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Definition: Rajasthan from Philip's Encyclopedia

State in NW India, on the border with Pakistan; the capital is Jaipur. Other major cities include Udaipur, Jodhpur, and Jaisalmer. Rajasthan was the homeland of the Rajputs. The state formed in 1950, and enlarged in 1966. Pastoral nomads inhabit the Thar Desert in the W. The E is part of the Deccan plateau, where wheat, millet, and cotton grow with the aid of irrigation. There are coal, marble, mica, and gypsum mines. Industries: handicrafts, cotton milling. Area: 342,266sq km (132,149sq mi). Pop. (2001) 56,473,122.


Summary Article: RAJASTHAN
from India Today: An Encyclopedia of Life in the Republic

India's largest state, noted for its enduring cultural traditions. Rajasthan is located in the northwestern part of India, bordered on the west by Pakistan and elsewhere by five neighboring Indian states, and is bisected by the rugged Aravalli Range, which stretches from the southwest to the northeastern corner of the state. West of this range the land is relatively flat, dry, and infertile, much of it dominated by the Thar Desert. In the eastern parts of the state the land is hilly and more fertile. Average rainfall also varies. The western deserts accumulate about 4 inches annually, while southeastern Rajasthan averages 26 inches, most of which falls during the summer monsoon season.

Rajasthan has been popularly linked to the Rajputs, a warrior caste that ruled much of the region beginning around the 7th century CE. With the advent of the Mughal Empire in the 16th century, many of the Rajput kingdoms aligned themselves with the Mughal court and were gready influenced by the Mughals both economically and culturally. This led to an era of tremendous wealth and patronage of the arts, resulting in distinctive Rajput styles of art and architecture. Indeed, one popular term for the region as a whole, and the name by which it was known under British rule, was Rajputana (“the land of the Rajputs”). At the time of Indian independence in 1947, the region still included 19 princely states as well as areas that had been under direct British rule. Most of these joined in 1949 to form the state of Rajasthan (“the place of kings”), a term dating from the late 18th century and popularized by the writings of the British chronicler James Tod (1782-1835). With the incorporation of Ajmer and several smaller territories in 1956, Rajasthan assumed its present shape, with Jaipur as the capital. The state is divided into 33 districts and has a single-chamber Legislative Assembly with 200 seats.

Rajasthan encompasses an area of 132,140 square miles. The population according to the 2001 census was 56.5 million. The urban population, comprising 23.4 percent of the total, resides in 222 cities and towns, while 76.6 percent of the population lives in more than 41,000 villages. Almost 90 percent of the population identifies itself as Hindu, while 8.5 percent are Muslim. There are, in addition, small but influential communities of Jains and Sikhs. Approximately 12 percent of the population is from tribal communities, predominandy Bhils and Meenas. The most commonly spoken languages are Hindi, which has long been the official state language, and various dialects of Rajasthani, which was recently recognized as an official state language but has yet to be recognized as an official language at the national level Rajasthani was generally considered to be a dialect of Hindi, although that perception has been changing in recent years, and many linguists recognize it today as a distinct language or cluster of related regional dialects. With the martial heritage of the Rajputs, the colorful appearance of village and tribal peoples, living folk traditions, and magnificent ancient Jain temples at places such as Mount Abu and Osian, Rajasthan is known as one of the most culturally traditional states in India and is thereby one of the country's most popular tourist destinations. Since the elimination of privy purses for princes in 1971, many local erstwhile rulers have converted their forts into tourist attractions and their palaces into heritage hotels. In recent decades, Rajputs have played a prominent role in all sectors of the burgeoning tourist industry. The state government, private foundations, and private enterprises have placed a high priority on preserving, encouraging, and showcasing the traditional performing arts, music, and dance of Rajasthan, These are often on display at forts, museums, festivals, and tourist-oriented specially equipped, maintained, and idealized “villages,”

Similarly, there have been efforts to encourage the production of the handicrafts for which Rajasthan is noted, such as miniature paintings, pottery, camel leather shoes, embroidery, and jewelry. Although jewelry is produced throughout the state, Jaipur is today an important global center for the production and trade of jewelry, gems, and semiprecious stones. Rajasthan is perhaps best known for the colorfulness of its woolen and cotton textiles, especially block-print and tie-dye cotton fabrics. Cotton prints from towns such as Sanganer and Bagru in the Jaipur District are well known, yet each region of Rajasthan produces its own distinctive patterns and styles.

Jaipur city, Rajasthan, View from Ishwar Lat minaret near Tripolia gate, “The Pink City,” founded in 1727, was India's first planned city. With its palaces, especially the Hawa Mahal, or “Palace of the Winds,” Jaipur is one of India's most popular tourist destinations, (Alexander Zotov/Dreamstime.com)

Other major industries include cement production and the quarrying of marble and sandstone. The latter are not particularly new, as many palaces were constructed of local sandstone, and the marble used in the construction of the Taj Mahal came from the quarry at Makrana. Agricultural production focuses on grains such as wheat and millet, oil seeds, cotton, and sugarcane. Rajasthan is India's largest producer of opium for the pharmaceutical industry.

Rajasthan is known for its historic forts, palaces, and temples, yet it is also home to a number of colorful festivals that have become internationally known, especially the Push-kar Festival, the Marwar Festival injodhpur, the Camel Festival in Bikaner, and the Desert Festival in Jaisalmer. Some of these were originally annual fairs for trading livestock but have developed into major showcases for traditional arts, crafts, music, and dance.

Finally, Rajasthan features many distinctive religious shrines and related pilgrimages and fairs. Some important pilgrimages celebrate deified heroes such as Ramdevra, Tejaji, and Gogaji or premodern saints such as Dadu, Jambhoji, and Karni Mata. Thousands of pilgrims are attracted to major Jain shrines at Shri Mahavirji, Nakoda, and Rishabdeo. The most popular Muslim shrine in India is the dargah (tomb-shrine) of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti at Ajmer, where the annual pilgrimage (urs) attracts hundreds of thousands of devotees.

See also Jaipur

Further Reading

Official Web Portal of the Government of Rajasthan. Accessed April 28, 2011. http://www.rajasthan .gov.in/.

  • Bharucha, Rustom. Rajasthan: An Oral History; Conversations with Komal Kothari. Penguin New Delhi, 2003.
  • Schomer, Karine, ed. The Idea of Rajasthan: Explorations in Regional Identity. South Asia Books Columbia, MO, 2001.
  • Tod, James. Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, or, the Central and Western Rajpoot States of India. 1884; reprint, Munshiram Manoharlal New Delhi, 2001.
  • RICHARDS, ASHA KASBEKAR
    Copyright 2011 by ABC-CLIO, LLC

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