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Thursday, November 29, 2007


Feature of this land is its division by the majestic Aravalli range...

Rajasthan has a total area of 343,000 sq km, and the most striking. Feature of this land is its division by the majestic Aravalli range, which runs from north-east to south-west for about 688 km. It is the backbone of the state and divides it into two regions with totally different geographical features.

North West of the Aravallis are the Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Barmer and Bikaner regions, it is the home of and plains and the shifting sand dunes of the great Thar Desert. Covering a total area of 196,150 sq km, the hard compact earth here is covered by shifting sand dunes and sparsely dotted with scrub and thorny babool. Water levels are very low and have been for so many centuries. The Italian traveler Manucci, one of the several visitors who came to this area and put their impressions on record, came over to this region in the 17th century and noted:

"Wells are so deep that when water is drawn out of them with the help of oxen, those who set these animals to work beat a drum as a warning that the pot is at the mouth of the well and they are about to draw water."

Yet this land with its relentless carpet of sand and desert is neither barren nor uninhabited. If anything, the dryness and the heat of this region, the colorless surroundings have driven the people to fill their lives with dramatically brilliant colors. In fact, the colorfully dressed women against the stark backgrounds are one of the first and most lasting of all impressions that one may have of this state. Nothing really seems to dim-their zest for living.

The harsh dry climate has, however, forced the people to evolve a semi-nomadic lifestyle; when survival becomes difficult these people move out with their cattle to more welcoming pastures, some use their skills as folk performers to earn a livelihood. The wanderers leave their homes but carry the desert and its history in their hearts and follow each custom scrupulously. They may move far away from their land but never move away from their culture. When the desert is a little more welcoming it becomes a rearing ground for camels, cows and buffaloes. Lack of vegetation has been compensated for by the wealth of minerals that are to be found in several parts of this fascinating region. The other side of the hills is a land rich in vegetation.... Aravalli, or, a beam lying across, has a greater presence here. Hard granite rocks, scattered hillocks, areas rich in silver, zinc and lead deposits... There are also long stretches of dense forests, lush green valleys and fertile fields. Several rivers drain this area - the most important being the mighty Chambal River, which hurtles through the rocky terrain of the Hadoti region.

Geologically, many areas in Rajasthan are older than the Himalayas therefore it was only natural that civilization came to Rajasthan much before it came to the rest of India. Excavations at Kalibangan, in Ganganagar district, prove that a fully developed and organized society was in existence in that area much before the Harappan culture. Numerous other prehistoric and protohistoric sites exist in Rajasthan.

The later history of Rajasthan is a history of various kingdoms and their regular wars with one another. It wasn't until the mid-sixth century that the brave Rajputs, warriors par excellence, came to dominate the region and wrote the most glorious chapters of history with their blood and blade. Rajasthan was divided into kingdoms and the valiant Rajputs kept themselves busy with skirmishes amongst the neighboring kingdoms or else they faced the Turks, the mighty Sultans of the Delhi Sultanate and later the Great Mughals. The conflict between the Rajputs and the Muslim Rulers of Delhi lasted for almost 550 years. This period saw the rise of Prithvi Raj Chauhan Maharani Padmini, the beautiful queen of Rana Rattan Singh of Chittaur, Rana Sangha, Man Singh of Amer and Rana Pratap of Chittaur, and scores of other names, which became hallowed in folk memory. It was a period of fierce loyalties and of death before dishonor.

It is this period in the history of Rajasthan that continues to live on in the proud inhabitants of this region and gives it a special charm of its own, unmatched by any other place, anywhere in the world.


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