Thursday, December 28, 2006

Rajasthani cuisine

India is well known for its spicy cuisine style. Besides this each region in India is famous for its unique traditional dishes and their special flavour. As Rajasthan is said to be a princely state so was the kitchen of its palaces. It was considered a pride to serve the guest the best and tastiest dishes. Thus it became the matter of prestige for the royal cooks and this make them experiment new flavours in their kitchen. These experiments gave rise to various royal and unique dishes, which were then passed over generation after generation and are still the pride of the place.
Although Rajasthani dishes have their unique flavour yet the influence of its climate could easily be seen in them. As here the scarcity of water has always been appeared so the in which minimum water is utilized is preferred, instead milk is used in the dishes that makes them more rich and delicious. . As Rajasthan is rich in cattle wealth, ghee and milk is used in liberal quantities. Due to these circumstances, the food that could last for longer time and could be used without heating is preferred. As the availability of green vegetables is also less here so the dried lentils, beans from indigenous plants like sangri, ker etc. are liberally used.
Rajasthani food has a flavour unique to the state. It is predominantly vegetarian and consist of a lot of variety. The spice content is also a little higher here than the Indian standards that makes the food more delicious. The food of the town-dwellers all over Rajasthan is highly spiced and fried dishes and sweetmeats are common in the daily menu.
Gram flour is major ingredient used here and variety of delicacies like khatta, gatta ki sabzi, pakodi are prepared by this. Powdered lentils are used for mangodi, papad. Bajra and corn is also used in large amount all over the state for preparations of rabdi, kheechdi, and rotis. Various chutneys are made from locally available spices like turmeric, coriander, mint and garlic. In western Rajasthan where water and vegetables are scarce, Bajri ki roti and Lasan ki chutney along with onions form the staple diet of rural people.
Rajasthani cuisine has certain food specialties. Dal-bati-choorma (baked dough balls of wheat flour in dal) and Gatta saag are delicacies prepared generally on ceremonial and festive occasions. An integral part of many of the preparations is the relish ghee, which is frequently used in Rajasthan. Some of the famous regional dishes are-Khaddi, vadi, Rabodi, pachkuta, and sabjis of various ingredient as- Gajar, Beans, Gunwar, Keri, Makki etc. In spicy dishes Mirchibada and Shahi Samosa of Jodhpur are incomparable. One can’t stop eating them although their eyes are watering.
The variety of sweet dishes is also immense and these dishes are not considered as the desert that has to be eaten at the end of the meal. Beside this there is no rationing of the Rajasthani sweets, it could be taken before, after or with the meal anytime. Besides spicy flavours, each region is distinguished by its popular sweet like- Mawa Ladoo and Mawa Kachori from Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, Malpuas from Pushkar, Jalebies from most big cities, Rasogullas from Bikaner, Dil Jani from Udaipur, Mishri Mawa and Ghevar from Jaipur, Sohan Halwa from Ajmer, Mawa from Alwar, Tilpapadi from Beawar. The other sweets that have there own specialty are-Besan-chakki, jhajariya, balushahi, laapsi, nukti, tarfini etc.
Along with this non-vegetarian food is also a specialty here. In the ancient time when the Rajas went on hunting, they used to eat the meat or the fowl that they brought back. Even today, Rajasthani princely feasts flaunt meat cuisines that are incomparable. Non-vegetarian food is also served at weddings and on festive occasions by the Rajputs.. These dishes are famous for it's mouth- watering aroma. Dry fruits, spices and yogurt are used in many delicacies. Even today it is famous that in ancient time cooks tried to impress their guests by exploring at least one unforgettable item in their menu as stuffed camels, goats, pigs and peacocks, which now became a legend. Even now- a days also almost all restaurants try to prepare a special dish that becomes their specialty.
Then the way of serving is also quite different here. The guests are considered as God and are force fed with lot of affection, which is called manuhar or manvar. It is considered extremely rude to just lay the food on the table and expect guests to serve themseleves. Thus Rajasthan had still maintained its traditional value and atticates along with the delicacy of food that one ends up licking his finger and your heart says ‘yes’ while tummy says ‘no’. This is the characteristic of Rajasthani cuisine.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

