Ideal duration: 1-2 Days Major Airports: Jodhpur Airport Best time: October to March (Read More)
Jaisalmer -‘Hill Fort of Jaisal’
Jaisalmer is a city in the Indian State of Rajasthan that evokes wonder and pleasure in equal measure. Also known as the ‘Golden City,’ this place happens to be close to the Indian border with Pakistan. Located deep into the Thar Desert making it a must-see tourist destination. However, it is also a thriving city where people had been living for thousands of years despite innumerable hardships. Jaisalmer Fort is the main attraction of this city although numerous other areas have tourists from all corners of the world landing in this desert city that remains unparalleled to date.
The yellow sandstone glistens in the harsh sunlight making one completely awestruck. The wonders of the place are exhilarating and make the tourists gasp with pleasure on viewing the historical Jaisalmer Fort also known as Sonar Quila (coined by the famous film Director Satyajit Ray). The fort is not just a historical site though. It contains a thriving city inside that the tourists are enchanted to find.
The town had been an erstwhile trading route for people who travelled on camels. Although not located centrally, the Golden City of Jaisalmer is visited by eager tourists who travel overnight from the nearest city of Jodhpur about 300 miles away. The entire landscape of the city can be viewed from the top of the Fort and makes a pretty picture indeed. The desert city is not short of its share of tourist attractions though. On the contrary, the visitors are delighted with viewing the Lakes, Ornate havelis, Magnificent Jain Temples and Castles that abound in the area. The yellow sandstone happens to be the primary building material here making the structures gleam like gold.
The golden sand of the desert is enough to take one’s breath away too while no tourist would want to miss a camel safari tour out in the desert. The Wood Fossil Park located 15 km away is an interesting area that helps one to understand the geological disasters that had stricken the Thar Desert in the prehistoric times.
The students of history are bound to find the place come alive after hundreds of years via its forts, castles and palaces while the more recent history can be experienced by a visit to the Longewala War Memorial depicting the courage and sacrifice of the Indian Soldiers during the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war.
The city of Jaisalmer has a glorious past in keeping with the other towns of Rajputana. The city is believed to have been founded by a Bhatti Rajput ruler named Raja Rawal Jaisal way back in 1156 A D. Jaisalmer had been a prominent landmark on the significant land trade route for hundreds of years between India and remote regions of Persia, Africa, Egypt as well as the western world.
Ala-ud-din Khilji, the ruler of Delhi, laid siege to the city in the mid 13th century and ravaged it for 9 long years defeating the local ruler. The line of Raja Jaisimha continued to rule the city throughout the Mughal period without falling out of favour. It remained independent during the British era as well and was the last state of Rajasthan to sign the ‘instrument of the agreement,’ and became a part of India in 1947.
The culture of Jaisalmer is evident in the looks and clothes of the local people who are friendly and hospitable. They reveal a fantastic joie-de-vivre amidst the hard life in the desert. The music and dance of the area have found a place in many films and musicals created by Bollywood as well as other regional film industries of India.
The language, culture and traditions of Jaisalmer have been influenced by that of neighboring Sind, now a part of Pakistan. Visiting the villages is essential to get an idea of how the people of Jaisalmer live. The grass houses are known as jhopris where the ordinary folk reside and draw their sustenance via agriculture and animal rearing.
The Marwaris are the majority community in the region who are avid followers of Hinduism. The city has a small population of Jains, Christians, and Muslims as well who continue to live in harmony. Rajasthani is the language spoken widely here although Hindi is understood perfectly by the locals. A minuscule percentage of the people also converse in Urdu while the young generation is well versed in English, the language of communication with the foreign tourists.
Festival And Fairs
Jaisalmer is a desert city that faces extremes of climate making life very hard for the local population. However, that doesn’t limit the exuberance and joy of life either. This is evident in the numerous celebrations that take place in and around the human settlements of the Thar Desert.
The Desert Festival– This is one of the major festivals held in Jaisalmer during the month of February. People throng to the city and participate in many contests and cultural events while enjoying the food and traditional bonhomie. Camel racing is one of the highlights of this festival.
