Saturday, October 24, 2009

Rajasthan, Desert State

Conjuring up images of a desert state, it is a place no one would think of palaces shimmering on idyllic lakes; or imagine, in its blazing heat, temples and forts of stunning artistry carved from stone that is honey or rose, marble-white or sandstone-red; nor would anyone fill their mind with painted streets where pageantry and color walk out of life-size frescos, producing crowds of brightly turbaned men with proud moustaches and women whose beauty is lethal, though, alas, veiled. But this is exactly what the desert state of Rajasthan is. The past flavor lingers on, and visitors can still ride painted and caparisoned elephants that recall the regalia of the royal courts or live in fantasy palace hotels built by descendants of the soon and the moon.

More than a half of Rajasthan is desert of semi-arid, a continuation of the sand belt that girdles the world. This desert belt is separated from the Indian peninsula by the Aravali Ranges, geologically the oldest mountains in India.

Both the Thar Desert and the Aravali Ranges lend their distinct personalities to the landscape of Rajasthan. It is interesting that this picture of a rocky, rugged skyline over the soft-staired dunes where camels plod, is only one of the two cliches which represent Rajasthan. The other diametrically opposed, is a refreshing contrast; placid blue lakes with island palaces, gardens with pillared pavilions and kiosks - always with a few dancing peacocks.

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