RAJASTHAN

RAJASTHAN

Rajasthan is a desert region named after the Rajputs, a caste of turbaned and big mustached warriors, rulers and landowners who were believed to be descendants of the sun, the moon and fire. It is arguably India’s most colorful state. Women wear bright oranges, fuchsias and chartreuses. The men have equally colorful turbans. The villages are towns are often identified by a color. Some cities are pink. Some houses have traditional wall paintings known as manadanas. Even the camels and tractor are decorated in bright colors. Salman Rushdie described Rajasthan as a place where "people wear colorful clothes and perform colorful dances and ride colorful elephants to colorful palaces." State Tourism Website : www.tourism.rajasthan.gov.in

Rajasthan means "Land of Kings" and is synonymous to royalty and honour. It is a land of golden sand dunes, massive forts, stunning palaces, diverse cultures, warm people, camels, tigers and spectacular hill country. Adventure and heroism still have,meaning here.. "Of all the regions of India," John Ward Anderson wrote the Washington Post, "Rajasthan is perhaps the one that most evokes Kiplingesque images of fairy-tale palaces, gallant horsemen and exotic dancers."Sights and sounds that will transport you into place where a folk lore comes alive and music, art and dance is woven into every inch of the land.

The largest state in India, Rajasthan is larger than England, Scotland and Ireland put together. Located in the northwest corner of India next to Pakistan, it covers 342,239 square kilometers (132,139 square miles), is home to about 66 million people and has a population density of 200 people per square kilometer. About 75 percent of the population lives in rural areas. Jaipur is the capital and largest city, with about 3.1 million people.

Rajasthan is also one of India's most backward states. For every palace that are probably a thousand beggars and pavement sleepers. About 30 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, only 28 percent have completed the eighth grade in school and the state GDP is half of that in the rest of the nation. In rural areas of Rajasthan, the literacy rate is 76.16 percent for males and 45.8 percent for females.

Rajasthan is very conservative and a bad place to be a woman. Many women rarely go out. Some twenty percent of all women in Rajasthan are illiterate and female infant mortality rates are high. One village, Devra, boasts that no bridegroom came from there in 110 years. It is also a place, where suttee, or widow burning, is still practiced. Rajasthan is one of the four states in the "Hindu heartland." The BJP and Hindu extremist groups are very strong here.

Rajputs

Rajputs are a particularly successful branch of the warrior Kshatriya class, which is just below the priestly Brahman class (See Below). They have traditionally been known for their fighting skills and have held key positions in the Indian army. This tradition began under the Moguls, who gave the Rajputs limited autonomy in exchange for soldiers. Over time the Rajputs were able to use their positions to accumulate great land holdings and through this land great wealth. The word Rajput comes from the Sanskrit term “raja putra,” meaning son of kings. [Source: Encyclopedia of World Cultures: South Asia, edited by Paul Hockings, C.K. Hall & Company, 1992]

Rajputs are associated most with Rajasthan but are found across northwestern India, the Ganges plains, Madhya Pradesh and the Himalayan valleys. After their services as soldiers were no longer needed they established themselves as landowners. Some worked the land themselves. Many were well off enough to hire others to work the land for them. Some held so much land they were able to establish kingdoms. Following independence, 23 Rajput states were united to form Rajasthan. The majority of Rajputs are Hindu but more than a million are Muslims.

The Rajputs are tall and slender, relatively light skinned and many have aquiline noses. They and people from Rajasthan are known for their courage of the willingness to accept death before defeat and are regarded as "uncontrolled, tough and hardheaded. They live according to "a well established traditions of lawlessness, vendettas and blood feuds." Even poor Rajput farmers regard themselves as equal in stature to many other landowning castes and consider themselves superior to the professional classes. Many Rajputs have only one name, like Sarwan or Chontu.

Thakurs are upper-caste Rajputs. They are a dominant landowning caste. Thakur is a term of respect used in different ways. It is sometimes used to describe Brahmins. Others expose their left buttocks to say that they belong to their father’s family. Some are landlords. Others are very poor and forage in the jungle to survive. It has been used to describe Rajput nobles. In other places it is used to describe barbers. Some Thakur women expose their breasts.

Rajput History

Rajputs emerged in the 9th and 10th centuries. Their origins are unknown. Some think they may have been descendants of Hun invaders. Rajputs formed a loose confederations of fiercely independent and often conflicting kingdoms, called Rajputana, in northwestern India. Rajputs remained mostly Hindu despite constant Muslims invasions in west India. They established many princedoms in Rajasthan and legitimized their status, especially as usurpers, by claiming their lineage was Kshatrya.

