The Indus Valley Civilization, one of the world's first and oldest civilizations, was located in parts of what is now Rajasthan. Kalibangan in Hanumangarh district, Rajasthan was a major provincial capital of the Indus Valley Civilization. It is believed that Western Kshatrapas (405-35 BC) were Saka rulers of the western part of India (Saurashtra and Malwa: modern Gujarat, Southern Sindh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan). They were successors to the Indo-Scythians, and were contemporaneous with the Kushans who ruled the northern part of the Indian subcontinent. The Indo-Scythians invaded the area ofUjjain and establish the Saka era (with Saka calendar), marking the beginning of the long-lived Saka Western Satraps state. Matsya, a state of theVedic civilization of India, is said to roughly corresponded to former state of Jaipur in Rajasthan, and included the whole of Alwar with portions of Bharatpur. The capital of Matsya was at Viratanagar (modern Bairat) which is said to have been named after its founder king Virata.Traditionally the Rajputs, Charans, Yadavs, Jats, Meenas, Bhils, Gurjars, Bishnois and other tribes made a great contribution in building the state of Rajasthan. All these tribes suffered great difficulties in protecting their culture and the land. Millionsof them were killed trying to protect their land. A number of Gurjars had been exterminated in Bhinmal and Ajmer areas fighting with the invaders. Bhils once ruled Kota. Meenas were rulers of Bundiand Dhundhar region.
Gurjars ruled many dynasties in this part of the country. In fact this region was long known as Gurjaratra. Up to the tenth century almost the whole ofNorth India, excepting Bengal, acknowledged the supremacy of Gurjars with their seat of power at Kannauj. The Gurjar Pratihar Empire acted as a barrier for Arab invaders from the 6th to the 11th century. The chief accomplishment of the Gurjara Pratihara empire lies in its successfully resistance to the foreign invasions from the west, starting in the days of Junaid. Historian Majumdar says that this was openly acknowledged by the Arab writers themselves. He further notes that historians of India have wondered at the slow progress of Muslim invaders in India, as compared with their rapid advance in other parts of the world. Now there seems little doubt that it was the power of the Gurjara Pratihara army that effectively barred the progress of the Muslims beyond the confines of Sindh, their first conquest for nearly three hundred years.
Rajasthan means the Land of the Kings. Modern Rajasthan includes most of Rajputana, which comprises mainly the erstwhile Rajput kingdoms as well as two Jat kingdoms and a Muslim kingdom. Marwar (Jodhpur), Bikaner,Mewar (Udaipur), Alwar and Dhundhar (Jaipur) were some of the main Rajput states. The Jats were rulers inBharatpur and Dholpur. Tonk was ruled by a Muslim Nawab. Rajput families rose to prominence in the 6th century CE. The Rajputs put up a valiant resistance to the Islamic invasions and protected this land with their warfare and chivalry for more than 500 years. They also resisted Mughal incursions into India and thus contributed to their slower than anticipated access to the Indian Subcontinent. Later the Mughals, through a combination of treachery and skilled warfare were able to get a firm grip on northern India, including Rajasthan. The fighter spirit and valour of Rajputs impressed the Mughals to such an extent that even after defeating the Rajputs, the Mughals held their valour and value in the highest esteem. Mewar led other kingdoms in its resistance to outside rule. Most notably Rana Sanga fought the Battle of Khanua against Babur, the founder of the Mughal empire.
Samrat Hem Chandra Vikramaditya, the Hindu Emperor, also known as Hemu in the history of India was born in the village of Machheri in Alwar District in the year 1501. He won 22 battles against Afghans, from Punjab to Bengal and defeated Akbar's forces twice at Agra and Delhi in 1556, before acceeding to the throne of Delhi and establishing 'Hindu Raj' in North India, albeit for a short duration, from Purana Quila in Delhi. He was killed in the Second Battle of Panipat.
Maharana Pratap of Mewar resisted Akbar in the famous Battle of Haldighati (1576) and later operated from hilly areas of his kingdom. Bhils were Maharana's main allies during these wars. Most of these attacks were repulsed even though the Mughal forces outnumbered Mewar Rajputs in all the wars fought between them. The Haldighati war was fought between 10,000 Mewaris and a 100,000 strong Mughal force (including many Rajputs likeKachwahas from Dhundhar).
Over the years the Mughals began to have internal disputes which greatly distracted them at times. The Mughal Empire continued to weaken and several groups across their kingdom found opportunities to establish their power whilst the army was fighting somewhere else. The Rajputs saw this as an opportunity to reassert their independence. With the decline of the Mughal Empire in the 18th century, Rajputana came under attack by theMarathas and Pindaris until the Maratha general Scindia captured Ajmer.
Following their rapid defeat, the Rajput kings concluded treaties with the British in the early 19th century, accepting British sovereignty in return for local autonomy. Following the Mughal tradition as well as its strategic location Ajmer became a province of British India, while the autonomous Rajput states, the Muslim state Tonk, and the Jat states (Bharatpur and Dholpur) were organized into the Rajputana Agency.
The development of the frescos in Rajasthan is linked with the history of the Marwaris who also played a crucial role in the economic development of the region. Many wealthy families throughout Indian history have links to Marwar. These families include the legendary Birla, Bhandari, Bajaj, Mittal and Mirzafamilies.
