Rajasthan, the land of the Kings, in
India at its exotic and colourful best with its bettle-scarred
forts, its palaces of breathtaking grandeur and whimsical charm,
its riotous colours and even its romantic sense of pride and
honour. The state is diagonally divided into the hilly and rugged
south-eastern region and the barren north-western Thar desert,
which extends across the border into Pakistan. There are also a
number of centres which attract travellers from far and wide, such
as Pushkar with its holy lake, and the desert city of Jaisalmer
which resembles a fantasy from the The Thousand & One Nights.
Rajasthan is one of India's prime tourist destinations. Nobody
leaves here without priceless memories, a bundle of souvenirs, and
an address book full of friends.
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.
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 tarted 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.