History and Location of Rajasthan

Rajasthan means the ‘Adobe of Kings.’ After the bifurcation of Madhya Pradesh, now Rajasthan has became the largest state of India. It is located in the northwest of India. It is surrounded by the states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. It shares its international border with Pakistan.
Rajasthan was originated on November 1,1956. Previously four states joined and the name given to it was the Matsya Union. But as more and more states merged in it, the name of union went on changing and thus the United of Rajasthan formed. Previously Rajasthan was named as Rajputana that means ‘The home of Rajputs’. The chief of a Rajput clan had ruled over almost every city and town of Rajasthan. Some of the famous clans were the Sisodias, the Rathores, the Chauhans, the Kachhawahas and the Jhalas. The Rajputs were born warriors and always lived by a code of chivalry, honour and pride in their traditions. These were described as Agni Kula and insisted that they should be given the Kshatriya status. The Rajputs have a fascinating story. Historians believe that some of them came from certain tribe of central Asia that entered India with the Huns invaders. The four clans that claimed to either the Suryavansi which means solar or the Chandravansi which means lunar, decent from out of a mythical sage’s sacrificial fire pit that is Agni Kund near Mt.Abu in Rajasthan. According to legends, the God performed Yagna here. This gave rise to four clans of Rajputs—the Chauhans, the Solankis, the Parihars and the Panwars. In ninth and tenth centuries Rajput’s raised their political importance and ruled over various parts of western and central India by establishing themselves as kings. Until 20 century Mewar and Marwar were two powerful Rajput kingdoms in Rajputana. The mewar region consist of Chittorgarh, Udaipur and Bhilwara district where as marwar consist of Jodhpur and Bikaner district. The rulers of mewar kingdom were known as ‘Ranas’. This kingdom was founded in 728 A.D. with its capital at Chittorgarh. Later on the capital was shifted to Udaipur. Raos founded the kingdom of Marwar in the 13th century having its capital at Jodhpur.
According to the geologists Aravalli range of Rajasthan divides the state into two geographical regions having distinct features--the north- western and the south- eastern. The north- western region is sandy as it is a part of the Thar or the Great Indian Desert. This region is known as the Marwar region while the south- eastern part comprises of the fertile tablelands, wide valleys and extensive hill ranges. This region is well known as the Mewar region. It is considered that the Aravalli range that dominates the Rajasthan landscape is the oldest mountain system in India and probably the world. The Aravalli range rise to a height of 1,700 meters and is about 692 km long. This range along with the warding off the desert winds from the west also affects the region’s climate. The forts that were strategically located here add to the beauty of the range. The highest peak of the range is the Guru Shikhar. It is located in the Abu hills in Rajasthan. A small shrine marks the summit of Guru Shikhar. A little below the summit is the Agni Kund, a tank famous for the birth of the Rajput’s clan. According to the legends, in this tank God performed the Yagna. Thus Rajasthan have an interesting and fascinating history behind its origin. The state has also experienced various faces with various rulers who ruled here and thus gave rise to many stories regarding the period that would be unforgettable till centuries.

Marusthali and ancient Harappan culture in Rajasthan

Marusthali is the other name given to the Thar or the Great Indian Desert. Marusthali means ‘Land of the Dead’. This is the region that is dry and sandy. It is located in the extreme west of Rajasthan and covers about three- fifth of the state. The Thar or the Great Indian Desert is spread over the four states of Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat and Rajasthan. It is an intersperse stretch of sand and not a continuous stretch. It constitutes various hillocks, plains, salt marshes and lakes.
It is said that long time ago the Thar Desert or Marusthali was not a desert. According to the archeologists it was covered with dense forests and many rivers used to flow here along with the legendary Saraswati. In the Fossil Park near Jaisalmer also remains of a 180 year old forest can be seen, which indicates that there was a time when the so called Thar Desert was having a warm and humid climate. There were dense forests and also a prosperous civilization flourished here. But due to some ecological changes the rivers dried up and the green plains turned into a barren and sandy desert. Yet the Marusthali is not fully barren, it is enriched with Sewan grass and trees like Khejri, a typical desert tree and Babul. These have proved to be an excellent fodder for camels and other cattle that are reared here for livelihood. The Luni Lake, also called as Salt River is enriched in the salt. This arises from the Nag hills near Ajmer and empties itself in the Rann of Kachchh. This is the only river that flows in the Marusthali. Another the legendry Saraswati River is said to flow undergrounds the Thar Desert. As the rainfall is scanty here that is about 10 to 12 cm a year so each and every drop of water is considered as invaluable and is stored in wells or tanks.

Ancient Harappan civilization has been found at Kalibangan. In 1952 Archaeologists founded Kalibangan, which literally means ‘black bangles’. Here pieces of terracotta bangles were found littered all over. The site is located in Ganganagar district of Rajasthan. Although much of the city lies buried here in the sand but the unearthed excavations gives a symbol of well laid out streets and efficient drainage system along with better water supply facility. Also a well has been found intact which was made of bricks and was circular in shape. Thus a planned city comparable to Mohan-Jo-Doro, Harappa and Lothal was revealed. Some of the other objects that were excavated and which throws the light on the life and activities of its inhabitants are seals with inscription, stone blade, weights of various shapes and size and many more. It is well known that Kalibangan is the only site in India where ploughed field has been found. These all evidences gives a sign that at that time also people used to live in a planned and cultural manner. The research is still in progress in a hope to get some more relics that could reveal and give more information about that era.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Rajasthan-An Introduction

