Rajasthan


Rajasthan
/rah"jeuh stahn'/, n.
a state in NW India; formerly Rajputana and a group of small states. 29,590,000; 132,078 sq. mi. (342,056 sq. km). Cap.: Jaipur.

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State (pop., 2001 prelim.: 56,473,122), northwestern India.

Bordered by Pakistan and the states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat, it covers an area of 132,139 sq mi (342,239 sq km); its capital is Jaipur. Archaeological evidence shows continuous human habitation for about 100,000 years. In the 7th–11th centuries AD, several Rajput dynasties arose, reaching their height in the 16th century. The emperor Akbar brought the Rajput states into the Mughal Empire. In the 19th century, the British came into control of the region. After Indian independence (1947), the area was organized as the Union of Rajasthan, then reorganized in 1956. It is dominated by the Aravalli Range and the Thar Desert. Predominantly an agricultural and pastoral state, it is the largest producer of wool in India.

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Introduction

      state of India. It is located in the northwestern part of the subcontinent. It is bounded on the west and northwest by Pakistan, on the north and northeast by the states of Punjab, Haryāna, and Uttar Pradesh, on the east and southeast by the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, and on the southwest by the state of Gujarāt. The Tropic of Cancer passes through its southern tip in the Bānswāra district. The state has an area of 132,140 square miles (342,239 square kilometres). The capital city is Jaipur.

      Rājasthān, meaning “The Abode of the Rajas,” was formerly called Rājputānā (Rājputāna), “The Country of the Rājpūts” (sons of rajas). Before 1947, when India achieved independence from British rule, it comprised 18 princely states, two chiefships, the small British-administered province of Ajmer-Merwara, and a few pockets of territory outside the main boundaries. After 1947 the princely states and chiefships were integrated into India in stages, and the state took the name of Rājasthān. It assumed its present form on Nov. 1, 1956, when the States Reorganization Act came into force.

Physical and human geography

The land
      The Aravāli (Aravalli) Range (Aravalli Range) forms a line across the state running roughly from Guru Peak (Mount Ābu), which is 5,650 feet (1,722 metres) high, in the southwest to Khetri in the northeast. About three-fifths of the state lies northwest of this line, leaving two-fifths in the southeast. These are the two natural divisions of Rājasthān. 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 toward the east. The area includes the Great Indian (Thar) Desert (Thar Desert).

      The southeastern area, higher in elevation (330 to 1,150 feet above sea level) and more fertile, has a very diversified topography. In the south lies the hilly tract of Mewār. In the southeast a large area of the districts of Kota and Būndi forms a tableland, and 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 the alluvial basin of the Yamuna River.

      The Aravālis form Rājasthān's most important watershed. The drainage to the east of this range flows northeast, as does the Chambal (Chambal River), which is the only large and perennial river in the state. Its principal tributary, the Banās (Banas River), rises in the Aravālis near Kumbhalgarh and collects all the drainage of the Mewār Plateau. Farther north, the Bāngangā, after rising near Jaipur, flows east toward the Yamuna (Yamuna River) before disappearing. The Lūni (Luni River) is the only significant river west of the Aravālis. It rises in the Pushkar Valley of Ajmer and flows 200 miles (320 kilometres) west-southwest into the Rann of Kachchh. Northeast of the Lūni basin, in the Shekhāwati tract, is an area of internal drainage characterized by salt lakes, the largest of which is Sāmbhar Salt Lake (Sambhar Salt Lake). Farther to the west lies the true Marusthali (“Land of the Dead”), the barren wastelands and areas of sand dunes that form the heart of the Great Indian Desert.

      In the vast sandy northwestern plain extending over the districts of Jaisalmer, Bārmer, Jālor, Sirohi, Jodhpur, Bīkāner, Gangānagar, Jhūnjhunūn, Sīkar, Pāli, and Nāgaur, soils (pedology) are predominantly saline or alkaline. Water is scarce but is found at a depth of 100 to 200 feet. The soil and sand are calcareous (chalky). Nitrates in the soil increase its fertility, and, as has been shown in the area of the Indira Gandhi (formerly Rājasthān) Canal, cultivation is often possible where adequate water supplies are made available.

