Rajasthan is the land of valour and honour, where women rode to their husbands’ funeral pyres to be burnt
eith them in the obligation of duty. In this land of chivalry and courtesies, it was natural to dine with one’s adversaries
after an honourable day’s fighting in the battlefield, for the warring clans claimed a relationship as inextricably
linked as that of the sun and the moon. This same land where the fields lie parched season after season, and where the rains
are a rare visitor, is coloured with a people who defy the monotony of the dun sands with the brilliance of their clothes
centuries of Rajasthan’s history, tales were spun of fearsome battles – of father and son and brother embroiled
in bitter internecine feuds. There is the reality of a princess who renounced the homes of her father and husband to compose
stirring verse in praise of the god Krishna; in Udaipur a maid substituted her own son for the royal heir when the little
prince’s life was threatened by his scheming uncle. Mistaken for the heir, her baby was slain- but she had saved the
kingdom to which she owed her loyalty! Rajput monarchs taxed caravans of merchandise passing through their strategically located
kingdoms to earn themselves revenue; in the Marwar and Shekhawati regions there arose a community of traders who, from their
desert outposts, controlled trade to destinations as far- flung as Calcutta, Singapore and ancient Rangoon.
was always a duality to existence in Rajasthan. The kings of the land built themselves great and impregnable forts to daunt
the staunchest of armies; yet, within these forts they built palaces of astonishing delicacy, peopled by their courtiers and
their women, who spent their days of leisure providing patronage to local artisans – but when their master – lords
were killed in or lost a battle, complete zenanas of women would immolate themselves in the ritual of jauhar. While they lived, it was with a fierce passion. Order, hierarchy and discipline were prized; they loved
beauty, and no detail was too small for their attention: from their dress and jewellery to their palaces, music and dance;
from formal courts called durbars where justice was speedily dispensed to the celebration
of festivals that provided both entertainment and religious spectacle.
brave and passionate people claimed their strength from their self- pro- claimed ancestors, the sun and the moon. Different
clans set up their own empires and their sons sought independent fortunes in the desert, till all of Rajputana was inhabited
with the power of the Rajputs. Yet, no princely power was able to subdue the ambition of each kingdom; indeed, even today,
decades after their incorporation into the Indian Union, a presumed slight can lead to bitter family feuds. The Mewar clan
claims supremacy for its unwillingness to bow to Mughal might, which led to monumental battles and years of hardship and strife.
While many kingdoms bought peace with the Mughal – and later with the British – by forgiving treaties with them,
the Jaipur house of the Kachwahas is looked on with some disdain for providing the first link in matrimonial alliances between
the imperial Mughals and the Hindu kingdom of Amber. Kotah moved away from Bundi and became powerful in its own right –
more powerful, eventually, than its parent kingdom – but rivalries between the two have never completely ceased. A son
of the house of Jodhpur founded the kingdom of Bikaner and won for himself the Rathore insignia of royalty; for generations
since, sieges have been laid and battles – both verbal and physical – fought to prove which of these Rathore kingdoms
is pre – eminent.