Rajputana - Encyclopedia

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RAJPUTANA, a collection of native states in India, under the political charge of an agent to the governor-general, who resides at Abu in the Aravalli Hills. It lies between 23° and 30° N. and between 69° 30' and 75° 15' E., and includes 18 states and 2 estates or chiefships. For political purposes these are subdivided into eight subordinate groups, consisting of three residencies and five agencies. These are as follow: (1) Mewar residency, with headquarters at Udaipur, comprising the states of Udaipur (Mewar), Dungarpur, Partabgarh and Banswara; (2) Jaipur residency, with headquarters at Jaipur, comprising the states of Jaipur and Kishangarh, with the estate of Lawa; (3) Western Rajputana states residency, with headquarters at Jodhpur, comprising the states of Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Sirohi; (4) Bikanir agency, with headquarters at Bikanir; (5) Alwar agency, with headquarters at Alwar; (6) Eastern Rajputana states agency, with headquarters at Bharatpur, comprising the states of Bharatpur, Dholpur, and Karauli; (7) Haraoti-Tonk agency, with headquarters at Deoli, comprising the states of Tonk and Bundi, with the estate of Shahpura; (8) Kotah-Jhalawar agency, with headquarters at Kotah, comprising the states of Kotah and Jhalawar. All of these states are under Rajput rulers, except Tonk, which is Mahommedan, and Bharatpur and Dholpur, which are Jat. The small British province of Ajmere-Merwara is also included within the geographical area of Rajputana.

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Physical Features

The total area of Rajputana is about 127,541 sq. m. It is bounded on the west by Sind, and on the north-west by the Punjab state of Bahawalpur. Thence its northern and northeastern frontier marches with the Punjab and the United Provinces until it touches the river Chambal, where it turns south-eastward for about 200 m., dividing the states of Dholpur, Karauli, Jaipur and Kotah from Gwalior. The southern boundary runs in a very irregular line across the central region of India, dividing the Rajputana states from a number of native states in Central India and Gujarat. The most striking physical feature is the Aravalli range of mountains, which intersects the country almost from end to end in a line running from south-west to north-east. Mount Abu is at the south-western extremity of the range, and the north-eastern end may be said to terminate near Khetri in the Shaikhawati district of Jaipur, although a series of broken ridges is continued in the direction of Delhi. About three-fifths of Rajputana lies north-west of the range, leaving twofifths on the east and south. The tract lying to the north-west contains the states of Bikanir, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur. With the exception of the sub-montane districts of Jodhpur, which lie immediately below the Aravallis, this division is sandy, ill-watered and unproductive, improving gradually from a desert in the northwest and west to comparatively fertile land on the east. The country to the east and south-east of the Aravallis affords a striking contrast to the sandy plains on the north-west of the range, and is blessed with fertile lands, hill-ranges and long stretches of forest, where fuel and fodder are abundant.

The chief rivers of Rajputana are the Luni, the Chambal and the Banas. The first of these, the only river of any consequence in the north-western division, flows for 200 m. from the Pushkar valley, close to Ajmere, to the Runn of Cutch. In the southeastern division the river system is important. The Chambal is by far the largest river in Rajputana, through which it flows for about one-third of its course, while it forms its boundary for another third. The source of the river is in the highlands of the Vindhyas, upwards of 2000 ft. above the sea; it soon becomes a considerable stream, collecting in its course the waters of other rivers, and finally discharging itself into the Jumna after a course of 560 m. Next in importance ranks the Banas, which rises in the south-west near Kankroli in Udaipur. It collects nearly all the drainage of the Udaipur plateau with that of the eastern slopes and hill-tracts of the Aravallis, and joins the Chambal a little beyond the northeastern extremity of the Bundi state, after a course of about 300 m. Other rivers are the W. Banas and the Sabarmati, which rise among the south-west hills of Udaipur and take a south-westerly course. The river Mahi, which passes through the states of Partabgarh and Banswara, receiving the Som, drains the south-west corner of Rajputana through Gujarat into the Gulf of Cambay. Rajputana possesses no natural freshwater lakes, but there are several important artificial lakes, all of which have been constructed with the object of storing water. The only basin of any extent is the Sambhar salt lake, of about 50 m. in circuit.


Geologically considered, the country may be divided into three regions - a central, and the largest, comprising the whole width of the Aravalli system, formed of very old sub-metamorphic and gneissic rocks; an eastern region, with sharply defined boundary, along which the most ancient formations are abruptly replaced by the great basin of the Vindhyan strata, or are overlaid by the still more extensive spread of the Deccan trap, forming the plateau of Malwa; and a western region, of very ill-defined margin, in which, besides some rocks of undetermined age, it is more or less known or suspected that Tertiary and Secondary strata stretch across from Sind, beneath the sands of the desert, towards the flanks of the Aravallis. Rajputana produces a variety of metals. Ore of cobalt is obtained in no other locality in India, and although zinc blende has been found elsewhere it is known to have been extracted only in this province. Copper and lead are found in several parts of the Aravalli range and of the minor ridges in Alwar and Shaikhawati, and iron ores abound in several states. Alum and blue vitriol (sulphate of copper) are manufactured from decomposed schists at Khetri in Shaikhawati. Good building materials are obtained from many of the rocks of the country, among which the Raialo limestone (a fine-grained crystalline marble) and the Jaisalmer limestone stand pre-eminent.


