best come astride their picturesquely caparisoned camels to join in the camel dances and competitions of camel acrobatics, camel races and decor, camel polo and tug of war. The Langa and Manganiyar folk musicians, the brisk pace of Rajasthani folk dances like Gair, Dhyap, Gangaur, Ghoomar, Moria, Terathal, Rajasthani handicrafts are the other attractions at the festival.

Jaisalmer Fort & the Jain Temples: The golden sandstone of Jaisalmer Fort, over 800 years old, crowns the Trikuta hill. This impressive fort crowns an 80m high hill and about a quarter of the city's inhabitants reside within its walls. Three strong walls protect the Fort. The fort has five palaces called Sarvottam Vilas, Akhai Vilas, Gaj Mahal, Rang Mahal and Moti Mahal. The Rang Mahal has some exquisite murals painted on arches and spandrels. The Jaisalmer Fort is the second oldest fort in Rajasthan after Chittaur. Within the fort walls is a complex of seven beautifully carved Jain temples including two fine temples dedicated to Rishabhdev and Sambhavanath. Built in the 12th to 15th century, their ornamentations were done in the style of the Dilwara temples at Mt. Abu. The emerald icon of Mahavira here is an unparalleled gem. The Gyan Bhandar, a library containing some extremely old manuscripts, is within the temple complex. Havelis are evidence of Jaisalmer’s legendary architectural wealth. Some of the most beautiful havelis built by Jaisalmer's wealthy merchants are Patwon-ki-Haveli, Salim Singh-ki-Haveli and Nathmal-ki-Haveli.

Desert Culture Centre and Museum: The Desert Culture Centre and Museum has a number of old coins, different kinds of textiles, traditional Rajasthani instruments, and some fossils that were discovered in the desert. It gives a visitor an insight into the history of Rajasthan.

Thar Desert & Camel Safaris: Powerful Rapjut princes once ruled this desert region, which no foreign invader was ever able to dominate. The natural adversary of the environment provided the adaptable Rapjut with their best defense, though they supplemented it by building magnificent fortress palaces on the wind-blown sands. The desert ruins of the Rapjut can still be visited, as can the Thar's remote temples, village oases, and hyponotic, swirling sands. Camel safari in Thar is a great way to experience the desert, which leave from Khuri village. There are day treks that leave in the morning and return at night, or arrangements can be made for longer trips. Most treks last three to four days.

BIKANER

The royal and exotic city of Bikaner is a part of the desert tourist triangle. Bikaner lies in the centre of the hot Thar Desert in Rajasthan. It stands on a slightly raised ground and is walled by a seven km long embattled wall with five gates. The city is dotted with scores of sand dunes and retains the medieval grandeur that permeates the city's lifestyle. More readily called the camel country, Bikaner is distinguished for the best riding camels in the world and hence boasts of having one of the largest camel research and breeding farms in the world. The ship of the desert is an inseparable part of life here. Be it pulling heavy carts, transporting grains or working on wells, camels are the prime helpers. Like any other major cities in Rajasthan, Bikaner too has its own share of forts, palaces and havelis. The city was founded in 1486 as a link in the overland trading route. It has colorful markets displaying exquisite handcrafted items. Undulating lanes, colorful bazaars and bright and cheerful folks make Bikaner an interesting experience.

Junagarh Fort: The imposing Junagarh Fort, defended by high walls and a wide moat, is reputed as one the few forts in India that have remained unconquered till date. It was constructed between 1588 and 1593 by Raja Rai Singh, a general in the army of the Mughal emperor, Akbar. The decorative interiors and sculpted stones of the palace, temples and 37 pavilions are unparalleled in their architectural excellence. Opening on the main courtyard, the Karan Mahal, with gold-leaf paintings adorning its pillars and walls, seems to welcome the guests with open arms.

Lalgarh Palace:
This red sandstone palace was built by Maharaja Ganga Singh, presents a breathtaking example of the excellence of Oriental and European architectural styles. The Shri Sadul Museum in the palace displays some of the most ancient artifacts including well-preserved manuscripts, parchments and gold and silver plaques.

Ganga Golden Jubilee Museum: The museum offers a collection of royal costumes, weapons, ornaments, ancient statues and exquisite paintings, one of which depicts the signing of the Versatile Treaty by Ganga Singh. In addition to this, it also has a collection of terracotta from the Gupta period.

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