HARYANA AND PLACES NEAR DELHI

HARYANA

Haryana is a state carved out of the Punjab. It surrounds Delhi on almost three sides and is a large agricultural, service and industrial area. With only two percent of India’s land it produces a large portion of India’s food exports and has a state GNP of $110 billion. It has some of the best roads in India, making easy access to the state’s 45 designated tourist complexes easily accessible from Delhi. These include Badkhal Lake, Dabchik, Jungle Babbler, Karna Lake, Sohna, Surajkund, Dumdama. Sultanpur and Kurekshetra.

Haryana state covers 44,212 square kilometers (17,070square miles), is home to about 25 million people and has a population density of 573 people per square kilometer. The majority of the population lives in urban areas. The capital is Chandigarh, with about 1 million people. The largest city is Faridabad, with about 1.4 million people.

Haryana is among the wealthiest and most economically developed regions in South Asia. It name means the abode of God. It is a blend of two Sanskrit words ‘Hari’ which means God and ‘ayana’ meaning home. Places of interest include archaeological, artistic, natural and cultural sights. It was referred to as ‘heaven on earth’ in ancient Sanskrit texts, has some sights from the 5000-year-old Indus Valley and witnessed important historical battles, including the famous battles at Panipat and the epic battle of Mahabharata at Kurukshetra.

Panipat

Panipat (90 kilometers north of Delhi) has a a rich history, intricately woven with spirituality, epics and legends. Famous for its tombs and baked brick stupas, the city boasts many gems that would enthrall the avid traveler. Panipat is believed to be one of the cities (prasthas) founded by the Pandava brothers during the times of the Mahabharata. Panipat traces its renown to the three pivotal battles of Indian history that were fought on its soil.

The First Battle of Panipat was fought on April 21, 1526, between Ibrahim Lodhi, Sultan of Delhi, and the Timurid warlord Zaheeruddin Babur. Babur’s force defeated Ibrahim’s much larger force of over one lakh soldiers. The first battle of Panipat thus ended the Lodi rule established by Bahlul Lodhi in India. The Second Battle of Panipat was fought on November 5, 1556, between the forces of Akbar and Samrat Hem Chandra Vikramaditya, a king of North India, who belonged to Rewari in Haryana. The Third Battle of Panipat was fought in 1761 between the Afghan invader Ahmad Shah Abdali and the Marathas under Sadashivrao Bhau Peshwa of Pune. Ahmad Shah won but with very heavy casualties on both sides. It resulted in the worst defeat of Marathas in their history.

The war led to a power vacuum, which later led to the British conquest of India. Panipat is also known as a city of weavers, with its handloom products appreciated the world over. Durri (a type of carpet), carpets, and home furnishings woven here are exported to countries like Canada, Japan, Germany and Australia. Don't forget to shop for them while here.

Getting There: By Air: The nearest airstrip is in Delhi, which is about 85 kilometers away. By Road: There are regular bus services to Panipat from major Indian cities. By Train: There is easy availability of trains to Panipat from all major cities of India.

Sights in Panipat

Tomb of Ibrahim Khan Lodhi marks the final resting place of Ibrahim Khan Lodhi, the Sultan of Delhi. Built using Lakhauri bricks,. The rectangular grave rests on a high platform and can be reached by a flight of steps. An inscription near the grave suggests that the tomb was reconstructed during the British era by the District Administration in 1867. The tomb holds immense historical significance and stands as a testament to the rich and valorous history of Panipat. Ibrahim Khan ruled Delhi between 1517 and 1526 until being defeated by Mughal emperor Babur's army in the legendary Battle of Panipat. Lodhi was killed during the battle and buried at this place. Babur's successor Sher Shah Suri desired to erect a tomb for the fallen monarch, but that dream remained unfulfilled. Later, it was the British, who erected a plain platform over the place with a short Urdu inscription on it.

Devi Temple is among the most significant spiritual sites in Panipat. Dedicated to Goddess Durga, the temple draws a large number of devotees from all parts of the country. The beautifully rebuilt Devi Temple stands as a fine specimen of Indian temple architecture and invites huge crowds during Durga puja when a special prayer service is held. According to legend, when the temple was being constructed, the idol of Goddess Durga was moved from one place to another but the idol shifted back to its original place the next morning after which it was decided that the temple will be built at the exact place where the idol was found. The temple is located on the banks of a large drought pond, which has now been converted into a children's park. The same park has also been hosting Ramlila performances during Navratri (a holy nine-day festival) for the last 100 years.

