Maharajas' Express Blog

Ultimate Sights & Unimaginable Experiences Abound in Rajasthan

When Rajasthan became the largest state of India after Madhya Pradesh was bifurcated, it was just another factoid that got appended to the long, long list of specialties of this desert state of India. To begin with, since time immemorial, Rajasthan has been battling the natural forces of the Thar desert on its west side. The feature of Rajasthan stopping its spread are the pre-Cambrian Aravalli ranges, the oldest fold mountains in the Indian subcontinent, belying their lush greenery on the east with the rugged face they present to the Thar.

There’s Always More around the Next Sand Dune

With an inexhaustible wealth of cultural traditions that stretch back to prehistoric ages, Rajasthan continues to surprise even the most avid traveler. Its 33 districts are full of places to see, festivals to participate in, foods to try out and culture to immerse yourself in. Hospitality of the Rajasthani people is the stuff of legends, and you will easily agree when you visit this Land of Kings.

The Regally Luxurious Past – Now a Happy Present for Tourists!

Jaipur, the capital ‘Pink City’, has the Birla Mandir, an “homage to secular India” according to the official Rajasthan Tourism website. Jaipur also has Amer (or Amber) Fort, one of the six Hill Forts of Rajasthan, that are collectively a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The others at Jaisalmer, Kumbhalgarh, Sawai Madhopur (the access point to Ranthambore – more on that below), and Jhalawar and Chittor garh are rock-solid evidence of the might of the Rajput kings.

It is a testament to the power and farsightedness of those kings that today, tourists in Jaipur can enjoy architectural marvels like the Hawa Mahal, or Palace of Breezes, and just a stone’s throw from it, the rigorous scientific processes that were used to erect the Jantar Mantar. With a name literally meaning ‘instrument of calculation’, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is host to the world’s largest stone sundial, and 18 other massive but perfectly accurate buildings that function as astronomical instruments.

Roaming through Rajasthan evokes real wonder at the resplendent lives the royalty must have led while in power! Take, for example, the Kashmir of Rajasthan – Udaipur. This City of Lakes is a welcome sight in the (mostly) barren landscapes of Rajasthan, but crowning the sight is the completely islandic Lake Palace, a luxury hotel now, being in the center of Lake Pichola, it has its own interior lily pond to add to the surreal lavishness. Easy to see why Queen Elizabeth would have felt like ‘real’ royalty on her visit here, as would Jackie Kennedy, Vivien Leigh and Octopussy (of James Bond fame)!

From this magnificent palace at the center of a lake, let us take a caravan trail to the center of expansive Rajasthan: Jodhpur. The nickname Blue City (in sublime deference to Jaipur’s fame as the Pink City) belongs to the past of this ancient warring ground, first between the Rajputs and the Mughals, and later due to the British Raj. It is no wonder, then, that the famed Mehrangarh Fort houses one of the most comprehensive museums of antiquity in Rajasthan (if not India). It is also fitting that this vast fort was built – obviously – on the geological feature that represents the last igneous rock formations of the Precambrian age, the Malani Igneous Suite. Geo-tourism aside, Jodhpur is a hive of colorful activity almost all round the year, with the venerated Chamunda Mataji temple as the focus of the revelries.

To add to its prestige, Jodhpur is the site of one of the world’s best hotels – the Umaid Bhawan Palace. This sprawling estate is home to the royal family of Jodhpur, and the adjoining Taj Hotel has complemented the royalty with suitable Maharaja (King) and Maharani (Queen) suites, apart from lavish Regal and Vice Regal suites. Within line-of-sight of the Mehrangarh Fort, this Palace truly befits the grandiosity of royalty in Rajasthan.

The son of Jodhpur’s founder, Maharaja Rao Jodha, himself became the founder of another jewel in Rajasthan’s crown – Bikaner. Serving as an oasis in the parched Thar desert, Rao Bika’s settlement soon turned into a bustling trade center, and necessitated the building of the Junagarh Fort. More than a fort, it is a collection of palaces that were built by the kings for a wide range of reasons. The Badal Mahal (Cloud Palace), for instance, celebrates the arrival of rain clouds in the arid region, a rarity in and of itself. The Chandra Mahal (Moon Palace) has the king’s bedroom fitted with angled mirrors that would alert the king if any intruder attempted infiltration – this was a clear and present danger in those times! The quaint Bikaneri havelis, or smaller palaces, were described as “the pride of Bikaner” by the famous author Aldous Huxley (of Brave New World fame). With all the kings contributing their distinctive preferences, Bikaner (and the Junagarh Fort in particular) gives visitors a vivid glimpse of each phase of history, from the 15th century onwards.

Spot the Tiger before It Spots YOU

How can Rajasthan pass muster in being called royal, without the Royal Bengal Tiger in its kitty of experiences (no pun intended)? The Sariska Tiger Reserve was a favored hunting ground of the royals of Alwar, while Ranthambore still hosts the national animal of India in its forests. Safaris through these forests are not for the faint-hearted; if you are favored by the travel gods, you might just catch a glimpse of the majestic beast padding along as your group waits for its passage from an open jeep canter (truck)making a dusty and bumpy ride through the terrain, all the more worthwhile.

With no dearth of luxury, royalty and hospitality, Rajasthan is continually cementing its place as THE destination for luxury tourism in India!