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DESTINATIONS » WEST INDIA » RAJASTHAN » JAISALMER
 
 
 
Rising from the heart of the Thar Desert like a golden mirage is the city of Jaisalmer. This captivating sandy outpost has been called the Golden City because of the honey colour imparted to its stone ramparts. Its desert fort, which resembles a gigantic sand castle, is straight out of The Arabian Nights. Centuries ago, Jaisalmer's strategic position on the camel train routes between India and Central Asia brought it great wealth. The merchants and townspeople built magnificent houses and havelis (mansions), all exquisitely carved from wood and golden sandstone.

The city has an interesting legend associated with it, according to which, Lord Krishna, the head of the Yadav Clan, foretold Arjuna, one of the Pandava brothers of the Mahabharata that a remote descendent of the Yadav Clan would build his kingdom atop the Trikuta Hill. His prophecy was fulfilled in 1156 AD when Rawal Jaisal, a descendent of the Yadav Clan and a Bhatti Rajput, abandoned his fort at Lodurva and founded a new capital Jaisalmer, perched on the Trikuta Hill. Bhatti Rajputs of Jaisalmer were feudal chiefs who lived off the forced levy on the caravans laden with precious silks and spices that crossed the territory en route to Delhi or Sindh. These caravans earned the town great wealth. Chivalric rivalry and ferocity between various Rajput clans was the order of the day and the Bhatti Rajputs of Jaisalmer were regarded as a formidable force throughout the region. While Jaisalmer largely escaped direct conquest by the Muslim rulers of Delhi, it did experience its share of sieges and sacking with the inevitable jauhar (collective sacrifice) being declared in the face of certain defeat. For years Jaisalmer remained untouched by outside influences and there is perhaps no other city in which one can conjure up the spirit of those times.

The rise of shipping trade and the port of Mumbai saw the decline of Jaisalmer. At Independence, Partition and the cutting of the trade routes through to Pakistan seemingly sealed the City's fate and water shortages could have pronounced the death sentence. However, the 1965 and 1971 India-Pakistan wars revealed Jaisalmer's strategic importance and the Indira Gandhi Canal was constructed, which began to restore life to the desert.

Jaisalmer is a great place to simply wander. The Old City was once completely surrounded by an extensive wall, some of it however remains including the city gates and inside them the massive fort that rises above the city and is the essence of Jaisalmer. About a quarter of the old city's population still resides within the fort walls. The life within the citadel conjures up images of medieval majesty visible in its narrow lanes strewn with magnificent palace, havelis, temples and of course skilled artisans and ubiquitous camels. The setting sun turning Jaisalmer into a beautiful golden brown is a spectacular sight.

The perfect time to visit the golden city is during the Desert Festival, held in January/February every year, when the city reverberates to the sound of melodious tunes and rhythms. Folk dances, exciting competitions and contests and camel races enliven the festivities. Colorful craft bazaars are set up and a sound and light spectacle is organized with folk artists performing against the splendid backdrop of the famous sand dunes on the full moon night.
 
     
  Place To See  
 
Jaisalmer Fort, Havelis, Gadi Sagar, Museums, Parks, Lodurva, Khuri, Sam Sand Dunes, Barmer
 
  Things to do  
 
Heritage sightseeing, Desert safari, Folk arts and festivals
 
  How to reach  
  By road and rail.  
     
     
 
DESTINATIONS
 
     
 
  Jaisalmer Fort   Havelis   Gadi Sagar  
             
  Museums   Parks   Khuri  
             
  Sam Sand Dunes   Barmer      
             
             
 
     
 
Jaisalmer Fort
 
 
Destination Jaisalmer Fort
Location Jaisalmer
State Rajasthan
Destination Type  
Activities
Heritage sight seeing
The golden hued fort, built in 1156 by the Rajput ruler Rawal Jaisal and reinforced by subsequent rulers, is a sentinel to the bleak desertscape from its 80m high perch on the Trikuta hill. The fort is entered through a forbidding series of massive gates leading to a large courtyard. The former Maharaja's 7-storey palace fronts onto this. The courtyard was used to review troops, hear petitions and present extravagant entertainment for important visitors. Part of the palace is open to the public. Within the fort walls are a group of beautifully sculptured Jain Temples of the 12th and 15th centuries AD. They are dedicated to the Jain apostles Rikhabdev and Sambhavnath. Its fascinating to wander through the winding labyrinth of streets within the fort as nothing has changed here for centuries.
 
 
 
 
     
 
Havelis
 
 
Destination Havelis
Location Jaisalmer
State Rajasthan
Destination Type  
Activities
Heritage sight seeing
Havelis or mansions are the impressive intricately carved sandstone buildings built by the wealthy merchants of Jaisalmer and several of these fine are in good condition.

