The name Jaisalmer evokes a vivid picture of the sheer magic and brilliance of the desert. The awesome splendour of a commanding and exotic fort that seems to rise out of a desert haze with its yellow sandstone walls and bastions bathed in a golden hue in the afternoon sun is almost like stepping into the pages of Arabian Nights. It even inspired the legendary Indian film director of international acclaim, Satyajit Ray, to make a movie Sonar Kila (Golden Fort).
Life within the citadel conjures up images of medieval majesty visible in the narrow lanes, magnificent palace, exquisite havelis of the rich traders of the past, several temples, skilled artisans at work and ubiquitous camels.
The perfect time to visit the golden city is during the Desert Festival, held in Jan/Feb every year, when the city reverberates with the sound of melodious tunes and rhythms. There are folk dances and several innovative competitions and contests, including a turban-tying contest, Mr. Desert contest, longest moustache competition and the famous camel races which enliven the atmosphere. Colourful handicraft bazaars operate and a sound and light show is organised with folk artists performing against the splendid backdrop of the famous SAM sand dunes on the full moon night. Jaisalmer is a great place to pick up chunky rustic silver jewellery, colourful embroidered and mirror-worked fabrics, camel leather goods, woodcarvings and various delicately carved sandstone items.
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People & Culture
Lord Krishna's prophecy to Arjun 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.
Bahti Rajputs of Jaisalmer were feudal chiefs who lived off the levy they forced on the caravans laden with precious silks and spices that crossed the territory en route to Delhi or Sind. These caravans earned the town great wealth. The rise of shipping in trade with the consequent importance of the port of Mumbai, saw the decline of Jaisalmer. The remote location of Jaisalmer ensured that it remained almost untouched by outside influences, even during the days of the Raj. Jaisalmer was the last to sign the Instrument of Agreement with the British.
LandmarksJaisalmer Fort The golden hued fort stands about 80 meters over the city and houses an entire township within its huge ramparts. Walking down the narrow cobbled-stone lanes, one can feel the sheer magic of Jaisalmer. Several entrances called Pols, including the Ganesh Pol, Suraj Pol, Bhoota Pol and the Hava Pol guard the Megh Durbar and the Jawahar Mahal, which were occupied by the royal family. Outside the fort is the main market place called Manek Chowk. From here one can walk into the lanes where the famous carved havelis are to be found.
Gadi Sagar LakeA scenic rain water lake with beautiful shrines is an ideal spot for picnics and boating.
Tazia TowerThe Pagoda like Tazia Tower rises from the Badal Mahal or Palace of Clouds. During Moharram, beautiful 'Tazias'-ornately decorated bamboo, paper and tinsel replicas of a bier, are carried out in procession by Muslims. Each storey of this five-tiered tower has a carved balcony.
The Havelis of JaisalmerAJaisalmer has some of the most exotic mansions or havelis in India. Intricately latticed and with conspicuous facades, these are quite unique. Tradition determined that prior to a Hindu wedding, the front wall of the bride's house was painted with an image of Lord Ganesh. The paintings have considerably expanded in theme.
Nathmalji-Ki-HaveliOne very interesting fact about this late 19th century haveli is that two brothers carved its two sides. Although the motif used by one is not similar to the other, they are in harmony. One has to look very closely to spot dissimilarities. The interior walls are ornate with splendid miniature paintings.
This is one of the largest and most elaborate havelis in Jaisalmer. It is five storeys high and extensively carved.
Lodurva (16 km)
This is the ancient capital of Jaisalmer and an important pilgrim spot of the Jain community with some magnificent Jain temples. "Toran" or the ornate arches at the main entrance and splendid carvings are noteworthy. A 'Kalptaru' or a divine tree within is the main attraction of the temple
Wood Fossil Park, Aakal (17 kms)
Lying on the Barmer Road, this park takes you back to the Jurassic period, when the entire Thar region lay beneath the sea. There are 180 million year old fossils - the geological landmarks for the study of the Thar Desert.
Sam Sand Dunes (42 km)
No trip to Jaisalmer is complete without visiting the picturesque dunes of Sam. The ripples on the wind-caressed dunes, that create an enchanting mirage, are a delight for a trigger -happy photographer. Various cultural programmes are organised against the backdrop of these fascinating sand dunes. It is a great place to see patterns carved out by winds on the sand, which change colours in the sunrise. Camel rides on the sand dunes are an unforgettable experience, as is the sunset. One can spend an enchanting evening on the sands watching the sensuous snake dance of the Kalbeliya gypsies and listening to the full-throated folk songs of the Manganiyars. Exciting camel safaris allow you to get the real feel of the desert on camel back.
