The state capital is Jaipur. Geographical features include the Thar Desert along north-western Rajasthan and the termination of the Ghaggar River near the archaeological ruins at Kalibanga, which are the oldest in the subcontinent discovered so far.
One of the world's oldest mountain ranges, the Aravalli Range, cradles the only hill station of Rajasthan, Mount Abu, and its world-famous Dilwara Temples, a sacred pilgrimage for Jains. Eastern Rajasthan has two national tiger reserves, Ranthambore and Sariska, as well as Keoladeo National Park near Bharatpur, once famous for its bird life.
Rajasthan was formed on 30 March 1949, when all erstwhile princely states ruled by Rajputs, known as Rajputana, merged into the Dominion of India. The only difference between erstwhile Rajputana and Rajasthan is that certain portions governed directly by the British Raj, in the former province of Ajmer-Merwara, were included. Portions lying geographically outside of Rajputana such as the Tonk state were given to Madhya Pradesh.
Historical traditions are that Rajputs, Nath, Jats, Bhils, Ahirs, Gujars, Meenas and some other tribes made a great contribution in building the state of Rajasthan. All these tribes suffered great difficulties to protect their culture and the land. Millions of them were martyred for this land. ‘The Hinduan Suraj’ title to Udaipur was due to Bhils. Jats had been fighting since beginning. Gujars had been exterminated in Bhinmal and Ajmer areas fighting with the invaders. Bhils once ruled Kota and Bundi. Gujars were sardars in Alwar, Jodhpur and Ajmer areas. Meenas were ruler of Dhundhar. The earlier contributions of warriors and protectors of the land Jats, Bhils, Gujars and Meenas were neglected and lost in history.
Rajasthan includes most of Rajputana, which comprises a number of Rajput kingdoms as well as Jat kingdoms and a Muslim kingdom. The Jats were rulers in Bharatpur and Dholpur. Tonk was ruled by a Muslim Nawab. Jodhpur, Bikaner, Udaipur, and Jaipur were some of the main Rajput states. Rajput families rose to prominence in the 6th century CE. The Rajputs resisted the Muslim incursions into India, although a number of Rajput kingdoms eventually became subservient to the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire during those empires' peak of expansion.
Mewar led others in resistance to Muslim rule: Rana Sanga fought the Battle of Khanua against Babur, the founder of the Mughal empire; and Maharana Pratap Singh resisted Akbar in Haldighati. Other rulers like Raja Maan Singh of Amber were trusted allies. As the Mughal empire weakened, the Rajputs reasserted their independence. With the decline of the Mughal Empire in the 18th century, Rajputana came under attack from the Marathas and Pindaris, and the Maratha general Scindia captured Ajmer. The Rajput kings concluded treaties with the British in the early 19th century, accepting British sovereignty in return for local autonomy. Following the Mughal tradition as well as its strategic location Ajmer became a province of British India, while the autonomous Rajput states, the Muslim state Tonk), and the Jat states (Bharatpur and Dholpur) were organized into the Rajputana Agency.
The Marwaris (people from Marwar) and Rajasthan's formerly independent kingdoms created a rich architectural and cultural heritage, seen today in their numerous forts and palaces (Mahals and Havelis) which are enriched by features of Muslim and Jain architecture. The development of the frescos in Rajasthan is linked with the history of the Marwaris, who have also played a crucial role in the economic development of the region.
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 km. Mount Abu is 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.
The northwestern portion of Rajasthan is generally sandy and dry. Most of the region is covered by the Thar Desert, which extends into adjoining portions of Pakistan. The Aravalli Range intercepts the moisture-giving southwest monsoon winds off the Arabian Sea, leaving the northwestern region in a rain shadow. The Thar Desert is thinly populated; the town of Bikaner is the largest city in the desert. The Northwestern thorn scrub forests lie in a band around the Thar Desert, between the desert and the Aravallis. This region receives less than 400 mm of rain in an average year. Summer temperatures can exceed 45°C in the summer months and drop below freezing in the winter. The Godwar, Marwar, and Shekhawati regions lie in the thorn scrub forest zone, along with the city of Jodhpur. The Luni River and its tributaries are the major river system of Godwar and Marwar regions, draining the western slopes of the Aravallis and emptying southwest into the great Rann of Kutch wetland in neighboring Gujarat. This river is saline in the lower reaches and remains potable only up to Balotara in Barmer district. The Ghaggar River, which originates in Haryana, is an intermittent stream that disappears into the sands of the Thar Desert in the northern corner of the state and is seen as a remnant of the primitive Saraswati river.