The noteworthy :
Patwon ki Haveli, the most elaborate and magnificent of all the Jaisalmer havelis. It has exquisitely carved pillars and extensive corridors and chambers. One of the apartments of this 5-storey high haveli is painted with beautiful murals. There are also remnants of paintings and mirror-work on f its inside walls.

Salim Singh ki Haveli, located just below the hill, was built about 300 years ago and part of it is still occupied. Salim Singh was the prime minister when Jaisalmer was the capital of a princely state. This mansion has a beautifully arched roof with superb carved brackets in the form of peacocks. This extraordinary mansion in yellow stone is covered with intricate carvings and has an elaborate projecting balcony on the top storey.

Nathmal ki Haveli, is a late 19th century haveli and was also a prime minister's house. which were carved by two brothers, are not identical but very similar and balanced in design. The interior walls are ornate with splendid miniature paintings. Yellow sandstone elephants guard the building and even its front door is a work of art.

 
 
 
 
     
 
Gadi Sagar
 
 
Destination Gadi Sagar
Location Jaisalmer
State Rajasthan
Destination Type Heritage Site
Activities
Heritage sight seeing
Located south of the city walls, this tank was once the water supply of the city. There are numerous beautiful temples and shrines around it. A wide variety of water birds flock here in winter. An interesting legend associate with this tank recalls that the attractive gateway, which arches across the toad down to the tank was built by a famous prostitute. When she offered to pay to have this gateway constructed, the Maharaja refused permission on the ground that he would have to pass under it to go to the tank and this would beneath his dignity. While he was away, she built the gateway anyway, adding a Krishna temple on top so the king could not tear it down.
 
 
 
 
     
 
Museums
 
 
Destination Museums
Location Jaisalmer
State Rajasthan
Destination Type Art & Culture
Activities
Visit Museums/ Libraries
There are some interesting museums in the city. The Desert Culture Centre & Museum has textiles, old coins, fossils and traditional Rajasthani instruments among other things. Its aim is to preserve Rajasthan's cultural heritage and conduct research on local history. There is a Jaisalmer Folklore Museum, located on the road leading down to the lake. The Government Museum has a well-captioned collection of fossils, some of which date back to the Jurassic era about 160 to 180 million years ago.
 
 
 
     
 
Parks
 
 
Destination Parks
Location Jaisalmer
State Rajasthan
Destination Type Scenic Nature
Activities
Visit Museums/ Libraries
Bada Bagh - Located about 7km north of Jaisalmer, this is a fertile oasis with a huge old dam. Above the garden are royal chhatris (cenotaphs) with finely carved ceilings and equestrian statues of former rulers. Much of the city's fruits and vegetables are grown here.

Amar Sagar - Located about 7km northwest of the city, this pleasant formal garden is located beside a lake. There is a beautifully carved Jain temple here.

Mool Sagar - Located about 9km west of the city, this is another pleasant garden with a tank. It belongs to the royal family of Jaisalmer and is a perfect picnic spot.

 
 
 
 
     
 
Khuri
 
 
Destination Khuri
Location Jaisalmer
State Rajasthan
Destination Type Native Life
Activities
It is a village located 40km southwest of Jaisalmer, out among the sand dunes. It is a peaceful place with houses of mud and straw decorated like the patterns of Persian carpets.
 
 
 
     
 
Sam Sand Dunes
 
 
Destination Sam Sand Dunes
Location Jaisalmer
State Rajasthan
Destination Type Heritage Site
Activities
Desert Safari
Located about 42km from the city, the village of Sam is Jaisalmer's nearest real Sahara-like desert. The best place to see the sunrise and sunset on the picturesque sand dunes. The ripples on the wind-caressed dunes creating an enchanting mirage are surely a delight. Exciting camel safaris allow you to get the real feel of the desert on the camel back and you can spend a night on these dunes.

Nearby the Sam Village is a Desert National Park dominated by rolling sand dunes and scrub covered hills. The prominent fauna of the park includes black buck , chinkara, desert fox and the great Indian bustard.

 
 
 
 
     
 
Barmer
 
 
Destination Barmer
Location Jaisalmer
State Rajasthan
Destination Type Night Life
Activities
Heritage sight seeing,Shopping,Fairs & festivals
Located about 153km south of Jaisalmer, is a centre for woodcarving, carpets, embroidery, block printing and other handicrafts, and its products are famous throughout Rajasthan. Two annual fairs that are held in the desert town, the Barmer Thar Festival in early March and the Barmer Cattle Fair in March/April.