Rajasthan; it’s a western state in India generally known for its palaces and its royal past (it literally translates to King’s place). With that, it’s also the place where my ancestors are from. The language my parents speak originated from there and so did the traditional cuisine we cook. The only thing is, my nuclear family has never actually been there even though my mother has been fantasizing about travelling there for ages.
So this winter, we have finally decided to visit the state of our forefathers. And in light of that I did some unearthing of the things I am looking forward to seeing this December.
Rajasthan is the largest state in all of India but majority of it is inhabitable because of the Thar Desert or “the Great Indian Desert” that stretches across it.
In its habitable regions, there are more than 50 stunning palaces mainly in the region of four districts of Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner and Udaipur.
Most of these palaces have now either been converted into hotels or museums which means being a royal isn’t a requirement to visit these places (or live in them). Each palace has some historical significance and some of them date back hundreds of years, created and crafted by skilled men with each creation having a story behind it.
One of the most popular palaces in Rajasthan is the Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds), essentially built so that the women of the royal household could watch the street festivals without being seen from outside. It’s designed to resemble the crown of the Hindu god, Krishna and the exterior has about 953 small windows. The small windows, while keeping the women hidden, also allowed a natural air-conditioning effect to happen during the hot summers.
Like most palaces in Rajasthan, Hawa Mahal is fusion of Hindu Rajput architecture and Islamic Mughal architecture. This is because of not only the incursions of some kingdoms by the Delhi Sultanate, or the Mughals but also matrimonial alliances with them. This brought Islamic architecture in the predominantly Hindu kingdoms.
In addition to its palaces it’s also known for its colourful cities, reflected by the buildings and the clothing. Jaipur is one such city representative of that with its buildings painted in powder pink. It has been dubbed “the Pink City” and its economy fuelled by the manufacture of jewellery and luxury textiles. Jodhpur is another such city identifiable because of its iconic shade of blue and just like Jaipur, it’s nicknamed the “Blue City”.
Rajasthan is not only known for its art and architecture but also for its folk music. Folk music is ingrained in Rajasthani culture with children being taught from a very young age how to sing and play traditional instruments.
This winter is definitely going to be an enriching experience which won’t just include sightseeing and travelling but also finding out a part of my culture and where my family’s modern traditions are derived from.