Jaisalmer, the erstwhile desert kingdom, is situated in a remote westernmost corner of Rajasthan. Despite being tucked away in the Thar Desert, Jaisalmer is amongst the most visited travel destinations in Rajasthan. Maharawal Jaisal, a Bhati Rajput, reached Trikuta Hill while scouting for a place to create his new capital. He got fascinated with this place and established the fort here in 1156. While this fort enclosed a small town, an outer town also got developed around the fort. Jaisalmer is situated on the ancient trading route of Delhi to Sindh and Afghanistan. As a result of it, the rulers benefitted from the traffic of the goods and the merchants made a fortune by selling opium, silk and spices. The riches of merchants are reflected in the artsy mansions they have left behind. One common thread between all the monuments within the fort and outside is the profusion of the sculptural art.
Attractions in Jaisalmer:
This fort is often referred as ‘The Golden Fort’ because it is entirely made of yellow-coloured sandstone. Straddling atop 80 m high ‘Trikuta Hill’, this fort appears to be rising like a mirage out of the sands of the desert. The ramparts of this fort are surrounded by a continuous wall of solid stone blocks forming a double line of defence. This fort is home to hundreds of people even today. Its streets are lined with tiny houses with ornamental facades and shops selling knick-knacks. Walking along these streets, it is easy to imagine how people would have been living here during the medieval period. Walking up to one of the bastions is bound to present you with sweeping views of the city and the surrounding countryside. There are a few cafes and restaurants situated along the ramparts. Read More
Fort Palace Museum and Heritage Centre
This seven-storeyed palace complex, as compared to the other popular palaces, is unpretentious except for its ornamental façade. This palace complex comprises of several interconnected palaces built over a long period of time (16th to 19th centuries). While Rang Mahal is adorned with murals and mirror decoration, Sarvottam Vilas features blue tiles and glass mosaics. Gaj Vilas, standing on the high plinth, and Moti Mahal, with its floral decoration and carved doors, are also remarkable. The square outside the palace museum is Dussehra Chowk which was the place for royal performances.
There are seven Jain temples within the fort; they are popular for their rich carvings. These yellow and white marble shrines were built around 15th century by the wealthy traders of the kingdom. The temple dedicated to Lord Parshwanatha has a beautiful arched ‘Toran’ (entrance gate), ornate porch and 52 subsidiary shrines surrounding the main structure. The temple dedicated to Lord Rishabhdeva is also wonderfully decorated.
Nathmal ki Haveli
This haveli (mansion) belonged to the Prime Minister of the erstwhile kingdom. The unique thing about this building is that it was built by two brothers who worked separately on different sides. Each of them created a half of the building and the resulting structure is so symmetrical that it is hard to tell the subtle differences. Nevertheless, it is a piece of art not to be missed. It has a beautiful façade and the entrance is guarded by two stone elephants. Visitors are generally restricted to the ground floor but buying some souvenirs can get you access of the first floor.
Patwon ki Haveli
Patwon-ki-Haveli is the most popular of all the havelis in Jaisalmer. It is, in fact, a fusion of five havelis built by the Patwa merchants. It is said that there were five brothers in the family, owning one haveli each. The exterior of the haveli is a real celebration of sculptural art. There are good views of the town from the roof-top terrace. Inside the haveli, the old (but glamorous) furniture, paraphernalia and antiques are on display. Also don’t miss to check out the gold ceiling of a room.
Salim Singh ki Haveli
This haveli is notable for its distinctive and decorative upper portion. The upper storey has an elaborate projecting balcony supported by carved brackets. Owing to the unique shape of this upper storey, this mansion has received a moniker: ‘The Ship Palace’. This 18th-century mansion belonged to a tyrannical prime minister called Salim Singh.
This unique structure has canopies placed in a pyramidal design and is on the top of ‘Mandir Palace’. This palace is home to the current royals and a portion of it is a heritage hotel. Tazia Tower is visible from several places in the town.
Gadisar (or Gadi Sagar) Tank
This water reservoir is situated south-east of the walled city and used to be an important source of drinking water in the past. You can reach the waters by passing through a beautiful archway called ‘Tilon-ki-Pol’. There are several shrines on the bank, and the presence of steps around the water will give you a feeling of the ghats of Varanasi. Many locals come here to do boating. Going further from the central area will offer you solitude which is hard to come by in the walled city.
The Folklore Museum is situated near the main gate of Gadisar Tank. Also known as ‘Sanskritik Sangrahalaya’, it was established in 1984 by N.K. Sharma. It displays textiles, jewellery, artefacts and paraphernalia representing folk and cultural lifestyle.
Places to Visit Around Jaisalmer
You can stop here on your way to Sam Sand Dunes to witness the remains of a town abandoned in 1825. This village was inhabited by the Paliwal Brahmin community; they had settled here in the thirteenth century. The tyrannical prime minister, Salim Singh, of Jaisalmer, had set his eyes on a Paliwal girl of this village. The Paliwals were not ready to marry this young girl to this cruel minister. So, one night they decided to abruptly abandon the village en masse. They got dispersed in different directions with a resolve to never return. The village they left behind never got inhabited again and today its dilapidated colonies are mere clusters of walls. These type of ancient settlements are most vulnerable to get figured as ‘ghost villages’ in folklore and Kuldhara is no exception. Read More
Sam Sand Dunes
This stretch of sand dunes is situated near the village called ‘Sam’ which is about 40 km from Jaisalmer. The dunes are quite huge and it is fun to do a camel ride on the dunes. You can opt for a sunset camel ride wherein you’ll be put in the middle of the stretch where you can gaze at the sun setting in the desert. These sand dunes are very popular in India; so, expect scores of travellers around you, and you’ll also have to evade the persistent touts. Walking a bit away from the thick of the things would ensure that you soak in the atmosphere undisturbed. Read More
Bada Bagh is about 7 km away from the town. It has a collection of cenotaphs built in the memory of the deceased rulers. Made of yellow sandstone these cenotaphs merge well with the dry landscape. These cenotaphs have ornate carvings and carved images of former rulers.
Lodurva, 15 km from town, used to be the capital of Bhati rulers before Jaisalmer. Only a few Jain temples have managed to survive from all that was there in past. Hence, Lodurva has become an important pilgrim centre for Jains. The main temple is dedicated to Lord Parshwanath, it has ornate archway and splendidly carved exterior.
A short drive (5-6 km) from Jaisalmer can bring you to this small and peaceful village. There is a large artificial lake which is generally dry. On the bank of the lake, there used to be a formal garden and the pleasure palace of Amar Singh. The beautifully carved Jain temples are worth checking out. Amar Sagar lies on the way to Lodurva.
This is another destination with sand dunes in the proximity of Jaisalmer. Though less popular than Sam, Khuri has its patrons who come here for a retreat in the desert. A lot of tents, huts and guesthouses have mushroomed around the dunes. Along with the sand dunes, Khuri also offers a glimpse of the life in a desert village.