JOYSALMER !

The Living fort - Sonar Quila, Jaisalmer
Even today, nearly one fourth of the old city's population resides within the fort, making Jaisalmer Fort the world's only living fort.

Trips, unplanned turn out to be much more fun than those planned before. The amount of excitement is always breathtaking as you don’t know what the trip has to offer you. Starting from Bhubaneshwar I found myself in  Jaisalmer (via Kolkata — Lucknow — Delhi — Jodhpur) in less than 48 hours!! Last minute tickets  and super-excitements!

So, here I was in the ‘Golden City’ of India. What I expected to be a complete desert, turned out to be a small and happening city full of grand architectural beauty. Someone told me the present day city was within the boundaries of the ancient ‘Quila’ or fort !!

Jaisalmer Fort in Rajasthan is a unique monument.
The Golden Fort (Sonar Quila) is an imposing sight from miles around and it shines like a golden tiara atop the lofty hill when early morning sunlight and moonlight strike it.

THE FORT
Built in 1156 by the Rajput ruler Jaisala (after which the city is named), this is the fort of the Royalty of Jaisalmer. The fort is also known as Sonar Quila due to the yellow colour of the stone and is an imposing structure as you approach the town from the desert. You can spend hours wandering around inside the fort admiring the wonderful architecture of the numerous buildings.

It is a ‘working fort’ which means that unlike every other fort in India, there are people living and working within its walls. Surprising aah ?!! It takes a minimum of one hour to discover this magnificent  fort. You may lose your way inside the fort,so keep a guide handy if possible. Audio tours are also available and are provided by the fort officials on paying a nominal fee.

The Living fort - Sonar Quila, Jaisalmer
Even today, nearly one fourth of the old city’s population resides within the fort, making Jaisalmer Fort the world’s only living fort.

There are numerous lookouts within the fort that give a great view out across the city and desert.

Jaisalmer as seen from Sonar Quila - Jaisalmer Fort
The fort is host to over 1000 families whose forefathers have been settled there by the Kings (Maharawals of the Bhati clan of Rajputs) some eight Centuries ago and continue to live in the ancestral houses on the original streets and Paras.

Inside the fort you’ll get a flavour of what royalty actually is. The posh lifestyle is evident clearly from the antiques displayed inside. The Guns,’palkis’,thrones and some real heavy gold to look out for !

A view of Jaisalmer from Sonar Quila
A large percentage of these houses also double as hotels, restaurants and antique shops during the tourist season.

 

Antique Guns at Jaisalmer Fort
The Royal Gun collection displayed on the walls of the Jaisalmer Palace inside Sonar Quila
The Royal throne - Jaisalmer Fort
This is the Coronation Throne made out of silver. There is a picture of the current ruler of Jaisalmer, HH Maharajadhiraj Maharawal Brijraj Singh, sitting on the throne during his coronation. He was only 13 at the time. Near to this is a gallery of past rulers.
Pigeons sit on the Jaisalmer Fort
The fort may be the main attraction, but Jaisalmer has much more to offer on its platter.

JAIN TEMPLE
Built between 12-15 century,there are 7 beautifully curved temples built inside the fort walls .

A View of the Jain Temple in Jaisalmer Fort
Within the milieu / ramparts of the fort are beautiful Jain temples, old havelis or mansions, a palace museum, restaurants, hotels and shops. The Jain temples are particularly noteworthy because of their fine carvings, with each temple boasting its own unique design.

PATWON-KI-HAVELI –
A 10 minute walk from the fort, it is a collection of five houses, each one for the son of a wealthy trader who made money, lending to the government. One of the Haveli’s (closest to the street) has been restored and turned into a government museum. Awesome view of the Fort from the Haveli can be experienced.

