Rajasthan – What most Miss to Notice in the Land of the Kings
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Rajasthan, the name which translates into the Abode of the Kings is enough to make one think of unmatched royalty and grandeur. You do not need to mention the myriad opulent palaces that dot this state. But even if you do, you can’t just stop with one or two, since there are many and every single one of them is more captivating than the other. From Lake Palace of Udaipur and Umaid Bhawan Palace of Jodhpur to Lalgarh Palace of Bikaner and City Palace of Jaipur, these man-made marvels are located in every nook and corner of the state.
Moreover, these are not the only points of interest to explore; there are numerous others. For instance, if you are in the Pink City, you can spend time exploring Hawa Mahal, Amer Fort, Jantar Mantar or Nahargarh Fort. In case your Rajasthan trip brings you to the City of Lakes – Udaipur, do not miss to visit City Palace, Monsoon Palace, Jag Mandir or Saheliyo Ki Bari. I can go on and on with the other cities of Rajasthan, but that’s no use. All of us know about these attractions, even those, who haven’t been to Rajasthan even once. There’s a lot to see and explore here.
I was shocked when one of my friends told me that he had grown tired of visiting the state. I thought that maybe because he is from Rajasthan, he must have seen everything. But then I found that this wasn’t the case. While conversing, I asked him about his trip to Alwar, and to my surprise, he told me he hadn’t been there. How can anyone claim to have explored the whole of Rajasthan when you haven’t even been to Alwar once? I know it’s not that popular, but it’s a visit-worthy destination.
Then I realised that we have become quite mainstream and have essentially stopped looking out of the box. That’s why my friend only thought about Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Pushkar and other popular tourist spots, and missed out on the numerous other gems in the treasure of Rajasthan. The mainstream is good, no doubt about that, but those, who like to try what most people don’t, can look for various lesser-known attractions in the state. Here is a list of a few such places that people often miss to explore in Rajasthan.
Chand Baori: The 1000-year old Treasure
About 93 km from the Pink City lies a small village called Abhaneri. To anyone who hasn’t heard about the place before, it may look like any other village in Rajasthan. However, there’s a lot to it than what might appear in the first look. The village holds a history, which dates back to the 9th century. Overshadowed by the magnificent palaces and forts of Rajasthan, Chand Baori is among the oldest and the largest stepwells in India. The three sides of the well have 3500 steps that lead to the surface of the water. The fourth side is three storeys of intricately carved jharokhas or windows. I am often surprised when people miss to mention Chand Baori while talking about the architectural accomplishments of the people of Rajasthan. This step well is more than 1100 years old, and it was built long before Jantar Mantar, Jal Mahal and Hawa Mahal. If you visit this monument in future, do not miss to explore the adjoining Harshat Mata Mandir, which was also built around the same time.
Kuldhara: The Village of the Dead
Let’s move on to something spooky. Established in the late 13th century, Kuldhara used to be a prosperous town until that one mysterious night in 1825, when its people, and those of the surrounding 83 villages, vanished. Nobody knew where all these people suddenly went; there are only a few speculations. One theory is that there was a situation of drought during that time and it was difficult for villagers to survive here, so they left. The theory is quite straightforward, but why would so many people leave in just one night if they were only looking for water? There is a legend which states that it was because of the minister, Salim Singh, that villagers left. He conveyed his wish to marry the daughter of the village and threatened people of the villages if they did not comply with his demand. Then, the village council decided to leave their ancestral homes and cursed that no one would be able to live here. The curse has stood till this date and the village remains abandoned. If you are one of those, who likes mysteries, you must come here once. It is only 36 km from the city of Jaisalmer.
Ranakpur Jain Temple: The Realm of Faith
Hidden amidst the lush hills of the Aravalli Range of West India, Ranakpur Jain Temple is a complex of shrines that hold immense religious significance. Though they are more than 500-years old, these are definitely among the best preserved monuments in the country. The main temple is an exemplary monument, built in Maru-Gurjara style of architecture. About 1444 intricately carved marble pillars support its structure, and each one of these features a unique design. Not just the pillars, but every inch of the walls of the 29 halls of the temple are a spectacle. In its current, near-perfect condition, the shrine shows the brilliant craftsmanship of talented Rajasthani artists of the bygone era. The establishment is also referred to as Chaturmukha Jain Temple, owing to its four faces.
Sunehri Kothi: Where Everything that Shines can be Gold
Not many people, even from the western part of India know the town of Tonk. For a long time, it has been keeping a shiny secret in its heart, and I believe it’s the time it should come out. The town has many historical buildings, but none is as spectacular as Sunehri Kothi or the Mansion of Gold. While the exteriors of the monument are quite simple and traditionally painted, it is the interiors that take the cake. The inside of the building is decorated with gold and the intricate work of mirrors perfects the look. It is a popular belief that Nawab Mohammed Ibarahim Ali Khan built this structure for his entertainment to organise poetry recitals, dance and music performances.
Badoli Temples: If not Faith, Let the Beauty Bring you Here
Near the banks of the Chambal River, Badoli has a complex of eight temples. There is also a ninth temple, which is situated about 1 km away. The shrines are built as per the Pratihara architectural style, which was quite common in the region in between 7th and 10th centuries. While four of these temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva, two are built in devotion to Mahishamardini Durga and one each for Trimurti, Lord Vishnu and Ganesha. About 50 km from Kota, the complex is a visit-worthy tourist attraction, which tells about the architectural brilliance of the local people. The site also speaks volumes about the religious beliefs of the people of the bygone era and their devotion towards deities.
Osian: The Khajuraho of Rajasthan
Did you know that Rajasthan has its own Khajuraho? About 68 km north of the city of Jodhpur, the small town of Osian is situated in the middle of golden sand dunes of the Thar Desert. The place is well known for the astounding temples located here. Built between 8th and 11th centuries, it was among the most significant pilgrimage sites in the region. The religious significance of the place may have reduced over time, but its architectural splendour definitely hasn’t. The complex has numerous shrines all of which are beautifully decorated with detailed carvings. Those, who are planning a trip to Jodhpur, must take a few hours out on their leisure day, to behold the fascinating carvings of the shrine.
Desert National Park: The Treasure Hidden in Plain Sight
It is surprising that people talk about the palaces, forts and other monuments of Rajasthan, they talk about the colourful shopping scene of the state and the hospitality of its people, but they seldom talk of its diverse flora and fauna. Maybe because a significant part of Rajasthan is an infertile desert. However, the case is entirely opposite. Rajasthan has an abundance of wildlife, which can be seen with a trip to one of the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries located here. One such destination is Desert National Park near Jaisalmer. Sprawling over more than 3100 sq km, it is one of the best places to learn about the delicate ecosystem of the Thar Desert. Black bucks, chinkaras and desert foxes are a common sight here. The large number of birds found here includes saker falcons, eastern imperial eagles and Eurasian griffon vultures.
There are other such honourable attractions in the list like Kuchaman Fort, which overlooks Kuchaman city from the top of a 1000-feet tall hill. The town of Karauli is also home to numerous monuments that are worth a visit. City Palace and Kaila Devi Temple are among the biggest tourist attractions here. Therefore, if you visit Rajasthan in future and have explored all of the mainstream points of interest, do make time to explore some of the above-mentioned ones.