Part 1: How silk and spices paid for the treasures of Rajasthan

BY Susan, Yonder destination expert
The splendours of Rajasthan are a legacy of the area’s location at the heart of the great historic trades in gems, silk and spices. And no luxury holiday in Rajasthan is complete without visiting some of its magnificent palaces.  Read the first part of our blog about this majestic Indian state.

Prior to independence, Rajasthan, then known as Rajputana, comprised 18 semi-autonomous princely states. As kingdoms, their wealth was accumulated over hundreds of years as the maharajahs leveraged their location on strategic trade routes linking greater India to Central Asia.

These rulers taxed the camel caravans and the traders ferrying spices, silks and gems and channelled the revenue into splendid castles and temples with sumptuous appointments and highly refined artwork.

Today, their ornate palaces and temples form India’s richest trove of must-see monuments during your luxury tour of Rajasthan…

Jaipur, the closest Rajasthan city to Delhi and Agra is often referred to as the ‘Pink City’. In fact, the city’s colour is more of a dusky orange due to the terracotta clay that coats so many buildings, especially the havelis, the former homes of wealthy merchants. But residents in Rajasthan’s most populated city love to wear shades of fuschia, crimson and scarlet in their saris, scarves, turbans and other garments.

A relative youngster by Indian standards, the walled city is less than 300 years old, which may explain the orderly grid layout ordered by dynasty founder Jai Singh.

At the heart of the grid is the City Palace, with quarters for the sale and creation of textiles, household goods, brass bowls, perfumes, jewellery and camel skin-shoes. A few members of the royal family still live in the palace, but the gardens and courtyards are open to the public.

The Sawai Man Singh Museum displays many of their ancestors’ daguerreotypes and possessions. The marble Mubarak Mahal houses antique carpets and shawls and elaborate garments they once wore.

On the west side is the salmon-shaded Hawa Mahal (“Palace of Winds”), where court ladies once lived under purdah rules. With its fine mesh windows and balconies, the women were able to view street activities while unseen by their subjects.

More than 337 kilometres west of Jaipur, Jodhpur’s palace crowns Cittar Hill on the outskirts of Jodhpur city proper. Umaid Bhawan Palace is one of the world’s largest private residences, stretching over 11 hectares. The golden stone edifice is also the newest of Rajasthan’s royal palaces. Construction only commenced in 1929 and finished in 1943.

Its modern architectural style is a mix of the period’s European Beaux Arts with and an older Indo-Saracenic style. Maharajah Umaid Singh conceived the construction project as a source of employment for his subjects in the midst of a years-long drought. At the centre is a sky-blue vaulted dome. Royal descendants occupy some of the palace’s 347 rooms, but there’s still plenty of space for a luxury hotel, sports courts, a library, swimming pool, dining and banquet halls and a throne chamber. The museum displays vintage cars owned by the family, stuffed game animals, miniature paintings and porcelain.

Read part 2 to discover more about the forts and palaces of Rajasthan and why a holiday to northern India is so richly rewarding.

Susan, Yonder destination expert
Susan is a writer and editor long stranded in South-East Asia. In the travel arena, she has written features for in-flight magazines, updated guidebooks to Thailand and Vietnam, and reported for two US newspapers.


You can travel with Yonder on a luxury holiday to India. This article about covers cities in the north of the country. However, Yonder also offers experiences in Indian national parks and beach holidays in the Andaman and Nicobar islands.

Yonder provides tailor-made tours to Rajasthan which can include Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur and a number of smaller towns and villages. All Yonder holidays are created on an individual basis and the services of professional private guides and drivers come as standard.

If you are looking for a specific tour of India or want ideas for a luxury holiday in Rajasthan browse through Yonder’s Destinations pages or you can look for more general suggestions within their Inspirations and Collections pages.

All Yonder itineraries are crafted on a tailor-made, one-off basis, so you can be sure that your holiday will be as individual as you are.