The Thar Desert or Great Indian Desert, in NW India, occupies half of the state of Rajasthan.
Prior to the 18th Century, spice and silk trade using camel-caravans from the West, enriched the Mughal empire & the fortified city of Jaisalmer in westen Rajasthan.
However, that all changed when trading moved to shipping and seaports like Bombay.
Semi-nomadic people like the Raika (Rabari) are traditionally farmers and cattle-herders living on the fringes of the desert. Camel-breeders mainly, but also now goats and sheep. Camels are used for milk, meat, leather and camel dung is used for fire fuel. Some camels are now employed for tourist ‘desert safaris’. Camels are used less for desert transport now and camel numbers are reducing.
With climate change, agriculture has become less sustaining and many farmers have migrated to the cities for work.
In the past 20-30 years, rainfall has halved and become more erratic. The water table is much lower and famines have become more frequent. The rainy seasons have become much shorter.
Many tribal groups co-exist in Rajasthan, including those who live in or around the the Thar Desert.
Some peoples, like the Kalbeliya & Bhopa were renowned as dancers, musicians and snake-charmers. Once, they enjoyed the patronage of the Maharaja courts. Now, they are reduced to selling jewellery and handcrafts and performing for tourists, both Indian and foreign.
Tourism is now the main industry in Rajasthan.
However, Rajasthani folk music is now enjoying some revival and recognition.
The Bishnoi sect are known for their conservationist beliefs. They live by the 29 (bish-noi) principles set down by their 15th Century guru, which include protection all life forms, banning the killing of animals and the cutting down of trees.
Famously, in 1730, 363 Bishnois led by women, sacrificed themselves protecting trees from being felled by the Maharaja’s men.
Bishnoi men wear only white. Women are colourfully dressed.
For more images of Rajasthan and India – please visit my Flickr page.