‘Jaisalmer’ means ‘the Hill Fort of Jaisal’ which is named after its founder Maharawal Jaisal Singh, a Rajput king who founded the city in 1156 AD. Jaisalmer is also known as ‘The Golden City of India’ because of its yellow, charismatic and massive sand dunes used in the city’s architecture tinged with golden color. Jaisalmer lies in the heart of the Thar Desert and known for its culture, heritage, nature and exuberant past where every nook and corner has something to boast, and amaze you. Once known as the sleepy desert city, today Jaisalmer is one of the major tourist destinations of India. With its unmatched palaces and havelis, Jaisalmer showcases the intricate carving of glorious past of great Rajput Rulers. The word ‘Desert City’ itself provokes an image of deserted land with camels swiftly moving on the glittering sands.
Jaisalmer Fort – A great architecture locally known as ‘Sonar Quila’ and popularly nicknamed the ‘Golden Fort’ due to the golden aura that seems to engulf the fort during each sunset, this fort is one of the most popular tourist spots of Rajasthan. The fort rises like a sunbeam from the golden sands of the desert and set on the Trikuta Hill in the midst of the vast Thar Desert, is an epitome of strength and symbolizes the power of the Rajput dynasty. Constructed way back in the 12th century by the mighty Rawal Jaisal, this imposing fort is famed to be one of the largest ever built. Throughout history, this fort has been the center of many important changes and has repeatedly witnessed the siege of Muslim rulers. Even though during the rule of the British, the eminence of the place temporarily diminished, it came back to prominence due to its geographical setting.
Jain Temples- The Jain temples in Jaisalmer are located within the Jaisalmer Fort premises. Its location also proves to be attractive to the tourists as most of the tourists get to visit both the attractions. These temples date back to the 12th century, dedicated to Rishabhdev and Sambavnath, the 1st and the 3rd Jain tirthtankar. There are seven Jain temples in total. Their architecture bears a resemblance with Dilwara temples of Mount Abu, Rajasthan. One of the unique features of the temple is the vast chain of corridors which connect the temples. Another attraction of the temple is the carved lotus symbols on the temple domes. It also has a number of stone sculptures and captions of on the temple walls. There is a library attached to one of the Jain temples, known as Gyan Bhandar which houses past texts and the legends associated with the temples.
Salim Singh ki Haveli- Salim Singh Ki Haveli is an edifice that is located beside the hills backing the Jaisalmer Fort. This Haveli is constructed by a notorious Prime Minister of Jaisalmer – who was known by the name Salim Singh who was a shrewd and aspiring minister whose regime fell on the 15th century when Jaisalmer was the capital of the princely state. This Haveli serves to be a distinguished sample of the distinct art-style as it spots elegant balconies projecting from the stone walls. In total, there are about 38 elite balconies beckoning the visitors to admire its graceful and rich craftsmanship. An another aspect which this Salim Singh Ki Haveli shares in common with other Haveli’s of Jaisalmer is the tuskers that stand protecting the premises from the gates. Even though these statues are made of sandstones, they look realistic enough to generate doubts in the mind of any onlooker from a certain distance. The Haveli also takes a sense of pride from its terrace which is bestowed with idols of peacocks. These peacocks are embedded with inspiration and privilege as they adorn the arch-shaped blue cupola roof. The front slant of the Haveli bears the resemblance to a ship and hence it is also given by the name ‘Jahazmahal’. Although, the interesting fact about this mansion lies in its walls as the stone walls are connected to each other by using iron rods and not cement or mortar. The various other architectural marvels of this Haveli include beautiful stone carvings, sublime murals, transcendent frescoes and aesthetic rooms.
