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Folklore of heroism and romance resound from the formidable monuments that majestically stand to tell the tale of a bygone era. The magic of vibrant Rajasthan - its rich heritage, colourful culture, exciting desert safaris, shining sand-dunes, amazing variety lush forests and varied wildlife - makes it a destination nonpareil. Rajasthan is often portrayed as one vast open-air museum, with its relics so well preserved that it delights even the most skeptical traveler.

It is an incredible destination for the outdoor-tourist – take a safari on horses, camels, elephants or even in jeeps, with the Aravalis - India's oldest mountain range as the backdrop. Feast your eyes on spectacular sand-dunes, take the tiger trail, or just watch the birds in the wetlands. You can also choose to pamper yourself in the lavish heritage properties. Rajasthan has something for everyone – one just has to choose an activity appropriate to one's temperament.

Places to Visit in Rajasthan

This museum is supposed to be the oldest museum of the state. Colonel Sir Swinton Jacob designed it in 1876 to greet King Edward VII as Prince of Wales on his visit to India. It was opened to public ten years later. Positioned amidst the gardens of Ram Niwas Bagh in Jaipur, this museum has an assortment of rare articles on its display including textiles, carpets, paintings, metal and wood crafts, pottery, arms and weapons, flora and fauna of the state, toys, dolls and even an Egyptian mummy that belongs to the Ptolemaic Epoch. It is also known for housing the famous carpet, which portrays the scene of a Persian garden carpet with running water streams that was bought at a dear price from Shah Abbas of Persia, by Mirza Raja Jai Singh I. It also puts on show the miniature paintings of a number of sub-schools of Rajasthan.

The galleries on the ground floor of the museum have been completely remodeled and restructured since 1959 in an attempt to depict the uniqueness of the dresses and jewellery of all the classes and tribes of Rajasthani people including the privileged class that mainly consists of Rajputs and the merchant class. It includes the lifestyle of the tribals such as Meenas, Bhopas, Bhils, Gadoliya Lohars and many more. One gallery has also been committed to the henna body art of Rajasthan, popularly called as 'Mehndi Mandana', which makes an exhibition of the typical Rajasthani motifs and designs that are so well recognized as ethnic all over the world. Puppets and Phad paintings (the painted scrolls depicting the life of Pabuji Rathore, who was a great folk-hero from Marwar) occupies yet another gallery of the museum. The highlights of the museum, however, are displayed in its central gallery, which is completely devoted to the Rajasthani music and dance forms.

The Amer Palace is an important tourist attraction inside the Amber Fort. The fort is located a few kilometres from Jaipur and houses a number of other buildings. The palace was built by Raja Man Singh in 1600 AD. Raja Man Singh was a general in the army of the Mughal emperor Akbar. Apart from the palace there are many other important buildings inside the fort. Some of the other important places include Raj Mahal, Shila Mata Temple, Diwan-e-Am and Jai Mandir.

