Rajasthan is a land of beautiful palaces, brave warriors, graceful women and a vibrant culture. The topography of the land is also varies, with the fertile plains to the east and southeast, irrigated by the Chambal and Betwa rivers.
The Thar desert in western Rajasthan is the India's largest desert. Because the Thar covers almost 70% of the state, Rajasthan has earned the moniker "Desert State of India". The Thar desert covers the districts of Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Barmer and Bikaner. The peak summertime temperature in the desert has been known to reach 49°C. The locals who have lived here for centuries have found innovative ways to deal with perpetual water shortage and extreme temperatures, since the desert nights can be as cold as the days are hot.
But this does not take away from the beauty of the Thar Desert, characterized by shifting sand dunes and the ubiquitous camel, known as the "Ship of the Desert" since it is the only mode of transportation in the Thar, where human feet and car tyres sink into the soft dunes.
The government of Rajasthan organizes many festivals to celebrate the life of the desert people and the rugged beauty of the Thar Desert itself. The Desert Festival, held in Jaisalmer every year, showcases the folk culture, songs and dances of the desert nomads. The graceful Rajasthani belle with an armful of lac bangles, dancing to the tune of the sarangi, is a symbol of Rajasthan's desert, where people find dance and music even in their difficult life.
Desert tours to Rajasthan are very popular with tourists, since it gives them an opportunity to take in the desert landscape, beautiful in its harshness, and the forts and palaces built on the rocky hillocks towering over the Thar. The golden Jaisalmer Fort, built at a steep height, shimmers like a mirage in the desert. Mount Abu, the only hill station, lies at the edge of the Thar desert, and is home to the world famous Dilwara Jain temples. The Akal Fossil Park near Jaisalmer hides many prehistoric plant fossils that testify to the presence of forest cover in this now inhospitable terrain.