Marwari? You must be a Baniya: Things Rajasthanis are tired of hearing | travel | Hindustan Times
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Marwari? You must be a Baniya: Things Rajasthanis are tired of hearing

There is more to Rajasthan than meets the eye, especially what is seen in daily soaps, Bollywood films and tourism gimmicks.

travel Updated: Dec 27, 2016 12:21 IST
Sneha Bengani
Rajasthan is a lot more than what meets the eye. It is time you explored the state deeper than its puppet shows and Kalbelia dances.
Rajasthan is a lot more than what meets the eye. It is time you explored the state deeper than its puppet shows and Kalbelia dances.(Shutterstock)

The chief minister of Rajasthan, Vasundhara Raje, launched a new ad-campaign and a logo for the state’s tourism department in January this year hoping to significantly boost the number of tourists. The initiative’s tagline, Jaane Kya Dikh Jaaye! aimed to re-brand Rajasthan, wanting people to see beyond the obvious and the expected.

However, not much has changed in the six months since the new ad commercials were released. People still do not know about the state beyond the desert, camels, palaces, Kesariya Balam and Dal Baati Churma.

Just like the ads depict, there is a lot more than meets the eye and what is projected by daily soaps and Bollywood films.

Here’s a look at a state that we hardly know beyond the clichés.

The desert

Other than the Thar Desert, Rajasthan is also home to the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary and several serene lakes. (Shutterstock)

To start with, not all of Rajasthan is desert. It is majorly the western part of the state — including the districts of Barmer, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur — that constitutes the Thar Desert. Not all of the state is arid and dry either.

Read: How an arid Rajasthan village turned into a desert oasis

Rajasthan has a beautiful hill station, Mount Abu, with a huge lake, lots of greenery, and a cool climate. Udaipur, one of the major cities and tourist attractions, has five prominent lakes. There is a bird sanctuary in Bharatpur and a national park in Ranthambore.

Since about 60% of the Thar Desert is in Rajasthan, it has been widely promoted as the land of sand dunes. But to think that is all there is to it is plain silly.

The royalty

Maharani gayatri Devi, the erstwhile queen of Jaipur. (Hindustan Times)

Rajasthan literally means ‘place of kings’ (raja + sthan). But people seem to have taken the translation way too seriously. No, not every Marwari is a royal descendant. Neither do we all live in palaces. Every region typically has one royal family. And none of them can have the entire town’s population as its descendants.

Read: JLF 2016: Mark your presence at the Ibiza of world literature

Among the royal families that are still popular include those of Jaipur, Mewar, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Alsisar, Udaipur and Jaisalmer. Now contrast these handful royalties with the 6.86 crore people living in the state (Census 2011).

The palaces

Amer Fort, located about 11 kilometres from Jaipur, was constructed by Raja Man Singh I in the late 16th century. (Shutterstock)

The Hawa Mahal is probably one of the most hyped palaces in the world. Not to take away from its aesthetic value, but it kind of fades away in comparison with other lesser-known monuments such as Nahargarh (Jaipur) and Mehrangarh Fort (Jodhpur), Junagrah Fort (Bikaner). Heard of Amer Fort, Deogarh Mahal (near Udaipur) and Neemrana Fort Palace (Alwar)? Yes, they are worth all the fuss and so much more.

The food

The ingredients used for making ker-sangri ki sabzi. (Facebook/Foodaddicts Ahmedabad)

The only thing that is known about our food is Dal Baati Churma. Those who have Marwari friends or have visited Rajasthan may also know of gatte ki sabzi or ghevar. But that’s it. Well, the only time we have Dal Baati Churma is when we take guests to a touristy place like Chokhi Dhani (Jaipur) or Aapno Rajasthan (Jaipur).

Read: Where food has a history and taste a lineage

The gastric galaxy of Rajasthan also includes the delicious ker-sangri ki sabzi made from the state’s indigenous vegetables; the rich and filling dohe ki raabri prepared by extensively cooking bajra and buttermilk; the tangy, spicy maandiya made from rice water and pulses; and laapsi, which is a mouthwatering dish of jaggery and wheat. Do try them the next time you decide to visit that friend or a Rajasthani restaurant. Nay, make it a point. You’ll thank us.

The clothes

There is a lot more to Rajasthani attire than ghaghra-odhni and the heavily-publicised boriya. (Shutterstock)

We do not wear ghaghra-odhni on every occasion there is. The traditional clothing is reserved only for weddings of close family members, and this too is a fast-fading practice.

Boriya, which has been heavily promoted as the trademark item of Rajasthani jewellery by daily soaps, is actually not the most preferred accessory. Ask a Rajasthani woman what her most valued piece of jewellery is, and she is sure to show you a taagri (if she has one) — a band tied around the waist.

With time and growing designer labels, ghaghras have given way to lehengas and odhnis have evolved into duppatas. However, the younger generation of men is as fond of wearing Jodhpurs as its forefathers.

The joint family, business

The number of joint families among Marwaris is on an all-time low. (Shutterstock)

This one is not entirely baseless, but is nevertheless a cliché. A lot of us do still live with our extended families, but this is another reality that is shrinking more rapidly than the state’s underground water table. My family house, for instance, was built to accommodate 13 people. Right now, only four live in it.

Read: Does India really have gender equality? Story in numbers

Also, not every Marwari is a Baniya (from the business class). Neither is every Marwari student an aspiring chartered accountant. And the ones who do have family businesses need not necessarily want to pursue them. The younger generation is taking up careers as varied as hotel management, fashion designing, journalism and teaching.

The (early) marriages

The age-old tradition of arranged marriage is being questioned and challenged by the present-day educated, urban youth. (Shutterstock)

Genralisations you say? This one, I will have to concede, is still valid. Among any social circle, the Marwari —irrespective of their gender — is usually the first to get hitched. Why, you may ask. Well, varied socio-economic factors are responsible for this — not pursuing education beyond the mandatory post-graduation, inheriting an established business at a young age and therefore totally escaping the initial career struggle, and the prevalent practice of arranged marriages.

However, the millennials are increasingly exerting their right to choose who they want to get married to and when, though not without resistance.

The author tweets at @sneha_bengani