The Aravalli Range and the lands to the east and southeast of the range are generally more fertile and better watered. This region is home to the Kathiarbar-Gir dry deciduous forests ecoregion, with tropical dry broadleaf forests that include teak, Acacia, and other trees. The hilly Vagad region lies in southernmost Rajasthan, on the border with Gujarat. With the exception of Mount Abu, Vagad is the wettest region in Rajasthan, and the most heavily forested. North of Vagad lies the Mewar region, home to the cities of Udaipur and Chittaurgarh. The Hadoti region lies to the southeast, on the border with Madhya Pradesh. North of Hadoti and Mewar is the Dhundhar region, home to the state capital of Jaipur. Mewat, the easternmost region of Rajasthan, borders Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. Eastern and southeastern Rajasthan is drained by the Banas and Chambal rivers, tributaries of the Ganges.
The Aravali Range runs across the state from the southwest peak Guru Shikhar (Mount Abu), which is 1,722 m in height, to Khetri in the northeast. This divides the state into 60% in the northwest of the range and 40% in the southeast. The northwest tract is sandy and unproductive with little water but improves gradually from desert land in the far west and northwest to comparatively fertile and habitable land towards the east. The area includes the Thar Desert. The south-eastern area, higher in elevation (100 to 350 m above sea level) and more fertile, has a very diversified topography. in the south lies the hilly tract of Mewar. In the southeast, a large area within the districts of Kota and Bundi forms a tableland. To the northeast of these districts is a rugged region (badlands) following the line of the Chambal River. Farther north the country levels out; the flat plains of the northeastern Bharatpur district are part of an alluvial basin.
Rajasthan is divided into 33 districts and seven divisions:
Rajasthan's politics has mainly been dominated by the two state stalwarts, namely, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and Mohan Lal Sukhadia of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Indian National Congress respectively. Shri Sukhadia ruled Rajasthan for 17 years and died in February 1982 while Shri Shekhawat is now in the national political horizon. The earlier politics were dominated by the Congress party. The main opposition party was the Bharatiya Jansangh, headed by Rajasthan's most popular leader Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and the Swatantra party headed by former rulers of Rajasthan. The Congress rule was untouched till the year 1962. But in the year 1967, Jansangh headed by Shekhawat and Swatantra party headed by Rajmata Gayatri Devi of Jaipur reached the majority point, but couldn't form a government. In 1972, the Congress won a landslide victory following the victory in the 1971 war. But after the declaration of emergency, Shekhawat became immensely popular, especially after he was forced to be arrested and was sent to Rohtak Jail in Haryana. As soon as the emergency was lifted, a joint opposition Janta Party won a thundering landslide victory winning 151 of the 200 seats. Shekhawat became the Chief Minister. The government was dismissed by Indira Gandhi in 1980 after she restored power in Delhi. In the 1980 elections, the Janta Party split at the centre giving the Congress a victory in Rajasthan.