Bab-i-Faiz Gate, also known as Salarganj Gate, is an intricately-designed gate built with bricks and has a stone foundation. It once served as an entrance to the historic city of Panipat and consists of two arched openings at both ends of the passage. The sides of the outer multi-fold arch are decorated with panels and arched recesses while the inner arches are cased in red sandstone. An inscription in Urdu recorded over the pointed arch of the gateway reads "Bab-i-Faiz Nawab Sadiq-1129", thus the gateway is known as Bab-i-Faiz gate, which means door of beneficence. The gate stands as a testament to the historic past of Panipat and adds to the old-world charm of the bustling city. It was built by Nawab Sadiq in 1737.

Hisar

Hisar (175 kilometers from Panipat) holds a prominent position in history as it was here that the first evidence of the presence of man was discovered with the excavation of pre-Harappan settlements Agroha, Banawali and Kunal. When in Hisar, tourists should visit the fascinating archaeological site of Agroha, situated 22 kilometers from the city. Regular excavations of the site revealed that there was a fortified township at the place and people lived here from 4th century B.C. to 14th century. The excavations revealed residential and community houses built of baked bricks along with the remains of a Buddhist stupa and a Hindu temple. It is believed that the site of Agroha served as the capital of Maharaja Agrasena of the Agrawal community.

The city of Hisar was founded by the Muslim ruler, Firozshah Tughlaq, in 1354. The name 'Hisar' comes from an Arabic word, meaning fort. Initially, the place was called 'Hisar Firoza (also Hisar-e-Firoza) or in other words, the fort of Firoz. Firoz Shah Palace Complex was built by Firoz Shah Tughlaq (1351-1388) in 1354. The palace complex has an open courtyard surrounded by multi-story structures. The western wall of the palace has a passage with steps that lead to the terrace. The palace complex also houses underground apartments, the Diwan-e-Aam, the Gujri Mahal and the popular Lat ki Masjid.

Tourists can also head to the Blue Bird Lake on the outskirts of Hisar. The wetland is home to resident and migratory birds and makes for a great picnic spot. Tourists can hire boats and enjoy bird watching. Close by is the Deer Park, which is home to black bucks, spotted deer and sambar deer.

Kurukshetra: Battleground of Mahabharata

Kurukshtra (160 kilometers north of Delhi) was the site of the legendary battlefield where Lord Krishna is said to have given the warrior Arjuna the Bhagavad Gita, the most important book of Hindu scriptures. One of the most important episodes in the sacred text was a battle between the five devoted Pandava brothers and the hundred evil sons of King Dhritarashta. The city is filled with banyan trees and pink temples with marble sculptures of Hindu deities.

A sprawling city dotted with temples, sacred tanks and pilgrimage sites, Kurukshetra, in Haryana, is rooted in history. It is said to be the battleground of the epic war between Pandavas and Kauravas as mentioned in the epic Mahabharata. It boasts its rich heritage and past glory in various majestic temples and holy tanks like Brahma Sarovar and Sannihit Sarovar. Named after king Kuru, an ancestor of the Pandavas and Kauravas, Kurukshetra has been a silent witness to many great events through the course of the history. It is also believed that Lord Krishna preached the Bhagwat Gita to Arjuna, a Pandava prince, here. According to mythology, Kurukshetra is spread over 48 kos (an ancient system of measuring land, wherein one kos is about 3 kilometers) and envelops in its holy folds many temples. Legends abound here and have kept the stories of Mahabharata alive.

The sacred River Saraswati (now non-existing), along which the mighty Aryan civilization began and bloomed, was once the lifeblood of this land. In fact, if one is to believe the mythology that is associated with Kurukshetra, the holy waters of all the rivers that are considered to be sacred in Hinduism flow converge in Kurukshetra’s Sannihit Sarovar, at the time of Somavati amavasya and solar eclipse. It is also believed that if one takes a dip in the holy waters of one of tanks in Kurukshetra, one can attain freedom from the cycle of rebirth and ascend to heaven. Similarly, the locals are very fond of quoting the Mahabharata that says anyone who dies in this city attains salvation after death. This is the very city where it is said the great sage Manu wrote Manusmriti, the book of law and morality, which guides Hindus. Moreover, it is also believed that this is the place where learned sages compiled the Rig Veda and the Sama Veda.