Nathmal ki Haveli – The haveli was built by two muslim architect brothers Hathi and Lulu in the 19th century. Interestingly, while one concentrated on the right, the other concentrated on the left and the result is a symphony epitomising the side by side symmetry during construction. Paintings in miniature style monopolise the walls in the interior. Mighty tuskers carved out of yellow sandstone stand as a guard to the haveli. It is the amalgamation of Rajput and Islamic style of architecture. The huge ceilings with excellent work on them, enhances the royalty of the Haveli. The splendid windows cut out in a beautiful way, the lovely balconies and the interesting, appealing murals will spur you to appreciate the great imagination and hard work put in by the labourers of that time with almost no provision of machinery. The amazing architecture in itself depicts the life of royalty enjoyed by the dignitaries of that time.
Patwon ki Haveli- The Patwon Ji ki Haveli was the first haveli erected in Jaisalmer of Rajasthan which is not a single haveli but a cluster of 5 small havelis. The first among these havelis was commissioned and constructed in the year 1805 by Guman Chand Patwa and is the biggest and the most ostentatious. It is believed that Patwa was a rich man and was a renowned trader of his time, a wealthy merchant and banker who had over three hundred trading centres from Afghanistan to China. He could afford and thus ordered the construction of separate stories for each of his 5 sons. These were completed in the span of 50 years. All five houses were constructed in the first 60 years of the 19th century. The havelis are also known as the 'mansion of brocade merchants', a perfect embodiment of finest architecture where every nook and corner has been engraved exquisitely. A poem etched out in sandstone with infinite details carved and pieced together in different patterns. The latticed carving provide freshening to the interiors as well as offer solitude to the women to gaze out without revealing themselves .
Vyas Chhatri-Just north of the fort, the cenotaph of Sage Vyas lies, who compiled the Hindu epic Mahabharata, the longest scripture in the world with almost 300,000 verses. He dictated the Mahabharata to Ganesh, the god with an elephant-head and son of Shiva the Destroyer. Vyas Chhatri is an assemblage of sandstone "chhatris," elevated, dome-shaped pavilions used in traditional Indian architecture. The site is within a Brahmin cemetery on the edge of town and represents a popular Sunset Point as it gives you a wonderful view of picturesque Jaisalmer at sundown.
Gadsisar Lake- The Lake is an artificial water reservoir which is of utmost need for the locals living in the deserted region. This beautiful lake was built by Raja Rawal Jaisal, the first ruler of Jaislamer and revamped by Maharaja Garsisar Singh in the later years. One can take a round over the aesthetic view of the fort as boating has been allowed here. A number of shrines and pavilions circle the lake and a domed pavilion in the middle adds excessively to the aesthetic appearance of the lake. Boating and spending a quality time in their natural surroundings can be a great experience.
Bada Bagh- Bada Bagh is precisely called ‘Big Garden’ which shows the dignity of Rajput kings of Rajasthan. Bada Bagh was accredited by Maharawal Jai Singh in the 16th century and later effectuated by his son Lunakaran after the death of Jai Singh. This garden also includes a tank and a dam, along with a Govardhan Stambh (pillar). The pillar was constructed for commemorating the construction of the nearby tank and dam. Locals refer to the dam as Jait Bandh, while the tank is known as Jait Sar. The Jait Bandh is a huge structure measuring over 1,200 feet in length and 350 feet in width. Both the dam and tank are manufactured from solid blocks of stone which give them a diligent look of ancient times.The garden stands at the foot of a hill and several chhatris or cenotaphs stand in memory of the late rulers of Jaisalmer. Cenotaphs are also known as chhatris and one cenotaph is erected for each ruler. The cenotaph of Maharawal Jait Singh is the oldest of all. Many cenotaphs were built by subsequent rulers for the Bhatti royal family of Jaisalmer. The architecture of these chhatris is a blend of Paliwal, Mughal, and Rajput styles of architecture.