Indira Gandhi was assassinated in the year 1984, and in the year 1985, a sympathy wave let the Congress sail through in the elections. But in 1989, which could be called a Shekhawat wave, the BJP-JD alliance won all 25 Lok Sabha seats and 140 of 200 seats in the assembly. Shekhawat became the Chief Minister for the second term. Though Janta Dal took back its support to the Shekhawat government, Shekhawat teared apart the JD and continued to rule as the Chief Minister thus earning the title of master manipulator. After the Babri Mosque demolition in Ayodhya, Shekhawat government was suspended by the P.M., Narsimha Rao and President's rule was enforced in Rajasthan. Election took place in the year 1993 in which his party won even after the breaking of its alliance with the Janta Dal.But the then governor Bali Ram Bhagat didn't allow Shekhawat to form the government, but after immense pressure from Shekhawat, who reached the majority point after supports from independents like Sardar Gurjant Singh,Rani Narendra Kanwar, Sujan Singh Yadav, Rohitashva Kumar Sharma, Kr. Arun Singh, Sundar Lal etc. crossed the majority line of 101 seats in the assembly. Shekhawat became the Chief Minister for the third term. This time he ran a successful third term. This was pehaps the diamond phase for Rajasthan as it led to all-round development and Rajasthan also gained identity on the globe as a rapidly developing and beautiful state.Shekhawat introduced Heritage, Desert, Rural, Wildlife tourism to Rajasthan In 1998 elections, the BJP lost heavily due to the onion price rise issue. Ashok Gehlot ran a 5 year government.But he lost the Lok Sabha elections in 1999, only 6 months after its victory in the assembly elections. Shekhawat became the Vice-President of India in the year 2002 so he had to leave Rajasthan politics and the BJP. He appointed Vasundhara Raje as his successor. She led the BJP in 2003 elections and led it to a victory. She is the Chief Minister of Rajasthan since then. Narpat Singh Rajvi is the Health Minister, Ghanshyam Tiwari is the Food Minister, and Gulab Chand Kataria is the Home Minister. The BJP won the 2004 Lok Sabha elections from here as well Next state elections are due in 2008.
Rajasthan's economy is primarily agricultural and pastoral. Wheat and barley are cultivated over large areas, as are pulses, sugarcane, and oilseeds. Cotton and tobacco are cash crops. Rajasthan is among the largest producers of edible oils in India and the second largest producer of oilseeds. Rajasthan is also the biggest wool-producing state in India. There are mainly two crop seasons. The water for irrigation comes from wells and tanks. The Indira Gandhi Canal irrigates northwestern Rajasthan.
The main industries are mineral based, agriculture based, and textiles. Rajasthan is the second largest producer of polyester fibre in India. The Bhilwara District produces more cloth than Bhiwandi, Maharashtra. Several prominent chemical and engineering companies are located in the town of Kota, in western Rajasthan. Rajasthan is pre-eminent in quarrying and mining in India. The state is the second largest source of cement in India. It has rich salt deposits at Sambhar, copper mines at Khetri and zinc mines at Dariba, Zawar mines at Zawarmala for zinc, rampura aghucha (opencast) near Bhilwara. Dimensional stone mining is also undertaken in Rajasthan: Jodhpur sandstone is mostly used in monuments, important buildings, residential buildings, etc. This stone is termed "chittar patthar".
Endowed with natural beauty and a great history, tourism is a flourishing industry in Rajasthan. The palaces of Jaipur, lakes of Udaipur, and desert forts of Jodhpur, Bikaner & Jaisalmer are among the most preferred destination of many tourists, Indian and foreign. Tourism accounts for eight percent of the state's domestic product. Many old and neglected palaces and forts have been converted into heritage hotels. Tourism has increased employment in the hospitality sector. Rajasthan is now the preferred destination for IT companies and North India's largest integrated IT park is under construction in jaipur and is named as Mahindra World City jaipur covering nearly 3000 acres of land.
The mother tongue of the majority of people in Rajasthan is Rajasthani. Rajasthani and Hindi are the most widely used languages in Rajasthan. After independence, Rajasthani was used as a medium of instruction, along with Hindi and English, in some schools. Some other languages used in Rajasthan are Sindhi and Punjabi.
Rajasthan is culturally rich and has artistic and cultural traditions which reflect the ancient Indian way of life. There is rich and varied folk culture from villages which is often depicted symbolic of the state. Highly cultivated classical music and dance with its own distinct style is part of the cultural tradition of Rajasthan. The music is uncomplicated and songs depict day-to-day relationships and chores, more often focused around fetching water from wells or ponds.
The Ghoomar dance from Udaipur and Kalbeliya dance of Jaisalmer have gained international recognition. Folk music is a vital part of Rajasthani culture. Kathputali, Bhopa, Chang, Teratali, Ghindar, Kachchhighori, Tejaji etc. are the examples of the traditional Rajasthani culture. Folk songs are commonly ballads which relate heroic deeds and love stories; and religious or devotional songs known as bhajans and banis (often accompanied by musical instruments like dholak, sitar, sarangi etc.) are also sung.