Anika Gupta wrote in Smithsonian Magazine: Rajputs are “a tribe of warriors and traders who, for centuries, prospered by levying taxes on the merchants who wound between Egypt, Persia and India. Prone to warring not only against outsiders but among themselves, the Rajputs built a network of intricate fortresses to defend themselves and their accumulated wealth.” [Source: Anika Gupta, Smithsonian Magazine, March 2009]

The Rajputs resisted Muslim conquerors until accepting Mogul control in the 16th century. Great Rajput warriors include Prithviraja III, who defeated the Muslim invader Muhammad Ghuri at the Battle of Tarain in 1191. Maharna Pratap was the last Rajput to hold out against the Moguls. In the 1576 Battle at Hadighati he reared his horse so that its hooves crashed into the head of the war elephant of the imperial commander, allowing him to kill the elephant’s driver slowing the Moguls advance. Only the arrival of reinforcements saved the day for the Moguls. The horse who did the damage, Chetak, lives on in the name of a motor scooter.

The Rajputs were far from compliant even under the Moguls. One Rajput prince, Amar Singh, was once told to pay a penalty for missing a meeting. Singh said “the only wealthy I possess is my scabbard...Come take your penalty if you will!” When a Mogul minister reprimanded him his head was cut off in mid sentence. Singh then attacked the Mogul emperor Shah Jahan, the Taj Builder. Singh escaped from the Mogul palace on a horse that he coerced into leaping off 20 meter-high ramparts. The horse died in the fall but Singh survived and made it back to his palace, where he was later captured.

During the British Raj period, Rajasthan was comprised of 18 largely independent princely states. The largest of these were Jaipur and Jodhpur. In 1947, the main Rajput states were merged into the present-day state of Rajasthan and the overall power of the Rajputs declined as other caste were able to advance economically and politically in a democratic rather than feudal system. Still the Rajput identity remains strong and is a source of pride and prestige.

History of Rajasthan

Rajasthan was ruled by Rajput maharajas who claimed to have descended from the moon and flames of a sacrificial fire. The most powerful of all was the Mahatana of Udaipur who is said to have descended from the sun. The first people to occupy Rajasthan were a nomadic pagan people known as the Bhils. According to their creation myth the first occupants of the earth were a set of Bhil twins. God took the head of one of the twins and the eyes of the other to create their race. Polygamy was long regarded as a symbol of wealth by the Bhils and one old saying goes: "If a Bhil runs away his neighbor gets his dwelling, if he dies the neighbor gets his wife." The Bhils are still around. Few Bhils still practice their nomadic ways, but the tradition of folklore is very much alive in the regional stories, painting, dance and music. There are also many other interesting ethic groups that have long histories and are still around.

From the 7th century to the 18th century the Rajputs fought among themselves and held off invaders. Their most famous leader, Maharana Pratap (the "One Unconquerable Mind") held off the powerful Mongol empire. The Rajput were the medieval knights of India. They obeyed a strict code of honor. Rajput men when given the choice they would rather die violently than surrender; and Rajput women would rather fling themselves onto a flaming pyre than submit captures in a ritual know as sati.

In the 19th century the Rajput were forced to sign a treaty with the British Raj, and after independence in 1947 twenty-two princely states merged into Rajasthan. In 1971 the Rajput maharajahs were stripped of the titles and privileges and turned into ordinary citizen with huge tax bills. In the past century, Rajasthan has experienced phenomenal population growth. Water in Rajasthan is so precious that wells are often shrines and drawing water in the morning and evening is a sacred ritual.