      The soils in the Ajmer district in central Rājasthān are sandy; clay content varies between 3 and 9 percent. In the Jaipur and Alwar districts in the east, soils vary from sandy loam to loamy sand. In the Kota, Būndi, and Jhālāwār tract, they are in general black and deep and are well drained. In Udaipur, Chittaurgarh, Dūngarpur, Bānswāra, and Bhīlwāra districts, eastern areas have mixed red and black and western areas red to yellow soils.

      There is a wide range of climate varying from extremely arid to humid, the humid zone comprising the districts in the southeast and east. Except in the hills, the heat during the summer is great everywhere, with a mean maximum of 108° F (42° C). Hot winds and dust storms occur, especially in the desert tract. Winter temperatures vary from 68° F to 76° F (20° C to 24.5° C). The western desert has little rain (annual average 4 inches [100 millimetres]), but in the southeast rainfall is higher. Southeastern Rājasthān benefits from both the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal branches of the southwest (summer) monsoon winds, which bring 90 percent of the rainfall.

      The main floral feature is scrub jungle. Toward the west there are plants characteristic of the arid zone, such as tamarisk and false tamarisk. Trees are scarce, found only sparingly in the Aravālis and in eastern Rājasthān.

      Tigers are found in the Aravālis and in several districts. Leopards, sloth bears, Indian sambar (dark brown Indian deer), and chital (a kind of deer) occur in the hills and forests, where nilgais (blue bulls) are also found in parts; black buck and ravine deer are numerous in the plains. Snipe, quail, partridge, and wild duck occur everywhere except in the desert. The Bīkāner region is well known for several species of sand grouse.

      Numerous game sanctuaries and wildlife parks have been established in the state. Among the most important are the Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary near Alwar and the Desert National Park near Jaisalmer.

The people
      Aboriginal peoples in the Alwar, Jaipur, Bharatpur, and Dholpur areas include the Mīnas (Mewātīs); the Meos; (Mina) the Banjārās, who are traveling tradesmen and artisans; and the Gadia Lohārs, another itinerant tribe, who make and repair agricultural and household implements. The Bhīls (Bhīl), one of the oldest peoples in India, inhabit the districts of Bhīlwāra, Chittaurgarh, Dūngarpur, Bānswāra, Udaipur, and Sirohi and are famous for their skill in archery. The Grasias and nomadic Kathodīs live in the Mewār region. Saharīyas are found in the Kota district, and the Rabarīs of the Mārwār region are cattle breeders.

      The Rājpūts (Rājputs (Rājput)), though representing only a small percentage of the population, are the most important section of the population in Rājasthān. They are proud of their warlike reputation and of their ancestry. The Brahman class is subdivided into many gotras, while the Mahājan (the trading class) is subdivided into a bewildering number of groups. Some of these groups are Jainas, while others are Hindus. In the north and west the Jāts and Gūjars are among the largest agricultural communities.

      The principal language of the state is Rājasthānī (Rājasthānī languages), comprising a group of Indo-Aryan dialects derived from Ḍiṅgal, a tongue in which bards once sang of the glories of their masters. The four main dialects are Māṛwāṛī (in western Rājasthān), Jaipurī or Ḍhundhārī (in the east and southeast), Mālvī (Mālwī; in the southeast), and, in Alwar, Mewātī, which shades off into Braj Bhāsā (Braj Bhasa language) in Bharatpur district. The use of Rājasthānī is declining with the spread of modern education, and its place is being taken by Hindi (the official state language of Rājasthān).

