Destination: Rajasthan

Rajasthan, literally The Land of Kings, is the largest state in India, covering a vast northwestern swath of the subcontinent. It comprises most of the virtually inhospitable Thar Desert, and boasts Jaipur as its capital and crown jewel. The state is bisected from southwest to northeast by the Aravelli Range, which is a source for both the copper and marble for which the region is famed. All of the marble for the Taj Mahal was mined in Udaipur, though unfortunately the industry has taken its toll on the surrounding mountains.

Rajasthan draws its rich cultural heritage from the numerous and diverse peoples who have populated the land throughout history. In ancient times, Rajasthan was inhabited by the Vedic and Indus Valley Civilizations. Over the centuries, claim to Rajasthan was laid by a host of societies, from the Gurjars who fended off Arab invaders from the 8th to the 11th century to the Muslim Mewar Dynasty, who spent centuries resisting Mughal rule. The Mewar and the Mughals would fight violently for dominance over Rajasthan for centuries to come.

Over the years, the Mughals grew increasingly distracted by their own internal disputes. Thus weakened, the Mughal Empire and Rajasthan came under the influence of the Marathas in the late 18th century. The Maratha Empire, which had replaced the Mughal Empire as the overlord of the subcontinent, was ultimately replaced by the British Empire in 1818 who would rule all of India until 1947, when the country finally gained independence from the Raj. 

Highly cultivated classical music and dance with its own distinct style is part of the cultural tradition of Rajasthan. The music is uncomplicated and songs depict day-to-day relationships and chores, often focused around fetching water from wells or ponds. Puppetry is also a beloved Rajasthani tradition.

Rajasthan is famous for textiles, semi-precious stones and handicrafts, and for its traditional and colorful art. Rajasthani furniture has intricate carvings and bright colors. Block prints, tie-dye, Bagaru, Sanganer prints and Zari embroidery are major export products from Rajasthan, as well as Jaipur's famous blue pottery.