India’s desert state, was once a collection of princely
kingdoms where feudal traditions still carry on amidst forts and palace
hotels. Bharatpur is famous for its 29 sq km bird sanctuary which has
the largest concentration and variety of bird life in Asia. Throughout
the year Bharatpur’s native population of tree and water
birds can be seen, the latter breeding in July-August. However, the
sanctuary has gained worldwide attention as being the winter home of
several migratory species including the endangered Siberian crane. The
capital city, Jaipur, was the stronghold of a clan of rulers whose
three hill forts and series of palaces in the city are important
attractions. Known as the Pink City because of the colour of the stone
used exclusively in the walled city, Jaipur’s bazaars sell
embroidered leather shoes, blue pottery, tie and dye scarves and other
Rajasthan itself forms a convenient circuit, in the heart of the Thar
desert which has shaped its history, lifestyles and architecture.
Jodhpur’s exquisitely lovely fort, now a museum; art deco
royal palace converted into a hotel, and quaint markets, all vividly
testify to the history of the princely state. Jaisalmer, in the heart
of the desert, is surrounded by sand-dunes which rendered the sand
coloured fort impregnable. Today it is an inhabited city whose chief
attraction is lacy filigree of pierced stonework facades of private
houses, and a series of ornately carved Jain temples. Bikaner too has
echoes of the past in its sandstone palace, temples and cenotaphs. In
the north of Rajasthan, Shekhavati is approachable by road from Jaipur.
The greatest attraction here are the deserted mansions of local
merchants decorated with a profusion of wall paintings. The subjects
and styles vary greatly, and are not encountered elsewhere in India.
Nearby Dundlod and Mandawa are forts, now converted into charming
visited Bundi is remarkable for its palace fort and gallery of fine
frescoes, executed in the style for which the state is famous.
Approachable by road from Jaipur are Ajmer and Pushkar.
Ajmer’s pre-eminence is due to the shrine of a Muslim saint
who is believed to fulfill one’s wishes. Nearby Pushkar has
one of the very few temples dedicated to Brahma the Creator. The sleepy
town with its placid lake is catapulted into prominence for 10 days
every November as India’s most splendid camel fair takes
place here, attended by thousands of locals flashing jewellery and
exuding colour. For the thousands of tourists who visit Pushkar,
accommodation is in the form of tents which cater to all budgets. Also
in Rajasthan is the wildlife sanctuary of Sariska where a royal hunting
lodge has been converted into a hotel. Sariska’s wildlife
includes the tiger, panther, deer and antelope.
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