Saturday, March 7, 2009


Jaisalmer is ‘blue-blood’ of the desertland - Rajasthan. And without flipping the pages of the Government records, we can stick to the statement for here is the true Thar city replete with a 250 ft yellowed Fort guarding a city where sand dunes roll to the plaintive strain of Rudaalis (a Rajasthani mourner) and the slush of embroidered skirts as women frolic about amidst mighty havelis (mansions).

Tale of the City

The princely city was once a busy sea-port during the British era. But with Bombay shooting into limelight, replaced the traditional land routes. And finally the partition of India in 1947 spelled ‘the end’ for this desertland with the closing of all the trade routes on the Indo-Pak border and Jaisalmer turned into a drought-prone forgotten desert backwater on the international border. This continued till the Tourism industry turned their flashlights to its treasure trove of forts and palaces and the rest is history.


Jaisalmer Fort: This 12th century Fort, standing tall and aloof almost 30m above the city on Trikuta Hill, emanates a golden-yellow halo, further accentuated by the 30 ft high sandstone walls and 99 turrets. The Ganesh Pol, Suraj Pol, Bhoot Pol, Hawa Pol are its many entrances. Antiquity apart, what makes it a fort with a difference, a site that inspired famed Indian director Satyajit Ray for the novel-turned-movie Sonar Kella (the Golden Fortress), is an alive city pulsating in its interiors along Jain temples, shops, Jaisalmer’s oldest seven story palace (Raj Mahal), and what not. The lanes inside are twisting and at times so narrow that it can be blocked by a single cow. Amongst the Jain temples, the best ones, Rishabnath and Sambhavnath, are open to non-Jains between 7am and noon. Head for the Toap Khana (Place of Cannon) and from there let your eyes sashay the entire locality. If you hear bhajans (Hindu spiritual songs) loud and clear, then that must be from the Laxminath Temple nearby. A visit there too is recommended.

Havelis: Incase you are wondering what is this hung-ho about havelis, they are basically ethnic, ornate sandstone mansions of the Jaisalmer wealthy merchants with spacious courtyards, relief carvings, filigreed windows, and lacelike screens and jarokhas (small projecting balconies). The Jaisalmer Fort encloses a handful of havelis, but the best ones are there dotted down in the town. The most infatuating ones are the Patwon ki Haveli (five-story, largest of all), Salim Singh ki Haveli (with a beautifully arched roof capped with blue cupolas and carved brackets in the form of peacocks), and Nathmalji ki Haveli (ornate with interesting carvings). Some of the havelis are as old as 300 years and one will be but awed to witness the freshness they still exude.

Gadi Sagar Tank: South of the city walls is this once water source of the entire town. The legion of temples and shrines around this water-hole and the multi-colored avian invaders that make a foray every winter, make this place a fine rejuvenatory. The beautiful arched gateway to the tank is believed to have been built by a prostitute who also added a Krishna temple so that the then king could not tear it down.

Museums: The Jaisalmer Folklore Museum is a private Museum that boasts of an interesting heirloom of handicrafts, depiction of the love story of Princess Moomal and King Mahendra and so on. The other Museums you can drop by are the Government Museum and the Desert Culture Center & Museum.

Camel Safari: Camping amidst endless sands, frolicking the locales on the bestial camel, trekking to the sites, bonfires at night - are activities that make your desert tour stand apart from the rest other then the sun-tan and the dust. You can check out our exciting desert safari packages that are a fine enmesh of such activities and sightseeing.


The best buys at Jaisalmer are wooden boxes with intricate carvings, ethnic rugs, hand-woven blankets, shawls woven in typical Rajasthani handiwork with mirror-works, silver jewelery, trinkets and dextrous embroidered fabrics. The major shopping arcades are Sadar Bazar, Sonaron ka Bas, Manak Chowk, Pansari Bazar and so on. The Govt. Emporiums are the safest bets anytime. Khadi Gram Udyog Emporiums are also recommended. Barmer Embroidery House (near Patwon ki Haveli) owned by Abhimanyu Rathi, legendary for his fine eye for antique textiles is another place you should not miss.


Once there, instead of opting for your continental palate, you must dare the typically fiery Rajasthani cuisine. Tango your taste buds with the the famed gatta curry, macchi/maas sulas, lal/safed maas and the ever present ker-sangri. Add to it the local musicians playing some exotic tune that take you right in the midst of rolling sand dunes and caravans with eyes closed. For desserts you have a variety of sweetmeats to devour. The Trio Restaurant, Gopa Chowk, Kalpana Khana, Monica Restaurant, Saffron, Bikaner, Natraj Restaurants, Top Deck are some of the best and safe bets for delectable dishes. And the escapade inside the Fort leaves you hungry, you can drop by at 8 July Restaurant and Little Tibet.

Desert Festival: Held over three days in Jan/Feb every year, this is when the Kalbelia dances (gypsies and snake charmers), folk songs, fire dancers - all benchmark traditional performances, can be enjoyed. Besides, turban-tying contest, camel races, Mr. Desert contest are other spicy add-ons to this already popular festival.

Bollywood take on Jaisalmer: Director Samir Karnik (of Kyun Ho Gaya Na fame) is coming up with a Bobby Deol starer flick called “Nanhe Jaisalmer”, about a kid who calls himself Nanhe Jaisalmer (little Jaisalmer), and spreads the news that his camel is the best out there. What else lies in store remains a mystery, but it sure will be a good virtual tour of the place once released.


Amar Sagar (6 km NW): A dilapidated Jain Temple stands amidst the ruins of an erstwhile palatial garden.

Lodhurva (15 km NW): Beyond Amar Sagar is the once capital-city of Jaisalmer founded by the Lodra Rajputs. The ornate Jain Temples and Kalputra (the divine tree) are attractions to look out for.

Sam Sand Dunes (42 km): An hour long jeep safari will take you to this locale of rolling sand-dunes. Even better if you jaunt on the camel to watch the vermilion sky engulfing the blazing desert sun with a Sahara lok-a-like spread before you.

Bada Bagh (7 km N): An oasis with a huge old dam awaits you at Bada Bagh which feeds Jaisalmer most of its vegetables and other products. Around the dam are gardens with royal cenotaphs and equestrian statues of former rulers. And if you have reached this place at sunset, turn your head to see Jaisalmer turn a warm golden brown.

Pokran (110 km): A yellow sandstone fort on the junction of Jaisalmer-Bikaner and Jaisalmer-Jodhpur roads marks this quiet town that was flooded with limelight when India carried out her first nuclear tests here. The furniture here is awesome and even better if you can arrange to ferry some home.

Location :
Westernmost in Rajasthan

Go there for :
Forts, Havelis

Climate :
25°-41°C (Sum); 7.9°-23.6°C

When to Go:
Oct - Feb

Local Tongue:
Marwari, Hindi

Literacy :

STD Code :
+91 - 2922

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