Research Paper

The Thar Desert and its Travelers

Authors: Manisha Choudhary

Year: 2024, Volume: 15, Page/Article: 43-54, DOI:

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The desert of Thar is popular as Great Indian Desert. This is the most populated desert of the world. The hot and dry environment of this desert has never acted as a hostile feature for the travelers and the dynasties. This desert has been attraction for many royal dynasties to come up in this intense desert and set up kingdoms. The desert has served as a natural border for these kingdoms. The desert is devoid of the water sources so the economic orientation was not at all agricultural. The main source of the income for all the dynasties of Thar desert was the tax levied on the routes (rahdari). This desert had a dense network of the trade routes which were used by the travelers, traders, pilgrims and even the raiders. Being on the routes most of the times all the travelers were depending on the local communities for crossing this desert safely. This requirement made them to connect more well with the routes and all the day to day necessities that emerged on the routes led to the building of many structures for the help of the travelers. The routes were thickly populated with the traders and nomads who participated in the business. The most fascinating community who travelled through these desert roads was of the banjaras. The banjaras were the traders and they acted as the transporters to the armies as well. While travelling through routes they made many other day to day exchanges also and formed part of the popular imagination of the desert. Many spiritual journeys and the cultural encounters and cultural exchanges happened in the Indian subcontinent due to their travelling. Even now the traces of the same are visible. The presence of these nomads on the routes and the inability of the John Company to surveillance them has pushed the colonial masters to draft and execute ‘The Criminal Tribes Act 1871’. This paper would like to bring forward the dimensions of the Indian medieval trade in Thar desert and further effort will be made to understand the elimination of the trade routes which were routes of cultural exchange and economic development during the medieval times.