      Hinduism, the religion of most of the population, is generally practiced through the worship of Brahmā, Śiva, Śakti, Vishnu (Viṣṇu), and other gods and goddesses. Nāthdwāra (Nathdwara) is an important religious centre for the Vallabhācārya sect of Krishna followers. There are also followers of the Arya Samaj, a reforming sect of modern Hinduism, as well as other forms of that religion. Jainism is also important; it has not been the religion of the rulers of Rājasthān but has followers among the trading class and the wealthy section of society. Mahāvīrjī, Ranakpur, Dhulev, and Karera are the chief centres of Jaina pilgrimage. Another important religious sect is formed by the Dādūpanthīs, the followers of Dādū (d. 1603), who preached the equality of all men, strict vegetarianism, total abstinence from intoxicating liquor, and lifelong celibacy.

      Islām (Islāmic world), the religion of the state's second largest religious community, expanded in Rājasthān with the conquest of Ajmer by Muslim invaders in the late 12th century. Khwājah Muʿīn-ud-Dīn Chishtī, the Muslim missionary, had his headquarters at Ajmer, and Muslim traders, craftsmen, and soldiers settled there. The state's population of Christians and Sikhs is small.

      Rājasthān is one of the least densely populated states in India. Most villages and towns lie east of the Aravālis. The urban population has been growing faster than the rural, but even so there are only a few large towns, including Jaipur, Ajmer, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Kota, Bīkāner, and Alwar. There are industrial complexes at Jaipur, Kota, Udaipur, and Bhīlwāra.

      Rural houses are huts with mud walls and roofs thatched with straw. They have a single door, but no windows or ventilators. The houses of well-to-do farmers and artisans in larger villages have more than one room. They are roofed with tiles and have a veranda and large courtyard, whose main door will admit a loaded bull cart. The earthen floors are coated with mud and dung.

The economy
      Rājasthān is a predominantly agricultural and pastoral state and exports food grains and vegetables. Despite a low and erratic rainfall, nearly all types of crops are grown; in the desert area, bājrā (millet); in Kota, jowār (sorghum); and in Udaipur, mainly corn (maize). Wheat and barley are fairly well distributed (except in the desert area), as are pulses (the edible seeds of legumes, such as peas, beans, and lentils), sugarcane, and oilseeds. Improved varieties of rice have been introduced, and acreage of this crop has expanded in the areas of the Chambal Valley and Indira Gandhi canal projects. Cotton and tobacco are important cash crops.

      Although most of its area is arid or semiarid, Rājasthān has a large livestock population and is the largest wool-producing state. It has a monopoly in camels and in draft animals of various breeds.

      Having much arid land, Rājasthān needs extensive irrigation. It receives water from the Punjab rivers and also from the Western Yamuna (Haryāna) and Āgra canals (Uttar Pradesh) and from the Sabarmati and Narmada Sāgar projects to the south. There are thousands of tanks (village ponds or lakes), but they suffer from drought and silt. Rājasthān shares the Bhākra Nāngal project with the Punjab and the Chambal Valley project with Madhya Pradesh; both are used to supply water for irrigation and for drinking purposes. The Rājasthān Canal, renamed the Indira Gandhi Canal in the mid-1980s for the late prime minister, carries water from the Beās and Sutlej rivers in Punjab some 400 miles to irrigate desert land in northwestern and western Rājasthān.

      Rājasthān produces India's entire output of lead and zinc concentrates, emeralds, and garnets. More than 90 percent of the country's gypsum and silver ore are also produced in Rājasthān. The main industries are based on textiles, vegetable oil, wool, minerals, and chemicals, while handicrafts, such as leather goods, marble work, jewelry, pottery, and embossed brass have earned much foreign exchange. Various industrial concerns received substantial loans and subsidies from the government and from the Rājasthān Finance Corporation, a semi-governmental agency. Kota, which is the industrial capital of the state, has a nylon factory and a precision-instruments factory, as well as plants for the manufacture of calcium carbide, caustic soda, and rayon tire cord. There is a zinc smelter plant near Udaipur.

