In this thirtieth archive story by Kristian Bertel, we are staying the night at a local family in the Thar Desert in Rajasthan, India.
Read the background story of this archive photo by the photographer.
Desert safaris on camels have become increasingly popular around Jaisalmer. Domestic and international tourists frequent the desert seeking adventure on camels for anything from a day to several days. This ecotourism industry ranges from cheaper backpacker treks to plush Arabian night style campsites replete with banquets and cultural performances.
Desert safaris on camels have become increasingly popular around Jaisalmer. Domestic and international tourists frequent the desert seeking adventure on camels for anything from a day to several days. This ecotourism industry ranges from cheaper backpacker treks to plush Arabian night style campsites replete with banquets and cultural performances.

Night in Thar Desert

The Thar Desert, also known as the Great Indian Desert, is a large, arid region in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent that forms a natural boundary between India and Pakistan. It is the world's 17th largest desert, and the world's ninth largest subtropical desert. About eightyfive percent of the Thar Desert is in India, and the remaining part in Pakistan. In India, it covers about 320,000 square kilometres of which 60 percent is in Rajasthan and extends into Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana.

Which city is closer to the Thar Desert?

Nestled in the heart of Thar Desert, Jaisalmer in Rajasthan evokes a rustic charm, princely feeling and bedouin-like feeling amidst its undulating golden sand dunes. A shelter of sandcastles and citadels, Jaisalmer is admired for the magnificent Jaisalmer Fort and camel safaris.

The great desert in India
This desert comprises a very dry part, the Marusthali region in the west and a semidesert region in the east with fewer sand dunes and slightly more precipitation. The Thar Desert extends between the Aravalli Hills in the north-east, the Great Rann of Kutch along the coast and the alluvial plains of the Indus River in the west and north-west. Most of the desert is covered by huge shifting sand dunes that receive sediments from the alluvial plains and the coast.

The sand is highly mobile due to strong winds occurring before the onset of the monsoon. The Luni River is the only river integrated into the desert. Salt water lakes in the Thar Desert include the Sambhar, Kuchaman, Didwana in Rajasthan and Kharaghoda in Gujarat. These lakes receive rain water during monsoon and evaporate during the dry season. The salt is derived by the weathering of rocks in the region. Lithic tools belonging to the prehistoric Aterian culture of the Maghreb have been discovered in Middle Paleolithic deposits in the Thar Desert and the Thar Desert is the most densely populated desert in the world, with a population density of eightythree people per square kilometre. In India, the inhabitants comprise Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. In Pakistan, inhabitants include Sindhis and Kolhis.

The people of Rajasthan living in the desert
About forty percent of the total population of Rajasthan live in the Thar Desert and the main occupation of the people is agriculture and animal husbandry. A colorful culture rich in tradition prevails in this desert. The people have a great passion for folk music and folk poetry. Jodhpur, the largest city in the region, lies in the scrub forest zone. Bikaner and Jaisalmer are located in the desert proper. A large irrigation and power project has reclaimed areas of the northern and western desert for agriculture and the small population is mostly pastoral, and hide and wool industries are prominent and the desert's part in Pakistan also has a rich multifaceted culture, heritage, traditions, folk tales, dances and music due to its inhabitants who belong to different religions, sects and castes.

The Thar is one of the most heavily populated desert areas in the world with the main occupations of its inhabitants agriculture and animal husbandry. Agriculture is not a dependable proposition in this area because after the rainy season, at least one third of crops fail. Animal husbandry, trees and grasses, intercropped with vegetables or fruit trees, is the most viable model for arid, drought-prone regions and the region faces frequent droughts. Overgrazing due to high animal populations, wind and water erosion, mining and other industries have resulted in serious land degradation.

"Thar region of Rajasthan is the biggest wool-producing area in India. Chokla, Marwari, Jaisalmeri, Magra, Malpuri, Sonadi, Nali and Pungal breeds of sheep are found in the region. Of the total wool production in India, forty to fifty percent comes from Rajasthan"

The sheep-wool from Rajasthan is considered best for carpet making industry in the world The wool of Chokla breed of sheep is considered of superior quality and the breeding centres have been developed for Karakul and Merino sheep at Suratgarh, Jaitsar and Bikaner. Some important mills for making woolen thread established in desert area are 'Jodhpur Woolen Mill', Jodhpur, 'Rajasthan Woolen Mill', Bikaner and 'India Woolen Mill', Bikaner. Bikaner is the biggest 'Mandi', which means market place of wool in Asia.

Camel festivals and trekking
As a photographer and traveler in India he visited a local family in the Thar Desert and it is during the treks tourists are able to view the fragile and beautiful ecosystem of the Thar Desert. This form of tourism provides income to many operators and camel owners in Jaisalmer as well as employment for many camel trekkers in the desert villages nearby.

People from various parts of the world come to see the Pushkar ka Mela, known as the Pushkar Fair and oases. Thar Desert provides the recreational value in terms of desert festivals organized every year. Rajasthan desert festivals are celebrated with great zest and zeal. This festival is held once a year during winters. Dressed in brilliantly hued costumes, the people of the desert dance and sing haunting ballads of valor, romance and tragedy. The fair has snake charmers, puppeteers, acrobats and folk performers. Camels, of course, play a stellar role in this festival, where the rich and colorful folk culture of Rajasthan can be seen and the camels are an integral part of the desert life and the camel events during the Desert Festival confirm this fact. Special efforts go into dressing the animal for entering the spectacular competition of the best-dressed camel.

Other interesting competitions on the fringes are the moustache and turban tying competitions, which not only demonstrate a glorious tradition but also inspire its preservation. Both the turban and the moustache have been centuries old symbols of honor in Rajasthan. Evenings are meant for the main shows of music and dance. Continuing till late into the night, the number of spectators swells up each night and the grand finale, on the full moon night, takes place by silvery sand dunes.

Read also:  Pushkar ka Mela

Read also:  Pushkar ka Mela

More archive stories

India is a land full of stories. On every street, on every corner and in the many places in India, life is rushing by you as a photographer with millions of stories to be told. In the archive story above, you hopefully had a readable insight in the story that was behind the photo of a night in the Thar Deserts near Jaisalmer. On this website of Kristian Bertel | Photography you can find numerous travel pictures from the photographer. Stories and moments that tell the travel stories of how the photographer captured the specific scene that you see in the picture. The photographer's images have a story behind them, images that all are taken from around India throughout his photo journeys. The archive stories delve into Kristian's personal archive to reveal never-before-seen, including portraits and landscapes beautifully produced snapshots from various travel assignments. The archive is so-far organized into photo stories, this one included, each brought to life by narrative text and full-color photos. Together, these fascinating stories tell a story about the life in India. India, the motherland to many people around the world, a land of unforgetable travel moments. The archive takes viewers on a spectacular visual journey through some of the most stunning photographs to be found in the photographer's archive collection. The photographer culled the images to reflect the many variations on the universal theme of beauty and everyday life in India. By adding these back stories the photographer's work might immensely enhanced the understanding of the photographs.