Although Rajasthan is where tourists go to see the glorious history and tradition of India, the marvelous heritage in art, architecture and music, the royal palaces and the way the royalty lived, the distinct cuisine of the region and the culture that permeates the forts and mansions and the villages and towns that dot the desert landscape, there is another playful side to this fascinating state; sports and pastimes including adventure sports.
The great expanse of the Thar Desert that covers most of the state is a challenging environment and has an immense potential for adventure and many adventure sports facilities are being developed in this land. Even a trip across the desert on a camel caravan can offer an interesting insight into the lives of the dwellers of this arid land and at the same time give a remarkable unforgettable experience of a life time.
The two mountain chains that cross the state of Rajasthan; the Vindhyanchal mountains and the Aravalli range and the Thar Desert form the distinct topography of the land and give it the unique flavor that can be enjoyed by the tourists in many different ways; leisure and adventure sports that are enjoyable pastime for them. Long before India got independence, the royalty of Rajasthan had the privilege of indulging in many sports and leisure activities of the western world such as Vintage Car rallies, golf, polo which they brought to India and together with local sports such as kite flying, archery have given a wide variety of choice to the sports lover. Boating, hot air ballooning and trekking over the sand dunes are other sports that are gaining popularity.
Rajasthan is the land of the Rajasthan Rajputs or the native rulers of the erstwhile kingdoms that once ruled the region. In India, it was these warrior kings that developed all equestrian sports such as polo. The Rajputs were very proud of their stables and the fine horses that they rode. When they were not at war the Rajputs pursued this sport in times of peace. Polo was a sport that was developed in India more than five centuries ago as is evident from miniature art of the Mughal period that is exhibited at Mehrangarh Fort in Rajasthan. In the British Raj, Polo became a popular sport that was played among young British officers and the Rajasthan aristocrats. Polo is still played by the erstwhile Royalty and members of the higher echelons of society and is also available to tourists.
The Rajasthan aristocracy learnt the game from the British and gained popularity during the British Raj in India. Yet, due to the arid weather conditions not many golf courses could be developed in the area. Only in the capital city of Jaipur under the aegis of the erstwhile king Maharaja Man Singh that a golf course was created to add to the beauty and charm of the city. This is the only 18-hole golf course in Jaipur and in the whole of Rajasthan as well. It has its unique charm as golfers tee along its graceful slopes with a palace as a back drop and peacocks for company.
Vintage Car Rally
The first imports of cars were made by the aristocrats and princes of Rajasthan. There were Rolls Royces and Bentleys, Porsches and Chevys that adorned the porches of palaces and forts of the Rajashthan Royals. Now these cars are vintage and are priceless possessions of their proud owners who bring them out on the special occasions of Vintage Car Rallies that are important dates on the social calendars of Rajasthan and the neighboring states. Kept in impeccable condition, these vintage cars are a feast to the eyes of vintage car lovers and the pride of their royal owners who have maintained them as heirlooms for several generations.
One of the most popular local sports of Rajasthan is kite flying. The evening breezes and the open skies are an open invitation for this sport especially in windy weather that is prevalent almost all through the year. As the hot day ends and the night has yet to arrive, hundreds of colorful kites are seen in the sky and young lads and old enjoy an evening of cheerful bantering out in the opening. In some places there are kite flying competitions which are popular in the local communities.
Just as golf and polo are the games of the rich and famous, kite flying is the common man’s past time.
The bicycle is an integral part of the people of rural Rajasthan. It is a rugged and convenient vehicle that does not need much maintenance and no fuel except for the energy that the rider puts in. it is used not only in towns to go short distances but also to travel from one village to another or to the market town from nearby villages.
Cycling is the cheapest transportation for visitors on a budget as bicycles can be hired all across the state on hourly or daily basis. However, it is good to remember that these local bicycles are very basic and not very efficient for long distance cycling. For such activity, it is best to buy a multi-gear bicycle that is available in all major towns and cities and is not very expensive. At the end of the trip they can be sold or just gifted away. It is common to see tourists exploring the Shekhawati region on bikes.
The mixed terrain of the Rajasthan country side offers many opportunities for trekking. The hills of the Ararvalli range and the Vindhyachal are ideal for trekkers. The low hills of Mewar are popular for trekking and discovering the historical region of Udaipur, Chittaur and Kumbahlgarh. The region around Mt. Abu and the forest reserves of Sariska and Alwar are also ideal for trekking.
Camping under the clear starry skies in the sandy wilderness is an exciting adventure that western tourists love. One can witness the changing colors of the sky and the earth as the sun travels across the sky, the contrasting day and night temperatures and the nomadic tribes as they traverse the sands in their camel caravans. Camping facilities that have been developed in select locations are reminiscent of the regal tents that were used by the Rajasthan princes on their hunting expeditions in the deserts. They are equipped with bedrooms and living areas luxuriously and tastefully furnished to look after all the comforts of the visitors and also give them a taste of the life in the deserts.
Hot Air Ballooning
Hot air ballooning has gained popularity in recent times and this sport can be enjoyed by visitors in many cities of Rajasthan. Many historic places offer this exciting recreational sport to get an aerial view of local fairs such as the Pushkar Animal Fair near Ajmer, Baneshwar and Nagaur. Jaipur, the capital city and the most popular tourist destination also has facilities for hot air ballooning.
For the terrain and weather that is prevalent in the state of Rajashthan, Para Sailing is an ideal sport that has not yet being fully developed. Only a few private operators who have equipped themselves with the requisite equipment offer this sport for the adventurous tourists who can enjoy it in the sandy dunes of the Rajasthan deserts.
Water sports in arid Rajasthan were not so popular until water parks were developed in cities like Jaipur and Ajmer and other water sporting activities were developed in the many lakes in cities like Udaipur.
Although the potential of some of the natural water resources such as the lakes have not yet been fully utilized, water sports are now being developed as a recreational option for tourists. Some of the competitive water sports events were held at the lake at Jamua Ramgarh just outside Jaipur during the Asian Games of 1982.
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