Journey Two / Chapter 10

Northern Rajasthan

August 2016

From fairy-tale palaces and epic forts to arid otherworldly deserts, Rajasthan is surely a destination of its own. In this first part we will look into the Golden City of Jaisalmer sitting on outskirts of Thar Desert, and Rajastan's capital, The Pink City of Jaipur.

Rajasthan is the largest state in India by area. Historically, it used to be territory of Princely states, relatively independent entities where every city had its ruler - the prince. Until this very day most of these cities still have their splendid palaces and the prices who inhabit them. Rajasthan is literally the Land of the Kings. It is home to the chivalrous Rajputs, and its battle-scarred heritage has bestowed legacies of pride and tradition.

Jaisalmer, also known as The Golden City, is remotest but perhaps most stunning location in Rajastan. Situated in the very east of the state (and of the India itself), it neigbours the Thar Desert (or Great Indian Desert), on other side of which is Pakistan. The city is dominated by the Jaisalmer Fort, also known as Sonar Qila (Golden Fort). Unlike most forts in India, the Jaisalmer Fort is a living fort. There are shops, hotels and age old havelis (homes) inside the fort area where families have lived for generations. But perhaps the most interesting in the fort are the centuries old Jain temples - some of the greatest Jain temples in all of India.

Jaipur is the largest city in Rajasthan and was built in the eighteenth century by Sawai Jai Singh as India's first planned city. Jaipur is often called the Pink City in reference to its distinctly coloured buildings, which were originally painted this color to imitate the red sandstone architecture of Mughal cities. At the city’s heart, the City Palace continues to house the former royal family; the Jantar Mantar, the royal observatory, maintains a heavenly aspect; and the honeycomb Hawa Mahal gazes on the bazaar below. And just out of sight, in the arid hill country surrounding the city, is the fairy-tale grandeur of Amber Fort, Jaipur’s star attraction.