The main geographic features of Rajasthan are the Thar Desert and the Aravalli Range, which runs through the state from southwest to northeast, almost from one end to the other, for more than 850 km. Mount Abu lies at the southwestern end of the range, separated from the main ranges by the West Banas River, although a series of broken ridges continues into Haryana in the direction of Delhi where it can be seen as outcrops in the form of theRaisina Hill and the ridges farther north. About three-fifths of Rajasthan lies northwest of the Aravallis, leaving two-fifths on the east and south direction.
The northwestern portion of Rajasthan is generally sandy and dry. Most of this region is covered by the Thar Desert which extends into adjoining portions of Pakistan. The Aravalli Range does not intercept the moisture-giving southwest monsoon winds off the Arabian Sea, as it lies in a direction parallel to that of the coming monsoon winds, leaving the northwestern region in a rain shadow. The Thar Desert is thinly populated; the town ofBikaner is the largest city in the desert. The Northwestern thorn scrub forests lie in a band around the Thar Desert, between the desert and the Aravallis. This region receives less than 400 mm of rain in an average year. Temperatures can exceed 45 °C in the summer months and drop below freezing in the winter. The Godwar, Marwar, and Shekhawati regions lie in the thorn scrub forest zone, along with the city ofJodhpur. The Luni River and its tributaries are the major river system of Godwar and Marwar regions, draining the western slopes of the Aravallis and emptying southwest into the great Rann of Kutch wetland in neighboring Gujarat. This river is saline in the lower reaches and remains potable only up to Balotara in Barmer district. The Ghaggar River, which originates in Haryana, is an intermittent stream that disappears into the sands of the Thar Desert in the northern corner of the state and is seen as a remnant of the primitive Saraswati river.
The Aravalli Range and the lands to the east and southeast of the range are generally more fertile and better watered. This region is home to the Kathiarbar-Gir dry deciduous forests ecoregion, with tropical dry broadleaf forests that include teak, Acacia, and other trees. The hilly Vagad region lies in southernmost Rajasthan, on the border with Gujarat. With the exception of Mount Abu, Vagad is the wettest region in Rajasthan, and the most heavily forested. North of Vagad lies the Mewar region, home to the cities of Udaipur and Chittaurgarh. The Hadoti region lies to the southeast, on the border with Madhya Pradesh. North of Hadoti and Mewar lies the Dhundhar region, home to the state capital of Jaipur. Mewat, the easternmost region of Rajasthan, borders Haryana andUttar Pradesh. Eastern and southeastern Rajasthan is drained by the Banas and Chambal rivers, tributaries of the Ganges.
The Aravali Range runs across the state from the southwest peak Guru Shikhar (Mount Abu), which is 1,722 m in height, to Khetri in the northeast. This range divides the state into 60% in the northwest of the range and 40% in the southeast. The northwest tract is sandy and unproductive with little water but improves gradually from desert land in the far west and northwest to comparatively fertile and habitable land towards the east. The area includes the Thar Desert. The south-eastern area, higher in elevation (100 to 350 m above sea level) and more fertile, has a very diversified topography. in the south lies the hilly tract of Mewar. In the southeast, a large area within the districts of Kota and Bundi forms a tableland. To the northeast of these districts is a rugged region (badlands) following the line of the Chambal River. Farther north the country levels out; the flat plains of the northeastern Bharatpur district are part of an alluvial basin. Merta City lies in the geographical center of Rajasthan.
Rajasthan is culturally rich and has artistic and cultural traditions which reflect the ancient Indian way of life. There is rich and varied folk culture from villages which is often depicted and is symbolic of the state. Highly cultivated classical music and dance with its own distinct style is part of the cultural tradition of Rajasthan. The music is uncomplicated and songs depict day-to-day relationships and chores, more often focused around fetching water from wells or ponds.
The Ghoomar dance from Udaipur and Kalbeliya dance of Jaisalmer have gained international recognition. Folk music is a vital part of Rajasthani culture.Kathputli, Bhopa, Chang, Teratali, Ghindr, Kachchhighori, Tejaji etc. are the examples of the traditional Rajasthani culture. Folk songs are commonly ballads which relate heroic deeds and love stories; and religious or devotional songs known as bhajans and banis (often accompanied by musical instruments likedholak, sitar, sarangi etc.) are also sung.
Rajasthan is known for its traditional, colorful art.wall painting in bundi . The block prints, tie and dye prints, Bagaru prints, Sanganer prints, and Zariembroidery are major export products from Rajasthan. Handicraft items like wooden furniture and handicrafts, carpets, and blue pottery are some of the things commonly found here. Rajasthan is a shoppers' paradise, with beautiful goods found at low prices. Reflecting the colorful Rajasthani culture, Rajasthani clothes have a lot of mirror-work and embroidery. A Rajasthani traditional dress for females comprises an ankle length skirt and a short top, also known as a lehenga or a chaniya choli. A piece of cloth is used to cover the head, both for protection from heat and maintenance of modesty. Rajasthani dresses are usually designed in bright colours like blue, yellow and orange.
The main religious festivals are Deepawali, Holi, Gangaur, Teej, Gogaji, Shri Devnarayan Jayanti, Makar Sankranti and Janmashtami, as the main religion isHinduism. Rajasthan's desert festival is celebrated with great zest and zeal. This festival is held once a year during winter. Dressed in brilliantly hued costumes, the people of the desert dance and sing haunting ballads of valor, romance and tragedy. There are fairs with snake charmers, puppeteers, acrobats and folk performers. Camels, of course, play a stellar role in this festival.