The Thar Desert

The Thar located in India and Pakistanis the largest desert in the Indian subcontinent . Also known as the Great Indian Desert, the area of the entire desert spans over 200,000 km2. It is also one of the most popular tourist destinations in India for its rich culture, picturesque sites and historical palaces.


Overview

The Thar desert in India mostly lies in the state of Rajasthan. The rest spans across Haryana, Punjab and Gujarat. Around 15% of the desert lies in the state  of Sindh and West Punjab in Pakistan.

Rainfall is limited only during July-September, with 100-500 mm of annual rainfall; hence, vegetation is scare. Most of the irrigation is conducted through the water supplied from canals. The people living in the desert mostly involve in animal husbandry and agriculture. The lifestyle is simpler.

Lithic tools belonging to the prehistoric Aterian culture of the Maghreb have been discovered in Middle Paleolithic deposits in the Thar.

People & Lifestyle

Old man smoking hooka
Old man smoking hooka

The Thar is the most populated among the desert areas in the world. The people of various religions are found in the area, mainly; Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. There are fewer large settlements in the area. Jaipur remains the highest populated city. followed by Udaypur, Kota, Ajmer, Bikaner, Jaisalmer are others.

The inhabitants of the area have a well suited lifestyle for desert. They tend to conserve more water. Their meals tend to use less water during preparation. The clothing and texture derives from the history of the region. Their certain colorful texture, calligraphy and art is endemic to the people of Rajasthan.

The former royalties, comprising of Rajputs and their sub-clans are still found in the region. The palaces and historical sites are well preserved for the incoming tourists.

Most of the inhabitants of the desert enjoy folk music and culture. Rajasthan has a diverse collection of musician castes, including langas, sapera, bhopa, jogi and Manganiar.

Wildlife

There are several protected areas inside the desert established to preserve local culture and wildlife. The Desert National Park, Tal Chhapar Sanctuary, Sundha Mata Conservation Reserve, and Nara Desert Wildlife Sanctuary and Rann of Kutch Wildlife Sanctuary of Pakistan are the designated protected areas.

Blackbuck, Chinkara, Indian Wild Ass, Red Fox, 141 birds, 23 species of lizard and 25 species of snakes are found in the region.

Tourist Attractions

Amer Fort, Hawa Mahal, City Palace, Mehrangarh Fort, Jantarmantar, Ranthanbore National Park, Lake Pichola, Jal Mahal, Jaisalmer Desert Festival, Pushkar Fair, Mohenjo Daro and Derawar Fort are few of the best tourist sites in the Thar.

Kaziranga National Park

Kaziranga National Park located at North East India is one of the most popular ecological sites in the Indian subcontinent. The national park is popular for hosting the two-third population of the One-horned Rhinos in the world. Established during the British Raj in 1908, it boasts the most varied flora and fauna in the entire nation.


Overview

Kaziranga National Park 430 km2 is located in the Golaghat and Nagaon districts of Assam, India. The park is located on the edge of Eastern Himalaya biodiversity hotspot. Even though it was established in 1908, the park was added to the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO only on 1985.

Kaziranga
Kaziranga

The park is popular for hosting the largest amount of One-horned Rhinos along with Royal Bengal Tigers. Kaziranga is home to the highest density of tigers among protected areas in the world, and was declared a Tiger Reserve in 2006.

The park experiences 3 different weathers; Summer, Monsoon and Winter. During Monsoon (Jul-August), most part of the park is submerged into water, due to rising level of water from rainfall and flooding.

History

The history of the national park dates back to 1904 when Mary Curzon, Baroness Curzon of Kedleston and the wife of the then Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon of Kedleston, visited the area. After failing to see a single rhinoceros, for which the area was renowned, she persuaded Lord Curzon to take immediate measure to protect the lessening Rhino species in the region.

On 1 June 1905, the Kaziranga Proposed Reserve Forest was created with an area of 232 km2.

