Rajasthan, the country of kings, forts and palaces is considered as a charming region rich in colors. The country is a ravishing mixture of natural colors of the desert, exceptional interests, costumes of vibrant colors and traditional celebrations. Those who go to Rajasthan will experience a whole kaleidoscope of exotic luxury and will enjoy a rich cultural heritage, marked by a multitude of various ways of living. Many settlers, coming from cities of the ancient valley of Indus to the Aryan shepherds of the plains, the Bhil inhabitants of the forests, commercial Jain princes, the Jat and Gujjar farmers, the Muslim craftsmen and the aristocratic Rajput warriors, worked all together in this region so that it became and is called “the country of the kings”.
This journey of 15 days gives an excellent insight of the multiple facets of this state. The fortifications and the historical palaces of the Rajput princes surround immense temples and imposing cities. The cultural summits are Jaipur, “the Pink City”, whose haveli’s, temples and palaces express various styles, Pushkar and its legendary temple of Brahma. The old capital of Fatehpur Sikri and Taj Mahal end this journey in beauty. A journey with multiple impressions.
Day 1: Arrival in Delhi, visiting the Indian capital
The capital of India overwhelms one with its temples, mosques, forts, colonial mansions and crowded streets. It becomes more manageable though, when you see that it has two distinct parts – Old Delhi and New Delhi. The 17th century capital of the Moghul Empire has many forts and mosques including the Red fort & Jami Masjid. While New Delhi was established as the capital of British India in 1911 and consists of planned, wide streets interspersed with parks and fountains.
Day 2: Transfer to Mandawa, visiting the Shekawati area
North of Jaipur is Shekhawati, a region of profound beauty. The buildings, architecture and paintings possess richness unparalleled in India. The incredible number of mansions, palaces and cenotaphs here are decorated inside out with detailed and vivid colourful murals – all executed between 1770 and 1930. What is unusual is that these murals have been commissioned not by Maharaja’s or religious institutions but mainly by the regional merchants, the Marwaris. Most of the buildings are privately owned, but one may ask permission and enter to take a look at the beauty of these houses.
Day 3: Transfer to Bikaner, visiting the Junagarh fort with spectacular fortifications
Bikaner was founded 500 years ago by Rao Bhikaji, a descendant of the founder of Jodhpur. It was an important city located along the trade route for the medieval period. The old city is surrounded by high fortifications with a seven kilometers length wall. The famous fort of Junagarh and its many palaces is in Bikaner, with amongst other things the Palace Anup Mahal, which is richly encrusted with mosaics, lacquers, mirrors and ices. The Temple of Karni Mata is 33km from Bikaner, dedicated to a woman who lived in the 15th century, the Karniji mystic, venerated like the incarnation of goddess Durga .
Day 4: Transfer to Jodhpur. On the way visiting Nagaur
Nagaur was before a small city surrounded of massive ramparts. Large mosques and palaces with richly decorated walls, testify to a past marked by the Muslim and Hindu influences. At the end of January, at the beginning of February, during one week, a market with cattle takes place at Nagaur, which is a very popular festival where many visitors and cattle breeders from the surrounding areas move to each year. The market is a smaller version, but as popular as the market with the camels of Pushkar. Its multicolored costumes, its traditional environment and its habits form integral part of the cultural variety of Rajasthan.
Day 5: Visiting Jodhpur, exposure to the various facets of the Blue City
Once the centre of the large princely state of Marwar, Jodhpur sprawls across sweeping sandy terrain on the edge of the Thar Desert. Life in Jodhpur pretty much focuses on, in and around the fort. The fort is packed full with palaces, museums, houses, hotels, shops and stalls – loaded with brilliant Rajasthani clothing with mirrors and embroideries. The bazaar here has different areas assigned to different trades and locally made goods such as tie – dye, puppets and lacquered jewel is available in plenty here. The old city is dominated by blue colour – originating from when the houses belonging to Brahmins were given a blue wash. Meanwhile, the colour has caught on and you’ll find the blue even on mosques and other buildings. Within the fort lies Jhanki Mahal, Moti Mahal, Phool Mahal and other palaces wherein one sees beautiful lattice work on sandstone walls.
