the word rings out from the desert and palaces of Rajasthan. It means 'welcome', welcome to a land famous for its chivalry and its etiquette and even more so for its hospitality. It was a land that held the guest supreme and even enemies were treated with grace on its soil. What better greeting could a prospective visitor hope to hear.
But despite wars and the constant fear of attacks from neighbouring states, the Rajas left their mark on the landscape of the desert. Studiously planned and beautifully built cities arose from the hot dusty plains, cities that till today are considered architectural gems, putting Rajasthan on the tourist map for eternity. In peace the Rajas gave expression to their fantasies, encouraging craftsmen and painters, weavers and sculptors, poets and musicians to migrate to their kingdoms and contribute towards the cultural and artistic enhancement of their cities. Today every town worth its name is renowned for either its architecture, miniature painting, printed textiles, jewellery, weaving, leather goods and even cuisine.
The first brush with royalty could be had on the Palace on Wheels, the tourist train run by the Rajasthan Tourist Department, which once had actual saloons used by the erstwhile Maharajas,
but now has carriages refurbished to look like the originals but which are still named after the Rajput states. Folk traditions and music received the patron- age of the Rajas in Rajasthan and so developed into a popular genre, breeding communities that to this day practise their age-old forms. Due to the patronage of the rulers, art and handicrafts flourished at the courts and these age-old traditions have turned Rajasthan into a shoppers' paradise. Bundi, Kishangarh, Mewar and Kota have contributed greatly to the style of miniature painting in India. No one can leave Rajasthan without being part of some festival or celebration, because it is said that if there are seven days in a week there are eight festivals in Rajasthan. The Rajasthani loves his ritual and his festivity. The year begins with Sankranti, signifying the end of winter.
So the celebration of Rajasthan carries on, in its palaces and forts, in its painted havelis and courtyards, in its streets and villages, among its nomads and caravans as the plaintive song of the bard is carried over the sand dunes --
The sun sets in the evening sky
The stars twinkle in the darkness
But as the full moon grows
My desert turns into a plate of gold.
And from a thousand throats rises the invitation
"Padharo mahare desh mein" " Welcome! Welcome to my land".