      Electricity supplies are obtained from neighbouring states and from the Chambal Valley project. There is a nuclear energy plant at Rāwatbhāta, near Kota.

Administration and social conditions
      Rājasthān is headed by a governor, appointed by the president of the Indian Union for a five-year term; he has administrative, legislative, financial, and judicial powers. There is a unicameral Legislative Assembly (Vidhān Sabhā); members are elected, by universal adult franchise, although some seats are reserved for representatives of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The state is divided into 27 districts: Ajmer, Alwar, Bānswāra, Bārmer, Bharatpur, Bhīlwāra, Bīkāner, Būndi, Chittaurgarh, Chūru, Dhaulpur, Dūngarpur, Gangānagar, Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Jālor, Jhālāwār, Jhūnjhunūn, Jodhpur, Kota, Nāgaur, Pāli, Sawāi Mādhopur, Sīkar, Sirohi, Tonk, and Udaipur.

      In each district the collector, who is also the district magistrate, is the principal representative of the administration. He functions in close cooperation with the superintendent of police to maintain law and order in the district; he is the principal revenue officer; he coordinates the activities of the other departments in the district; and he acts as a link between the state government and the people.

      Rājasthān was the first state to experiment with pañcāyat rāı (rule by pañcāyat, or village council), having enacted (1959) the legislation necessary to implement this bold experiment in democratic decentralization. The system, embracing Gandhian concepts of the importance of traditional village institutions in Indian society, created three levels of local government within the state based on elected village pañcāyats. Villages were grouped into administrative units called community development blocks, each having a pañcāyat samiti (block council) composed of the chairmen of the pañcāyats, co-opted appointees, and ex officio members. There were also district-level councils (Zilā Parishads), composed of the chairmen of the pañcāyat samitis, along with representatives of special interests (e.g., women, Scheduled Tribes, and Scheduled Castes) and local members of the state and national legislatures. The key level in this organization was the community development block, which was assigned the responsibility for planning and implementing a wide range of community and development programs. Pañcāyat rāı initially achieved a considerable measure of success, but, with increasing politicization of the system and conflicting interests with state-level development agencies, the system has fallen into abeyance.

Education and welfare
      There are a number of educational establishments in Rājasthān, including state-run universities at Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, and Ajmer; the Open University at Kota; and the Birla Institute of Technology and Science at Pilāni. There are several state hospitals and dispensaries. There also are many Āyurvedic, Unanī (a medicinal system using prescribed herbs and shrubs), and homeopathic institutions. The state incurs heavy expenditure on education, on maternity and child welfare, on rural and urban water supplies, and on the welfare of the disadvantaged.

Cultural life
      Hardly a month passes in Rājasthān without a religious festival. The most remarkable and typical is the festival called Gangor, when clay images of Mahādevī and Pārvatī (representing the benevolent aspects of the Hindu mother goddess) are worshiped by women of all castes for 15 days and are then taken out to be immersed in water. Their procession is joined by priests and officers and is led to the water by trumpeters and drummers. Hindus and Muslims join in each others' festivals; general enthusiasm and gaiety prevail on these occasions.

      Another important festival is held at Pushkar near Ajmer, taking the form of a mixed religious festival and livestock fair. It is visited by farmers (who bring their camels and cattle) from throughout the state and by pilgrims seeking salvation. The tomb of the Ṣūfī mystic Khwājah Muʿīn-ud-Dīn Chishtī at Ajmer is one of the most sacred Muslim shrines in India. As many as 300,000 pilgrims, many from foreign countries, visit the shrine on the occasion of the saint's ʿurs (death anniversary).

