Fancy a cultural holiday? Head straight to Rajasthan!
Rajasthan is often dubbed one of India’s most colorful states – and rightly so! Home to various arts, crafts, dance forms, music, and architectures, this western state is a melting pot of rich cultural diversity. By Bayar Jain
The cultural offer of Rajasthan no introduction needed. Once a royal abode named Rajputana, over the years this colorful land has seen Rajputs, Marathas and Mughals claim the land as their own. And so, modern Rajasthan boasts of a diverse cultural scene. The vibrant arts and crafts, flowing dance forms, melodious music styles, and several architectural marvels visible in this western state today are a result of its glorious and extensive history. Today, the state proudly draws crowds from around the world.
If you too want to see this vibrancy up close, consider visiting these Rajasthani destinations for a dose of art and culture.
Architecture of Rajasthan
Rajasthani architecture is all about intricate carvings and vibrant colors. Due to the country’s history, the state today boasts countless forts telling stories of Rajasthan’s royal past, each of which celebrates the artistry in every brick of its construction. Take the iconic Jaisalmer Fort, for example. Also called Sonar Quila – or literally, the Golden Fort – the majestic architecture is typical of the royal Rajput clans of the region. The nearby Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli, built by two architect brothers in the 19th century, provides a glimpse of the fine art and craftsmanship of the past. It houses miniature-style paintings and mighty tusks carved out of yellow sandstone for decoration.
Further afield, in Nagaur, the 12th century Nagaur Fort serves as an example of Rajput-Mughal architecture. Although the fort underwent extensive renovations in 2007, the sprawling gardens and gurgling fountains continue to attract visitors. This Rajasthani fort also serves as the stage for a Sufi music festival.
A similar ode to Rajasthani art and culture can be found in one of the palaces here. Alwar City Palace, with its marble pavilions on lotus flower bases in the courtyard, great halls and chamber, is a stunning blend of Rajputana and Islamic styles of architecture. The Badal Mahal in Dungarpur is renowned for its elaborate designs that blend the architectural styles of the Rajputs and Mughals. Think domes emblazoned with carved half-ripe lotuses and a verandah to match. On the other hand, the majestic walls of Badal Mahal in Bundi impress with their exquisite paintings that depict an early influence of Chinese culture.
Some of the other must-see architectural marvels in Rajasthan are Chhatr Palace and 84 Pillar Cenotaph in Bundi, Kesroli Hill Fort, Baroli Temples and Fateh Prakash Palace in Chittorgarh, Patwon ki Haveli and Salim Singh ki Haveli in Jaisalmer, Chand Baori near Jaipur, City Palace in Udaipur and countless others.
Most state palaces and forts are adorned with local paintings, often dating back to royal times. Take Raja Gopal Singh’s Chattri in Karauli, for example. The palace is adorned with frescoes, giving the vintage monument a lively look. Or consider the highly Instagrammable Patrika Gate in Jaipur.
At the Bhartiya Lok Kala Mandal in Udaipur, love for the arts finds a home. An institution dedicated to the study of folk art, culture, songs and festivals of Rajasthan, this museum fascinates with its typical Rajasthani artifacts.
A little further, about seven kilometers from Udaipur near Lake Fateh Sagar, Shilpgram awaits. The center’s rural arts and crafts complex spans 70 acres with the mighty Aravallis as a backdrop. The museum was designed as a living museum that depicts the lifestyles of the folk and tribal peoples of the West Zone.
Just a ten minute walk down the cobbled streets of Amber in Jaipur is the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing. Located in a beautifully restored havelithe museum showcases a diverse selection of block-printed textiles alongside related images, tools and objects – all chosen to give an in-depth insight into the intricacies of ancient tradition.
When it comes to stone works in Rajasthan, few can match Haathi Bhata. Located about 20 to 30 kilometers from the Tonk-Sawai Madhopur highway, this magnificent structure of elephants was built by Ram Nath Slat during the reign of Sawai Ram Singh. Besides bearing inscriptions that tell the story of Nala and Damayanti, what really makes this structure unique is the fact that it was carved from a single stone.
There is a saying in Rajasthan that euphonious Rajasthani folk music can even make the desert bloom. In fact, Rajasthan’s association with the performing arts is not new. The Bhawani Natyashala in Jhalawar alludes to it. Built in 1921 AD, this ancient theater was once the venue for Parsi plays and cultural events. It is believed to house an underground passage for horses and chariots to trotted across the stage. Over the years, this architectural marvel has become a glimpse into the world of theater and art.
A more contemporary avatar of Rajasthani prowess awaits at Jainiwas Udhyan in Jaipur. The Light & Sound show here is one of the first sound and light shows based on 3D projection mapping in the state. The show depicts the history of the Shri Govind Dev Ji Temple in Jaipur including the carving of the idol and the subsequent establishment of the temple. To bring the story to life, 25,000 lumen 3-chip DLP projectors, DMX-controlled LED lights and a 5.1 surround sound system are used.
Another glimpse of this penchant for performance can be found during Bikaner’s Kabir Yatra. The traveling music festival aims to create a space where musicians, artists, scholars, students and scholars can lose themselves in the voices of Bhakti and Sufi holy poets like Kabir, Mira and Bulleh Shah.
Related: Your Guide to Bharatpur: A Melting Point of History and Wildlife in Rajasthan