Flora & Fauna

Rajasthan is a classic example of bounty; seemingly stingy, but generous to the core. The state’s vast size and latitudinal variations 1,700 metres above the sea provide it with varied vegetation semi-green forests, dry grasslands, deciduous thorn forest and even wetlands.

Geographically speaking, Rajasthan lies between 22 degrees and 30 degrees north latitude and 69 and 70 degrees east longitude, in the tract of Arabian Sea branch of the southwest monsoon. The Aravallis and, in the southeast, the plateau of Hardoti being the only highlands, they channel the monsoons coming from Kathiwar and stop the drier eastern flow, creating a desert in the west.

Unlike most deserts of the world, Rajasthan’s Thar Desert is neither barren nor uninhabited. It is covered with bushes and shrubs and even trees, the most common being babul (Acacia nilotica) and the khejri, (Prosopis cineraria). It is a great sandy tract with no streams and just a few rocks that protrude above the lower land now covered with seemingly immobile sand dunes. The grasses on these dunes grow in clumps, indicated the availability of water just below the sandy soil.

The area of Malwa, a tableland extending up to the Vindhyas is covered with green forests on black lava soils because of the rain from the monsoons. The wetter parts east and southeast of the Aravallis have taller trees than the drier west. The south and eastern parts between 270 metres (2,530 ft) has the axlewood (Anogeissus latifolia), dhokra (Anogeissus Pendula) and dhak (Butea monosperma) forests. Characteristic of the wetter regions are the Banas basin and northwards to the northeastern hilly tracts with mesquite or “salai” (Boswellia serrata) forests.

Travelling westwards across the Shekhawati and the Godawar tract, the rainfall decreases and so do the khejri forests. Grasses which are tall and yellow fill the patches between the amla trees (Emblica officinalis) with their yellow blossoms. This land with the pipal (Ficus religiosa) marks a boundary with the desert.

It is therefore no wonder that Rajasthan is home to several species of animals and birds. Its bosom abounds with prey, the life force for many exotic species. In season, its woods echo with enchanting sounds of many indigenous varieties of birds and even some winged-visitors from Russia; the majestic span of their wings make for a visual treat.

Its sanctuaries attract both the benign and the fierce. Tigers, leopard or the panther, jungle cat (jungle bilao) and the caracal (svjagosh) are found here. As a matter of fact, despite having seen a decline in tiger count over the decades, Ranthambhore once again boasts of young cubs, as does its neighbour, Sariska.

The prominent members of the dog family, once quite abundant in Rajasthan are the jackal (gidar), the wolf (bhedia) and the desert fox (lomdi).

Antelopes and gazelles are found in most of the regions of Rajasthan. Black buck (kala hiran) are seen in the Jodhpur region and the small herds of Indian gazelle (chinkara) are found in the sandy deserts. The robust blue bull (Nilgai) is spotted frequently on open plains and in the foot hills of the Aravalis. The four horned antelope (chau singha) lives in the hilly regions.

Of the deer family, sambar and the spotted deer (chital) is found in forests interspersed with patchy open meadows. Of the monkeys only rhesus macauqe (bandar) and langur are found near the Aravalli ranges.

The wild boar which was once extensively hunted by Maharajas of Rajasthan is found around Mount Abu. Sloth bear can be seen, though rarely, in the deciduous forests of Ranthambhore.

The common mangoose (newla) and the smaller Indian mangoose mostly found in the arid zone live on rodents, birds and even snakes. The reptile species commonly sighted are Indian python (ajgar), the Indian chameleon (girgit) and the garden lizard (chhipkali). The crocodile and the ghariyal are also found in large water bodies like rivers and lakes.

Rajastha is a bird watcher’s paradise. The state is not only a safe haven to the endangered water birds migrating from Siberia (over 6000 km) but also those that come from the southern part of the Himalayas. The Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur has almost 375 bird species and of great interest is the world's tallest black necked stork standing up to 1.8 metres and its black and white wings span up to 2.5 meters. Hordes of demoiselle cranes can be sighted at Khichan and Sambhar. The rare Indian bustard and the grey partridge are the birds of open scrub forests of Rajasthan.