Day 6: Transfer to Udaipur. On the way, visit the immense Jain temple of Ranakpur
In the wooded mountains of Ranakpur, is the immense Jain temple of Adinath of the 15th century. It is not only the largest Jain temple of all India but also one of most marvelous. The temple, built in 1439 is regarded as a masterpiece, thanks to a profusion of very complicated sculptures out of marble and 1444 pillars, of which each one is carved in a different way. During the day, according to the sunlight, the color of the pillars passes from gilded to pale blue. The splendid work of decoration inside the domes makes one think of lace and is one of the characteristics of the style of East India. Parts of the temple are high on two or three stages. The roof is organized with five Shikaras (turrets in the style of North India) and the interior includes 29 halls.
Day 7: Visit Udaipur, palace of great luxury on the lake Pichola
The city of Udaipur, on the banks of the large lake Pichola, is the most atmospheric and picturesque of Rajasthan’s many splendors. The lake covers about 8km² and along the waters edge, raises palaces of pure white marble that glisten in the sunlight. Crowning the ridge, on which the city clusters, along the lake’s shore, is the City Palace. Within the Palace is all the magnificence of the East. It displays peacocks in mosaics on the walls, floors inlaid with tiles of rare design and roof gardens giving thrilling views of the panorama below. The two islands in the lake have palaces, which with their exquisite setting, rival even the City palace. These palaces have now been converted into luxury hotels and even if you aren’t staying there, one can visit for lunch, dinner or an afternoon tea. Udaipur’s city palace is the largest palace complex in Rajasthan and is surmounted by balconies, towers and cupolas.
There are fine views over the Lake-Pichola and the city from the upper terraces. The main part of the palace is now a museum with a beautiful collection of miniatures, mirror work and ornamental tiles. Shilpgram – a rural art and craft centre about 5km outside the city is worth a visit. Set up to promote and preserve traditional architecture, music and craft of the tribal people, it holds rare displays of the diverse traditional lifestyles and customs of India’s rural population – not only from Rajasthan but also from Gujarat, Goa and Maharashtra.
Day 8: Transfer to Bundi via Chittaurgarh. Visit the largest fort of India
Chittaurgarh is home for India’s largest fort – the ultimate symbol of Rajput chivalry and pride. Hundreds and thousands of soldiers have laid down their lives for this fort and as many women have committed Jauhar (mass self-sacrifice in a sacred fire to escape dishonor from the enemies). The ascent to this awesome hill fort is by a winding road defended by seven fortified gateways with each turn of the road having a legend of the sacrifice of a brave soldier. An outstanding feature of the fort is the Vijaysthambha (Tower of Victory) profusely carved with images of gods and goddesses.
Day 9: Visiting Bundi, palace and Taragarh fort. Transfer to Pushkar
Bundi is located in a beautiful narrow valley, lying on the side of a steep hill. The palace, situated by the lake with little islands, was built around 1600. The square fort has large corner bastions; the east wall has a gate, which is crenulated with high ramparts. The main gate to the west is flanked by octagonal towers. The Bhim Burj tower dominates the fort and provides the platform for the huge cannon, Garbh Ganjam, famous for its terrifying detonations.
Day 10: Visiting the temple of Brahma at Pushkar. Transfer to Jaipur
The place of pilgrimage at Pushkar is in a narrow valley which is surrounded by impressive rocks. Here we find the only temple of India which is devoted to the creative god Brahma. The central sanctuary which is visited by pilgrims throughout the year, is at the place, according to mythology, where god Brahma incarnated himself, thanks to a flower of lotus which made it fall on the ground. The Lake Pushkar also counts among the most crowned water of India. The other major attraction of Pushkar, remains its fair with the camels which takes place each year in November and which attracts more than 200 000 tourists, pilgrims, peasants and stockbreeders.
Day 11: Visiting Jaipur, palaces, temples and haveli’s of the “Pink City”
Jaipur – the ’pink city’ – is the showcase of Rajasthan’s most irresistible architecture. The ’pink city’ actually applies to the old part of the town which has glorious palaces and temples in an assortment of styles spanning the centuries. Pink is the traditional colour representing hospitality. The bazaar has different quarters for different activities and commerce. Within these bazaars one finds the best selection of precious stones and silver in India. Jaipur city was planned in 1727 with an architectural perfection which comes as a surprise. Instead of narrow winding alleys, one finds straight and spacious streets laid out at right angles.The main attractions in this city are the Hawa Mahal or the Palace of Winds, Jai Singh’s city palace, his observatory and the Ram Nivas gardens. The Hawa Mahal was built in 1799 to enable women of the courts to watch street processions while remaining unseen to the public. Though the building has a five storey facade, it is only about a room width in most parts. The facade is very attractive with finely screened windows and balconies.
