Rajasthan Desert


The Rajasthan desert or the Thar Desert in western Rajasthan is the biggest desert in India. The Thar Desert or the Great Indian Desert encompasses about 70% of total landmass of Rajasthan and hence it is identified as the "Desert State of India". The Thar Desert embraces the districts of Jaisalmer, Barmer, Bikaner and Jodhpur.

Actually, Rajasthan desert is a greater part of the Thar Desert that is spread across the western part of India and the southeastern Pakistan. Thus this huge stretch of barren land extends into the southern part of Haryana, Punjab and Northern Gujrat and Sind province of Pakistan. The desert in Rajasthan is bounded by the Sutlej River in the northwest, the Aravali mountains in the east and the salty marshland of the Rann of Kutch in the south and the Indus River in the west.

Area

The Thar Desert covers approximately a total area of 446000 sq kms and India 208110 sq kms of land is covered by this huge desiccated land.

Physiography

The Rajasthan desert is predominantly characterized by three lansforms-
  • The sandy stretch of Thar with sand dunes
  • Plains
  • Hills
Hillocks, salty marshlands, gravel, shifting sand dunes, fragments of rocks, scrub vegetation and rare oasis are scattered over the vast sandy expanse of the Thar Desert in Rajasthan. Luni is the only river that meanders through the desert and reaches the Arabian Sea through the Rann of Kutch. Interestingly according to the paleontologists the present day scrubland of Rajasthan was said to have lush vegetation in the long past. They discovered that Rajasthan was the stamping ground of the dinosaurs and their ascendants300 million years ago.

Climate

Rajasthan desert becomes very hot during the summer and it experiences extreme climate. Days are hot and the nights are cold .The desiccated land becomes more parched and dry during the summer owing to the scorching heat of the sun and the temperature reaches the peak of 49°C.

But in the night the temperature falls to a great extent and becomes less than 20 degree C. During winter it may even reach the freezing point-0 degree C at night. Winters are very short and continue only for two months December and January.

The desert receives annually an average rainfall of less than 25 cm. Amazingly the local people have adapted themselves with extreme temperature variations and constant water shortage.

Natural vegetation

There is thorny bushes and shrubs that occur in small patches and are scattered all over the region Natural vegetation of Thar Desert is composed of following tree, shrub and herb species. The scanty vegetation consists of xerophilious grass such as Aristida adscensionis, Lasiurus scindicus, Cenchrus biflorus andso on. Small trees of species Acacia nilotica, Tamrix aphylla, Prosopis cineraria and scrubs like Calligonum polygonoides, Crotalaria spp, Haloxylon recurvum and etc are endemic to the Rajasthan desert.

Biodiversity

The desert of Rajasthan is the abode of 25 species of serpents are 23 specis of lizards. The endangered Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps), the Blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra), Indian Wild Ass (Equus hemionus khur) and the Indian Gazelle (Gazella bennettii) are found here. In fact the Keoladeo Ghana National Park also known as the Desert National Park in Jaisalmer is the repository of striking biodiversity and wildlife and houses the Bengal fox, chinkara, desert fox, wolf, desert cat, the black buck and a plethora of migratory birds. The place also stores the seashells and the gigantic fossilized tree trunks that bear witness to the presence of water and vegetation in the past.

The Desert Triangle

Rajasthan Desert comprises the three cities - Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Jodhpur which is commonly known as the desert triangle. These three cities are entwined in such a way that they form a desert circle. The cultural and historical significance and the glorious hoary past of these cities have marked Rajasthan as 'the most colorful desert in the world'.

Jaisalmer known as the golden city or the city of sandstone houses the majestic12th century Jaisalmer Fort and the famous Sam Sand dunes which are beautifully carved out of sand by the wind and exudes a golden charm in the sunlight.

The regal city of Jodhpur is famed for its splendid forts and palaces and is steeped in Rajput history. Bikaner is located at the north of Rajasthan and oozes the medieval charm. This desert city is flecked with sand dunes and is known as the camel country for its best safaris on camels.

Thus Rajasthan desert with its illustrious past and exotic beauty of the present is a feted tourist attraction in spite of being a barren land. The glittering sun-bathed golden sand allures the traveler who is trapped in a mirage in the desert.

Last Updated on : 01 December 2011