One Horned Rhinos

[Full Article One-horned Rhino]

There are over 2,200 One-horned Rhinos in the Kaziranga area, approximately 2/3 of their entire population. One Horned Rhino is endemic to Indian subcontinent. Found mostly in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, they have been listed in the IUCN Red list for the most vulnerable animals, and only about 3,000 are left in the wild.

One-horned Rhino at Kaziranga
One-horned Rhino at Kaziranga

Rhinos are one of the most hunted and poached animals in the history. The passionate hunters from 20th Century reduced their numbers from thousands to mere few hundreds.

The activity of rampant poaching which started in the 1990s made them even more scarce. They were being mostly poached for their horns, which are believed to carry medicinal qualities. The local authorities and UNESCO helped prevent poaching in the Kaziranga park. Today, it boasts the most amount of Rhinos in the world.

These rhinos live in tall grasslands and riverine forests but due to habitat loss they have been forced into more cultivated land. They are mostly solitary creatures, with the exception of mothers and calves and breeding pairs, although they sometimes congregate at bathing areas.

Preservation

Kaziranga contains significant breeding populations of 35 mammalian species, of which 15 are threatened as per the IUCN Red List. It is also home to a variety of migratory birds, water birds, predators, scavengers, and game birds.

Four main types of vegetation exist in this park. These are alluvial inundated grasslands, alluvial savanna woodlands, tropical moist mixed deciduous forests, and tropical semi-evergreen forests. The park is mostly an expanse of tall elephant grass, marshland, and dense tropical moist broadleaf forests.

The area is controlled by the Government of Assam. They receive financial aid from the state government and the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change of India.

Kashmir – The Heaven on Earth

Kashmir is popularly known as the “Heaven on Earth.” A region situated amidst the mountains is home to some of the most pristine locations on Earth.


Overview

Kashmir is the northernmost region of India. Formerly, a smaller region comprising of few cities, Kashmir today denotes the entire Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). The Kashmir valley is the most mountainous among the 3 different J&K regions, namely; Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.

A smaller portion of the region is located in Pakistan, following the continuous agitation between the former and India. They went to war twice for the very same reason. The Pakistan occupied territory is known as “Azaad Kashmir.”

It was accepted by many sages and theologians to be a pious destination for ages. It proved to an important place for the development of Hindu-Buddhist syncretism. Today, many ancient Hindu and Buddhist artifacts and landmarks can be found scattered around the region.

Srinagar is the capital and the largest city of Kashmir. Also known as the summer capital, Srinagar remains the most popular tourist destination in the entire region; and it includes some of the most popular  tourist landmarks, namely; Dal lake, Jhelum river, Shankaracharya Temple, Shalimar (Mughal) Garden, JN Botanical Garden, Sher Garhi and Gulab Bhawan.

Srinagar
Srinagar

Muslim Rule

The Muslim rule in the region marks the important part of the history of Kashmir. Today, the major population of the region is predominantly Muslims mainly because of the lasting Muslim empires of the past in the Indian sub-continent and their flourishing lifestyle.

Shams-ud-din Shah Amir of Shah Mir Dynasty began the first Muslim rule in the region in 1339. It was followed by the Durrani empire of Afghanistan and the Great Mughals. Most of the recent architecture in the region is inspired by the Mughal lifestyle and culture.

Kashmir was known to be the favorite place of Akbar the Great. He also mentioned it in his auto-biography ‘Akbar-nama’ as such -“I love the weather and beauty of Kashmir and its people, and wish to visit the region whenever I feels awful about the scorching heat of Delhi and Agra.


 

The Ladakh in Pictures

The Ladakh is the northern region of the Jammu & Kashmir State of India. Historically, it relates to the neighboring Tibet, therefore, Buddhism is the de facto religion of the most inhabitants, followed by Islam.

A least accessible place in India, its untouched naturalscape provides a perfect holidaying experience. The military presence makes many parts of the region still inaccessible for the tourists. The altitude is the major challenge for the incoming tourists. Ladakh is located above 3,000 meters (9,800 ft), therefore, you must be prepared to tackle the alien atmosphere with proper acclimatization.

