The name alone conjures up images of rich, heady spices, shimmering silk and fairy-tale palaces and Rajasthan is indeed all that and more ! A spotlight on this “Land of Kings”…
The state of Rajasthan covers some 213,000mi²/342,000 km² (roughly the size of Poland) in northwest India to the north of the tropic of Cancer. Delhi and Agra on its doorstep are premium tourist destinations, due to the heritage bequeathed by a multitude of small kingdoms that have left behind a patchwork of palaces and fortresses where it is sometimes difficult to distinguish legend from history. This land, trodden by the Persian Darius and Alexander the Great, is rich in mysteries just waiting to be discovered by the traveller.
Where to start exploring a state that is comparable in size with many European countries? By the fantastic Jaipur-Delhi-Agra triangle, despite the destruction of Hindu sanctuaries by invading Muslims in the 11C. Console yourself by exploring Delhi, the capital of the Indian Union and second largest city after Mumbai (Bombay) and before Kolkata (Calcutta). Here, the legendary east, depicted by a maze of lanes branching out of the grand bazaar of Chandni Chowk, collides with a super-modern grid layout of avenues. The sight of limousines weaving amongst ox carts can initially be a bit of a culture shock, unless you adopt the locals’ attitude (many of whom arrived in Delhi with nothing more than entrepreneurship in their suitcases) and head for the parks, home to Indo-Islamic monuments, that circle the city belt to the south. There is no better way to get an insight into Delhi than by strolling through Lodi Gardens. Other city highlights also include Old Delhi and its bazaars, the Red Fort and its sound and light shows, Connaught Place, the Gandhi Memorial... without forgetting dance shows!
Agra is symbolized by the mythical and eternal Taj Mahal that has made the city famous throughout the world. Some visitors come to India with the sole purpose of admiring this mausoleum built by Emperor Shah Jahan in the 17C as an everlasting tribute of his love for his deceased wife. Agra is dotted with lavish palaces, mosques and tombs that paint a harmonious picture of pink and white marble set in lush green gardens inspired by the paradise of Allah (whatever you do, do not miss the mausoleum of Akbar at Sikandra).
Rajasthan is also Jaipur, the Pink City, depicted by a whimsical skyline of crenelated ramparts and oriental follies. This princely city nurtures thousand-year-old arts, fabric dying industries, miniature art and metalworking studios, pottery, costume and jewellery crafts, all of which against a backdrop of sublime food, rich in spices, colours and flavours.