ABOUT RAJASTHAN - People & Customs    
   
 
About Rajasthan
Life in the Desert
Art & Craft
Music & Dance
Cuisine

The People
The People of Rajasthan are sturdy, cheerful and simple folks relatively untouched by the fast pace of modern times - making Rajasthan one of the safest tourist destinations anywhere in the world.

The colourful attire offsets the barren, colourless landscape and the monotony of its cloudless skies. From the simple village folk or tribal to the Rajas and Ranis, the preferred colours are bright red, dazzling yellow, lively green or brilliant orange, highlighted by a lavish use of sparkling gold and silver zari or gota. Tribal and nomadic women are known for their love for silver jewellery (although men too sport ear studs and earrings). The ornaments follow age-old designs typical of a particular tribe.

Safaas and Turbans
An old local saying sums it up - "The dialect, cuisine, water and turbans in Rajasthan change every 12 miles". In fact there are about 1,000 different styles and types of turbans in Rajasthan, each denoting the class, caste and region of the wearer. Turbans come in all shapes, sizes and colours; there being specific turbans for specific occassions. The Safa is a turban made from a single, colourful strip of cloth and is originally from Rajasthan.

A lineage of beautiful women
Rajasthani women have been renowned for their grace and beauty. Alauddin Khilji, the Sultan of Delhi, was so smitten by the beauty of the legendary Maharani Padmini Devi of Chittaurgarh that he waged a war - in vain - for her hand. Even women in remote and impoverished villages display a proud carriage worthy of a princess.

Marwaris - the Jews of India
Rajasthan has made a great contribution to the country's economy. The Bania community, traditionally traders par excellence, migrated from their home state way back in the 16th century and established trading outposts as far away as Assam - the eastern corner of India. With their ingrained thrift and perseverance (in those days, people had to walk miles and miles over scorching sands for a pot of water!) and business acumen, they soon converted these small businesses into industrial empires. Today, these 'marwaris' dominate India's business and economy. As an American sociologist put it, "more than half the assets in the modern sector of the Indian economy are controlled by the trading castes originating in the northern half of Rajasthan".

Artists
The sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar, Grammy winner Pandit Vishwamohan Bhatt, the Dhrupad singers - Dagar Brothers, the legendary oriental dancer Uday Shankar and the noted ghazal singer Jagjit Singh, to name a few are from this state.



Customs
Namaskar or Namaste is the most popular form of greeting in India, used both to welcome and also for bidding farewell. Both the palms are placed together and raised below the face to greet a person. Khama-Ghani is the usual form of this greeting in Rajasthan.

Tilak is ritual mark on the forehead. It can be put in many forms as a sign of blessing, greeting or auspiciousness. The Tilak is usually made out of red vermilion paste - a mixture of turmeric, alum, iodine, camphor, etc. It can also be of a sandalwood paste blended with musk. All rites and ceremonies of Hindus begin with a tilak topped with a few grains of rice placed on this spot with the index finger or the thumb.

Arati is performed as an act of welcome, veneration, love or worship Five small lamps, filled with ghee or oil and with a cotton wick are arranged in a small tray. A conch shell filled with water, auspicious leaves or flower, incense or lighted camphor are also placed in the tray. The lamps are lit and the tray is rotated in a circular motion in front of the deity or the person to be welcomed.

Flower garland, made with jasmine or marigold, is also offered as a mark of respect and honour to the God and Goddesses and also to welcome visitors. They are weaved in the thread tied in the end with a help of a knot.


Typical Rajasthani womenfolk


Rajasthani men in
traditional attire.


The namaskar


Applying Tilak to a guest


Utensils used in
Arati performance


Garlanding as a
form of welcome