Sam Sand Dunes- It is 45 km away from Jaisalmer city where you can enjoy a Desert Safari Tour on camel or jeep along with campfire and cultural performances while camping on Sam Sand Dunes. Visit the Bedouin style- Camp for exotic stay, total comfort, wear local dress to feel like a desert falcon and make yourself at home in the camp. Find bed, carpet, cushions to relax and enjoy under the moon and stars. The camps are neat and clean and carry all the necessary amenities and items you may need during the stay. Explore the desert activities such as Dune Bashing, Sand Skiing, Sunset Photography session, Jeep/Camel Safari, Parasailing, Para motoring, Quad Biking, watching Live Kalbelia dance performance (Rajasthani Folk Dance) followed by a delicious local Rajasthani dinner to refresh your taste buds. The desert camps are designed in order to offer you a classic experience of desert life in a single night; perfect for families, singles or for couples. Enjoy the stunning sunsets and glorious sunrises. There are two ways to explore the desert terrain. One is that you sit on a camel and embark on a tour to the deeper parts of Sam sand dunes away from city life. Desert safari on a Jeep is completely different. Once you sit inside the Jeep, its experience is simply out of this world. It takes you up and down the bumpy desert terrain at super fast speeds. Jeep is driven by experts who understand the terrain well and will amaze you with the twists and turns.
Desert National park- The Desert National Park is located 45 km west of the Jaisalmer city close to the India- Pakistan border. Spread over an area in excess of 3150 sq km, this is probably the largest park of India. The national park being a fragile ecosystem has its own flora and fauna. Sand-dunes, both fixed and shifting, low rock-faces, grasslands and scrublands, characterize this park where the greatest need is for water. The topography of the park comprises of craggy rocks, compact salt lake bottoms and vast sand dunes, which form about 20% of the Park. There are three main lakes in this park - Rajbaugh Lake, Milak Talao Lake and Padam Talao Lake. These lakes are the major watering sources for the inhabitants of the national park. As the desert only supports a few types of small grasses, shrubs and xerophytic trees, the leaf cover is limited and not suitable for large herbivorous, camel being an exception. Vast tracts are encrusted with sewan grass, and the aak shrub and khair, khejra and rohira trees are widespread, but sand dominates every scene.
Bird life in this sandy habitat is vivid and spectacular. The Indian Bustard and the wintering MacQueen's Bustard are highly endangered species that have benefited from the creation of the park. This large, heavy and graceful bird draws thousands of bird lovers from all corners of the world. While in the park you can spot birds such as sand grouse, spotted eagles, gray partridges, shrikes, demoiselle crane, quails, peafowl bee-eaters, larks, eagles, harriers, falcons, orioles, warblers, babblers, buzzards, kestrel and vultures to name a few with. Larks, partridges, doves, bee-caters, shrikes, chats, parakeets, babblers remain throughout the year, preyed upon by the buzzards, eagles, falcons and kites that hover and swoop over the landscape. Some of the other inhabitants of the Desert National Park include the blackbuck, chinkara, wolf, Indian fox, desert fox, hare and desert cat. The Wolf burrows into sand-dunes to shelter from the daytime heat. Other predatory animals such as the Desert Fox, the Common Fox, the adaptable jackal and the black-spotted Desert Cat are also shy and elusive but can be seen at waterholes.
Jaisalmer War Museum: The war museum which is the first-of-its-kind on the western front traces the evolution of the Indian Army and covers in detail its inspiring contribution in mainly 1965 Indo-Pak War and 1971 Longewala battle including all combat operations and other nation building activities. 'Jaisalmer War Museum' has been established in the military station of Jaisalmer to showcase the bravery of the Indian Army and also to commemorate the sacrifice of its heroes displaying valour and courage of exceptional order during India's wars. The museum is exhibiting Indian tank, fighter plane and war equipments.
