Jaisalmer - The Golden City
To experience the desert and its life in true colours, visit Jaisalmer the land of the Golden Fort, the Golden Desert and elegant Havelis. The name Jaisalmer (Jaisal and Meru) literally means ‘Fort of King Jaisa on the hill’. Jaisalmer is known as the “Golden City” because of its impressive yellow fort and many yellow sandstone buildings.
Jaisalmer is on the western boundary of India separated from Pakistan by the Thar Desert. The city was built when the warrior clans or Rajputs were pushed out from Punjab towards the south and Rawal Jaisal founded the fort and city of Jaisalmer in the 11th Century.
Tragedy of Jauhar:
Jaisalmer was founded by Rawal Jaisal of the Bhatti Rajputs in 1156. The town has been witness to many tragedies when Jauhar or self immolation was initiated to avoid subjugation by Muslim invaders - first in 1315 when Allauddin Khilji vanquished Jaisalmer and then again in 1325 under Feroz Shah Tughluq.
However the most tragic incident happened when Amir Ali, a Pathan from Afghanistan tried to attack the fort by entering Jaisalmer in disguise. Due to the sudden attack, the Rajputs were on the verge of defeat in the fight and there was no time to light a fire for Jauhar, so the Maharaja Maharawal Lunakaran decided to cut off the heads of the women with his own hands. Ironically soon afterwards, other Rajput warriors entered and recaptured the fort.
The Sonar Quila or the Golden Fort
Standing tall over the city on top of a hill, the Golden Fort is the main landmark of Jaisalmer. Built of yellow sandstone this majestic and historical structure used to house the entire population of Jaisalmer; it probably is the only remaining fort which is a living fort. It served traders as a resting place in the desert and protected them against enemies. Due to the yellow sandstone and hues of the desert in the background, it looks golden in the sun - hence its name Sobriquet. Despite the grandeur, enigma and royalty of the fort during the day, the fort’s atmosphere in a moon lit night brings out many romantics to marvel at its splendour. For the architecturally inclined, it is a melange of Rajput and Mughal architecture and the carvings and paintings are marvellous.
One of the highlights of coming to Jaisalmer is to go on a camel safari in the desert. A Camel safari into the Thar desert with kilometers of sand in all the direction is an overwhelming experience, which shows the beauty and difficulty of desert life. It is an amazing way to explore the desert, stargazing around a campfire at night, staying in tented accommodation and just relaxing. Most camel safaris go to the beautiful Sam Sand Dunes, stopping at villages and sites along the way.
The Sonar Quila or the Golden Fort : Jaisalmer Fort: It is also known as Sonar Quilla or the Golden Fort due to its golden hue from the desert ambience and the yellow sand stone; it is bound to be the most remarkable structure in the city. Built in 1156, it is nearly 800 years old. 250Ft tall and reinforced by a 30 foot high sandstone wall, it has 99 bastions which were built between 1633 and 1647.
The fort contains a series of lanes packed with old houses, Havelis and temples, a fascinating place to wander around. The entrance to the fort has a series of imposing gates called Akhai Pol, Surya (Suraj) Pol, Ganesh (Bhuta) Pol and Hawa (Wind) Pol.
It’s the only Fort in India where common people still live and go about their business. It is the closet one can come to medieval life. It has a complex security system and many gates and boast both Rajput and Mughal architecture.
Raj Mahal : The most dominating palace within the Fort is the seven-storey Raj Mahals which is contains five smaller palaces. There are seven intricately carved Jain temples, constructed between the 12th - 15th century. It looks magical in the setting sun and at the time of construction was the mark of prosperity even in the arid surrounds of the dessert, as it lay on a prosperous trade route in ancient times.
Gadi Sagar Lake : Gadi Sagar Lake is an artificial lake built around the same time as the Fort as a reservoir of water for the whole town. Surprisingly it never went dry and served as oasis for travellers and people living there. Now there are temples built alongside the perimeter of the lake.
Patwon Ji ki Havali and Salim Singh ki Haveli are very famous for their architecture, miniature paintings and carvings and are situated in the heart of the town in narrow lanes. One of the outstanding Havelis in the entire Rajasthan it is a epitome to the grandeur of another era in history - images of this history are vividly displayed in the architecture and intricate decorations of the rooms that provide a glimpse of the luxury of the ruling class life
Kuldhara Village ruins :18 km west of Jaisalmer is the village of Kuldhara, which holds the remains of a historic village that was once inhabited by Paliwal Brahmins. In a unique mode of protest to oppose imposition of unreasonable taxes on them by the king, all the residents of Kuldhara and 83 nearby villages left suddenly one night in 1825 and never came back.
The deserted ruins of Kuldhara village is strewn with temples, step-wells and other structures, which quite well preserved through active restoration work undertaken by the Rajasthan government.
Sam Dunes : The best way to enjoy the Sam Sand Dunes of Jaisalmer is through an overnight trip. One of the most pleasurable moments comes at sunset. Watching the sand dunes in the faint orange glow of the sun with the ballads of the legendary lovers playing in the background leaves you completely speechless. The night is spent sleeping in the open under the cover of a star-studded sky. This is the closest place from where you can lose yourself in ‘the Great Thar Desert’. Sam has a truly magnificent stretch of sweeping dunes, with sparse or no vegetation. The best way to get here, of course, is on camel back
Desert National Park : Desert National Park gives a good glimpse of the Thar Desert and its Fauna. Common animals to be found are Black Buck, Chinkara, Wolf, Bengal Fox, and Desert Cat. The Avian fauna includes the Great Indian Bustard, Snadgrouse, Patridges, and Larks as endemic birds while Demoiselle Crane and Hobard arrive in winter as migratory birds. The Sudashri forest post is the most ideal place for observing wildlife in the park.
Nearby Destinations / Attractions :
Nearest Airport : Jaisalmer Airpot (15 Km / 25 mins) Jodhpur Airport (280 km / 5 hrs)
Best time to visit and Climate :
Best time to visitJaisalmer is during the winter & spring months when the weather is glorious. May and june months are extremely hot with the temperature crossing 40 degree celcius.
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