Rajasthan is one of the most colorful states of India where one can have an actual and clear picture of tradition and culture of this vast country. Every view of Rajasthan is fascinating and has hidden an enormous beauty of the place in them. The mind blowing sand-dunes of the Thar Desert, the arid valleys of the Aravallies, the richness and delicacy of the palaces, the beauty and piousness of the temples, the architectural grandeur of the hill forts, the traditionalism of the villages and the simplicity of the people all describes the velour of the place. Besides this Rajasthan is also known as the land of the tiger, the camel, the peacock and the great Indian Bustard.
The state is enriched with a glorious past of bravery and chivalry of its hero who have won the admiration of the world. People in the state still live and die here by their words. On one hand it is a centre of bravery, dedication and strength and on the other hand it is blended with love, sacrifice and compassion. According to the renowned historian Col. Todd: -Every single flower on the land of the Rajasthan has danced in the scent of bravery and sacrifice. Not a wave of air has passed when brave men did not bow at the feet of the war goddess. There has been no house where no brave soldier was born to fight for the prestige of the nation. Not one hut has existed where mothers did not sing the songs of velour and dedication. Here people have sacrificed their lives for their words and promises and mothers have always prepared their children to dedicate themselves in the feet of their motherland. The history and various monuments of the state witness the story of the bravery and dedication.
The spirit of the people and their artistic and cultural traditions are preserved in their folklore; in their music and dance; in their fairs and festivals; in their arts and crafts. Various dialects are used here in speech like in Udaipur the dialect used is Mewari while Marwari is spoken in Jodhpur, Bikaner, Jaisalmer and Ajmer. The Rajasthani language, which is an offshoot of western Hindi, is not recognized in the constitution of India. Thus, Hindi is the official language of the state.
Besides this the Palaces that has turned to hotels gives a pleasant feeling of royal living along with the description of the history of the place. The hotel provides one with royal facilities. The luxury train ‘Palace on Wheels’ is one of its own kind. It reflects the ancient gallantry tradition of the state and a comfortable ride to the various prestigious places of the state with all the facility and comforts required. Thus a visit to Rajasthan is an experience to be savored for life rather than just enjoyment.

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Rajasthan is famous all over the world for its widely spread deserts. But the pleasant weather of hilly region could also be experienced here at Mt.Abu. Mt.Abu, which is a hilly plateau in the Aravallis, is the only hill station of Rajasthan. Here one can enjoy the mind-blowing weather along with the richness of greenery of the place. At the time of British rule in this hill station was used as a sanatorium for troops. Besides this it was also a favorite summer resort for the rulers of Rajasthan and Gujrat. This adornment could be easily seen through the beautiful palaces that were built by these rulers here.
Now this place is considered as a place of pilgrimage for Jains as many of pious temples of Jains are situated here. The Dilwara temple is one of them. It is not only famous for its piousness but also for its outstanding architectural work and enormous beauty. This temple was built around a thousand years ago but still attracts the attention of a person due to its minute craftwork. The five magnificent Dilwara Jain Marble temples at Mt.Abu are unique in the history of marble carving. These temples are intricately sculptured and richly ornamented. According to Ferguson, the most striking feature in the Tejpala temple is the pendent of the dome that is hanging from the center. In the words of Ferguson “It hangs from the center more like a luster of crystal drops than a solid mass of marble.” It is famous in the region that the carvers of the temple were rewarded with silver that was equal to the weight of the marble filings. The outer structure of the temple has been given a simple look so as to save it from being attacked by the invaders. Besides this marble statue of a Jain tirthankara at Dilwara temple gives it a unique look.
Another popular attraction of the place is the ‘Nakki Lake’. It is an artificial lake that is studded with small islands. The regional story behind the formation of the lake is famous here. It is said that the lake was formed when the Gods scratched at the mountain with their fingernail (Nakh). Thus it was given the name ‘Nakki Lake’. The other special feature is the ‘Toad Rock’. It is overhung on the lake and looks like a gigantic toad that is about to spring into the water. Now a days the ‘Nakki Lake is famous as a pleasant spot for boat rides. The lake is surrounded by a number of small temples. The walk around this lake, listening to the temple bells ringing gives a spiritual as well as mental satisfaction. Various shops are also situated around the lake where things of requirement could be found.
The place is famous for the religious sect’s headquarter called ‘Brahma Kumaris’. Along with this the ‘Rock Garden’ is also well known. This garden besides its natural beauty also have a separate section where the demonstration of the teachings of this sect is given. Thus one could gain a lot of spiritual knowledge here in addition to the enjoyment of the nature. This sect was started with the aim of establishing world peace by ‘imparting spiritual knowledge and training in Raj Yoga meditation’. The sect is spreaded all around the world in about 82 countries and has more than 7,000 branches. Followers of the sect from various parts come to Mt.Abu to attend the courses at its spiritual university.
Mt.Abu is famous for its natural beauty also. It is famous for its variety of flowering trees and birds. Large amount of mushrooms are also found her at the time of monsoon. Thus one could be fully enjoyed both mentally and spiritually at the marvelous trip of Mt.Abu.