Brahma Temple in Pushkar is the only temple dedicated to Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe according to Hindu mythology in India. The temple is nestled in the Pushkar valley which lies beyond Nagaparvat and the Anasagar Lake, Rajasthan. Brahma is among the trinity of Hindu Gods, the other two being Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. Built in the 14th century, Brahma Temple is an important pilgrim place for Hindus. Other than the Brahma Temple, Pushkar also boasts of dedicated to Lord Mahadev, Lord Varah and Lord Ramvaikunth. Pushkar is regarded as a holy place as it was here that Lord Brahma, together with all the gods and goddesses performed a ‘Yagna’ (self-mortification) at the lake. According to legends, Brahma’s wife Savitri was not present at the Yagna and Brahma married another woman on his impulse. Savitri being displeased by Brahma’s act cursed that Brahma would never be worshipped anywhere else. Due to the reason, this is the only known temple in the world, where Lord Brahma is worshipped. Legends have it that the Pushkar Lake appeared when a lotus flower fell from the hands of Lord Brahma in this valley. Mythology also states that Lord Brahma killed the demon Vajra Nabha by striking him with His weapon, a lotus flower. The impact of the strike caused the petals to fall in three places. One among the three places was Pushkar where a lake sprung up. The Brahma Temple stands on a high podium, constructed entirely in marble. The entrance of the temple is ornamented by a red spire and an image of ‘Hans’ (Goose) symbolic of Brahma. A lovely silver carved turtle can be seen sitting with its face towards the sanctum sanctorum. The black and white chequered tiles floor around the turtle have may silver coins is embellished with many silver coins which are imprinted by the names of the donors. Even, the inner walls of the temple are studded with silver coins. The main shrine houses the life-size image of Lord Brahma with four hands and four faces sitting in a cross legged position. An image of Goddess Gayatri, who is known as the milk Goddess, can be seen on the left of Lord Brahma and that of Goddess Savitri can be seen on his right side. The temple also comprises of an image of Lord Vishnu, life sized dwarpals (door men) and Garuda pillars (a mythical bird, in gold).

'Dargah Sharif' or 'Holy Dargah' is one of the most sacred Muslim shrines in the country. Venerated by both Hindus and Muslims, it is the tomb of Khwaja Moin-ud-din Chisti, a Sufi saint who came from Persia and devoted his life to the service and upliftment of the poor and downtrodden. The Dargah has a massive gate with silver doors built in several stages. Revered by the Mughal rulers, it has touches of Humayun to Shah Jahan in its structural architecture. A silver railing and a marble screen surround the actual tomb of the saint, made of marble with a gold plated dome.

Every year Urs is held here for six days in his remembrance. It is said that when he was 114 years old, the saint locked himself in a room for six days to pray and left his mortal body in solitude. Several thousand devotees throng to this place during this time of the year and food is cooked in huge cauldrons and served to the devotees. The surprising part is that the people serve the food while standing inside the scalding hot food in the cauldrons. These cauldrons are said to be offered by Emperor Akbar when the saint blessed him with an heir for the throne.

The pilgrims make rich offerings called 'nazrana' at the sacred spot where the saint has been entombed that include rose and jasmine flowers, sandalwood paste, perfumes and incense that put in to the fragrance that floats in the air inside the shrine. Cash offerings are also made. Also offered by devotees are the 'chaadar', 'ghilaph' and 'neema', which are votive offerings for the tomb.

Fateh Sagar Lake is the second artificial lake of Udaipur, the first being Jaisamand lake. Located in the north of Lake Pichola, Fateh Sagar Lake lies just besides the entrance to Moti Magri Hill. Built in 1678 by Maharana Jai Singh, Fateh Sagar Lake got its name from Maharana Fateh Singh, who later made additions to it. Talking about the statistics of Fateh Sagar, the lake extends to the length of 2.4 km, 1.6 km. in width and deep to the extent of 11.5 meter. During the monsoons, the lake covers the total area of around 1 sq km.

Fateh Sagar Lake is well-planned with three intake channels and an overflow channel that is usually brought into play in the rainy season. Fateh Sagar Lake is embellished by three small islands, which can be reached by taking a boat ride in the lake. The largest island of the lake is developed into a park by the name of Nehru Park. The garden comprises a boat-shaped restaurant and a small zoo for children. This island park is the favorite picnic spot of Udaipur dwellers.

The second island is converted into a public park with brilliant water-jet fountains by the Government of Rajasthan. The third island addresses Udaipur Solar Observatory, which is the best solar observing site in Asia. Fateh Sagar Lake is quiet place where people usually come for relaxation and to lighten up amidst the serene waters of the lake. From the bottom of Moti Magri Hill, you can hire pedal boats or motor boats as per your convenience to enjoy a boat ride in the lake.