Half-day excursion either by Jeep or on camel-back to the fascinating desert village dunes of Khurri, located near sand dunes. Desert National Park (45 km) The landscape of the Desert National Park is 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.
Amar Sagar (5 km)
A pleasant garden beside a lake with mango and other fruit trees. Beautifully carved Jain temples add to its splendour.
Bada Bagh (6km)
A fertile oasis on the bank of an artificial lake. Much of the city's fruits and vegetables are grown here. The royal cenotaphs with beautifully carved ceilings and equestrian statues of the former rulers are sin a thicket of dense foliage.
Mool Sagar (18km)
The pleasant shady grove is a perfect picnic spot during summer.
Barmer (155 km)
A tiny desert town, it is renowned for its hand block printing industry, carved wooden furniture, colourful costumes, Kiradu temples and amiable folks.
Full day excursion of Kuldhera, the ruined village of the Paliwal community, is possible both on camel and jeep.
Pokharan he Rang Mahal with dreamy deluxe suites is a dramatic building. It is about 2.5 kms from the fort. Enjoy a swim in the Gorbandh Palace Hotel. Local artisans sculpted the friezes around the hotel. The Narayan Niwas Palace offers a great view of the fort from the rooftop.
he Rang Mahal with dreamy deluxe suites is a dramatic building. It is about 2.5 kms from the fort. Enjoy a swim in the Gorbandh Palace Hotel. Local artisans sculpted the friezes around the hotel. The Narayan Niwas Palace offers a great view of the fort from the rooftop.
In the town area one can stay at the Hotel Jaisal Palace, Hotel Nachana Haveli or the RTDC's Hotel Moomal, which offers you a decent room with hot water facilities. The Fort area has the Hotel Shreenath Palace and the Kila Bhawan resort in mid range budgets.
There are several budget and shoe-string hotels available. Bucket hot water and Indian style toilets are the nrom. These include Hotel Swastika, Hotel Fort View, Hotel Jag Palace with a vegetarian menu and Hotel Paradise offering a sleep on the rooftop.
Places to Eat
The Refreshing Point Rooftop restaurant offers besides others an Italian, Mexican, Tibetan and Greek cuisine. A small German bakery here sells goodies. Monica Restaurant has an extensive menu of various cuisine including Rajasthani dishes. The mixed fruit lassi at Rawal is particularly famous. The 8th July Restaurant above the main square is very conveniently located and offers a pure vegetarian menu. Mid Town and Trio are a few of the budget places to eat at. Bhang Shop is a government authorised bhang shop. Lassi and bhang cookies are available with prior notice.
Indian Airlines links Jaisalmer with Jaipur, Jodhpur, Delhi and Mumbai. Hotel Moomal, an RTDC hotel, houses the office of Indian Airlines.
The Jodhpur Express and the IIJP connect Jaisalmer with Jodhpur.
All buses start from Hotel Neeraj, which is very conveniently located. There are frequent deluxe buses to Jodhpur and Bikaner. A 13-hour ride will take you on the only deluxe bus to Jaipur. One can book on these deluxe buses through most travel agencies in the city. You can hire a jeep from the Gandhi Chowk for Khuri or Sam, and share it with others to split the cost. Autorickshaws and rickshaws ply in the city. A bicycle on hire is a nice way to get around the city. These are available just outside the main gate of the fort.
Jaisalmer is renowned for embroidery, rugs, blankets, Rajasthani mirrorwork and antiques. Tie-and-dye fabrics are available at the Khadi Gramadyog Bhawan. A shoppers delight is a shop called Light of the East, which sells crystals and rare mineral specimens.
Altitude : 486 meters
Climate : Summer: Mean Max : 41.6.0 degree C Mean Min :25 degree C
Winter : Mean Max :23.6 degree C Mean Min : 7.9 degree C
Clothing : Summer light tropical; Winter: light woollen
Best Season:: October to February
Languages : English, Rajasthani, Hindi.
The Tourist Reception centre on Gadi Sagar Road is located very near to the First Fort Gate. There's also a small tourist centre at the train station.
Editor: Romola Butalia   (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.