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Rajasthan, the erstwhile abode of princes, is India at its colourful best. The earliest inhabitants of this part of western India were tribes who settled in a few fertile tracts, and groups of nomads, who travelled with their herds from one oasis to another. These tribes were ruled by chieftains, who gradually carved out their own fiefdoms. These early fiefdoms developed into flourishing kingdoms, over a period of time. These kings constantly fought each other, and each one developed a warlike ethos and a defensive style of architecture. Trade sustained these kingdoms, for the trade route into India passed through the deserts of western India. Collectively, these princely states came to be known as Rajputana or the Land of the Kings, and today it is known as the modern Indian state of Rajasthan. Rajput kings controlled this part of India for over 1000 years, according to a code of chivalry and honour, which was marked by pride and independence. The charismatic Rajput warriors were known for their bravery.

With the arrival of the Muslims to India and with the rise of the Mughalsmost Rajput kingdoms gradually lost their independence, and became a part of the mighty Mughal empire. With the decline of the Mughals, the Rajputs gradually clawed back their independence through a series of spectacular victories, but, by then a new force to reckon with, had emerged on the scene in the form of the British. Most Rajput states entered into alliances with the British, which allowed them to continue as independent states, each with its own maharaja, subject to certain economic and political constraints. These alliances proved to be the beginning of the end of the Rajputs, and soon the extravagance and indulgence of the rulers led to the disintegration of the Rajput kingdoms.

After 1947, most Rajput rulers were allowed to keep their titles and property holdings but in 1970, these titles were abolished. While some of these rulers have survived, by converting their forts and palaces into museums and hotels, many have been unable to cope with the financial demands of the 20th century.

Although the glorious fortunes of its former rulers may have vanished, the culture of Rajasthan, with its numerous forts, palaces, its riotous colours and its romantic sense of valour, honour and courage is still very much alive. The inherent buoyancy and charisma of the land is evident in every aspect of the lifestyle of the people, and also, in the colourful turbans and soup-strainer moustaches sported by the men, and bright mirrored skirts and silver jewellery worn by the Rajasthani women.

Though parts of the state are extremely dry, and are covered by the Thar desert, some areas are used for agricultural purposes. The total cultivable area in the state is 27,465 thousand hectares, and the sown area, 20,167 thousand hectares. Principal crops cultivated in the state are rice, barley, gram, wheat, oilseeds, pulses, cotton and tobacco. Other crops are red chillies, mustard, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds and asafoetida.



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