Rajasthan is known for its traditional, colorful art. The block prints, tie and dye prints, Bagaru prints, Sanganer prints, Zari embroidery are major export products from Rajasthan. Handicraft items like wooden furniture and handicrafts, carpets, blue pottery are some of the things commonly found here. Rajasthan is a shoppers' paradise, with beautiful goods found at low prices. Reflecting the colorful Rajasthani culture, Rajasthani clothes have a lot of mirror-work and embroidery. A Rajasthani traditional dress for females comprises an ankle length skirt and a short top, also known as a lehenga or a chaniya choli. A piece of cloth is used to cover the head, both for protection from heat and maintenance of modesty. Rajasthani dresses are usually designed in bright colours like blue, yellow and orange.
Rajasthan is famous for the majestic forts, intricately carved temples and decorated havelis, which were built by kings in previous ages. Jantar Mantar, Dilwara Temples, Chittorgarh Fort, Lake Palace Hotel, City Palaces, Jaisalmer Havelis are part of the true architectural heritage of India. Jaipur, the Pink City, is noted for the ancient houses made of a type of sand stone dominated by a pink hue. At Ajmer, the white marble Bara-dari on the Anasagar lake is exquisite. Jain Temples dot Rajasthan from north to south and east to west. Dilwara Temples of Mount Abu, Ranakpur Temple dedicated to Lord Adinath near Udaipur, Jain temples in the fort complexes of Chittor, Jaisalmer and Kumbhalgarh, Lodarva Jain temples, Bhandasar Temple of Bikaner are some of the best examples.
Rajasthan is often called a shopper's paradise. Rajasthan is famous for textiles, semi-precious stones and handicrafts. The attractive designs of jewellery and clothes are eye-catching and invite shoppers. Rajasthani furniture has intricate carvings and bright colours. Rajasthani handicrafts are in demand due to the intricate work on them. Above all, Rajasthan's shopping appeals to both tourists and people from other parts of India due to its cheap prices for quality goods.
The main religious festivals are Deepawali, Holi, Gangaur, Teej, Gogaji, Makar Sankranti and Janmashtami, as the main religion is Hinduism. Rajasthan's desert festival is celebrated with great zest and zeal. This festival is held once a year during winters. Dressed in brilliantly hued costumes, the people of the desert dance and sing haunting ballads of valor, romance and tragedy. There are fairs with snake charmers, puppeteers, acrobats and folk performers. Camels, of course, play a stellar role in this festival.
Though a large percentage of the total area is desert, and even though there is little forest cover, Rajasthan has a rich and varied flora and fauna. The natural vegetation is classed as Northern Desert Thorn Forest (Champion 1936). These occur in small clumps scattered in a more or less open forms. Density and size of patches increase from west to east following the increase in rainfall.
Some wildlife species, which are fast vanishing in other parts of India, are found in the desert in large numbers such as the Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps), the Blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra), the Indian Gazelle (Gazella bennettii) and the Indian Wild Ass.
The Desert National Park, Jaisalmer, spread over an area of 3162 km², is an excellent example of the ecosystem of the Thar Desert, and its diverse fauna. Great Indian Bustard, Blackbuck, chinkara, desert fox, Bengal fox, wolf, desert cat etc. can be easily seen here. Seashells and massive fossilized tree trunks in this park record the geological history of the desert. The region is a haven for migratory and resident birds of the desert. One can see many eagles, harriers, falcons, buzzards, kestrel and vultures. Short-toed Eagles (Circaetus gallicus), Tawny Eagles (Aquila rapax), Spotted Eagles (Aquila clanga), Laggar Falcons (Falco jugger) and kestrels are the commonest of these.
Tal Chhapar Sanctuary is a very small sanctuary in Churu District, 210 km from Jaipur, in the Shekhawati region. This sanctuary is home to a large population of graceful Blackbuck. Desert Fox and desert cat can also be spotted along with typical avifauna such as partridge and sand grouse.Transport & Women Health Rajasthan has a good inter city surface transport system both in terms of railways and bus network. If one is covering the state as a tourist, one of the best ways to do so is by road. The fact that each of the major cities is about 250-300 km from the next one, helps planning the trip much better. The roads connecting these cities are also very well maintained barring a few patches where some maintenance work is currently underway.