Hill Forts of Rajasthan

Hill Forts of Rajasthan was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013 According to UNESCO: “ The serial site, situated in Rajastahan, includes six majestic forts in Chittorgarh; Kumbhalgarh; Sawai Madhopur; Jhalawar; Jaipur, and Jaisalmer. The ecclectic architecture of the forts, some up to 20 kilometers in circumference, bears testimony to the power of the Rajput princely states that flourished in the region from the 8th to the 18th centuries. Enclosed within defensive walls are major urban centers, palaces, trading centers and other buildings including temples that often predate the fortifications within which developed an elaborate courtly culture that supported learning, music and the arts. Some of the urban centers enclosed in the fortifications have survived, as have many of the site's temples and other sacred buildings. The forts use the natural defenses offered by the landscape: hills, deserts, rivers, and dense forests. They also feature extensive water harvesting structures, largely still in use today. [Source: UNESCO World Heritage Site website]

“Within Rajasthan, six extensive and majestic hill forts together reflect the elaborate, fortified seats of power of Rajput princely states that flourished between the 8th and 18th centuries and their relative political independence. The extensive fortifications optimized various kinds of hill terrain, specifically the river at Gagron, the dense forests at Ranthambore, and the desert at Jaisalmer, and exhibit an important phase in the development of an architectural typology based on established “traditional Indian principles”. The vocabulary of architectural forms and of ornaments shares much common ground with other regional styles, such as Sultanate and Mughal architecture. Rajput style was not ‘unique’, but the particular manner in which Rajput architecture was eclectic (drawing inspiration from antecedents and neighbours) together with its degree of influence over later regional styles (such as Maratha architecture) do make it distinctive.

“Within the defensive walls of the forts, the architecture of palaces and other buildings reflects their role as centers of courtly culture, and places of patronage for learning arts and music. As well as housing for the court and military guard, most had extensive urban settlements within their walls, some of which have persisted to the present day. And some also had mercantile centers as the forts were centers of production and of distribution and trade that formed the basis of their wealth. Most of the forts had temples or sacred buildings, some pre-dating the fortifications and outliving the Rajput kingdoms, and many of these remarkable collections of buildings still attract followers. Collectively the forts contain extensive water harvesting structures, many of which are still in use.

The Hill Forts of Rajasthan exhibit an important interchange of Princely Rajput ideologies in fort planning, art and architecture from the early medieval to late medieval period, within the varied physiographic and cultural zones of Rajasthan. Although Rajput architecture shared much common ground with other regional styles, such as Sultanate and Mughal architecture, it was eclectic, drawing inspiration from antecedents and neighbours, and had a degree of influence over later regional styles such as Maratha architecture.

“The series of six massive hill forts are architectural manifestations of Rajput valour, bravery, feudalism and cultural traditions, documented in several historic texts and paintings of the medieval and late medieval period in India. Their elaborate fortifications, built to protect not only garrisons for defence but also palatial buildings, temples, and urban centers, and their distinctive Rajput architecture, are an exceptional testimony to the cultural traditions of the ruling Rajput clans and to their patronage of religion, arts and literature in the region of Rajasthan over several centuries.

Thar Desert

Thar Desert desert covers most of Rajasthan, and 3,000 square kilometers (1,158 square miles) of its terrain of sand dunes and flat thorn scrub is protected as the Desert National Park. No rivers of any significance flow through the desert to compensate for its scarcity of rain, but the Indira Ghandi Canal carries some water in from the Punjab region to the north. The Thar contains a large supply of white marble that has been used in many of India's notable buildings. There also are sizable deposits of limestone, gypsum, lignite, fuller's earth, and salt.

The Thar Desert, also known as the Great Indian Desert, is a large arid region in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent that covers an area of 200,000 square kilometers (77,000 square miles) and forms a natural boundary between India and Pakistan. It is the world's 17th largest desert, and the world's 9th largest subtropical desert. About 85 percent of the Thar Desert is located within India, with the remaining 15 percent in Pakistan. The Thar desert forms approximately five percent of the total geographic area of India. More than 60 percent of the desert lies in Rajasthan, and it extends into Sindh, Gujarat, Punjab, and Haryana. The desert comprises a very dry part, the Marusthali region in the west, and a semidesert region in the east with fewer sand dunes and slightly more precipitation.

Thar Desert is a vast, sandy, brown, barren desert, where temperatures in the summer often exceed 49 degrees C (120 degrees F). It is regarded as the most populated desert in the world. The consequence of this has been the serious depletion of water resources and the loss of pasturelands for animals. Acacia trees imported from the Middle East have been planted to stabilize 60,000 acres of sand dunes. The parts of Rajasthan outside the Thar Desert are semidesert, covered by thorny babul bushes. In the old days many animals such as chinkara, black buck, nilghai, tortoises, hares and peacocks roamed free. But many of these animals have been nearly wiped out by hunters, poachers and villagers.