The climate throughout Rajputana is very dry and hot during the summer; while in the winter it is much colder in the north than in the lower districts, with hard frost and ice on the Bikanir borders. The rainfall is very unequally distributed: in the western part, which comes near to the limits of the rainless region of Asia, it is very scanty, and scarcely averages more than 5 in.; in the south-west the fall is more copious, sometimes exceeding 100 in. at Abu; but, except in the south-west highlands of the Aravallis, rain is most abundant in the south-east. Notwithstanding all its drawbacks, Rajputana is reckoned one of the healthiest countries in India, at least for the native inhabitants.


In 1901 the population was 9,723,301, showing a decrease of 20% in the decade owing to the great famines of1897-1898and 1900-1901. The greatest mortality was caused by virulent malarial fever, which raged during the autumn months of 'coo and the early months of 1901. Epidemics of cholera, which occurred during the years of scarcity and famine, also swept away large numbers.

It is commonly supposed that, because nearly the whole country is ruled by Rajputs, therefore the population consists mainly of Rajput tribes; but these are merely the dominant race, and the territory is called Rajputana because it is politically possessed by Rajputs. The whole number of this race is 620,229, and nowhere do they form a majority of the whole population in a state; but they are strongest, numerically, in the northern states and in Udaipur. By rigid precedence the Brahmans occupy the first rank; they are numerous and influential, and with them may be classed the peculiar and important caste of Bhats, the keepers of secular tradition and of the genealogies. Next come the mercantile castes, mostly belonging to the Jain sect; these are followed by the powerful cultivating tribes, such as the Jats and Gujars, and then come the so-called aboriginal tribes, chief of whom are the Minas, Bhils and Meos. Rajasthani is the chief language of the country, one or other of its dialects being spoken by 7, 0 3 5,093 persons or more than 72% of the total population. The gross revenue of all the states is estimated at 24 millions sterling.

The mass of the people are occupied in agriculture. In the large towns banking and commerce flourish to a degree beyond what might be expected. In the north the staple products for export are salt, grain, wool and cotton, in the south opium and cotton; while the imports consist of sugar, hardware and piece goods. Rajputana is very poor in industrial production. The principal manufactures are cotton and woollen goods, carvings in ivory and working in metals, &c., all of which handicrafts are chiefly carried on in the eastern states. The system of agriculture is very simple; in the country west of the Aravallis only one crop is raised in the year, while in other parts south and east of the Aravallis two crops are raised annually, and various kinds of cereals, pulses and fibres are grown. In the desert tracts fine breeds of camels, cattle, horses and sheep are to be found wherever there is pasturage. Irrigation, mostly from wells, is almost confined to the N. portion. The country is traversed throughout by the Rajputana railway, with its Malwa branch in the south, and diverging to Agra and Delhi in the north. Jodhpur, Udaipur and Bikanir. have constructed branch railways at their own cost, the first of which was extended in 1901 to Hyderabad in Sind. In 1909 another line was opened running N. near the E. boundary from Kotah to Bharatpur.


Only faint outlines can be traced of the condition of Rajputana previous to the invasion of Upper India by the Mahommedans, and these indicate that the country was subject for the most part to two or three powerful tribal dynasties. Chief of these were the Rahtors, who ruled at Kanauj; the Chauhans of Ajmere; the Solankis of Anhilwara, in Gujarat; the Gehlots with the Sisodhyias sept, still in Mewar or Udaipur; and the Kachwaha clan, still in Jaipur. These tribal dynasties of Rajputs were gradually supplanted by the Moslem invaders of the 11th century and weakened by internal feuds. At the beginning of the 16th century the Rajput power began to revive, only to be overthrown by Baber at Fatehpur Sikri in 1527. The clans were finally either conquered, overawed or conciliated by Akbar - all except the distant Sisodhyia clan, which, however, submitted to Jehangir in 1616. From Akbar's accession to Aurangzeb's death, a period of 151 years, the Mogul was India's master. Aurangzeb's death and the invasion of Nadir Shah led to a triple alliance among the three leading chiefs, which internal jealousy so weakened that the Mahrattas, having been called in by the Rahtors to aid them, took possession of Ajmere about 1756; thenceforward Rajputana became involved in the general disorganization of India. By the end of the century nearly the whole of Rajputana had been virtually subdued by the Mahrattas. The victories of Generals Wellesley and Lake, however, saved the Rajputs; but on Lord Wellesley's departure from India the floodgates of anarchy were reopened for ten years. On the outbreak of the Pindari War in 1817 the British government offered its protection. The Pindaris were put down, Amir Khan submitting and signing a treaty which constituted him the first ruler of the existing state of Tonk. By the end of 1818 similar treaties had been executed by the other Rajput states with the paramount power. Sindhia gave up the district of Ajmere to the British, and the pressure of the great Mahratta powers upon Rajputana was permanently withdrawn. Since then the political history of Rajputana has been comparatively uneventful. The great storm of the Mutiny of 1857, though dangerous while it lasted, was short. Most of the rajas remained loyal; and the capture of the town of Kotah, which had been held by the mutineers of that state, in March 1858, marked the extinction of armed rebellion.

Rajputana is of great archaeological interest, possessing some fine religious buildings in ruins and others in excellent preservation. Among the latter are the mosques at Ajmere and the temples on Abu. But the most characteristic features of architecture in the country are shown in the forts and palaces of the chiefs and in their cenotaphs.

See J. Tod, Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan (1829, 1832); W. W. Webb, Currencies of the Hindu States of Rajputana (1893); Chiefs and Leading Families of Rajputana (1903); and Rajputana Gazetteer (Calcutta, 1908).

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