Jaisalmer : The Jewel of Thar Desert
Hello my dear friends, hope you are doing fine. This time I am in Rajasthan, Jaisalmer to be precise. Jaisalmer, (the hill fort of Jaisal) also called the Golden City is a princely state and a former medieval trading centre. It is a major tourist attraction of India and named after Maharawal Jaisal Singh, a Rajput king who founded this city in 1156 AD. It is a gateway to the Thar Desert (world’s second largest desert) and is close to the border of Pakistan. It is located in the western Indian state of Rajasthan.
The adventure and excitement of the desert with a majestic fort atop a hillock overlooking honey combed houses literally transported me to the olden times – a reminder of a glorious bygone era.
Jaisalmer Fort is the second oldest fort in Rajasthan. It is also called the Sonar Quila or Golden Fort since this is made up of yellow sandstone and changes to a golden shade as the sun sets. It stands in the Thar desert on top of a hillock called Trikuta Hill.
In 2013, the Jaisalmer Fort along with five other forts of Rajasthan was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the group Hill Forts of Rajasthan.
Jaisalmer is well connected with the rest of India by air, road and rail. Online bookings for your travels and accommodation are available.
Markets in the Fort
Jaisalmer Fort is a living fort; home to around three thousand people residing within the walls. The narrow lanes here have temples, cafés, shops, guesthouses, stalls and restaurants on both the sides. This place resembles a small village.
Shops selling souvenirs
Stalls in the market
Havelis of Jaisalmer
To begin with, a haveli is a traditional mansion, usually with historical and architectural significance. There are some beautiful havelis in and around Jaisalmer Fort. They are a symbol of beautiful architecture as well as prosperity. These are made up of yellow sandstone and have beautiful carvings. These were built by rich traders and merchants since Jaisalmer used to be a major trading centre in the medieval times as mentioned earlier. The most popular ones are Patwon ki Haveli, Nathmal ki Haveli and Salim Singh ki Haveli.
Patwon ki Haveli
This is one of the most important havelis of Jaisalmer. It is not only the first haveli to be built in Jaisalmer, but it is in fact a cluster of five small havelis. Also, it is the biggest haveli in Jaisalmer. The owner of this haveli, Patwa used to be a rich trader. This mansion was completed in a span of fifty years. It has beautiful gateways and arches. The walls of this haveli have lovely paintings and mirror work. It is also called the Mansion of Brocade Merchants. A part of this haveli has been converted to a museum where paintings and artefacts of the bygone era are displayed. There are a number of windows, a courtyard and over 60 balconies over here. Today it stands in a narrow lane and comes under the Archaeological Survey of India.
Nathmal ki Haveli
This haveli was commissioned to serve as the residence of the then Prime Minister of Jhaisalmer, Diwan Mohata Nathmal. It was built by two Muslim brothers, Hathi and Lulu. Although the two brothers built their sections independently, yet there is remarkable harmony. We find some stunning carvings on the exterior. It is a culmination of Islamic and Rajputana architecture. It has a lovely interior too decorated with miniature paintings. In fact this is supposed to be the most beautiful haveli of Jaisalmer. At the entrance of this haveli are two elephants made up of yellow stone – looks like they are guarding this mansion. Also, there are beautiful carved pillars and walls which consist of carved horses, cattle, flowers etc. It is about 500 years old.
Salim Singh ki Haveli
This haveli was built in the year 1815 by Salim Singh. It is an architectural marvel with over 35 balconies. Surprisingly, water or cement weren’t used in the construction of this mansion. Instead huge slabs of sandstone were joined together with iron rods to build this structure.The roof of this haveli resembles a dancing peacock. It has exquisite stone carvings and is a symbol of luxury. Quite like the other havelis, this too has elephants at the entrance guarding this mansion. It was occupied by the Mehta family, the most powerful family in those days. Later it was commissioned by Salim Singh, the then Prime Minister of Jaisalmer. It is one of the most visited havelis of Jaisalmer. It is also called Jahazmahal.
This is an artificial lake in the city of Jaisalmer constructed by Raja Rawal Jaisal, the first ruler of Jaisalmer. Later it was reconstructed in 1347 AD by Maharawal Gaddi Singh. This lake used to be the only source of water in the city of Jaisalmer. In the present time, the lake never dries up since it gets water from the Indira Gandhi Canal. It is surrounded by temples, ghats and shrines. Boating facility is also available here.
This is a fine example of a piece of beautiful Rajasthani architecture dedicated to sage Vyas, the writer of the epic Mahabharata.
They are the folk musicians of Rajasthan called Manganiars who are supposed to be descendants of the Rajputs. They sing songs about local Rajas, past battles and these are passed down from generation to generation.
People of Jaisalmer
The people of Jaisalmer are warm hearted and very friendly. They lead a simple, yet contented life. They wear brightly coloured traditional clothes along with silver and brass jewellery.
Our stay in Jaisalmer
We are putting up in the RTDC or Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation accommodation in Jaisalmer. It is a comfortable stay.
In the evening we went for this cultural folk dance (Kalbeliyas) programme. It is performed by the tribe of the same name.
Beauty of Jaisalmer
The mysterious desert; the camel rides; a golden fort rising from the centre of the sand dunes; vibrant markets selling souvenirs of all types; the beauty of the havelis displaying skilled craftwork, art & sculpture; the riot of colours in their costumes & turbans coupled with their unique beautiful jewellery; the sunsets & sunrises in the Thar Desert are truly the magical moments of Jaisalmer, the desert town of Rajasthan. I shall definitely not be exaggerating if I say that I am being transported to a fairyland. Jaisalmer is surely the jewel of the Thar Desert. Next week let us go on a Camel Safari in the heart of Thar Desert. So, until we meet again, stay safe and see you soon.