In India, we have seen so many species of animals on the streets of our cities in our childhood. Bulls, buffaloes, horses, goats, sheep, cats, camels, cows, dogs, monkeys, swine and even elephants and bears too (yes!! believe it or not..elephants and bears too) but even now whenever we see camel on the roads, the first name that comes into our mind is Rajasthan especially the Desert of Thar. To witness the beauty of the desert and to feel again the grandeur of the princely state of India, we planned a trip to Rajasthan in last December.
I must admit that I’ve fallen in love with Rajasthan. It was my third trip to this magnificent state and I’m pretty sure to have many more in the future. You can always feel the tryst between me and the Rajasthan in my previous posts like The in-laws Place of a Daemon King, The City of Azure Abodes, Mehrangarh: Citadel of Sun, Our Food Journey in Blue City During our latest excursion, we planned to explore the far eastern part of the state, especially the famous Thar Desert, which is the ninth-largest subtropical desert of the world, so we began our journey from Jaisalmer.
Jaisalmer is the third largest district of India only after Kuchh in Gujrat and Leh in the union territory of Ladakh and followed by Bikaner, Barmer and Jodhpur, all in Rajasthan itself. The international border with Pakistan attached to Jaisalmer district is 464 km long.
We reached Jaisalmer by train in the early morning where we were received by our host for desert safari, Trotters Tours and Travels. You can read more to enjoy our beautiful experience of desert safari here: An Unforgettable Night in Thar.
On the next day, after returning from Sam Sand Dune, we visited the famous Jaisalmer Fort. Jaisalmer means the ‘Hill Fort of Jaisal’. The fort is more than 800 years old and one among the very few living forts of the world. The fort was built by a Bhati Rajput, Maha Rawal Jaisal, in 1156 CE and it took 7 years to complete. The fort stands amidst the sandy vistas of the great Thar Desert on Trikuta Hill. The massive walls of the fort are made up of yellow sandstone and having tawny colour during the day which fades to honey-gold as the sun sets, thereby camouflaging the fort in the yellow desert. That is why it is also known as the ‘Sonar Quila’ or Golden Fort. In 1974, the great Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray (An honorary Academy Award winner in 1992) directed the film ‘Sonar Kella’ (The Golden Fortress) in this fort, which was an adaption of his own book bearing the same title.
More than four thousand people still live in the fort since it is a living fort, you will find many hotels, restaurants, tea and juice stalls, shops selling souvenirs, T-shirts, decorative artefacts, etc. Among many historical palaces and temples, noteworthy monuments inside the fort include Royal palaces, Baa-ri-Haveli, Fort Palace museum and heritage centre, Lakshmi Narain Temple, Ratneshwar Mahadev Temple, Surya Temple and a group of Jain Temples.
There are separate entry tickets for different monuments as entry ticket for Baa-ri-Haveli costs Rs. 50/- per person whereas that of Fort Palace museum is Rs. 100/- and Rs. 150/- as camera fee while for Jain Temples, it is Rs. 200/- for foreigners including camera fee whereas for Indians entry is free but as camera fee one has to pay Rs. 50/-. It is advisable to take a well-experienced guide for the Fort Palace museum and heritage centre. We had a very bad experience in this regard by choosing the wrong guide who didn’t know anything about the place. Although the museum showcasing arms, dresses, utensils, & ornaments of the Rajput kingdom is absolutely fascinating.
To read more about the history and architecture of the fort, click here.
A short walk of about 1 km from the Jaisalmer fort will land you on the banks of Gadhisar Lake, which was once the lifeline of the entire population of Jaisalmer. The inhabitants of the fort were mainly dependent on this lake for water for all their daily needs. A beautiful yellow sandstone carved gate is located on the banks of the lake. This lake has become a popular hangout for tourists and locals alike. People gather here in number and enjoy boating, puppet show, street food or just sit and relax in the evening.
Jaisalmer was the main stoppage at the crossroads of important trade routes including the ancient Silk route. Also, the great desert starts from here, so it had emerged as an important city en-route. The rich traders pay taxes to the kings of this state, refill their ration, took rest and spend time here. Eventually, Jaisalmer had become a rich state and that is evident from various Havelis of the Jaisalmer. There are three main Havelis namely Salam Singh ki Haveli, Nathmal ki Haveli and Patwa ki Haveli of which the last one is the most exquisite and grand. For my non-Indian readers, Haveli is a traditional townhouse or mansion in the Indian subcontinent, usually one with historical and architectural significance.
The Havelis of Jaisalmer are very delicately carved. They are the finest example of Rajasthani architecture which is simply awe-inspiring and marvelous. They will leave you amazed with their detailed carvings on sandstone, superfine murals, lavish style and grandeur. Just imagine their glory at their peak. You will certainly have goosebumps while admiring the craftsmanship as they had been built by artists rather than architects and laborers. Salam Singh ki Haveli is very near to the fort whereas the other two are within 1 km from the fort.
Another very beautiful and grand Haveli is known as Nathmal ki Haveli. It was built in 1885 CE by Maha Rawal Bairisal as a gift for his prime minister Deewan Nathmal. A pair of carved elephants made up of marble on either side of entrance signifies the position and status of Deewan Nathmal. The Haveli is an excellent showcase of sculpture and carving excellence. It is adorned with exquisite stone carvings, ornate balconies, canopies that represent the craftsmanship in its purest form. The heirs of Deewan Nathmal still live in Haveli. There is no entry fee as the entry to the Haveli beyond the courtyard is restricted.
Patwa ki Haveli.. Oh My… It is absolutely mind-blowing, most impressive and mesmerizingly beautiful. It was a very challenging task for me to choose 10-12 pictures to display here in the post from a heap of 240-250 pictures which I clicked. Some times I think that how difficult it would have been creating such masterpieces without any modern equipment 200 years ago or even 1000 years ago as we see in the temples of Khajuraho.
Patwa ki Haveli was built by Guman Chand Patwa for his 5 sons, which is a cluster of 5 Havelis of which the first one is the biggest and the most ostentatious. Those were the first Havelis erected in Jaisalmer in 1805 and it took 60 long years to get completed. There is a good amount of paintings and mirror-works on the wall. The mural work is designed very uniquely. The other important aspects are its gateways and arches. There is an entry ticket too. These Havelis are situated in a narrow alley, you can walk up to there or take a rickshaw/auto-rickshaw. There is an entry ticket of Rs 100/- per person.
Jaisalmer has a lot more to offer. I feel that it would be unfair if I don’t give an equal mention to other places of interest or monuments. Despite my best efforts to keep this post short and concise, this is going to be very lengthy. So enjoy and feel this till you jump to my next post by clicking here..