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Location: Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujrat
Area: 446,000 square kilometres
Features: Rolling Sand Hills, Scant Rainfall

Thar Desert, India Travel Guide, States, Rajasthan, Thar DesertThe Great Indian Desert
Thar Desert, the huge unending expanse of burning hot sand is spread over four states in India, namely Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, and Gujarat, and two states in Pakistan covering an area of about 446,000 square kilometres. Deriving its name from 'thul' denoting the sand ridges of the region, Thar stands divided between Sindh region in Pakistan and Rajasthan in India.

A tract of rolling sand hills, the Thar Desert is bordered by the irrigated Indus plains to the west, the Aravalli Range to the southeast, the Rann of Kachchh to the south, and the Punjab plain to the north and northeast. Yielding salt and gypsum, the desert is formed due to the scant rainfall received by the region as a result of the dryness of the prevailing monsoon winds.

Receiving an annual average rainfall of less than 10 inches, the desert is a largely a sun-scorched region of shifting sand dunes, broken rocks, and scrub vegetation. The sparsely populated region has a pastoral economy. In May 1974, India exploded its first nuclear device at Pokhran in the deserts of Rajasthan. The Legend
It is believed that aeons ago, Shri Ram drew an arrow in his bow, targetting Lanka, the island capital where his wife was held captive by the demon king, Ravana. However, such were its destructive powers that the gods pleaded with the Lord to desist from his intended purpose. But the arrow once drawn could not be pulled back and thus Rama pointed the arrow to a far-flung sea. The heat generated by the arrow dried the sea and and in its place arose a dry, arid and hot desert.

Archaeological Evidence
Rajasthani woman, India Travel Guide, States, Rajasthan, Thar DesertThe many excavations of the fossils in the desert have led to the belief that the area was teeming with marine life once upon a time. It is believed that centuries ago, the earliest inhabitants who were a part of an urban civilization that arose 4500 years ago, belonged to this region. Recent excavations of the Indus Valley Civilization reveal that the settlements penetrated deep into the heart of the desert. Archaeologists have found a remarkable resemblance between the citadels and the manner of building along narrow lanes that dissect each other at right angles and more recent settlements.

The Origin
The ancient desert is believed to have been a witness to one of the earliest human civilizations. The origin of this desert is a matter of much controversy. Some consider it to be only 4000 to 10,000 years old. Many others believe that the region started becoming arid much earlier.

Providing nutritive and delectable pasturage, grasses form the main natural vegetation of the Thar desert. These also have medicinal value and hence alkaloids, used for making medicine, and oils for making soap, are also extracted therefrom. There is a great paucity of water and hence, the thar desert vegetation is mostly herbaceous; with the trees very rarely dotting the landscape. On the hills, Gum Arabic Acacia and Euphorbia may be found. The Khajri (Prosopis Cineraria) tree grows throughout the plains. Water is very scarce.

Women folk, India Travel Guide, States, Rajasthan, Thar DesertThe area receives very scant rainfall, with the average annual rainfall varying from 100 to 500 mm. With around 90% of the rainfall attributable to southwest monsoon during the months of July and September, there are wide fluctuations in the amount of rainfall from year to year. May and June are the hottest months of the year while January is the coldest month. The mean average temperature varies from a minimum of 24 to 26 degrees C in summer to 4 to 10 degrees C in winter. Dust storms and dust raising winds blowing at very high velocity are very rampant.

The Wild In The Arid Land
Stretches of sand in the desert are interspersed by hillocks and sandy and gravel plains. About 23 species of lizards and 25 species of snakes are found here and several of them are endemic to the region. The thinly populated grasslands support the endangered Great Indian Bustard, the Black Buck, the Chikara (gazelle), and some feathered game, notably the Francolin and Quail. Among the migratory birds, Sand Grouse, Ducks and Geese are common.


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