Aksai Chin is one of the disputed border areas between China and India. It is administered by China as part of Hotan County but is also claimed by India as a part of the Ladakh. In 1962, China and India fought a brief war over Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh, but in 1993 and 1996 the two countries signed agreements to respect the Line of Actual Control.

The region is also popular among many Hindi and regional movies. You can spot Ladakhi landscapes in many popular Bollywood movies, such as; 3 Idiots, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Lakshya and Jab We Met.


Leh

Leh is the former capital of Ladakh, now, it’s a Leh district. It’s the second largest district after Kutch, Gujarat. This place served as an important transit for the ancient salt-trade route. A sparse region, the total population of the district is lesser than 35,000.


The Historical Marvels of Mughal Delhi

Delhi is one of the oldest cities in India. Today, it serves as the capital and the economic hub of the nation.

The legend says,

Delhi was formerly the city of Indraprastha, a utopian city founded by the Pandavas. It is referenced in the Mahabharata, a Sanskrit Indian text compiled over a period of 800 years from around 400 BCE.

The settlers first inhabited the region in 2nd Century BC. It was first built as a city with royal complex by the Emperor Shahjahan in 1639 and was known as Shahjahanabad. Today, the region is popularly known as ‘Old Delhi.’ Over the last twenty centuries, the city has been ransacked and rebuilt hundreds of times. Mongols, Persians, Turks, Pashtuns and the British, have ruled over this small city over a long span of time. You can enjoy the tour of Delhi, along with its historical sister regions; Agra and Rajasthan, in the Golden Triangle Tour.

A historically and culturally rich city, it was also mentioned in the travelogue ‘City of Djinns’ by the popular author William Dalrymple. Let’s take a look at the 5 marvels of Delhi!


Red Fort (Lal Qila)

Red fort is a fort or palace built by the Mughals in the 16th century, and it served as the residence and political center of the Mughal era. Built in 1648 by the Emperor Shahjahan, the entirety of the fort is based on red sandstone.

Bahadur Shah Jafar, the last of the Mughal rulers, was confined in the palace. His empire lasted only for a short time and was limited to the premises of the fort. He left the fort to the British in 1858. Today it serves as the major tourist attraction of the city.

Jama Masjid (Mosque)

Jama Masjid is the largest mosque in India located in Old Delhi. It was built by the Emperor Shahjahan between 1644 and 1656 at the cost of Rs. 1,000,000. The mosque was completed with three great gates, four towers and two 40 meters high minarets constructed of strips of red sandstone and white marble. The large courtyard can accommodate more than 25,000 persons.

The mosque is a site to see during the Friday prayers and Eid-ul-fitr. It is a popular tourist site today, with thousands of tourists flocking in every year to admire the Mughal architecture.

Humayun’s Tomb

Humaun’s tomb is a grand mausoleum dedicated to the second Mughal Emperor Humayun. It was commissioned by Akbar the Great in 1569-70 and had used massive amount of red sandstone. It was the first of its kind in the Indian subcontinent!

The site was inscribed into UNESCO Heritage Sites in 1993. The tomb, which costed Rs. 1,500,000 to build, doesn’t only house the tomb of Humayun but many other Mughal royals. It is one of the finest example of Persian and Islamic architecture in India.

Chandni Chowk

Chandani Chowk is the oldest and one of the busiest markets in Delhi. The market was established during the time of Shajahanabad’s foundation. It served as the central market and carried royal processions as well. Even though, the market doesn’t resemble its old style and traditions anymore, it still serves as the major market for the inhabitants of Old Delhi.

It is also known for its cuisines and delicacies. Most tourists visit the place to relish the local delicacies which derived mainly from the Muslim household.

Qutub Minar

Qutub Minar is the tallest brick minaret in the world. The 72 meters tower dominates the local landscape of Delhi. It was constructed by the Delhi Sultanate Qutub al-Din Aibek in 1200 AD. Later, more storeys were added to the complex by his heir.

It was inscribed in UNESCO Heritage Site in 1993, along with the surrounding historical monuments. Many of these surrounding monuments predates the foundation of the Minar and has Sanskrit scriptures on it.


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