Rajasthan’s long history is as varied and colorful as its culture and people. Since the pre-historic times, the state has played an important role in the region. Archaeological excavations point that Harappan culture flourished in parts of Rajasthan as early as 1000 BC. The state was also a seat of Paleolithic settlements, according to the paintings from the period in some areas. At Dundhmer, the modern day
Dundhar, the first Aryan settlement has been discovered. Ancient Hindu scriptures make references to the holy city of Pushkar.
The land of valour and glory, Rajasthan has been the stage for many historic battles and has stood witness to several dynasties and empires, from Magadha, Kushanas, Guptas or Mauryas of ancient India to slave dynasties, Mughals or the British in the more recent history.The formation and development of Rajasthan is attributed to several tribes like the Rajputs, Jats, Bhils, Ahirs, Nath, Gujars, and Meenas who are the prominent inhabitants of the state. Out of these, Rajputs have played a dominant role in the history of the state.
Archaeological findings show that the royal land of Rajasthan has been inhabited for several thousand years. To be precise, it can be traced back to the Indus Valley Civilisation. The people of the Harappan times were the first to settle on the embankment of the Sarasvati River that originated in the Aravalli mountain range in Rajasthan. However, the region suffered severe climatic changes and was hit by floods, which led to its abandonment in the aftermath.
For quite some time, it remained without human settlements, until tribal communities, such as the Bhils and Meena, settled in the area. Also, the Aryans were believed to have settled in the area in around 2,000 BC, followed by the Mauryan dynasty during 321-184 BCE. However, due to the strategic location of the state and several ancient rivers, such as the Sarasvati and the Drishadvati flowing through it, the state went on to grab the interest of many empires like Hunas, Arjunyas, Yaudheyas and Saka Satraps, among others.
The Gupta dynasty conquered the state in the 4th century and built many Buddhist shrines and caves in the Jhalawar region. In the 6th century, the influence and control of the Guptas started declining. In 700 CE, the Gurjara-Pratiharas took over the Guptas as central power.
In the 9th century, the Rajput dynasty took over the state, the most thriving era in the history of Rajasthan. The Rajputs were warriors and under their rule, the state grew by leaps and bounds. If you stroll along the streets of Rajasthan, you will see majestic historic structures, including forts, palaces and temples built by the Rajput clan. But over the centuries, the Rajput empire was split up into 21 dynasties and 36 royal clans. The unity among them was lost.
In the 10th century, the Chauhans gained control of Rajasthan, but couldn’t reign over it for long. In 1192 CE, the Muslim sultanate defeated Prithviraj Chauhan of the Chauhan dynasty and conquered some parts of the state. Eventually, by 1200 A.D., the Muslim rulers established themselves in many parts of Rajasthan.
In the early 13th century, the most powerful seat was Mewar, which was still under the rule of the Rajputs. Almost every king had their eye on Mewar. It was Mughal emperor, Akbar, who started getting close to many Rajput rulers – he even married a Rajput princess, Jodha Bai, daughter of Amer’s Maharaja. Post-marriage, many Rajput rulers made an alliance with Akbar, which strengthened his control and power over the state. The combination of the Rajput clan and the Mughal empire influence is reflected even today in the historical and architectural landscape of the state.
However, there were some Rajput rulers, like Rao Chandrashekar Rathore (Marwar), Rana Udai Singh (Mewar) and Maharana Pratap (Mewar), who were against Akbar and never bowed down to him. They were in constant war with Akbar. In 1526, a battle between Akbar and Udai Singh took place, in which Akbar took over Chittorgarh, Mewar’s capital. After the defeat, the women of the Rajput clan committed self-immolation in order to protect their honour. Almost the entire Rajputana (now called ‘Rajasthan’) came under the control of Akbar.
In 1576, the Battle of Haldighati between Akbar and Maharana Pratap took place, in which Rana Pratap was severely injured and stayed in recluse for several years. In the meantime, Akbar captured Udaipur, Kumbhalgarh, Chappan, Gogunda and several other regions. Eventually, in 1582 during the Battle of Dewair, Rana Pratap fought back and freed Mewar and much of Rajasthan from the Mughals. This was the era that witnessed the gallantry and sacrifice of several Rajput and Mughal rulers. Some of the most prominent ones include Rana Udai Singh, Prithviraj Chauhan, Maharana Pratap, Rana Kumbha, Rana Sanga and Akbar, to name a few.
In the early 18th century, the Maratha Empire began gaining power. Under the rule of Peshwa Baji Rao I of Pune, the Maratha Empire expanded to the north of Rajasthan and united with the Rajputs. Most of the Rajput-ruled kingdoms were under the control of the Maratha Empire and continued to flourish. However, the Marathas declined in power with the coming of the British East India Company in the late 18th century. Most Rajput states joined hands with the East India Company, which further resulted in the formation of Rajasthan (then known as ‘Rajputana’) as an independent state. The name ‘Rajasthan’ was popularised by James Tod, an East India Company employee, who was enraptured by the beauty and opulence of the state.
The royal state of Rajasthan that we see today was formed in seven stages and became the largest state of the Indian Republic. It has eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites and its magnificent palaces, bustling cities and indigenous hamlets remain the backbone of the state.