Chittorgarh (Chittaurgarh) is the epitome of Rajput pride, romance and spirit. It reverberates with history of heroism and sacrifice, which is evident as it echoes with the tales sung by the Bards of Rajasthan. The main reason for visiting Chittorgarh is its massive hilltop fort, which is a depiction of Rajput culture and values.

The fort of Chittor is regarded as one of the most outstanding forts of the country and is indeed the "Pride of Rajasthan State". The formidable fort is perched atop a 180 meter high hillock covering a massive area of 700 acres and is a standing sentinel to the courage and valour of Chittorgarh. It is belived that the fort was build by the Mauryans in 7th century and further strucres were added to it by the successive Mewar rulers.

The one mile long serpentine road to the fort is quite steep and exhastive. The fort is approached through seven huge gateways or ´pols´, which are guarded by watch tower and massive iron spiked doors.

Water Fort :

Chittorgarh fort is also called as Water Fort. The fort had 84 water bodies, out of which only about 22 exist today. These Include talabs (ponds), kunds (wells), and baories (stepwells). All the talabs have a natural catchment. The kunds and baories are located below the talabs, so that even the seepage from the latter is not lost.

Havelis in Jaisalmer - Havelis The 18th and the 19th centuries yellow sand stone mansions built by the wealthy merchants of Jaisalmer remain unmatched for their exquisitely carved sandstone facades, jali screens and oriel windows. These are some of the most beautiful and elegant examples of medieval architecture in India created by silavats, a community of masons.

Patwon ki Haveli

The largest and the most magnificent of all the mansions, Patwon ki Haveli was built in 1805 by a Jain merchant - Guman Chand Patwa. This Jain merchant had made a fortune trading in jewels and fine brocade and hence the name Patwon ki Haveli (Mansion of the Brocade Merchant).

The front of the haveli has 60 latticed balconies so finely carved as if they have been created from wood than from stone. It has exquisitely carved pillars and extensive corridors and chambers. One of the apartments of this five storey high haveli is painted with beautiful murals in bold red and gold. Of all the havelis in Jaisalmer, it takes the cake for sheer magnanimity in size, shape and style and is the most photographed haveli in the whole of Rajasthan.

Jaipur's signature building the Hawa Mahal, a multi layered palace, was built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II. Famous for it's Beehive like structure, the Mahal is an interplay of red and pink sand stone, carefully and painstakingly outlined with white borders and motifs. The palaces and forts of yesteryears which were witness to the royal processions and splendors are now living monuments, accepted quite naturally into the life-style of the people of the "Pink City".

If one were to select the most outstanding of all buildings in the walled city, or the most unusual, then the Hawa Mahal would easily stand out. Built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, this remarkable structure adjoins the outside of the City Palace wall. Sawai Pratap Singh was a great devotee of Lord Krishna and he dedicated this mahal to the Lord, its intricate exterior wall looks like a mukut (crown), which adorns Lord Krishna’s head. It overlooks one of the main street and lies sandwiched between more prosaic buildings.

This five-story, pyramid-shaped structure is made up of small casements, each with tiny windows and arched roofs with hanging cornices, exquisitely modeled and carved. Its top three stories are just a single room thick but at the base are two courtyards. It is a fifty-foot high thin shield, less than a foot in thickness, but has over 900 niches and a mass of semi-octagonal bays, carved sandstone grills, finials and domes, which give this palace its unique fame. There is no definite record as to why Hawa Mahal was built, only conjecture. It certainly was not meant for residential purposes.

A pleasant retreat set amidst the lush forested hills, Mt. Abu is a green oasis in the barren desertscape that's Rajasthan. Situated at the southern tip of the Aravali range the hill retreat owes its cool climate to its rich flora covering the entire hillside that includes coniferous trees and flowering shrubs. The road leading to Mount Abu is a curved one characterized by arid region dotted with huge rocks in weird shapes and high velocity winds. The only hill station in Rajasthan, Mount Abu is more than just a summer retreat. Its stunning array of exquisite Dilwara Jain Temples, dating back 11th- 13th centuries, make it a popular pilgrimage centre. Abu according to a legend stands for the son of Himalayan, deriving its name from Arbuada, the powerful serpent who rescued Nandi, the sacred bull of Lord Shiva, from a chasm.

