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JAISALMER

Desert Nationl Park: 40 km away,lying south-west of Jaisalmer, it is a protected bio- sphere reserve spreading over 3000 Sq. km. The awe-inspiring Sam sand dunes are within the park. This is also the bustard breeding location and wildlife where you can see the Indian Gazelle, Chinkara, Eagle and many such birds and animals. Foreign tourists require permission from the District Magistrate and Desert National Park Office to enter this area. Domestic tourists require permission from the Desert National Park Office.Loduva, 18 km away, has the ruins of the earlier capital and Jain temples, which are being, rebuild as reminders of its past splendour.

 
Jaisalmer Fort: From atop the Trikuta Hill, the Jaisalmer Fort casts its magical spell in the heart of every tourist. The fort was constructed by Rai Jaisala in the 12th century when he wanted a more secure place than Lodurva to serve as his capital. The fort is a symbol of an era gone by that is still alive in in its remnants.
 
Jain Temples: There is a group of five temples lying within the fort and built between the 12th and 15th centuries, these temples are an achitectural marvel. Visitors are allowed only till 12 O' clock in the afternoon.
 
Nathmal Ji ki Haveli: Elephants carved out of yellow sandstone guard this Haveli built by the Prime Minister of Jaisalmer in 1855. Two brothers, Hathu and Lallu constructed each side of the haveli. The whole mansion looks perfectly harmonious but you will notice that the right and left side of the building differs slightly in details.
 
Gaharisar: Gharisar had once supplied water to the city; a courtesan has built the temples and archways around it.
 
Haveli of Jaisalmer: The Havellis or mansions built by wealthy merchants and nobles are unmatched for the exquisitely carved sandstone facades. At one time, the city of Jaisalmer lay entirely within the Fort but during the 17th Century, Havellis were built below the Fort.
 
Tazia Tower: The delicate pagoda like Tazia Tower rises from Badal Mahal (Cloud Palace). Rising in its five tiered splendour, with each storey graced by a delicately carved balcony, the tower is of historical significance. Muslim craftsmen built it in the shape of a Tazia and gifted to their royal patron. Tazias are ornately decorated bamboo, paper and tinsel replicas of a bier carried in procession during Mohurram.
 
Patwaon Ki Haveli: The most elaborate and magnificent of the Jaisalmer havelis. It has exquisitely carved pillars and extensive corridors and chambers. One of the apartments of this five story high Haveli is painted with beautiful murals.
 
Salim Singh Ki Haveli: This 300 years old haveli of Jaisalmer's Prime Minister to Maharaja Rawal Gaj Singh - Salim Singh, has a beautiful blue cupola roof with superbly carved brackets in the form of peacocks. The extraordinary mansion in yellow stone is covered with intricate carvings and has an elaborate projecting balcony on the top storey. The mansion is one of the most notable of the array of havelies.

Jaisalmer was founded by Rao Jaisal in 1156 as a substitute for his more vulnerable capital at Lodurva, making it the oldest "living" fortified city in Rajasthan. For many, a visit here is the start of an enduring romance. Located in the heart of the Thar Desert on the far western border of India (55km/34 miles from Pakistan), it was strategically positioned on one of the central Asian trade routes, and fortunes were made by the Rajputs and Jain merchants who levied enormous taxes on caravans laden with silks, opium and spices, particularly during the 14th and 16th centuries. In the 18th century, some merchants, wanting to expand their homes, moved out of the fort to settle on the plateau below.

Much as in the Shekhawati region, the wealth generated by their taxes was used to decorate the havelis of these wealthy Jain businessmen. Where frescoes satisfied the Shekhawats, here power was expressed by the construction of mansions whose soft sandstone facades were embellished with intricate, almost lacelike carvings. These oft-photographed sandstone mansions are indeed breathtakingly beautiful, but it is Sonar Killa, literally "Golden Fort," that makes it worth traveling this far west. It may not be as impressive or as clean as Jodhpur's Mehrangarh Fort, but its charm lies in the fact that this is the world's only inhabited medieval fort, its families living in homes they have colonized for more than 800 years. Unfortunately this charm is being eroded by the unchecked proliferation of hotels -- with close to 40 at the last count.

 
Built entirely from yellow sandstone, the fort rises like a giant sand castle from its desert environs, with great views from the overhanging cannon ramparts; stare down on the city and desert vista, and you get a sense of how forts such as these once served the most basic of needs: protection against invaders from the plateau below. Sadly within you will find a place that has been commercialized -- its alleys lined with goods for sale and buzzing with traffic (tuk-tuks, hawkers, and tourists), excessive pollution (no bins or sewage infrastructure, and watch out for the cow dung), yet still with an awesome sense of timelessness (bar the motorcycles and persistent salesmanship). It takes no more than a few hours to tour the fort, including stops to visit the Jain and Hindu temples. And if you want to ride a camel into the sunset, Jaisalmer is one of the places to do it, as is Bikaner. So plan to spend 2 or more nights here, not least because it takes so long to get here (until the new airport is finished, that is) but also to acclimatize to the desert pace and climate, and seek out the essence of this border town.
 
History
The history of Jaisalmer dates back to the medieval period when the golden city was founded by the Rajput chief Jaisala. The city was established in the year 1156 atop the Trikut hill by the Maharaja to prevent the possible encroachment of enemies. The initial capital of the Bhatti Rajput clan was at Lodhruva which lies at a distance of 15 kilometers to the south east of Jaisalmer.
 
Legend has it that the city was established by Jaisala on the behest of the hermit, Eesaal. Jaisalmer grew in the medieval period and amassed great wealth from the caravans that traversed the region. The two routes that connected India to Persia, Africa, Egypt and the western countries facilitated trade in the region. The strategic location of the city prevented invasion from the foreign rulers. In the 13th and the 14th century the rulers of the city who were referred to as the Rawals, engulfed in a nine year war with the Turk Afghan ruler, Ala-ud-din Khilji. The Rajuts were defeated in the battle and had since then maintained a cordial relationship with the Delhi Sultanate. Sabala Simha was later awarded the royal patronage of the city by Shah Jahan after his chivalrous contribution in the Battle of Peshawar.
 
Modern history of Jaisalmer includes its ties with the British Empire. The princely state joined the Union of India after the country gained independence. The hereditary bards, carans and the bhaals sing ballads of the chivalrous rulers of the city. Jaisalmer lost its economic importance after the establishment of the port city of Mumbai. After partition of the country, it also lost the trade routes that passed through Pakistan. It has now emerged as one of the important tourist destinations of the country.
 
Getting to Jaisalmer
 
By Air:  Important thing to remember that All commercial flights to and from Jaisalmer have currently been discontinued. Jaisalmer has its own airport, 10km from the city proper with connections to Delhi and Mumbai; other important cities in India are connected via Jodhpur (275km). Jodhpur is also a convenient flight destination because the airport at Jaisalmer is very small & can accommodate only small aircrafts.
 
By Rail: Palace on Wheels - the king's train has Jaisalmer in its itinerary and that remains the best and most luxurious way of reaching Jaisalmer and explore it in opulence. There are direct trains from other cities of Rajasthan also which connects to Jaisalmer.
 
By Road: Jaisalmer is connected to Jodhpur (275km), Bikaner (328km), Ajmer (500km), Udaipur (663km) and to Delhi (900km) by well-maintained state and national highways. Rental jeeps, buses and cars are available in these cities for those keen on travelling by road.

 

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