Jaisalmer: Where the forts are still alive
If geology interests you, then Jaisalmer is where you need to journey. The Wood Fossil Park or Aakal is located about 15 kilometres away from the city. Here, one can discover and trace geologic tragedies that occurred in the Thar Desert 180 million years ago. The city of Jaisalmer also acts as the guard to western Rajasthan (and India’s) frontier. This ‘Golden City’ is located close to the Pakistan border and in close proximity to the Thar Desert. The city’s most prominent landmark is the Jaisalmer Fort, also called Sonar Qila (Golden Fort). Unlike most other forts in India, Jaisalmer Fort is not just a tourist attraction. It houses shops, hotels and ancient havelis (homes) where generations continue to live.
Jaisalmer traces its inception to the 12th century. History tells us of Rawal Jaisal, the eldest heir of the Rawal of Deoraj, was passed over for the throne of Lodurva and a younger half-brother was crowned king. Rawal Jaisal went looking for a new location to set up his capital when he came across sage Eesul. The sage told him about Krishna’s prophecy which said that a descendant of his Yaduvanshi clan would found a new kingdom at this same spot. It was in 1156 that Rawal Jaisal constructed a mud fort, named it Jaisalmer after himself and declared it his capital.
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Come explore the wonders and sites that Jaisalmer has to offer.
The Jaisalmer Fort also goes by the name Sonar Quila (Golden Fort) as it rises from the desert itself and seems to become one with the golden hues of the sand. The setting sun adds its own magic and shrouds the fort with mystique. The fort is constructed in the classic style of the royals by local craftsmen. This fort is a world heritage site and forms an important plot point in one of Satyajit Ray’s famous Feluda stories and corresponding movie, Sonar Kela (The Golden Fortress).
Two architect brothers built Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli in the 19th century. They worked on the haveli from two sides and the outcome is a beautiful blend of the symmetrical construction. Miniature style paintings and mighty tuskers carved out of yellow sandstone are used for decoration.
This haveli was built in the first half of the 18th century and a part of it is still occupied by descendants of the original residents. The high arched roof is supported by carved brackets designed in the shape of peacocks. Legend has it that there were two additional wooden storeys that made it match the Maharaja’s palace in height, but he ordered for the upper level to be demolished.
The five-storeyed majesty of the Badal Mahal (Cloud Palace) is further enhanced by its pagoda-like Tazia Tower. Each floor of the palace has an intricately carved balcony. The Badal Palace owes its beauty to the skills of Muslim craftsmen who moulded the tower in the shape of a Tazia (a float that’s part of the procession of Muharram).
About 6 kilometres to the north of Jaisalmer lies Bada Bagh, also called Barabagh (literally Big Garden). This garden complex houses chhatris or royal cenotaphs of the Maharajas of Jaisalmer state, including that of Jai Singh II. The location of the garden is such that it offers wonderful sunset vistas to tourists.
The Desert National Park displays the best of the Thar desert’s ecosystem and its varied wildlife. The Park is formed of undulating sand dunes, jagged rocks, dense salt lake bottoms and inter-medial areas. Various species of animals such as black buck, chinkara and desert fox inhabit the Park. The highly endangered Great Indian Bustard, one of the world’s heaviest flying birds, can also be seen here. In winter, the park hosts an incredible variety of migratory raptors such Himalayan and Eurasian Griffon Vultures, Eastern Imperial Eagle, and the Saker Falcon.
84 medieval villages were abandoned by the Paliwal Brahmins overnight. The two most prominent of them are Kuldhara and Khabha, located about 18 and 30 kilometres respectively from the southwest of Jaisalmer. The ruins of Kuldhara and Khabha are fine examples of architectural excellence of that era and are a treat for shutterbugs. Several stories abound, but nobody is really sure why the mass exodus took place. Villagers believe the place is cursed and hesitate to venture inside.
Be a part of the festivities and traditions that Jaisalmer has to offer.
Organised by the Department of Tourism around January-February, the Desert Festival is the best place to enjoy rich and colourful Rajasthani folk culture. The high points of the festival are puppeteers, acrobats, camel races, camel polo, folk dances, etc.
Engage in the many activities, tours and adventures that await you in Jaisalmer.
Get off the beaten track and see Rajasthan in the best way possible – via the ship of the desert, the camel. There are plenty of reliable safari tour operators to choose from. You can take a one-day tour or choose to stay overnight in villages. Meals and mineral water is available on most rides.