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The Thar desert though one of the smallest deserts in the world it harbours a wide array of flora and faunal species. It is only place where Rajasthan State Bird (Great Indian Bustard), State animal (Chinkara) and State tree (Khejri) and State flower (Rohida) are found naturally. Thar desert has representatives of Palaearctic, Oriental and Saharan elements and is an outstanding example of geological history representing the different stages of evolution. It also has fossil evidences dating back to the Jurassic Period (180 mya) indicating hot and humid climate characterized by dense forests. The fossilized remains of these 180 million-year-old forests are preserved in Wood Fossil Park at Akal, located 17 kilometers from Jaisalmer, in the outskirts and under the jurisdiction of the Desert National Park....The Thar desert is the most thickly populated desert in the world with an average density of 83 persons/ square kilometers (compared to 7 square kilometers of other deserts) (Baqri and Kankane 2001). [Source: Rajasthan Forest Department]

Plants, Animals and Birds in the Thar Desert

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The DNP is the most important site for the long-term survival of the Globally Threatened Great Indian Bustard and other endemic fauna and flora. Other birds of significance include the endangered Oriental White-backed vulture Gyps bengalensis and Long-billed Gyps indicus, Stoliczka's Bushchat Saxicola macrorhyncha, Green Munia Amandava formosa MacQueen's or Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis maqueeni. Eleven bird species representative of Biome-13 have been identified by BirdLife International. The Thar desert is rich in herpetofauna, being the home of 11 percent of the 456 reptile species found in India. The prominent among them are Toad-headed Agama, Sindh Awl-headed Snake, Indian Spiny-tailed Lizard, Dwarf Gecko, Persian Gecko, Desert Monitor and Saw-scaled Viper. [Source: Rajasthan Forest Department]

“The vegetation of major part of the arid region of the Thar falls under thorn forest type (Champion and Seth 1968). Khejri Prosopis cineraria is commonly found, which is revered and protected by the local communities specially the 'Bishnois'. The vegetation of DNP is quite sparse with open grassland, throny bushes, plantation and dunes as the broad habitat types. One-sixty eight plant species belonging to 48 families have been reported from this area.

“The biota of Thar has both mesic and desert elements owing to location of the Thar in the Saharo-Tharian Basin. 69 percent of herpetofauna and 54 percent of mammalian fauna represent the Sahraian affiliation. Sixty species of mammals, 8 species of amphibians, 51 species of reptile are known from the Thar (Baqri and Kankane 2001). The endemic reptile species of the Thar Desert are Laungwala Toad-headed Agama Bufoniceps laungwalansis , Sindh Awl-headed Snake Lytorhynchus paradoxus are also found in DNP. Many more endemic and endangered mammal, bird and reptile species are found in DNP. Fourteen species of lizards and 7 species of snakes have been recorded from this area (Agarwal 2007). Records of important reptile species such as Indian Spiny-tailed Lizard Uromastyx hardwickii Dwarf Gecko Tropiocolotes persicus euphorbiacola, Persian Gecko Hemidactylus persicus, Desert Monitor Varanus griseus and Saw-scaled Viper Echis carinatus sochureki have been established based on recent studies. More than 100 bird species have been listed from DNP including a good population of the Great Indian Bustard (locally called Godawan) (Kalra et al. 2006) and is a home for migrant Houbara Bustard. The important mammal species of the area includes Chinkara Gazella bennetti, Desert Fox Vulpes vulpes, Indian Fox Vulpes bengalensis, Desert Cat Felis silvestris, Hairy-footed Gerbil Gerbillus gleadowi, Desert hare Lepus nigrricollis dayanus and Long-eared hedgehog Hemeichinus auritus.”

Rajasthan and Water

Water has traditionally been a problem in Rajasthan. The dry season is very dry and lasts for nine months. Sometimes the monsoons are unreliable. Rajasthan occupies nearly 11 percent of India’s land but has access to only two percent of its water. More than half of the state is under severe water crisis.

Hridayesh Joshi wrote for Mongabay: “In this parched land of Rajasthan, women walk miles in the scorching heat, to fetch water for their homes. In Shahanpur village, a few kilometers away from Kheda-Mandeli, women queue up in front of a well for hours. It is a long wait before their turn comes as this well is the only source of water for all needs of humans and cattle. Besides, the villagers depend on this well for all the irrigation requirements as well. “My house is more than a kilometer away from here and sometimes we have to wait for as long as two-three hours standing in the queue. We have to make four to five rounds to fetch enough water for our home [Source: Hridayesh Joshi Mongabay, 28 November 2018]

“This is not just one village or one district facing water scarcity. More than half of Rajasthan is under severe water crisis. At a time when politicians gear up for elections and promise people to mitigate all their woes, the one demand which resonates across the state is – water. There is a similarity and a contrast together in the rural and urban landscape of Rajasthan. Though the villages are emptying and cities are cramming with population, both urban and rural areas face water problem. On one hand the villagers trudge miles to fetch a couple of buckets of water, on the other hand urban water supply is also reducing day by day.