Getting There: By Air: The nearest airport is in Chandigarh, which is connected with all the metro cities in the country. By Road: Located on the linking road from NH 1, Kurukshetra is well-connected with all the nearby cities. By Train: Kurukshetra is in itself an important station in the railway network. Some of the important trains that pass from here include the Shatabdi express, Amritsar express, Jhelum express, Kalka Mail and Himalayan Queen.

Sights in Kurukshetra

48 Kosa Parikrama (Circumambulation) covers a number of important destinations related to the Mahabharata and other Vedic era tirthas (pilgrimages). The term '48 kosa parikrama' literally translates into circumambulation which is 48 kos long. Since Kurukshetra is a significant spiritual destination, devotees come here to visit these sites. Visiting the various Mahabharata-related and other Vedic times tirthas around the holy city of Kurukshetra means a complete parikrama.

Sheikh Chillis, or Chehalis Tomb, was built in the memory of the famous Sufi saint, Abdu'r-Rahim or Aabd-ul-Razak, who was popularly known as Shaikh Chehli or Chilli. This tomb is one of the greatest monuments of 17th century in the region. Shaikh Chehli is believed to have been the spiritual guru of Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan’s eldest son, Dara Shikoh. There is also a madrasa, an Islamic school, which overlooks the tomb, and stands on an artificial octagonal terrace . The beautiful tomb is constructed with buff sandstone and is crowned with a white marble, pearl-shaped dome. The cenotaph of the saint is placed in the center of the chamber and his grave is placed in the lower chamber, which joins the madrasa through a narrow gallery. The courtyard of the madrasa has a stone masonry tank in the center and nine-arched openings on each side. The madrasa building also houses two small museums, where excavated archaeological finds from two nearby locations, Harsh ka Tilla and Bhagwanpura are displayed.

Bhishma Kund is a stepwell named after Bhishma Pitamaha, who is believed to have laid here on a bed of arrows created for him by his ace student Arjuna, Bhishma Kund is one of the places in Kurukshetra that bears a close connection with the great epic Mahabharata. Bhishma Pitamaha was a figure revered by both the warring sides, the Pandavas as well as the Kauravas. According to legend, he had a boon that allowed him to stay alive for as long as he liked and die only when he wished to. He was wounded in the battle of Mahabharata and came here to rest and watch the battle unfolding from this place. A story also relates how the kund came into existence, and many believe as Bhishma lay dying here, he was parched and asked for water. To satiate his thirst, Arjuna immediately shot an arrow into the ground and let loose a stream of gushing water. This is how the Bhishma kund was created, according to believers. The kund also has a temple next to it.

Museums and Shows in Kurukshetra

Light And Sound Show (in Jyotisar, eight kilometers west of Kurukshetra) is based on the Bhagwad Gita and depict the war of Mahabharata, with a special emphasis on the teachings of Gita. Thanesar Archaeological Site Museum (in Thanesar, juest west to Kurukshetra) is set up at an archaeologically important site. The museum is home to artifacts from many excavations carried out by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which have revealed the history of the region. Some of the interesting exhibits include stones and terracotta sculptures, coins, ornaments and ritualistic objects among others.

Shri Krishna Museum (next to the Kurukshetra Panorama and Science Center) is a museum dedicated to Lord Krishna, who is at the heart of the ethos and identity of the city. One can find exhibits related to the various events in the epic Mahabharata and the Gita involving Lord Krishna. The museum has six galleries, three in each of its two blocks. On display are stone sculptures, bronze castings, leaf etchings, miniature paintings, clay pottery and terracotta artefacts. Haryana tourism, in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, has also set up a Multimedia Mahabharata and Gita Gallery that are a must visit here. Shri Krishna Museum is located right

Kurukshetra Panorama And Science Center is a unique combination of science and religion, the central attraction of the science center is a life-like panorama of the battle of Kurukshetra. The exhibit gives travelers an alternate and scientific reading of various events of the battle. Built in a cylindrical shape, the center is home to a number of interesting exhibits on ancient Indian concepts of properties of matter, structure of atoms, geometry, arithmetical rules, astronomy, medicine and surgery. One should not miss the panorama of the battle of Kurukshetra that is on display in the institution. It showcases the battle of Mahabharata and offers a scientific explanation of each episode of the battle. There are several paintings that are part of the exhibit, some as high as 34 ft, which create a larger than life experience into lore and science of the Mahabharata war. The park outside has been used as an informal space for science exhibits for children that impart scientific knowledge in informal and interactive ways.