 The typical folk dance of Rājasthān is the ghoomar, which is performed on festive occasions only by women. The geer dance (performed by men and women), the paniharī (a graceful dance for women), and the kacchi ghori (in which male dancers ride dummy horses) are also popular. The most famous song is “Kurja,” which tells the story of a woman who wishes to send a message to her absent husband by the kurja (a type of bird), who is promised a priceless reward for his service. Rājasthān has made its contribution to Indian art, and there is a rich literary tradition, especially of bardic poetry. Chand Bardāī's poem Prithvi Raj Raso or Chand Rāisā, the earliest manuscript of which dates to the 12th century, is particularly notable. A popular source of entertainment is the khyāl, a dance drama composed in verse with festive, historical, or romantic themes. Rājasthān abounds in objects of antiquarian interest, including early Buddhist rock inscriptions, Jaina temples, forts (see photograph—>), splendid princely palaces, and Muslim mosques and tombs.

History
      Archaeological evidence indicates that early humans lived along the banks of the Banās River and its tributaries some 100,000 years ago. Harappān (Indus civilization) (Indus) and post-Harappān culture (3rd–2nd millennium BC) are traceable at Kalibangan, Ahar, and Gilund. Pottery fragments at Kalibangan are carbon-dated to 2700 BC. The discovery near Bairāt of two rock inscriptions (c. 250 BC) of the emperor Aśoka seems to show that his rule extended westward to this part of the state. Later rulers of the whole or parts of the state were the Bactrian Greeks (2nd century BC), the Scythians (Śakas; 2nd to 4th centuries AD), the Gupta dynasty (4th to 6th centuries), the Huns (6th century), and Harṣavardhana, a Rājpūt ruler (early 7th century).

      Arising between the 7th and 11th centuries were several Rājpūt (Rājput) dynasties, including that of the Gurjara-Pratihāras, who kept the Arab invaders of Sindh at bay. Under Bhoja I (836–885), the territory of the Gurjara-Pratihāras stretched from the foothills of the Himalayas to the Narmada River and from the lower Ganges valley to Sindh. With the disintegration of this empire by the late 10th century, several rival Rājpūt clans rose to power in Rājasthān. The Guhilas, feudatories of the Pratihāras, asserted their independence in AD 940 and established control of the region around Mewār (modern Udaipur). By the 11th century the Cauhāns (Cāhamānas), with their capital at Ajmer and later Delhi, had emerged as the major power in eastern areas of the state. In the following centuries other clans, such as the Kachwāhās, Bhattis, and Rāṭhors, succeeded in establishing independent kingdoms in the region.

      The second battle of Tarain (Tarāorī, Battles of), fought near Delhi in 1192, initiated a new period in Rājasthān's history. Muḥammad Ghūrī's (Muʿizz-ud-Dīn Muḥammad ibn Sām) victory over a Rājpūt army under Pṛthvīrāja III not only led to the destruction of Rājpūt power in the Gangetic plain but also firmly established the Muslim presence in northern India. As Muslim forces pushed south and then west along the traditional routes to Gujarāt, the Rājpūt kingdoms of Rājasthān were encircled. The next four centuries saw repeated, though unsuccessful, attempts by the central power based in Delhi to subdue the Rājpūt states of the region. The Rājpūts, however, despite common historical and cultural traditions, were never able to unite to inflict a decisive defeat on their opponents.

      Rājpūt strength reached its zenith at the beginning of the 16th century under Rānā Sangrām Singh (Sāngā) of Mewār, but he was defeated in a fierce battle by the Mughal invader Bābur, and the brief splendour of a united Rājpūt polity waned rapidly. It is largely from this period of Rājasthān's history that the romantic view of the Rājpūt as a valiant warrior—defending family, honour, and religion against the invading Muslims—is derived.