“For instance, at present more than 80 percent of water supply to the capital city of Jaipur comes from the Bisalpur Dam which is built on a rainfed river, but given the rising demand, even the dam may soon run out of water. Due to poor rainfall this year, the Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) of the Rajasthan government has already reduced the duration of water supply to urban households and the situation may turn even worse after March as the dam also caters to other districts including Tonk and Ajmer.

“Pressed with population growth and the influx of people, cities are expanding their boundaries but with limited resources and the government departments are finding it hard to cope with the situation. For instance, around 500,000 people in Jaipur are not covered by PHED’s pipeline water supply. They are dependent on hand pump and tube wells or tanker supply of water. Either people have to stand in a long queue to get a bucket of water or they purchase it at a price of almost Rs. 13 per litre by tanker supply.

“Fights over water are frequent and often people lock water for the fear of theft. Moreover, the PHED’s tap water supply in the cities is now reduced to 30 to 40 minutes per day. Recently, in Ajmer, shopkeepers, government employees and trade unions launched a “No Water, No Vote campaign” which reflects people’s frustration and anger.”

Small Dams in Rajasthan

In Rajasthan 30-foot-high earthen dams and reservoirs known as jahad are built to collect and hold water from the monsoon. Such dams takes about three months to build from rocks and earth by local villagers with engineering advise from the government. In the late 1990s more than 4,500 of these dams were built in 1,000 villages with villagers often choosing the sites and doing all the maintenance.

The jahad system has been used in Rajasthan for more than 5,000 years and relies on the natural terrain to direct water from monsoon downpours to a place where water can be collected by a dam or in an underground tank and saved for the entire year.

Rain water collection schemes fell out of favor under the British an after independence in part because of concerns about malaria, cholera and other disease. But now that diseases are not as big of concerns as they once were the technology is making a comeback.

Rajendra Sing, an advocate of the jahad technology told National Geographic. “Ths is a very sustainable, self-reliant system. I can say confidently if we can manage rain in India in traditional ways, there will be sufficient water for our growing population.”

Supported in part by the Ford Foundation, he spend much of the year convincing villages to build their own dams with their bare hands. Some villages have gone from being poor, suffering communities to thriving, prosperous ones with the help or irrigation water from these dams.

Indira Gandhi Canal

The Indira Gandhi Canal is the longest canal of India. Fed by the Beas and Sutlej Rivers in northern Punjab, it begins at the Harike Barrage at Harike, a few kilometers below the confluence of the Satlej (also spelled Sutluj) and Beas rivers and terminates in an irrigated area in the Thar Desert in northwest of Rajasthan. Previously known as the Rajasthan Canal, it was renamed the Indira Gandhi Canal in 1984 following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

The canal consists of the Rajasthan feeder canal with the first 167 kilometers (104 miles) in Punjab and Haryana state and a further 37 kilometers (23 miles) in Rajasthan followed by the 445 kilometers (277 miles) of the Rajasthan main canal, which is entirely within Rajasthan. The canal enters Haryana from Punjab near Lohgarh village then runs through the western part of the Sirsa district before entering Rajasthan near Kharakhera village in the Tibbi tehsil of the Hanumangarh district.

The Indira Gandhi Canal was to a large degree dug and lined with tile and brick by hand, with some claiming that it would turn the Thar Desert into the granary of India. The project began in 1957 but disputes over water rights with Pakistan and shortages of labor and material slowed its progress. Almost half of the project was initially financed by a loan from the World Bank. In 1977 the canal was half done. The canal was projected to irrigate over three million acres of land, producing cotton, wheat and other crops. The canal also supplies piped water to households in some cities in Rajasthan.

Rajasthan and Tourism

Rajasthan is the most popular state in India with tourists. One out of every three tourist who comes to India visits the state. Among its attractions are festivals, camel fairs, tigers, cows, camels, courtyard-style townhouses (known as havelis), men with big mustaches in massive, bright orange turbans and women in brilliant red saris, gold bangles and nose rings, who balance brass pots or bundles on their heads.

