Rajasthan is the largest state of the Republic of India in terms of area. The history of India dates back almost five thousand years, and Rajasthan plays a crucial and unique role, especially with regard to the development of Indian culture. Its impressive story reaches through a heroic past. Its extravagant splashes of bright hues against the desert landscape and the purity of its dry and sandy reaches, the miniature elegance of its small villages and impeccably maintained forts brings alive the story of the yore. The appearance of its grand forts perched on rocky hills still tell the story of the bravery of its men and the stoic sacrifice of its women, and the chivalrous old world manners of all.
Rajasthan was formed on 30 March 1949, when all erstwhile princely states merged into India. The only difference between erstwhile Rajputana and Rajasthan is that certain portions governed directly by the British Government, in the former province of Ajmer-Merwara, were included. Portions lying geographically outside of Rajputana and belonging to Tonk state were given to Madhya Pradesh. Rajasthan has a rich and colorful history making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in India.
Historical traditions are that Rajputs,Nath, Jats, Bhils, Ahirs, Gujars, Meenas and some other tribes made a great contribution in building the state of Rajasthan. All these tribes suffered great difficulties to protect their culture and the land. Millions of them were martyred for this land. ‘The Hinduan Suraj’ title to Udaipur was due to Bhils. Jats had been fighting since beginning. Gujars had been exterminated in Bhinmal and Ajmer areas fighting with the invaders. Bhils once ruled Kota and Bundi. Gujars were sardars in Alwar, Jodhpur and Ajmer areas. The earlier contributions of warriors and protectors of the land Jats, Bhils, Gujars and Meenas were neglected and lost in history.
Ancient Period, upto 1200 AD (Rajasthan)
Rajasthan was inhabited long before 2500 BC and the Indus Valley Civilization had its foundation here in north Rajasthan itself. The Bhil and the Mina tribes were the earliest dwellers of this area.
Around 1400 BC the Aryans paid a visit and settled forever in the area. The local population was pushed down south and towards the east. Afghans, Turks, Persians and Mughals followed in mixing their blood, first in war then in peace, with the existing original inhabitants. This blending gave the martial lineage to the Rajputs.
The north-western region of India, which incorporates Rajasthan, remained in early history for the most part independent from the great empires consolidating their hold on the subcontinent. Buddhism failed to make substantial inroads here; the Mauryan Empire (321-184 BC), whose most renowned emperor Ashoka converted to Buddhism in262 BC, had minimal impact in Rajasthan. However, there are Buddhist caves and stupas (Buddhist shrines) at Jhalawar, in southern Rajasthan. Ancient Hindu scriptural epics make reference to sites in present day Rajasthan. The holy pilgrimage site of Pushkar is mentioned in both the Mahabharata and Ramayma.
Rajput clans emerged and held their sway over different parts of Rajasthan from about 700 AD. Before that, Rajasthan was a part of several republics. It was a part of the Mauryan Empire. Other major republics that dominated this region include the Malavas, Arjunyas, Yaudhyas, Kushans, Saka Satraps, Guptas and Hunas. From the times of Harsha (7 AD) to the founding of the Delhi Sultanate, Rajasthan was fragmented in competing kingdoms. Perhaps it was during this era by their influence through wealth and power the Rajputs persuaded the Brahmins to link them with the sun, the moon and the fire god.
The Rajput clan’s ascendancy in Indian history was during the period from the eighth to the twelfth century AD. The Pratihars ruled Rajasthan and most of northern India during 750-1000 AD. From 1000-1200 AD, Rajasthan witnessed the struggle for supremacy between Chalukyas, Parmars and Chauhans. With the passage of time they were divided into 36 royal clans. Rajasthan finally settled for a long and lasting reign under the colourful and vibrant Rajputs and it’s a surprise that they lasted as long as they did. Considering that they were at a constant state of aggression; if not with a foe, then with each other. After the 14th century their influence declined in the area.
Medieval Period, 1201 – 1707 (Rajasthan)
Around 1200 AD a part of Rajasthan came under Muslim rulers. In came the Mughals who gained control of the region through the clever strategy. Mohammed of Ghori was killed in 1206, and his successor, Qutb-ud-din, became the first of the Sultans of Delhi. Within 20 years, the Muslims had brought the whole of the Ganges basin under their control. In 1297, Ala-ud-din Khilji pushed the Muslim borders south into Gujarat. Ala-ud-din mounted a protracted siege of the massive fort at Ranthambhore, which was at the time ruled by the Rajput chief Hammir Deva. Hammir was reported as dead (although it's unknown if he did actually die in the siege) and upon hearing of their chief's demise, the womenfolk of the fortress collectively threw themselves on a pyre, thus performing the first instance of jauhar, or collective sacrifice, in the history of the Rajputs. Alu-ud-din later went on to sack the fortress at Chittorgarh in 1303, held by the Sisodia clan. According to tradition, Alu-ud-din had heard repute of the great beauty of Padmini, the consort of the Sisodian chief, and resolved to carry her off with him. Like Ranthambhore before it, Chittorgarh also fell to the Muslim leader.