Entrance to Patwon Ki Haveli, Jaisalmer
Walk around town and you will see many havelis (mansions), some going back centuries, built by rich businessmen. Most continue to be inhabited but are welcoming of visitors. Some of the better known ones are Salimji ki Haveli, Patwon ki Haveli and Nathmalji ki Haveli; these are best accessed by foot or on cycle rickshaws.
A View of Patwon ki Haveli, Jaisalmer
It is tough to distinguish between the historical and the present in the fort – time lies intertwined here.

GADISAR LAKE – 

Is a rainwater lake which supplied water to the city during old times. It is surrounded by temples and tombs of saints.Large number of Catfishes can be seen distinctly in the lake.

Gadisar Lake, Jaisalmer
Gadisar Lake was built by Maharaja Gadsi Singh in 1367 to serve as a water reservoir for the entire fort. Its banks are dotted with temples and shrines; it also attracts migratory birds during the winters. Away from the hustle and bustle of the town, it is a calm oasis where one can spend hours – on the edge of the water or in a boat.

SAM SAND DUNES
The Sam (pronounced ‘some’) Dunes, located 45 kilometers (28 miles) from Jaisalmer, do not live up to the imagery of the Arabian or Saharan deserts, but make for an enjoyable evening out.  Perfect for camping and spending the whole night is the wilderness. Get closer to the traditional Rajasthan with folk dance and music show in the night.

Sam Dunes, Jaisalmer
A one-hour long camel safari starts at the parking lot, but ends within 10 minutes – the rest of the time is to be spent on the dunes enjoying the views of the beautiful sunsets and getting yourself entertained by local artists. You can go for a short visit, or stay at the dozens of camps along the road to Sam.

THE CAMEL SAFARI-

The Camel parking area at the Sam Dunes, Jaisalmer
Camels await tourists at Jaisalmer

10 km outside the main city, I finally crashed in the Thar desert. The experience of a lifetime it was!!  Shades of the setting sun and golden hues of the desert ambiance give a fairy tale look.

Sunset over the Thar Desert, Jaisalmer
The sunset over the desert is a sight to behold! A must see on the trip to Jaisalmer

Sand dunes, the breathtaking view of the setting sun and the camels lined up in the safari, what more can u possibly ask for?!! No pollution, no mega-structures, nothing !! Peace of mind achieved finally.

The ship of the Desert and its Captain! Jaisalmer
The overwhelming 360 degree of dead flat landscape with a straight road seems quite out of the world for a metro dweller.

So In a nutshell, Jaisalmer is the place to be if you are looking for something ‘hatke’. Before exploring other countries I would rather suggest to discover the wonder called ‘India’.

A Desert Safari - Jaisalmer
There are a number of routes one can take for a desert safari and you should haggle and bargain well with the tour operators at the start of the journey.
A Camel ride - Jaisalmer
Joy atop a Camel

You don’t see such architectural marvels everyday, you don’t witness vast stretch of sand dunes and breathtaking sunset everyday.  And the Rajashtani cuisine, all spiced up for your taste buds ! And if u love hand-loom items or art and crafts, look no further !! One day is just enough to cover all of Jaisalmer. So,what are you waiting for?

Get,set,GOOOOO !!!

 

About Mahesh 16 Articles

Mahesh Mayuur is an Associate Consultant at Expicient Inc.(Publicis.Sapient Network). He is a MIT Manipal Alumnus batch of 2014. In his free time he dabbles in photography and traveling.

  • thank u vishaal sir….the place is just awsum…u’ll love it…do have a night halt at Sam’s.and be ready to face the heat…whn i was there,the temp was around 45 and the localites were saying ‘abhi weather kaafi accha hai’ !…the actual tourist season is nov-jan.

    @devasrita ..thanks a lot 🙂

  • Nice narrative and wonderful pictures about Jaisalmer! Have been reading up on this place on various blogs and sites so as to plan a visit to this wonderful city.

    Have visited many of the popular tourist destinations across the country and this will be my next stop!

    Thanks Mahesh for the wonderful pictures and description of the beauty of Jaisalmer!

  • Superb pics as well 🙂