Perhaps the biggest attraction is magnificent fairy-tale-inspiring palaces with spectacular gardens and fountains. To pay off their tax bills many of the maharajahs sold their places to private owners who turned them into hotels. Rajasthan's fascinating cities — Jaipur, Jaisalmar, Udaipur and Jodhpur — all ave at least one magnificent palace. Some of these place hotels will set you back a few hundred dollars. In other a room is only US$40 or so.

As a result of all this Rajasthan is more tourist friendly than some other places in India. There are tourist offices with friendly, informative staff in all the major cities. Guest are often welcomed with garlands of marigold or dabs of paste on their forehead. There are lots of hotels and good airline connections and tour companies that can cater to your every need and whim. There also lots of pushy touts and horn--hugging taxi drivers.

Jonathan D. Rockoff wrote in the Baltimore Sun: “Droves of tourists descend on the state in western India. They pack its medieval forts and sandstone cities. They lap up its history of warrior kings battling Mughal invaders. And they huddle around glistening swords and the royals' intricate miniature artwork. Our tour around Rajasthan at the end of October was certainly entrancing. It started in stately Udaipur, where we gazed from the balcony of the filigreed city palace across a sunswept lake to the dusty mountains beyond. On the roof of our Jaipur hotel, we craned our necks to watch fireworks crackle without end during the holiday of Diwali. Inside the grand Jain temple at Ranakapur, we sauntered through 29 soaring halls supported by 1,444 pillars, all intricately carved with Hindu deities, animals and nymphs playing flutes. Just outside a busy bazaar in Jodhpur, we sampled yogurt drinks called lassis so thick that we had to eat them with a spoon. But Rajasthan's many sites provide little peace and quiet. At the Hindu temple in Eklingji, we jostled with an impatient, sometimes angry crowd for a glimpse of a statue of the god. As we entered the sanctuary, shouting and shoving erupted in the line behind us, requiring police to restore calm.” [Source: Jonathan D. Rockoff, Baltimore Sun, December 25, 2005]

Rajasthan is accessible from both Delhi and Mumbai. The best time to visit is from November to March, when daytime highs range between 75 degrees and 90 degrees . The summer is excessively hot. Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation at RTDC Hotel Swagatam Annexe, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India, 302 006, 011-91-141-203531. Books: Lonely Planet's Rajasthan.

Delhi Highway between New Delhi and Jaipur passes by Alwar (150 kilometers from Jaipur), a lake city with a museum and Sariska National Park (32 kilometers), with a large tiger and deer population. Agra Highway passes by Deeg (240 kilometers from Jaipur), famous for it Jain monsoon palaces, and the wildlife park at Bharatpur (40 kilometers further).

Palace on Wheels

Palace on Wheels is a unique experience offered by Indian tourism and has been rated one of the world’s Top Ten train journeys. This trains offers luxurious service in carriages like those used by the maharajahs. Each carriages has four private compartments, each with a private bath and toilet, lockable safe, two single beds, but no desk or chairs. Claims of luxury are a little overstated. The tracks are visible through the toilet and shower drain. The bathroom is tiny and some compartments don’t even have reading lights. Nice touches include is the turbaned porters and meals served with silver and china.

Passengers leave from New Delhi and can travel for 8 nights and 7 days on a royal tour of Agra, Bharatpur Bird sanctuary, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Udaipur, Chittaurgar Fort, Ranthambore National Park, the Sam Sand Dunes and Jaipur. The Palace on Wheels operates from September to the end of April and costs $240 to $460 a night, single occupancy. Double occupancy starts at $350 per person and includes meals, a camel ride, an elephant ride in Jaipur, a boat ride and one bottle of Indian wine. Celebrities that have ridden on the train include Mick Jagger, Neil Sedeka and John Kenneth Galbraith. Website: www.thepalaceonwheels.com

Most of the train travel is done at night, leaving the days free fr sightseeing. The train used to be pulled by a steam engine and had antique cars that were part of a private train owned by a maharajah who also owned the line the train traveled on. But now is pulled by a diesel engine and has modern cars. The switch was done for practical reason. Th old system didn’t have private baths and there were no links between the cars so the entire train stopped at meal time and everyone moved to dining car, which is no longer the case/

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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