The romance, artistry and sheer magnificence of India’s cultural heritage is encapsulated by the Taj Mahal and the great forts and palaces of Rajasthan. Jaipur and Udaipur are stage sets that conjure up storybook India, a land where fabulously wealthy Hindu kings fought and loved and indulged their fondness for pomp and ceremony. Like Italian dukes, they vied with each other to build bigger and better, employing the finest artisans and eye-wateringly expensive materials. This all makes a tour to India and Rajasthan magical.
A journey to these remarkable sights and cities is on every traveller’s wish list. But it needs to be planned with care and imagination. Not only is it vital that your visit to the Taj Mahal isn’t marred by the crowds, but for a rewarding holiday you also need to do more than dash from one highlight to another.
Umaid Bhavan Palace, Jodhpur
Rajasthan is one of the most popular tour destinations in India, for both domestic and international tourists. Rajasthan attracts tourists for its historical forts, palaces, art and culture with its slogan ‘Padharo mahare desh’. Every third foreign tourist visiting India travels to Rajasthan as it is part of the Golden Triangle for tourists visiting India.
The palaces of Jaipur, lakes of Udaipur, and desert forts of Jodhpur, Bikaner, and Jaisalmer are among the most preferred destinations of many tourists, Indian and foreign. Tourism accounts for eight percent of the state’s domestic product. Many old and neglected palaces and forts have been converted into heritage hotels.
The famous and popular Golden Triangle is a traveller’s survey of Indian icons. The triangle usually kicks off at the daunting mega-metropolis of Delhi, with its majestic Mughal heritage. It then angles to Agra, where one of the world’s most famous tombs, the Taj Mahal, defines the city with its exquisite proportions. The triangle tour of India is completed at Jaipur – a city painted pink with some of the most colourful bazaars in India. Jaipur is the capital and gateway to Rajasthan, and once you’ve slept in a palace, explored a medieval fort or swayed on a camel, you’ll want to experience more.
Rajasthan’s big-ticket attractions are its magnificent forts and palaces. Powerful forts loom from mountain tops, their battle-scarred ramparts still defying long-dead enemies. Spiked doors that once held war elephants at bay open onto the twisting approaches to the palaces within. Austere and practical give way to fantasy and opulence once safely inside. Carved marble and stone, fountains and coloured glass decorate the halls of business and rooms of pleasure. All across Rajasthan there are numerous forgotten forts and lovingly restored palaces, including Jaisalmer’s fairy-tale desert outpost, Amber’s honey-hued fort-palace and Jodhpur’s imposing Mehrangarh, to name just a few.
Land of Kings
A tour to Rajasthan is literally a tour to the Land of the Kings. It is home to the chivalrous Rajputs, and its battle-scarred heritage is ingrained with pride and tradition. The upper echelons of this medieval society built magnificent palaces and forts, many of which are now sumptuous hotels and impressive museums. In addition, stunning handicrafts and fine arts were developed and nurtured through patronage by the maharajas. Village life remains steeped in tradition but, just like the rest of India, the pace of change is accelerating. Turbaned men still barter for decorated camels – they just relay the successful deal home via a smartphone.
Celebration of Colour
The intensity and spectrum of colour in Rajasthan is impossible to ignore. The rainbow of fire-engine red turbans and emerald green and canary yellow saris is simply dazzling. Little wonder so many fashion designers find their inspiration and raw materials in this state. The lucky visitor might even see a flash of orange while tiger-spotting in Ranthambhore National Park. Easier to catch on a camera are the bright hues of Rajasthan’s many festivals: from garishly decorated camels in Pushkar, or painted elephants in Jaipur, to the rainbow explosions of Diwali and Holi, celebrated across the region. For many a tour to India is essentially a tour to Rajasthan.