Day 12: Transfer to Bharatpur, visit Lohagarh Fort and Keoladeo National park
Bharatpur is within 55km of Agra. The city is famous for its Lohagarh Fort, its palace and the national park of Keoladeo, which is one of the most beautiful national parks of Asia with its rich variety of birds. The Lohagarh fort and its massive structure, were built at the beginning of the 18th century by Maharaja Suraj Mal, the founder of Bharatpur. The fort has three palaces inside its enclosures, Kishori Mahal, Mahal Khas and Kothi Khas. The palace is a fusion of Mugal and Rajput architecture with splendid apartments and complex stages of tiles of interesting patterns.
Bharatpur National park of Keoladeo Ghana
In the era, reserved to princes of Bharatpur for hunting, the national park of Keoladeo Ghana (Sanctuary of Bharatpur), located in Rajasthan, is one of the most beautiful ornithological reserves in the world with 400 species of water birds. Exotic migratory birds come from Afghanistan, Central Asia, Tibet as well as from the colder areas with cranes of the Arctic, greylag geese of Siberia and bald headed geese from China, which come here in July-August to spend the winter in hotter climates and to reproduce until October-November. Apart from the aviary populations, Bharatpur has also some other interesting animal species, including the Blackbuck antelope, Sambhar, the largest Indian antelope , the mottled deer and Nilgai(type of antelope). You will have perhaps even the chance, by moving quietly, to see a lazy python basking in the sun.
Day 13: Transfer to Agra. On the way visit the old forgotten capital city of the mughal Emperor Akbar, Fatehpur Sikri
Built between 1569 and 1585 by the Mughal Emperor Akbar, Fatehpur Sikri, was the capital city of the empire, but was abandoned in 1600 because of lack of provisions of water. The city was a splendid fusion of Hindu and Muslim artistic traditions. At the interior of the Royal Palace complex, is an immense interior court (Diwan-i-Am) beside which is the room with the treasures, which includes a series of buildings which are characterized by splendid screens of stone carving, arches and carved sandstone colonnades. The other places are the ¨Diwan-i-Khas¨ (rooms for private audiences) which has in its center a famous carved column, which supported the pillars of the throne, the Birbal palace, the mosque Jami Masjid and the tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti.
Day 14: Visiting Agra, the fort of Agra and Taj Mahal
Agra is with its Taj Mahal the most popular place of any tourist itinerary, which never fails to impress. Taj Mahal forms the core and the city its surrounding rays. On the west of Taj Mahal and on the banks of the River Yamuna, the Fort of Agra is situated. Taj Mahal located inside the gardens, is surrounded of walls. Built by Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, this monument took more than 20 years to be completed. The gardens in which it is located, belong to the splendid Charbagh style with the Taj in the north, built on top of a platform and with minarets at its four corners. The immense central dome rises to more than 55m. The immense tomb is imposing, and one will not fail to appreciate its amazing width as much as the extraordinary details of its sculptures raised by floral patterns encrusted with invaluable stones. The interior contains the cenotaphs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan whose work of incrustation in the marble is perfect. Taj deserves easily more than one visit, since its character changes with the change of light during the day.
Day 15: Transfer to Delhi. On the way visit Sikandra. In the evening continuation or end of the journey
The tomb of Akbar is located in the small town of Sikandra, within 4km of Agra. The mausoleum of Akbar is an excellent example of the mixture of various architectural styles. The door of monumental entry, excellent example of engraved stone, with the penmanship of Persian style, the four imposing white minarets and the principal building in the center, are of Islamic influence. On another side, the absence of dome, the use of ¨chhatris¨, (small palanquins, supported by pillars), airy pavilions, etc reflect the local influence.
In the evening on arriving at Delhi, end or continuation of the journey.