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The Rich History and Cultures of Rajasthan

 

India is one of the most diverse and vibrant centers of human culture anywhere in the world. Every region has distinct features and a proud legacy of its people and traditions. The subcontinent’s tapestry of interconnected spiritual and artistic threads has given rise to the many wonders of India.


A Folk Dancer from Rajasthan

Rajasthan is just such a region. It’s culture is known for its valor and bravery. Located in northwestern India, it makes up over 10 percent of the country’s landmass — making it the largest state. It contains within it some of the most remarkable treasures of humanity’s ancient past, as well as marvels that continue to enrich the world today.

The cultures and traditions of Rajasthan are worth exploring. And here, we present you a guide to begin your introduction to this amazing place.

A Brief History of Rajasthan

The Indus Valley Civilization was one of the first groups of people to ever build cities and cultivate agriculture. Many of its former territory is contained in Rajasthan, making it one of the longest continually settled places in the world. It was also home to    much of the Vedic Civilization.

 The Pratiharas later led the region for centuries, nobly protecting the area from repeated invasion attempts. Beginning in the 1200s, Mewar became the dominant state in the region.


19" Tirupati Balaji Wall Hanging | Handmade

Through the early modern period, the Mughal Empire gained control. But after hundreds of years, fighting and imperial concerns elsewhere weakened their leadership, which led to the rise of the Marathas in the 1700s. But by 1818, the British Empire overthrew them.

 The dizzying history has led to a variety of international influences. Now in an independent India free from outside domination, the cultures of Rajasthan thrive in a melting pot of traditions, beliefs, and practices.

Geography of Rajasthan

The capital city of Rajasthan is Jaipur, which is also its largest population center at 3.1 million residents. It is named after its founder Jai Singh II, the Kacchawa Rajput ruler who established the city in 1727. The city plan was based on both Vastu Shastra and Shilpa Shastra. It is a major cultural and economic powerhouse, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019.

 Udaipur is another important city in Rajasthan. It is home to the Lake Palace Hotel. It is here that the Maharana stays for the summer — a tradition they have upheld for 1500 years. Arvind Singh Mewar, a successful businessman in his own right, claims his birthright as the custodian of the House of Mewar, something his brother Mahendra contests.

 

Group of Rajasthani Musician Men (Set of Six Statues)

In fact, there are several still existing dynastic lines that call Rajasthan their home. Gaj Singh holds the title of Maharaja of Jodhpur — a kingdom that has since lost its powers and privileges after a 1971 amendment to the Indian Constitution. And Padmanabh Singh is the great-grandson of the last Maharaja of the princely state of Jaipur — Man Singh II. He is well known as a competitive polo player.

 Rajasthan also contains much of the Great Indian Desert (Thar Desert), as well as many other breathtaking natural views.

The Culture of Rajasthan

Because of its size and history, Rajasthan is perhaps the most diverse state in all of India.


History and Culture of Rajasthan (From Earliest Times Upto 1956 AD)

Rajput Painting

Rajput painting (so-called miniature painting) is a famous cultural export of Rajasthan. The traditional disciplines of mixing paint are still maintained to this day. The art is tremendously demanding, with paintbrushes using only a single hair.

This form of painting borrows from the style developed in the Mughal court. When artists were forced out of the court, they gathered in Rajasthan and merged their training with local traditions to produce one of the finest genres in painting.

Clothing

Rajasthan clothing, particularly for women, is beloved the world over. Elegant and colorful cholis and kurtis are common, with plenty of jewelry. Men frequently wear turbans, dhotis, and angrakha.

Jewelry

Jaipur is the center of one of the biggest jeweler centers in all of the world. You can still find hand cut jewels on offer here, and local jewelers export their goods globally. These coveted works of art exist in large part due to the land’s natural abundance in precious stones.

Food

One of the best ways to experience the cultures and traditions of Rajasthan is through its food. Because the area is very dry and much of its history promoted a lifestyle built around warfare, pickling became a high culinary art here. The Panchkuta salad is also common, with ingredients that can be easily found growing wild in desert conditions.

The concept of the vegetarian restaurant was even invented here, as this diet has long been a favorite among the Marwari people.

Architecture

Rajasthan is home to a wide range of architectural wonders, thanks to the breadth of cultures and traditions of Rajasthan.

One of the most striking features visitors will notice in the local buildings is their elaborate use of stone carving. Stone masons make jali (a decorative screen) out of stone slabs that are delicately carved into organic and geometric forms. These can be found everywhere — from the grandest temples to private homes and gardens. 

The state plays host to iconic landmarks like the Kirti Stambha at Fort Chittor, the Amber Fort, the Lake Palace, the Hawa Mahal, the Jal Mahal, among many others.

People

The variety in the cultures of Rajasthan comes from a large number of people and their many backgrounds.

Among the more than 70 million Rajasthanis, there are more than 11 commonly spoken languages. There are also many religions practiced, though the vast majority consider themselves Hindu.

The Heroic Tales of the Rajput Clan

Of the many cultures of Rajasthan, the Rajput are perhaps the most historically important. The Rajput are a self-identified group of families and lineages with a history of valiant combat and heroic deeds.

 The Rajputs are unique for their ethnic diversity and centuries-long legacy of war. They gave the Rajasthan area many of its kings, including Prithviraj Chauhan, Rana Pratap, and Man Singh. Through their leadership and bravery, they made up the major force fighting off invasion by Arab armies for nearly a millennium.


Maharana Sangram Singh

The Rajput hero Rani Padmavati is noted for her bravery. As a Rajput queen, she found herself in the center of a political battle that threatened to destroy her home city of Chittor. Rather than be taken by the invading force, she committed the self-immolation practice known as Jauhar.

 Though fully capable of defending themselves, they were also great diplomats. Rajput rulers frequently collaborated with other groups, like the Mughal Empire, to ensure peace in their region.

 The Rajput history of bravery has left an indelible mark on Rajasthan. With their many tales of glory in battle and their proven record keeping the area free from invasion for century after century, they have made a lasting contribution to the region.

A Seat of Devotion: The Story of Mirabai (Meera)

Mirabai was another notable member of Rajput royalty. Born at the end of the 15th century in what is today Rajasthan, she went on to become a widely venerated saint of Bhakti — a Medieval Indian religious movement that focused on devotion as a pathway to liberation.

In her lifetime, she penned hundreds of devotional hymns at least (though many, many more are attributed to her). And she became well known for her complete devotion to Krishna, causing her to pay little mind to the mores and conventions of her day.

 

In Union with Krishna

Her lasting contribution to the cultures of Rajasthan is no doubt this refusal to participate in human norms when they go against spiritual conviction. By breaking out of the oppressive roles society expected her to follow, she continues to be an inspiration to women and men around the world.

Explore All That India Has to Offer

If you are interested in exploring the incredible gifts that Rajasthan has given the world, check out Exotic India’s online store today.

Exotic India makes the amazing culture of the subcontinent available to the entire world. We sell hundreds of thousands of high quality products made by Indian artisans at the height of their craft.


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