Temples in Kurukshetra

Vishvamitra ka Tila is home to the remains of an ancient Vishnu temple. It is situated on the southern bank of now unexisting River Sarawati, on the outskirts of the town of Pehowa. The site is archaeologically important because of two inscriptions from the Gurjar-Pratihara period (8th to 11th century) that have been found here. One of the inscription details the creation of the three Vishnu temples in the town. The other inscription, in the Garibnath Mutth, dates back to 882 AD and records raja Bhojdeva's collection of voluntary tax for the maintenance of the Vishnu temples in the area from the traders. Excavations in the area have yielded intricate stone sculptures, depicting scenes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Another important excavation revealed the remains of an ancient temple plinth made of baked bricks. The remains are important because they are the only known brick temple remains of their kind in this region.

Sthaneshwara Mahadev Temple is believed to have been built over 5,000 years ago. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it is home to a a large, blue idol of Lord Shiva placed in the middle of the water tank. The temple attracts large crowds during the festival of Mahashivratri, which is celebrated with a lot of pomp and show. Situated amidst serene surroundings, the temple provides picturesque views. According to legend this is where the Pandavas prayed to Lord Shiva to ask for victory in the battle of Kurukshetra. Locals also believe that the water of the adjoining pond has healing powers. It is said that once a mighty king in the history of the region, King Ban, contracted leprosy, which was cured after bathing in the waters of this pond. Local lore suggests that this was the first temple where Lord Brahma laid the first lingam of Lord Shiva. This implies that this was the first temple in which Lord Shiva was worshipped.

Kartikeya Temple was built at an important site that is immersed in Mahabharata lore is the Kartikeya Temple. It is believed to have been built around 5th century B.C. One among the many pilgrimage temples in the Pehowa region, this temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Kartikeya, son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Local According to legend Lord Krishna instructed Prince Yudhishthira to light two lamps in honour of the 18 lakh warriors, who had lost their lives in the battle of Kurukshetra. It is believed that the two lamps that flank the temple are the same and they have been glowing continuously. Since this temple celebrates the Brahmachari or the bachelor state of Lord Kartikeya, there is a strict rule that forbids women to enter the temple. This temple is located on the outskirts of the city.

Brahma Sarovar is a pond that surrounds the famous Sarveshwar Mahadev Temple. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple is attached to the land through a concrete arched bridge. The beautiful temple has been constructed out of buff sandstone and marble. A compound leads to the temple through three heavily carved doors. While it might have been a temple dedicated solely to Lord Shiva earlier, now there are idols of Lord Hanuman and Lord Garuda as well. Devotees can visit the Krishna Ghat nearby that offers a splendid view of the temple, especially during sunsets. There is an arti (a fire ritual) which takes place every evening. There are special artis, along with a deep daan, which takes place on the occasion of Gita Jayanti in late November and early December. According to legend Lord Brahma once worshiped Lord Shiva in this temple. Another mythological story suggests that Lord Brahma created the universe at this spot. Another legend associated with the temple suggests that during the epic battle of Mahabharata, this temple was destroyed in war every day. However, miraculously, it was reconstructed from scratch every night.

Bhadrakali Temple is an important religious stopover as it is one of the 51 shaktipeethas (devotional shrines where the severed body parts of Goddess Sati fell) in the country. Bhadrakali Temple is said to be the place where her ankle fell. Devotees know the temple by many names including Savitri Peeth, Devi Peeth, Kalika Peeth or Aadi Peeth. According to legend indignant at the behaviour of her father, who insulted her husband Lord Shiva, Goddess Sati committed Sati, or self-immolation in her father's yajna (a fire ritual). Devastated, Lord Shiva began pacing the universe with the burning body of his wife in his arms, causing havoc wherever he went. To save the universe, Lord Vishnu sent his sudarshan chakra to cut up her body into 52 parts so that the damage would be as less as possible. It is believed that wherever Sati s body parts fell, a shaktipeeth was established.

The temple is also associated with the Mahabharata legend. It is believed that Lord Krishna, along with the Pandavas, worshipped at this temple and offered their chariot horses as sacrifice. So local lore suggests that even today, if a devotee makes a wish at the temple and it comes true, the devotee should, in the fashion of the Pandavas, offer a couple of horses. As a result of this local lore, a number of devotees can be seen offering horses made of clay or precious metals at the temple. Another story associated with the temple states that the mundan or the sacred head shaving ceremony of Lord Krishna and his brother Balram was performed here. The temple receives a lot of footfall during festivals like navratras (a nine-day-long festival).

