Thursday, July 31, 2008

History of Rajasthan

Rajasthan History

According to the Hindu Mythology, the Rajputs of Rajasthan were the descendants of the Kshatriyas or warriors of Vedic India. The emergence of the Rajput warrior clans was in the 6th and 7th centuries. Rajputs ancestry can be divided into two: the "solar" or suryavanshi-those descended from Rama, the hero of the epic Ramayana, and the "lunar" or chandravanshi, who claimed descent from Krishana, the hero of the epic Mahabharata. Later a third clan was added, the agnikula or fire-born, said to have emerged from the flames of a sacrificial fire on Mt Abu.

It has been accepted that the Rajputs were divided into thirty-six races and twenty-one kingdoms. The Rajput clans gave rise to dynasties like Sisodias of Mewar (Udaipur), the Kachwahas of Amber (Jaipur), the Rathors of Marwar (Jodhpur & Bikaner), the Hadas of Jhalwawar, Kota & Bundi, the Bhattis of Jaisalmer, the Shekhawats of Shekhawati and the Chauhans of Ajmer.

Early History
Rajasthan is the north-western region of India, and has remain independent from the great empires. Buddhism failed to make substantial inroad here; the Mauryan empire (321-184 BC), whose most renowned emperor, Ashoka, Converted to Buddhism in 261 BC, had minimal impact in Rajasthan, However, there are Buddhist caves and stupas (Buddhist Shrines) at Jhalawar, in Southern Rajasthan.

Ancient Hindu scriptural epics make reference to sites in present-day Rajasthan. The Holy Pilgrimage site of Pushkar is mentioned in both the Mahabharata and Ramayana.

Emergence of the Rajputs
The fall of the Gupta Empire, which held dominance in northern India for nearly 300 years until the early 5th Century, was followed by a period of instability as various local chieftains sought to gain supremacy. Power rose and fell in northern India. Stability was only restored with the emergence of the Gurjara Partiharas, the earliest of the Rajput (from 'Rajputra', or Sons of Princes) dynasties which were later to hold the balance of power throughout Rajasthan.

Whatever their actual origins, the Rajputs have evolved a complex mythological genealogy. This ancestry can be divided into two main branches: the Suryavansa, or Race of the Sun (Solar Race), which claims direct descent from Rama; and the Induvansa, or Race of the Moon (Lunar race), which claims descent from Krishna, Later a third branch was added, the Agnikula, or 'Fire Born'. These people claim they were manifested from the flames of a sacrificial fire on Mt.Abu From these three Principal races emerged the 36 Rajput clans.

The Rajput clans gave rise to dynasties such as the Chauhans, Sisodias, Kachhwahas and Rathores. Chauhans of the Agnikula Race emerged in the 12th century and were renowned for their valour. Their territories included the Sapadalksha kingdom, which encompassed a vast area including present- day Jaipur, Ranthambore, part of Mewar, the western portion of Bundi district, Ajmer Kishangarh and even, at one time, Delhi. Branches of the Chauhans also ruled territories know as Ananta (in present-day Shekhawati) and Saptasatabhumi.

The Sisodias of the Suryavansa Race, Originally from Gujarat, migrated to Rajasthan in the mid-7th Century and reigned over Mewar, which encompassed Udaipur and Chittorgarh.

The Kachhwahas, originally from Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, travelled west in the 12th century. They built the massive fort at Amber, and later shifted the capital to Jaipur. Like the Sisodias, they belonged to the Suryavansa Race.

Also belonging to the Suryavansa Race, the Rathore (earlier known as Rastrakutas) traveled from Kanauj, in Uttar Pradesh. Initially they settled in Pali, south of present-day Jodhpur, but later moved to Mandore in 1381 and ruled over Marwar (Jodhpur). Later they started building the stunning Meherangarh (fort) at Jodhpur.

The Bhattis, who belong to the Induvansa Race, driven from their homeland in the Punjab by the Turks, installed themselves at Jaisalmer in 1156. They remained more of less entrenched in their desert Kingdom untill they were integrated into the state of Rajasthan following Independence.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Hawa Mahal - Jaipur

Hawa Mahal (Jaipur)

Hawa Mahal - The Hawa Mahal was designed by renowned architect Lal Chand Usta and is built of red and pink sandstone and is a living testimony of Rajput architectural grandeur. The Hawa Mahal is shaped like a pyramid and has a staggering 953 small windowpanes and all of them are conspicuous by their miniscule lattice work, miniature balconies and vaulted roofs all of which are exquisitely designed and engraved.

Hawa Mahal Built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, Hawa Mahal is the most stunning sight in the city of Jaipur. The palace, part of a huge complex, overlooks one of Jaipur's main streets and was originally constructed to offer women of the court a vantage point, behind stone-carved screens, from which to watch the activities taking place in the bazaar and the surrounding streets. Hawa Mahal Jaipur 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 fa├žade makes Hawa Mahal look more like a screen than a palace. 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 fa├žade. As a matter of fact, Hawa Mahal is believed to build for the women of the Royal Families, since they had to observe strict "purdah" (cover). The small windows and screened balconies serve the women to watch processions and different activities taking place on the streets. In this manner, the women could enjoy a sense of freedom without showing themselves.

Early morning is considered as the best time to visit the Palace, when it is drenched in the golden light of the Sun. At this time, Hawa Mahal appears incredible. One cannot possibly describe the beauty of the Palace in words. The golden light of the early morning sun floats beautifully through the windows of this palace creating a wonderful sight for one and all. The palace has to be visited to experience the true beauty.

Jaipur is a fascinating city but to make the city fascinating, it has great palaces and other structures that are architectural wonders. Look you may from whichever way - houses, shops and havelis - they are all pink. The long crenellated walls protecting the city and the huge gateways guarding the entrance to the city are all in pink. Even the women who come to the city market from their neighboring villages are dressed in pink, gorgeous yellow, red and blue. Men dressed in white dhoti and shirts carry huge magnificent turbans - mostly pink, red and yello