      Toward the end of the 16th century the Mughal emperor Akbar was able to achieve, through diplomacy and military action, what his predecessors had been unable to accomplish by force alone. Military campaigns were still undertaken by imperial Mughal forces, and Rājpūt strongholds, such as Ranthambhor and Chitor, were besieged and destroyed (1567–68), but Akbar also entered into a series of alliances with numerous Rājpūt ruling houses in Rājasthān, arranging marriages with Rājpūt princesses for himself and for his heirs. Mughal-Rājpūt marriages continued until the early 18th century, and it is noteworthy that the emperors Jahāngīr and Shāh Jahān were both born of Rājpūt mothers. Thus, many Rājpūt states of Rājasthān (along with their not insubstantial military resources) were brought into the imperial fold without costly military subjugation. Furthermore, some Rājpūt rulers, such as Mān Singh of Amber (Jaipur) and Jaswant Singh of Mārwār (Jodhpur), served with loyalty and distinction in the imperial Mughal forces. Under Akbar the Rājpūt states of the region were grouped together under the Suba of Ajmer, an administrative unit of the Mughal Empire.

      After the death (1707) of the emperor Aurangzeb, the Rājpūt state of Bharatpur was developed by a Jāt conqueror, but by 1803 most of the rest of Rājasthān paid tribute to the Marāṭhā dynasties of west-central India. Later in the 19th century the British subdued the Marāṭhās and, having established paramountcy in the region, organized the Rājpūt states into Rājputānā province. The government of India was represented in Rājputānā by a political officer, with the title of agent to the governor-general, who was also chief commissioner of the small British province of Ajmer-Merwara. Under him were residents and political agents who were accredited to the various states.

      During this period the idea of Indian nationalism was born. Maharishi Dayanand (Dayananda Sarasvati) wrote at Udaipur his Satyārath Prakāsh, intended to restore Hinduism to its pristine purity, which created a ferment in Rājputānā. Important movements of thought also occurred among the Jaina sadhus (holy men) and scholars. Ajmer was the centre of political activity, and nationalist leaders included Arjun Lal Sethi, Manik Lal Varma, Gopal Singh, and Jai Narain Vyas.

      After India became independent in 1947, the princely states and chiefships of Rājputānā were integrated by stages into a single entity. They were first grouped into small unions, such as the Matsya Union and the Rājasthān Union, which were merged with the remaining states to create Greater Rājasthān in 1949. When the new constitution of India came into force in 1950, Rājasthān became an integral part of India. The Rājpūt princes—though retaining a recognition of their original title, some special privileges, and a privy purse—surrendered their political powers to the central government. The privileged status given to rulers of the former princely states was discontinued in 1970. In 1998 the state was the site of India's first nuclear weapons tests.

Indra Pal Deryck O. Lodrick

Additional Reading
General works include Sylvia A. Matheson and Roloff Beny, Rajasthan, Land of Kings (1984); and Raghubir Singh, Rajasthan: India's Enchanted Land (1981). Physical and human geography are examined in V.C. Misra, Geography of Rajasthan (1967); Rajkumar Gupta and Ishwar Prakash (eds.), Environmental Analysis of the Thar Desert (1975); Sukhvir Singh Gahlot and Banshi Dhar, Castes and Tribes of Rajasthan (1989); Jagdish Singh Gahlot, Rajasthan: A Socio-economic Study (1981); Sukhvir Singh Gahlot, Rural Life in Rajasthan (1982); Kalyan Kumar Ganguli, Cultural History of Rajasthan (1983); and Aman Nath and Francis Wacziarg, Arts and Crafts of Rajasthan (1987). Archaeology and past environments of Rājasthān are discussed in H.D. Sankalia, Archaeology in Rajasthan (1988). Works on history include James Tod, Annals and Antiquities of Rajastʿhan, 2 vol. (1829–32, reissued 1972); G.N. Sharma, Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan, 1500–1800 A.D. (1968); Ramdev P. Kathuria, Life in the Courts of Rajasthan, During the 18th Century (1987); and Suzanne Hoeber Rudolph and Lloyd I. Rudolph, Essays on Rajputana (1984), examining aspects of Rajpūt states in the 19th and 20th centuries.Deryck O. Lodrick

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Universalium. 2010.

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