Rajasthan is often imagined as a place of dunes shimmering in the sun, lizards scuttling across the sand, or camels chewing the cud under thorny acacia trees. All of this is true, but the largest state in India also has hills blanketed with green, wetlands crowded with birds, and riverine ecosystems where crocodiles and turtles swim free. Looking at water sources and landscapes gives one an insight into the various habitats of a place. They are what determine the kind of flora and fauna that exist. In the case of Rajasthan, the Aravalli Hills play a significant role in shaping the state’s ecosystems.
The Aravallis are an ancient mountain range older than the Himalayas and the Western Ghats. They extend from Delhi in the north to Gujarat in the south, running diagonally across Rajasthan, cleaving the state.
To the west of the Aravallis, the Thar Desert extends well into Pakistan. The Thar is the driest part of Rajasthan, famous for tourist destinations like Jaisalmer city and Desert National Park. To the east of the Aravallis, where water is more plentiful, lie the Chambal, Banas, and Mahi basins, fed by their namesake rivers. Scenic Ranthambore National Park, home to tigers, leopards, sambar, chital, chinkara, nilgai and many other species, is in this area. Also in eastern Rajasthan is the magnificent Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur district. Formerly a duck-hunting reserve for royalty, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site that attracts more than 360 avian species, including majestic sarus cranes — the tallest flying birds in the world.
The Aravalli ecosystem is part arid and rocky, part grassy hillsides, and around Mt Abu, Rajasthan’s only hill station, relatively green. Together, these habitats create a mosaic of landscapes rich in biodiversity.