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Monday, June 7, 2010

Jaisalmer - The Golden City

 Jaisalmer, Known as Golden City is situated in the center of Thar desert.  It is famous for the magnificent fort overseeing the city. Jaisalmer got this name because of  the golden yellow sand stones used in the construction of the fort and other buildings. It is surprising to see that entire city is made of the same  stones. It is known as the only 'live fort' in the world, that means  people live in this fort even now. This fort is also called 'Solar Quila'(Golden Fort). You can see palaces, temples, hotels, houses, shops etc inside the fort. Jaisalmer is also called 'City of Palaces' because you can see a large number palaces or havelis inside it.

Maharaja palace inside the fort

It is estimated that around 4000 people still reside inside the fort. They are living there for generations together. But only Rajputs(Kshatriya) and Brahmins occupy houses in fort. Other lower castes
reside outside the fort, down in the city. Houses inside the fort were allotted by the former Bhatti kings to these upper castes.

 The fort and the city were constructed by Bhatti clan. Jaisalmer was positioned at a strategic point in the old  travel routes by camels. This brought enormous wealth to its people that they spent it on building palaces and  temples in golden yellow sandstones. It is believed that Ludharva, situated at around 16 km from Jaisalmer was the original capital of them. But they shifted to Jaisalmer fearing the attack of invaders from Afghanistan. They built a strong fort and deposited all valuable assets inside it.
Jaisalmer Fort
The hotel guys had arranged an auto rikshaw for the city tour as a part of the package. It would be difficult for taxis and other big vehicles to go through
the galis in this town. May be they did this  to save on money, who knows! And the same autowala who dropped me in this hotel came to pick me today, seemed like an adjustment between hotel guys and autowala. Anyway we directly proceeded towards the fort since it is the main landmark in Jaisalmer.

 Jaisalmer depend only on tourism, the next industry being the auto work shops. Many army jeeps  were seen  in those repair shops. Agriculture is not feasible since it is situated in desert. So you can see a lot of guides and other agents trying to lure you.  On reaching the fort, I hired one guide because seeing the monuments without knowing their significance would be a waste of time.

Entrance to the Fort
The first stop was Maharaja palace.This mansion was occupied by the former kings. And there is a separate building for the queen also. You can see lots of arms and ammunition displayed here.

Jain Temples

Next we visited the Jain temples inside the fort. There are 7 jain temples which are connected through corridors. You may wonder that what  Jain temples were doing inside a fort constructed by a Hindu king.  the guide told me the story behind this. There were some rich jain merchants at Ludharva. But when Gazni(?) attacked Rajasthan, they seeked refuge inside the fort. The king was able to draw some money from them, and the merchants got protection. Both were happy. Actually these merchants built the temples.

These temples are very beautiful and you can see lot of art works inside it. Jainism has 24 Theerthankaras, 24th being Mahavira. And the statues of many of them are erected here.

An art work inside a Jain Temple

Statue of Mahavira (?)
Paraswanathji -23 rd theerthankara (?)

You can see the entire city from the fort and there are some strategic points in which some canons are positioned. Since the whole city is also made of sand stones, the view is very spectacular.

A view from the Fort

We can see many houses and shops inside the fort. Many houses are converted into hotels, as tourists prefer to stay inside the fort.

Another view of fort

We went to a palace called 'Mahavir sadan' (I am not sure about the name). It was also occupied by the king, but it is outside the fort. The portraits of the old kings are shown here. Part of it is converted into a star hotel now.

Mahavir ka sadan (?)
 There are many Havelis or mansions in Jaisalmer. These were built by the rich merchants and still preserved in perfect manner. These homes are lavish and loud in nature but they have a perfect harmony in construction. All of them are built on yellow sand stones and is a rare treat to eye.

Patwon Ki Haveli

This was built by a shoe maker called Guman Chand Patwa. He had five sons and there are five suites in this haveli dating around 1800. The rooms were very richly decorated so that even palaces of Maharajas will be inferior to this. The five storied haveli is divided into six apartments, two owned by Archaeological Survey of India, two by families who operate crafts shop and two private homes. There are extensive corridors and chambers all supported by exquisitely carved pillars.

Pawon ki Haveli

We can see the decorations and richness  in these rooms. We can only assume how prosperous these merchants were. Now this haveli is made into three parts. One is owned by the private parties (may be the current generation of Patwa) and the income from the tourists are going to them. The second part is owned by government and the third is made into a shop.

A room in Patwon ki Haveli.
Decorations in Patwon ki Haveli

It is estimated that it took 50 years to complete the construction of this haveli.

Salim Singh ji ki Haveli

This 300 year old haveli is named after Salim Singh, the old prime minister of Jaisalmer. Part of it is still used as the residence. The mansion has a beautiful arched roof with superbly carved brackets in the form of peacocks. But since it was closed for renovation, I couldn't see the inside of it.

Salim Singh ji ki Haveli
 Another haveli called Nathmal ki Havel is also there. But I was not able to see it.

Gadisar lake

The guide took me to a lake called Gadisar lake. There was not much water in this. It was known that there was no rain for about one year in this place. This lake was dug up by an old king and served as the reservoir for the city. Anyway a lake in the middle of the desert is a significant thing.

Gadisar Lake

I finished my city tour by 1 o'clock in the noon. I had lunch and some rest. Then  I went for an evening walk after 5 o'clock in the city. I met one guy who is working as a guide. He seemed  to have not much business at this time, since it is the early summer. He promised me to take to some sunset view point outside the city for Rs 100 . Since I was alone, this seemed risky and I refused. He claimed that his family is living inside the fort for five generations; there was no way to verify this any way. 

A gali inside the Fort

It is amazing to see the city in the night. The fort will turn into a beautiful golden mansion due to the flash lights used. It stands above the Jaisalmer city which is also filled with lights.

Jaisalmer Fort in night

I left Jaisalmer on Jodhpur express at 11pm. I could see a number of army men also boarding train, they seemed to be going on leave to their natives. Tomorrow I am going to Jodhpur, the last part of my tour.

The full set of photos are shared here.


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  2. Amazing pictures! I still havent seen a lot of beautiful places in India!

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