Rajasthan is often dubbed as one of India’s most colourful states — and rightly so! Home to various arts, crafts, dance forms, music, and architectures, this Western state is a melting pot of rich cultural diversity. By Bayar Jain
The cultural offerings of Rajasthan need no introduction. Once a royal abode named Rajputana, over the years this colourful land has seen Rajputs, Marathas, and Mughals claim the land as their own. And thus, modern-day Rajasthan boasts of a diverse cultural scene. The vibrant arts and crafts, fluid dance forms, melodious music styles, and several architectural marvels visible in this western state today are a result of its glorious and extensive history. Today, the state proudly draws crowds from around the world.
If you, too, would like to see this vibrancy up-close, consider visiting these destinations in Rajasthan for a dose of art and culture.
Architecture of Rajasthan
The architecture of Rajasthan is all about intricate carvings and vibrant colours. Owing to the land’s history, today the state boasts of countless forts telling tales of Rajasthan’s regal past, each of which celebrates art in every brick of its construction. Take the iconic Jaisalmer Fort, for instance. Also called the Sonar Quila—or literally, the Golden Fort—the majestic architecture is typical to the royal Rajput clans of the region. The neighbouring Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli, built by two architect brothers in the 19th century, gives a glimpse into the beautiful art and craft of the past. It houses miniature style paintings and mighty tuskers carved out of yellow sandstone for decoration.
A little further, in Nagaur, the 12th century Nagaur Fort serves as an example of Rajput-Mughal architecture. Although the fort underwent major renovations in 2007, the sprawling gardens and gurgling fountains here continue to entice visitors. This fort in Rajasthan also serves as the stage for a Sufi music festival.
A similar ode to the art and culture of Rajasthan can be found at any of the palaces here. The Alwar City Palace—complete with marble pavilions on lotus flower bases in the courtyard, grand halls, and chamber—is an amazing mélange of the Rajputana and Islamic styles of architecture. The Badal Mahal in Dungarpur is renowned for its elaborate designs that blend the architectural styles of Rajputs and Mughals. Think domes sporting carved half-ripe lotus, and a veranda to match. On the other hand, the majestic walls of Badal Mahal in Bundi wows with its exquisite paintings that depict an early influence of the Chinese culture.
Some of the other stunning, must-visit architectural marvels in Rajasthan are Chhatr Palace and 84 pillared Cenotaph in Bundi, Hill Fort Kesroli, Baroli temples and Fateh Prakash Palace of Chittorgarh, Patwon ki Haveli and Salim Singh ki Haveli in Jaisalmer, Chand Baori near Jaipur, City Palace in Udaipur, and countless more.
Arts of Rajasthan
Most of the palaces and forts across the state are adorned with local paintings, often dating back to the regal era. Take the Chattri of Raja Gopal Singh at Karauli, for instance. The palace is adorned with fresco paintings, giving the vintage monument a lively look. Or consider the highly Instagrammable Patrika Gate at Jaipur.
At Bhartiya Lok Kala Mandal in Udaipur, the love for arts finds a home. An institution dedicated to the study of folk art, culture, songs, and festivals of Rajasthan, this museum enthralls with its quintessentially Rajasthan artefacts.
A little further, roughly seven kilometres away from Udaipur near Lake Fateh Sagar, Shilpgram awaits. The centre’s Rural Arts and Crafts Complex is spread over 70 acres with the mighty Aravallis in the backdrop. The museum has been conceived as a living museum that depicts the lifestyles of the folk and tribal people of the west zone.
At a mere ten-minute walk through the cobbled streets of Amber in Jaipur lies the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing. Located in a magnificently restored haveli, the museum displays a varied selection of block-printed textiles alongside images, tools and related objects – all chosen to provide an in-depth look into the complexity of the ancient tradition.
When it comes to stoneworks in Rajasthan, few can compete with Haathi Bhata. Located around 20-30 kilometres from the Tonk- Sawai Madhopur Highway, this magnificent elephant structure was constructed by Ram Nath Slat during Sawai Ram Singh’s reign. Apart from bearing inscriptions that narrate the story of Nala and Damayanti, what truly makes this structure unique is the fact that it was carved out of a single stone.
Performances of Rajasthan
There is a saying in Rajasthan that the euphonious Rajasthani folk music can even make the desert bloom. In fact, Rajasthan’s association with performance arts is not new. The Bhawani Natyashala in Jhalawar alludes to this. Constructed in 1921 AD, this old theatre was once the stage for Parsi plays and cultural events. It is believed to house an underground passage for horses and chariots to trot onto the stage. Over the years, this architectural wonder has become an apt peek into the world of theatre and art.
A more contemporary avatar of Rajasthan’s performance prowess awaits at Jainiwas Udhyan in Jaipur. The Light & Sound show here is one of the first 3D projection mapping-based light and sound shows of the state. The show depicts the story of Shri Govind Dev Ji temple of Jaipur, including the carving of the idol, and subsequent establishment of the temple. To make the story come to life, 3-chip DLP projectors of 25,000 lumens, DMX controlled LED lights, and a 5.1 audio surround system are used.
Another glimpse of this penchant for performances can be found during the Kabir Yatra of Bikaner. The travelling music festival aims to create a space where musicians, artists, scholars, students, and seekers can lose themselves in the voices of Bhakti and Sufi saint-poets like Kabir, Mira, and Bulleh Shah.
Related: Your Guide To Bharatpur: A Melting Point Of History And Wildlife In Rajasthan