FAIRS AND FESTIVALS:
The Jaisalmer Desert Festival takes place every year in the Hindu month of Magh (February), three days prior to the full moon. The celebrations of this festival amidst the golden sands of the Thar Desert in the Sam dunes (40 Kms. away from Jaisalmer) make the desert come alive for three days with color, enthusiasm and extravaganza of the delights of the desert. It is the time when the festivities of Desert Festival display the wealth of its culture and traditions to the rest of the world. Various programs are organized such as the Turban Tying Competition between Indians and foreigners, contests for the Longest Moustaches, Mr. and Miss. Desert. The ethnicity of the traditional Kalbelia dance, folk songs and folk music performances can be witnessed throughout this cultural extravaganza of fun, frolic and laughter. Tug-of-War game (both men and women) is played between Indians and Foreigners to test the strength of the team. Women can test their balancing skills by participating in the Matka (earthen pitcher) race competition. Camel Decoration and Camel Polo are some other activities, enjoyed by the tourists. On the grand finale of the Desert festival, the grand cultural program by Rajasthani folk artists in a perfect milieu and the Surya Kiran Show (acrobatic performance) by the Indian Air Force are performed. The day is concluded with a splendid display of fireworks in the late evening.
BEST TIME TO VISIT:
The climate is extremely hot in summers and pleasant in winters. Hence, the ideal time to visit Jaisalmer is between the months of november and march. Sightseeing and other outdoor activities like camel ride, desert safari are more entertaining during this time as the maximum temperature does not go beyond 24 degree Celsius.
SHOPPING: WHAT TO BUY?
Jaisalmer is well-known for its mirror-work embroidered garments and carpets, wooden items, silk textiles, silver jewelry ,blankets, oil lamps, old stonework items, Puppets ,Jootis, exquisitely carved wooden stuff and colorful fabrics. All these items are available at reasonable rates. Jaisalmer is a paradise for tourists who wish to buy authentic Rajasthani items.
Best Markets for Shopping in Jaisalmer
Sadar Bazar: One can buy shawls, mirror work dupattas, carpets, gems jewelry, and beautiful wooden stuff.
Sonaron Ka Baas: This is the market which is true to its name and it means the street of the Jewelers where one can buy the best designs of silver, gold, precious and semi-precious stone ornaments.
Manak Chowk: One can buy the beautiful antiques, leather goods, wooden craftwork, textiles, jewelry and many others.
Seema Gram: The market is known for its government shops such as Khadi Gramodyog Bhandar and some other shops that sell local handicrafts including beautiful dupattas and mirror work dress materials.
Pansari Bazar: This is the oldest market of Jaisalmer where people can see the culture of Rajasthan and buy the stuff relevant to it such as textiles, puppets etc.
Bhatia Bazar: Another place to go for shopping in Jaisalmer, where you can buy mirror work dress materials and home decorative items, lamps and wooden items.
CUISINES: WHAT TO EAT?
Jaisalmer is a desert spot with unique cuisine when compared to other cities of Rajasthan. Its cuisine reflects the richness in the culture and closeness to the desert.
Top dishes to enjoy in Jaisalmer:
Dal Bati Choorma
Mughal Chicken Recipes
Local Styled Lassi
Ghotua – Iconic Dessert Item
HOW TO REACH?
By Air: Jaisalmer Airport is a military airport and supports only chartered flights, hence is sparingly used by travellers. Although air travel is generally not considered an ideal mode of transport for travelling to Jaisalmer, some people do travel by air to save on time.Jodhpur Airport is the closest domestic airport that is functional throughout the year. Major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Udaipur have regular flights to Jodhpur. The airport is approximately 5 to 6 hours drive from the city. You can either hire a prepaid or a private taxi from the Airport to reach Jaisalmer.
By Bus: There are no direct buses from Delhi to Jaisalmer as the 17-18 hour drive is too time-consuming and quite exhausting. You can however switch buses in Jaipur from where a state-run sleeper coach operates regularly. Be sure to book tickets in advance as there are limited seats. Some sleeper buses are also available from Jodhpur and Udaipur.
By Train: Jaisalmer is well connected with a wide network of trains covering most of the Indian cities like Delhi, Jodhpur, Jaipur and others. Once you reach the station, there are many auto-rickshaws and private taxis standing outside the station that will take you to the city on a nominal fare.