Mount Abu has been home to many sages and saints. Most famous of them was Sage Vashishtha who is believed to have created four agnikula Rajput clans from a fire-pit by performing a yagna or fire sacrifice, to protect the earth from the demons.

The Yagna was performed besides a natural spring situated below Abu, emerging from a rock shaped like a cows head and hence the site was called Gaumukh.

Ranthambore National Park is one of the biggest and most renowned national park in Northern India. The park is located in the Sawai Madhopur district of southeastern Rajasthan, which is about 130 km from Jaipur. Being considered as one of the famous and former hunting grounds of the Maharajas of Jaipur, today the Ranthambore National Park terrain is major wildlife tourist attraction spot that has pulled the attention of many wildlife photographers and lovers in this destination.

Ranthambore National park is spread over an area of 1,334 sq km along with its nearby sanctuaries like - the Mansingh Sanctuary and the Kaila Devi Sanctuary.The park is majorly famous for its tigers and is one of the best locations in India to see the majestic predators in its natural habitat. The tigers can be easily spotted even during the day time busy at their ordinary quest- hunting and taking proper care of their young ones.

Ranthambore is also counted as the famous heritage site because of the pictorial ruins that dot the wildlife park. Certainly, a visit to Ranthambore National Park is a treat for every wildlife and nature lover. The time spend on watching tigers roaming around, verdant greenery, a gamut of other species of chirpy birds and animals is priceless and worth enough to be explored at least once in a life.

The Keoladeo Ghana National Park is located at Bharatpur, Rajasthan, at a distance of about 56 km from Agra (also the nearest airport). The national park is located 6 km from the Bharatpur railway station which provides excellent rail connectivity between Bharatpur and the major rail junctions of India. A network of good roads connects Bharatpur with Agra, Delhi, Jaipur and other cities in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

Set up initially in 1850 as a duck shooting resort for Bharatpur's Raja Suraj Mahl, the Keoladeo National Park is named after the Keoladeo (Shiva) Temple in the locality. In 1982, the reserve was converted into a wildlife sanctuary and in 1985 it was given the distinction of a World Heritage Spot. The Keoladeo National Park houses about 364 varieties of birds and is one of the world's primary avian breeding grounds. A number of migratory birds from colder lands such as Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, China and Siberia make Keoladeo their refuge during the winter months. The incessant monsoons inundate most of the sanctuary thus creating an ecosystem well suited to shelter these avian visitors.

Wagah is an army outpost on Indo-Pak border - between Amritsar and Lahore. I had the opportunity to witness a ritual of 'madness' at this border post recently.

Wagah Border is situated at a distance of 28 kilometers from Amritsar Punjab. Wagah Border is the only border crossing between India and Pakistan. Wagah Border is an army outpost to keep check intrusion from Pakistan and prevents any Indian from going to Pakistan. Unique buses and taxes from Amritsar city take the tourists to Wagah Border. Way Wagah the tourist chance upon seeing some of the lushest lands of Amritsar Punjab.

At the Wagah border outpost there is a complex of buildings, roads and barriers on both sides. At the entrance of this outpost, there is a sightseeing gate with a dedication "Swarna Jayanti". From this a panoramic view of the scenery is seen. There are electrified barriers with 66,000 volts of electric current. Person visit Wagah border to see "Beating the Retreat" observance performed by the soldiers in evening. Soldiers from India and Pakistan make a flag march. The flags are India and Pakistan is brought down. Then the gates between India and Pakistan are opened. Soldiers make some drills and then the complex is illuminated. The whole service takes about half an hour.


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