Near Delhi in Rajasthan

Neemrana Fort Palace (150 kilometers northeast of Jaipur and 120 kilometers southwest of Delhi) was built in 1464 and now is a heritage luxury hotel that is ensconced in the Aravalli ranges. Once the seat of Rajput king, Prithvi Raj Chauhan III, this fort preserves its antiquity, while boasting a very modern and comfortable setting. Situated in Alwar, Rajasthan, the majestic fort is sprawled over an area of 10 hectare, comprising lush hanging gardens, large pools and state-of-the-art rooms, all of which come furnished with plush interiors. Some notable features include spacious balconies that provide a sweeping panoramic view of the surroundings (you can almost feel like a king surveying his kingdom!), beautiful paintings and antiques that reflect traces of colonial charm and Rajasthani heritage. There are a total of eight wings in the fort and each room has been given a distinct name, according to which it has been decorated.

The fort looks resplendent at night when it is bathed in the soft glow of numerous lights. Tourists can enjoy various cultural events that are held in the premises during weekends or take part in thrilling activities like zip-lining. You can also enjoy a vintage car ride or sample Rajasthani and French delicacies at the restaurants. Boasting three huge conference halls, the fort is an ideal venue for business meetings and social gatherings, all of which can be conducted in relaxing surroundings. Neemrana is a much sought-after venue for wedding ceremonies as well.

Sariska National Park (60 kilometers northeast of Jaipur) is a 776-square kilometer (300-square-mile) reserve in Rajasthan established on the former hunting ground of the Maharajah of Alwar. A long narrow heavily-forested valley forms the heart of the park and a paved road runs down the middle of the valley where tourists often see tigers and large herds of deer. Tourists that see the large numbers of animals often wonder why there is so much concern about diminishing wildlife. But looks are deceiving. Artificial waterholes have been dug to lure animals to the road while the rest of the park is nearly void of animals. Much of the grass in the park has been grazed by cattle even though a wall was built to keep them out.

A highways goes through the park. It is used by people visiting a Hindu temples dedicated to Hanuman, the monkey god. About 2,500 people and 35,000 cattle live in 28 villages in the park. Poachers took many tigers and leopards. In 1988 a census recorded 45 tigers. A year later there were only 16. A survey in October 2004 counted 15. A survey in February 2005. found none. Ironically. Sariska is where Project Tiger began. In recent years some tigers from Ranthambhore National Park have been transplanted to Sariska.

Mandawa Fort (160 kilometers west of Delhi, 120 kilometers north of Jaipur) is one of the architectural gems of the region. Such is the grandeur of the fort that it has often been the backdrop of movies like Bajarangi Bhaijan, Love Aaj Kal, Mirzya and Jab We Met. Built in 18th century and perched atop the Aravalli Hills, the fort houses many rooms, featuring antique decor, beautiful paintings of Lord Krishna and other gods and goddesses and intricate mirror work. Its painted archways are also a treat to the eyes. Founded by a chieftain named Mandu Jat, the Mandawa Fort grew under the Shekhawat Rajputs. It speaks a lot about the rich history of the region and boasts unique features of Rajasthani architecture. Visitors can shop in the local market in Mandawa, which offers magnificent brass items, colorful textiles and handicrafts. Further, the royal family has been supporting a girl's school here wherein the visitors can interact and participate by obtaining the necessary permissions. Other notable places to visit include Gulab Rai Ladia Haveli, Lakshminarayan Haveli, Mohanlal Saraf Haveli and Chowkani Haveli, which are adorned with beautiful fresco paintings.

Shekhawati

Shekhawati (160 kilometers from Jaipur in northeast Rajasthan) is often called the "open air" art gallery of Rajasthan. It refers to a region with towns and villages that were home to medieval Shekhawati communities famous for their painted houses and high quality frescoes made between 1750 and 1930. The cenotaph of Shardul Singh and the adjacent Gopinath Temple contain the oldest frescoes. Other frescoes have been painted on havelis (mansions with courtyards), forts and temples.