The Delhi sultanate weakened at the beginning of the 16th century, and the Rajputs took advantage of this to restore and expand their territories. At this time the kingdom of Mewar, ruled by the Sisodias, under the leadership of Rana Sangram Singh, gained preeminence among the Rajput states. Under this leader, Mewar pushed its boundaries far beyond its original territory, posing a formidable threat to the new Mughal Empire which was emerging under the leadership of Babur (reigned 1527-30). Babur, a descendent of both Timur and Genghis Khan, marched into Punjab from his capital at Kabul in Afghanistan in 1525and defeated the Sultan of Delhi at Panipat. He then focused his attention on the Rajput princely states, many of whom, anticipating his designs, had banded together to form a united front under Rana Sangram Singh. Unfortunately, when the inevitable confrontation took place, the Rajputs were defeated by Babur. They sustained great losses, with many Rajput chiefs falling in the fray, including Rana Sangram Singh himself, who reputedly had no less than 80 wound son his body suffered during both this and previous campaigns. The defeat shook the very foundations of the princely states. Mewar's confidence was shattered by the death of its illustrious leader, and its territories contracted following sub-sequent attacks by the Sultan of Gujarat, At this time Marwar, under its ruler Maldeo, emerged as the strongest of the Rajput states, and it recorded a victory against the claimant to the Mughal throne, Sher Shah. However, none of the Rajputs was able to withstand the formidable threat posed by the most renowned of the Mughal emperors, Akbar (reigned 1556-1605).Recognising that the Rajputs could not be conquered by mere force alone, Akbar contracted a marriage alliance with a princess of the important Kachhwaha clan who held Amber (and later founded Jaipur). The Kachhwahas, unlike their other Rajputbrethren at the time, aligned themselves with the powerful Mughals, and even sent troops to aid them in times of battle. Akbar also used more conventional methods to assert, his dominance over the Rajputs, wresting Ajmer from the Rathores of Marwar which had been briefly restored to the Rajputs under Maldeo. All the import-ant Rajput states eventually acknowledged Mughal sovereignty and became vassal states of the Mughal Empire, except Mewar, which fiercely clung to its independence, refusing to pay homage to the infidels. An uneasy truce was thus maintained between the Rajputs and the Mughal emperors, until the reign of Aurangzeb, the last great Mughal emperor, when relations were characterized by mutual hostility. Aurangzeb devoted his resources to extending the empire's boundaries. The punitive taxes which he levied on his subjects to pay for his military exploits and his religious zealotry eventually secured his downfall. The Rajputs were united in their opposition to Aurangzeb, and the Rathores and Sisodias raised arms against him. It didn't take long for revolts by the enemies of Aurangzeb to break out on all sides and, with his death in 1707, the Mughal Empire's for-tunes rapidly declined.
However, the spunk of the Rajput soul was never really captured, till the spread of the British colonial power.
However, when the Mughals weakened they were quick to reassert their dominance. The Rajputs as a community thus has outlived the somewhat tribal Delhi Sultanate, the grand Mughals and the war-like Marathas. In fact to this day their descendants, though stripped of their titles and kingdoms, are revered as rulers by the common man.
Modern Period, 1707 – 1947 (Rajasthan)
Rajasthan had never been united politically until its domination by Mughal Emperor - Akbar. Akbar created a unified province of Rajasthan. Mughal power started to decline after 1707. The political disintegration of Rajasthan was caused by the dismemberment of the Mughal Empire. The Marathas penetrated Rajasthan upon the decline of the Mughal Empire. In 1755 they occupied Ajmer. The beginning of the 19th Century was marked by the onslaught of the Pindaris.
In 1817-18 the British Government concluded treaties of alliance with almost all the states of Rajputana. Thus began the British rule over Rajasthan, then called Rajputana. The origin of the Rajputs remains somewhat in doubt. That they were of foreign origin is suggested by the elaborate genealogies that the Brahmins (the priest of the Indian Varna or caste system) created to accord them the Kshatriya (warrior) caste, the status they always insisted upon with almost undue vehemence. The Rajputs traced their lineage from a mythical fire atop Mt Abu, a mountain in Rajasthan, (Agni Kula or the Fire Family), the sun (Suryavanshi or the Sun Family) and the moon (Chandravanshi or the Moon Family).
