Kesariya Balam Padharo Mhare Desh, the common welcoming phase of Rajasthan, speaks a thousand words on the culture, heritage and inviting attitude of the people of the state
WORDS: SHIFA MEYAJI
‘Raja’ means king and ‘sthan’ means place, and hence Rajasthan is named after the various kings – the Rajputs, Marathas and even Muslim rulers.
The state has numerous beautiful forts and palaces that still stay upright as a mark of the royal lifestyle of the erstwhile maharajas.
This desert landscaping province, also the largest state of India, has rich artistic and cultural traditions which reflect the ancient Indian way of life.
Rajasthan’s culture is inspired by some of the oldest tribes – Bhils, Minas, Meos, Banjaras, Gadias, and Lohars.
Rajputs form the majority of the population and they have been glorified in numerous texts for their bravery, warfare and administrative prowess.
Some of the main Rajput clans include Chauhans, Sisodias, Solankis, Rathors and Panwars.
The main dialects originating from Rajasthan include Marwari, Malvi, Mevati, Jaipuri / Dhundari; the most famous being the Marwari.
Since many kings have ruled Rajasthan, each region has its own folk culture.
Although most of them are similar due to their geographical confinement, each differs in their unique style.
Manganiyars and Langas are the two prominent groups that contributed to the Rajasthani folk music.
During the pre-monsoon time, they would play ragas to invite the rains.
Many traditional instruments are used by them including sarangi, kamayach, dhols and shehnai. Folk songs were usually for purposes like weddings or birth or were passed to tell a story of bravery or a romantic tale.
They were usually in the form of ballads.
Dance was mainly performed for the entertainment of the people and the king.
They differed from tribe to tribe. Ghoomar, which originally took birth in Udaipur and was performed by Rajput women, has gained popularity and recognition throughout the world.
Some of the popular dance forms of Rajasthan are the Kalbelia dance which is an ancient form practiced by the women of Kalbelia community (snake charmers). Chari dance is another famous dance form that requires a lot of skill and patience as it involves balancing on various sized pots on one’s head.
The architectural style in Rajasthan is also majestic and striking. The Jain temple in Ranakpur and the Umaid Bhavan Palace in Jodhpur are a mixture of western Indian architecture style. The Jaisalmer Fort, built in 1156 by Rajput ruler Rawal Jaisal, contains several gates, Jain temples and Havelis and is included as a world heritage site by UNESCO.
Rajasthani staple food is daal-baati-churma. Daal is lentil curry and baati consists of round balls made out of wheat flour and baked in charcoal fire. The churma is a dessert made out of crushed wheat balls, rolled in jaggery sugar, and topped with ghee.
Beautiful carpets, garments and jewelry are handcrafted by the local people.
Camel leather is widely used to make journals, shoes and bags. The carpets are made from the hand-knitting techniques and are much like Persian carpets; they have a geometric design and borders.
Fairs that take place every year in Bikaner and Pushkar are a festival or celebration of sorts dedicated to camels and their owners. There are various events and competitions which are carried out for fun like camel racing and camel dances. These festivals are usually held for two days.
The people of Rajasthan celebrate ‘Samskaras’, which are events that cause a turning point in one’s life. There are a total of 16 events that they celebrate. They include: Garbandhan (conception), Pumsvan (ceremony performed by those who desire a male child), Seemantonayan (ceremony for the expecting mother to keep her spirits high), Jatakarma (the child is fed mother’s milk for the first time after birth), Namkaran (naming ceremony), Nishkraman (the infant sees the sun and the moon for the first time), Annaprashan (child is given solid food to eat for the first time), Chudakaran (a lock of hair is kept, and the remaining is shaved off), Karna-vedha (ears are pierced), Upanayan-Vedarambha (thread ceremony after which the child begins his studies), Keshanta (hair is cut, and guru dakhshina is given), Samavartan (person returns home after studies are completed), Vivaha (marriage), Vanprastha (retirement), Sanyas (shedding away all responsibilities and relationships) and Antyeshthi (rites done after death).
The birth of a child is celebrated by beating copper plates together when it is born along with a celebratory gunfire to announce the birth.
The child is named 11 days after he or she is born. This is called ‘Namkaran’. Another interesting custom is ‘Mundan’, in which the hair of the child is shaved completely as it is a common belief that the hair carries negativity from the child’s past life. The women wear sarees with the dupatta or ‘odhni’ covering their head as a sign of respect. The men wear dhotis and kurtas with a headgear called paghri or safah (to protect them from the strong desert heat).
The designs on their clothing are either embroidered or dotted. The material is usually cotton and even silk for women.
Rajasthan is a land of sand dunes and jungles, of camels and wild tigers, of glittering jewels, vivid colours, and vibrant culture. There are enough festivals in Rajasthan to fill a calendar and an artist’s and a traveller’s palette, and the sights and cuisine are nothing short of spectacular.
The glory of royal Rajasthan is enticing enough to make an ardent traveler return to explore the mysteries of this majestic state again and again to engulf themselves into the startling, thought-provoking, and ultimately unforgettable attractions.