Rajasaurus, meaning “Kingly lizard,” is a genus of abelisaurian theropod dinosaur that lived on the land masses associated with the super-continent Gondwanaland. The first fossils were discovered by Suresh Srivastava from the Geological Survey of India (GSI) between 1982 and 1984. Excavated from the Narmada River valley in Rahioli in the Kheda district of Gujarat, India, the find was announced as a new genus of dinosaur by both American and Indian scientists in August 2003.
The type species, R. narmadensis, which means “princely lizard from the Narmada Valley.” Other Rajasaurus specimens have been discovered in the upriver region of the Narmada, at Jabalpur, in the state of Madhya Pradesh.
The Rajasaurus saga actually began a year earlier in 1981, when two geologists for the GSI were on a mapping mission when quarry workers at ACC Cement quarry in Rahioli showed them smooth ball-like limestone structures from the quarry that later turned out to be dinosaurian eggs. The geologists also found that the limestone bed containing the eggs was underlain by a layer of sandstone with abundant dinosaur fossil bones.
The Narmada River fossils were further studied by Srivastava, Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago, and Jeff Wilson of the University of Michigan beginning in 2001. They started the reconstruction of the collection of bones gathered by Srivastava between 1982 and 1984. After a detailed study of maps prepared earlier by Srivastava, the team was able to reconstruct the partial skull, left and right hip bones, and a sacrum.
While Rajasaurus was first discovered in 1982 and formally described in 2003, there is evidence that a 1923 discovery of some fossil bones could belong to this genus. Described as Lametasaurus indicus in that year by Charles Matley, it was later determined to be a chimera, and was suggested by Wilson and others that the fossilized remains were that of the Rajasaurus.
The discovery of Rajasaurus could lead to additional information on the evolutionary relationships of abelisaurs, since previously described specimens from India were mainly isolated bones.
Rajasaurus closely resembles Majungasaurus, an abelisaurid dinosaur from Madagascar, an island that had separated from the Indian landmass about 20 million years earlier.
Rajasaurus is known and identified from a partial skull, hip bones, part of the hind legs, backbone and tail. The type specimen is about 25 to 29.5 feet long, 8 feet tall, and weighed about 3 to 4 tons. It had a short skull, measuring 23.6 inches long, and bore a distinctive low rounded horn.
A restored skull of Rajasaurus is prominently displayed in the Indian Museum at Kolkata. Princess Aliya Babi (of the royal family of Balasinore) became a dinosaur enthusiast after closely monitoring the efforts by the GSI to unearth fossils at Rahioli. She made efforts to promote dinosaur tourism to Rahioli in order to showcase its millions of years of dinosaur lineage. She also set up a small museum at her hotel.