The Sun Family of Rajasthan:
Sisodias of Marwar (Chittaur & Udaipur) in Rajasthan
Rathores of Jodhpur and Bikaner in Rajasthan
Kachhwahas of Amber and Jaipur in Rajasthan
The Moon family of Rajasthan:
Bhattis of Jaisalmer in Rajasthan
Whatever their lineage, the Rajputs certainly were the living image of the knightly noble; handsome, brave – almost foolhardily so – and living within an elaborate code of honour and chivalry. Even then the attitude towards the British rule were varied and after the quashing of the 1857 Mutiny and the establishment of the British Indian Empire, the Rajput Princely States gained importance with 21 gun salutes, royal polo matches and durbars, just as they lost its meaning. Yet today the spirit and the heroic exploits of famous Rajput warrior-kings, like Prithviraj Chauhan, Rana Kumbha, and Bhappa Rawal, continue to echo in the golden sands of Rajputana in the people’s folklore, music and dance.
Post Independence of Rajasthan
The present State of Rajasthan was formed after a long process of integration which began on March 17, 1948 and ended on November 1, 1956. Before integration it was called Rajputana; after integration it came to be known as Rajasthan. At present there are 32 districts (including the new district of Karauli), 105 sub-divisions, 241 tehsils, 37889 inhabited villages and 222 towns in Rajasthan.
Emergence of the State of Rajasthan "It took some time for the boundaries of the proposed new state of Rajasthan to be defined. In 1948, Rajasthan comprised the south and south-eastern states of Rajputana. With the merger of Mewar, Udaipur became the capital of the United State of Rajasthan. The Maharana of Udaipur was invested with the title of rajpramukh (head of state). Manikya Lal Varma was appointed as prime minister of the new state, which was inaugurated on 18 April 1948.Almost from the outset the prime minister came into opposition with the rajpramukh over the constitution of the state government ministry. Varma wanted to form a ministry of all Congress members. The rajpramukh was keen to have his own candidates installed from among the jagirdars, or feudal lords. Jagirdars traditionally acted as intermediaries between the tillers of the soil (the peasants) and the state, taking rent or produce from the tenants and paying tribute to the princely ruler. They were symbols of the old feudal order, for whom millions of inhabitants of Rajputana were held in serfdom. Varma was keen to abolish the age-old system of jagirdari and, with Nehru's support, was able to install his own Congress ministry and do away with this feudal relic. Still retaining their independence from India were Jaipur and the desert kingdoms of Bikaner, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. From a security point of view, it was vital to the new Indian Union to ensure that the desert kingdoms, which were contiguous with Pakistan, were integrated into the new nation. The princes finally agreed to sign the Instrument of Accession, and the kingdoms of Bikaner, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Jaipur were merged in 1949. The Maharaja of Jaipur, Man SinghII, was invested with the title of rajpramukh. Jaipur became the capital of the new state of Rajasthan. Heera Lal Shastri was installed as the first premier of Rajasthan. Later in 1949, the United State of Matsya,comprising the former kingdoms of Bharatpur, Alwar, Karauli and Dholpur, was incorporated into Rajasthan. As a consequence, Rajasthan became the second largest state m India, exceeded in geographical area only by the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Rajasthan attained its current dimensions in November 1956 with the additions of Ajmer-Merwara, Abu Rd and a part of Dilwara, originally part of the princely kingdom of Sirohi which had been divided between Gujarat and Rajasthan. The princes of the former kingdoms were constitutionally granted handsome remuneration in the form of privy purses to assist them in the discharge of their financial obligations (and to keep them in the style to which they had become accustomed). In1970, Indira Gandhi, daughter of India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru), who had come to power in 1966, commenced under-takings to discontinue the privy purses, which were abolished in 1971.
Many of the former rulers of Rajasthan continue to use the title of maharaja for social purposes. The only power this title holds today is as a status symbol. Since the Privy Purse abolition, the princes have had to financially support themselves. Some hastily sold valuable heirlooms and properties for literally nothing, in a desperate attempt to pay bills. While a handful of princes squandered their family fortunes, others refused to surrender their heritage, and turned their hands to business, politics or other vocations. Many decided to convert their palaces into hotels as a means of earning income. Some of these palace-hotels have become prime tourist destinations in India, such as the Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur, the Rambagh Palace in Jaipur and the Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur. The revenue earned from such hotels has enabled the maharajas to maintain their properties, sustain time-honored family traditions and continue to lead a comfortable lifestyle. However, not all palaces are on the tourist circuit and cannot rely purely on tourism as a source of steady income. Many palaces and forts are tucked away in remote parts of Rajasthan, and have been reluctantly handed over to the government, because the owners were simply unable to maintain them. Unfortunately, many of these rich vestiges of India's royal past are poorly maintained.
Rajasthan's formerly independent kingdoms created a rich architectural and cultural heritage, seen today in their numerous forts and palaces (Mahals and Havelis) which are enriched by features of Muslim and Jain architecture.