Rising from the heart of the Thar Desert, like a golden mirage, is the magical city of Jaisalmer. A commanding fort etched in yellow sandstone, stands with its entire awesome splendor, dominating the amber – hued city.
With the crenellated golden sandstone town walls and narrow, streets, lined with exquisitely carved buildings, through which camel carts trundle leisurely, it has an extraordinarily medieval feel and an incredible atmosphere.
The fort inside, perched on its hilltop, contains some gems of Jain temple building, while beautifully decorated merchants havelis, are scattered through the town. Jaisalmer gives convenient access to the surrounding desert wilderness, sand dunes and oasis villages, ideal for camel rides and safaris.
An interesting legend associates this city. Lord Krishna foretold Arjuna, that a remote descendent of the Yadav Clan, would build his kingdom atop the Trikuta Hill. His prophecy came true 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.
These Rajputs lived off the forced levy on the caravans laden with precious silk and spices, which crossed the territory enroots to Delhi or Sind, earning the town great wealth. As a major staging post on the trade route, the merchants prospered and invested in building beautiful houses and temple. But maritime trade between India and the West came to a decline and ceased altogether in 1947.
The life within the citadel, conjures up images of medieval majesty visible in its narrow lanes, strewn with magnificent palaces, havelis, temples and of course skilled artisans and ubiquitous camels. Folk dances, exciting competitions, turban-tying contest, Mr. Desert contest and camel races enliven the festivities during the Desert festival.
Colorful craft bazaars and a sound and light spectacle, is organized with folk artistes performing against the splendid backdrop of the famous Sam sand dunes on the full moon night.
Jaisalmer is a centre for typically fiery Rajasthani cuisine. The use of red chilli and ginger is liberal and each preparation has its own uniquely piquant flavour. Hot favourites are the famed gatta curry, macchi/maas sulas, lal/safed maas and the ever present ker-sangri. The dal-bati-choorma is available though not very distinctive.
An integral part of the cuisine is the soul-stirring local music, accompanied by graceful dancing. For people with an incurable sweet tooth, on offer are a variety of gramflour and milk sweetmeats which are guaranteed to tempt even the most jaded palate.
Jaisalmer is famous for its tie and dye fabric, embroidery, mirror-work, old stonework, blankets, leather goods etc. Some of the famous shopping areas are — Khadi Gramudyog Bhavan at Dibba Para; Rajasthani Handicraft Emporium at Amar Sagar Gate & Gandhi Chowk; Light of the East at Jain Temple Lane.
This is the most interesting means to explore the desert escape & are conducted on various circuits by tourism department & known experienced private operators. Camel Safaris have become an integral part of a tourist’s itinerary at Jaisalmer and indeed, there is rarely a tourist to Jaisalmer who does not attempt an outing on camel back.
The Desert Festival : takes place each year. Camel races and dances, folk music, desert ballads, puppet shows and beauty contests are part of the activity. Prices shoot up, so be warned.
Holi : The colourful festival of Holi can get quite boisterous.
Situated in western Rajasthan, the city is accessible from Jodhpur and Bikaner, at comfortable distances of 300 km and 330 km respectively. The highway connecting these three cities is well maintained and road travel is quite convenient.
How to Reach
IA has flights between Jaisalmer and Jodhpur, Jaipur, Mumbai and Delhi.
Airport: The Jaisalmer Airport is 5 km from the city centre and is managed by the Indian Air Force and is in the cantonment area (Tel: 51 952). Note: The airport is operational only during the season (September-March).
Jaisalmer is accessible from Jodhpur by the IJPJ Express and the Jodhpur Express, both of which are daily trains. It is possible to connect to further destinations from Jodhpur. There is a Railway Reservation counter at the Railway Station and the timings are 0800-2000 hrs Railway station: The Jaisalmer Railway Station is a 10-minute drive from Gadi Sagar Pol.
Jaisalmer is well-connected to Bikaner and Jodhpur by good, motorable roads. There are luxury buses plying between Jaisalmer and Jodhpur, Bikaner and Jaipur. The main Bus Stand is located at a short distance from the Railway Station. However, all major buses start from a Bus Depot, which is adjacent to the Hotel Neeraj, in the city centre.
Jaisalmer is a typical desert with dry, hot summers and high chill, windy winters. The summer temperature ranges from 41°C to 25°C and the winter highs and lows are 23.6°C and 7.9°C.
The Fort- Jaisalmer
The golden hued fort is a sentinel to the bleak deserts cape from its 80-meter high perch on the hill, housing the entire township within its ramparts. It has an enchanting cow-web of narrow lanes dotted with some lovely havelis, three beautifully sculptured Jain temples dating between the 12th-15th century AD and five interconnected palaces. These fort temples are dedicated to the Jain Tirthankaras – Rishabdev, Sambhavnath and Parswanath. The fort is approached through four gateways-Akhaiya Pol, Ganesh Pol, Suraj Pol and Hava Pol.
In Jaisalmer Temples it is the most elaborate and magnificent of all. It has exquisitely carved pillars and extensive corridors and chambers. One of the apartments of this five storey high haveli is painted with beautiful murals.
Bada Bagh is a fertile oasis on the bank of an artificial lake. Dense trees and royal cenotaphs, with beautifully carved ceilings and equestrian statues of the former rulers, surround it. Much of the city’s fruits and vegetables are grown here.
Sam Sand Dunes
No trip is complete to Jaisalmer, without a trip to the picturesque sand dunes of Sam. The ripples on the wind-caressed dunes, that create an enchanting mirage, are a sure delight for a trigger-happy photographer. Various cultural programmed are organized, against the backdrop of these fascinating sand dunes. Exciting camel safaris, allow you to get the real feel of the desert on the camels back.
At a distance of 16 km from the city, lies Lodurva the ancient capital of Jaisalmer. An important pilgrim spot of the Jain community with some magnificent Jain temples, the Toran or the ornate arches at the main entrance of the temples and its splendid carvings are noteworthy. A Kalpataru or a divine tree within is the main attraction of the temples.
A scenic rainwater Lake, with numerous beautiful shrines around and a spectacular avian variety. The lake is an idyllic spot for outings.
This 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 notables of the array of havelis.
The above picture displays a sheer craftsmanship with intricate architecture and it is a late 19th century haveli. The left and right wings of the mansion, which were carved by two brothers, are not identical, but very similar and balanced in design. The interior walls are ornate with splendid miniature paintings.
GYAN BHANDAR OR LIBRARY – Some of the oldest manuscripts of India are found in this library, established as a part of Jain temples. MANAK CHOWK AND HAVELIS – A main marketplace outside the fort, leads to the narrow lanes, dotted with famous havelis. BARMER – A tiny, yet lively town, in sun-drenched sands, Barmer is a miniature Rajasthan, with all its color, warmth and tradition. It is renowned for its hand block printing industry, carved wood furniture, colorful costumes and amiab le folks.
Amar Sagar is a pleasant garden, beside a lake with mango and other fruit trees. Beautifully carved Jain temples, add to its splendor.
MOOL SAGAR – At a distance of 18 km from Jaisalmer, Mool Sagar is a pleasant shady grove and a perfect picnic spot during summers. WOOD FOSSIL PARK, AAKAL – At a distance of 17 km from Jaisalmer, lying on the Barmer Road, this pack takes you back to the Jurassic period, when the whole Thar region lay under the sea. It has 180 million year old fossils – the geological landmarks for the study of the Thar Desert.
A pagoda like structure, looming up from the Badal Mahal with beautiful Taazias – ornately decorated bamboo, paper and tinsel replicas of a bier, carried out in procession during Moharram by the Muslims.