Situated in the northern desert reaches of Rajasthan, Shekhawati is full of grand havelis with beautiful frescos and murals, and ancient temples and stepwells adorned with intricate carvings. A reflection of the opulent lifestyle of the wealthy merchants of the region, Shekhawati boasts the legacy of the traders who bestowed it with its architectural gems. Every nook and cranny of the district is alive with the vibrancy of colorful paintings that are almost like a picture story, revolving around religious legends, folklore and highlights of its lavish past. Most of these havelis were abandoned by their owners, when they migrated to other parts of the country for trade. Today, they have been restored and turned into museums, heritage resorts and hotels.

Shekhawati (also spelled Shekhavati) lies on a major trade route between the ports of Gujarat and the large towns and cites in the north. A large number or rich traders set up shop here and tried to outdo one another to see who could make the greatest paintings. The Italian technique of fresco buono was used for the earlier paintings and the later ones used chemical instead of natural paints and dyes.

The painting are found everywhere: on walls, balconies, ceilings, arches, pillars, The domes of cenotaphs at cremations grounds and even the rims of wells. The most spectacular works cover the walls and ceilings of entire rooms. Blue, gold and maroon are prominent color. The subjects and themes of the frescoes encompass traditional mythology, local legends and folklore, Rajput everyday life, and stories attributed to historical figures and characters from Rajput epics. There are also some images of English ladies, motorcars and early aircraft.

The history of Shekhawati is rooted in the Matsya kingdom and has also been mentioned in the ancient Indian texts of Rig Veda and Manusmriti. Rao Shekha from Dhundhar established Shekhawati with its capital at Amarsar. He divided the region into 33 villages that were fortified with mud and stone forts. A prominent trading center of the 14th century, Shekhawati is now a tourist hub in Rajasthan

Getting There: By Air: The nearest airport is at Jaipur, about 2.5 hours away. By Road: The place is well-connected with State Highway 8, 37 and 41 that provide direct routes to Jaipur, Delhi and Bikaner. By Train: The nearest Railway station is the Jhunjhunu Railway station that is connected to major cities like Jaipur, Delhi, Indore etc.

The towns of Sikar (70 miles from Jaipur) and Jhunjhunu (115 miles from Jairpur) are both convenient starting points for visits to the Shekhawati region. Both of these town have frescoes and havelis worth seeing. The main centers of Shekhawati art are Ramgarh, Fatehpur and Lachhmangarh.

Churu

Churu (200 kilometers east of Delhi, 175 kilometers north of Jaipur) is known for its shifting sand dunes and is a gateway to the Thar desert. Dotted with grand havelis that boast 50-100 rooms, adorned with intricate fresco paintings, interestingly, Churu has no royal history. These havelis were homes of rich and prosperous merchants, who inhabited the area. The paintings in the havelis are a reflection of the owner's lifestyles, or a depiction of the fashion of that time, like travelling in a car or a train. You can almost feel the past knocking at the door, such is the beauty of the paintings, which appear as bright as if they were painted yesterday. The doors of the havelis are also intricately designed and one can spend an entire day admiring them as no two of them are alike. Churu provides a beautiful landscape, where the skyline bursts with colors during sunset on one side, and the moon peeps out of the water on the other.

Founded in 1620 AD by the Nirban clan of Rajputs, Churu is a small city that connects Pali to Ambala. It is also a religious seat of the Nath sect of Sadhus, who worship the marble statues of their deities. Other places of attraction include a 400-year-old fort, which is located at the center of the city. Mantri Haveli is yet another noteworthy spot to visit in the area. Churu is also noted for chhatris ( elevated dome-shaped pavilions). With a large number of women engaged in hand embroidery, one can get a plethora of handmade products that reflect the cultural ethos of the region. Shekhawati was a part of Bikaner before independence and has beautiful temples of Salasar Balaji and Babosa Maharaj.

Ratangarh Fort (200 kilometers from the city of Jaipur) was built by Surat Singh in the18th century and is known for its grand gateways, monuments and a clock tower known as the Ghantaghar. Surrounded by ethnic villages and brilliant stretches of landscape, the fort makes for an attractive tourist stopover. The Ratangarh Fort has been named after Maharaja Ratan Singh, son of Surat Singh. It is said that it was attacked twice by Thakur Prithvi Singh, the son of Churu king, with the support of Maharawal Laxman Singh of Sikar in 1815 and 1816. While guarding the fort, its caretakers, Lal Shah Syed and Purohit Jethmal, were killed. This has been mentioned in the inscriptions in the fort. The grand fort is located in the middle of the city and has four gates and boundary walls.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: India tourism website ( incredibleindia.org), India’s Ministry of Tourism and other government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

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