Gangaur- This is a major festival of Jaisalmer that is dedicated to Gauri, the consort of Lord Shiva. It is a women-centric celebration where the females pray for good marriages and offspring and hope for peace and prosperity.
Teej – This is a festival that is held to celebrate the onset of the monsoon. It is a romantic celebration with many of the participants sitting on swings to savour the rains that are in short supply in the parched desert.
The religious festivals of Holi, Diwali and Shivratri are also celebrated in Jaisalmer along with the rest of India.
What you will like
The golden desert
The colourful local culture
The Historical forts
What you might not like
The commercialisation of natural beauty
Children pestering the tourists for money
Nature lovers, families, history buffs, couples on their honeymoon, geologists, and people interested in viewing the Indo-Pakistan border
How to Reach
By Air-Jaisalmer Airport is a military airport and supports only chartered flights, hence is sparingly used by traveller. Jodhpur Airport is the closest domestic airport that is functional throughout the year.
By Rail-Jaisalmer Railway Station has trains connecting it to Delhi, Jaipur & Jodhpur. The prestigious train, ‘Palace on Wheels’ also halts at the station.
By Road- One can switch buses in Jaipur from where a state-run sleeper coach operates regularly.It is advisable to book tickets in advance. Some sleeper buses are also available from Jodhpur and Udaipur.
The Golden City is definitely a heaven for visitors who want to buy authentic Rajasthani items. The garments with mirror work all over it are extremely popular here while one can also find lightweight blankets, carpets and stone crafted items at the local bazaars.
Colourful puppets and special footwear are known as Nagras are immensely popular in the city. It would be wise to bargain for the items in order to get them at lower rates.
The Pansari Bazaar, Bhatia Bazar and Sadar Bazaar are the main markets selling souvenirs of interest to the tourists. Sonoran ka Baas is definitely the place to go to when one wants to buy jewellery including gem studded precious ornaments.
Local Food and Eateries
The desert cuisine of Jaisalmer has gained popularity in the recent years thanks to tourism. The food is unlike any other available in other areas of Rajasthan. However, a wholesome and satisfactory meal can be easily obtained in the city.
The local populace is not financially well off that indicates why oil and butter are used sparingly in preparing the dishes. Shredded vegetables along with beans, spices and capers are usually used to flavour the dishes.
While vegetarian dishes such as Ker Sangria, Dal Bati Churma, and Kadhi Pakora are widely available, it is possible to get a variety of meat-based dishes as well. They would need to search for Murgh-E-Subz and Mutton Saag at more expensive restaurants though for the majority of Jaisalmer happen to be strict vegetarians.
However, the ones with a sweet tooth can enjoy a host of delicacies including but not limited to Panchdhari Ladoo, Jalebis and Ghotul, the special dessert of the desert.
The trio- This is a clean and comfortable dining location with the chickpea pickle being an absolute favourite of the masses here.
Desert Boy’s Dhani– This is a place that offers only vegetarian fare. The Rajasthani food here is authentic and delicious.
Zoya Ka Zayeka– This is a laid-back restaurant famous for its local dishes. The rooftop dining area is highly popular with tourists here.
Reach Jaisalmer by air, rail or via road and check into your hotel. Take some rest and be ready by 10 AM for an interesting tour of the city. Remember to wear light clothes though and carry sunglasses or parasols to beat the heat.
Day 1- Spend a couple of hours within the Jaisalmer Fort. Be sure to check the houses, palaces and architectural buildings including the Tazia tower inside the boundary of the fort. The seven Jain temples within the complex is a must visit for the devout Jains as well as the tourists who are fascinated by the architecture. Walk 500m to Nathmalji ki Haveli and revel in the beautiful architecture unifying Rajput & Islamic elements. Be prepared to travel for 40kms in the late afternoon or early evening and reach the Sam sand dunes. The sweeping sands are akin to a giant ocean and make an image that is hard to find anywhere else. It is totally bare of vegetation, and single tourists can get lost as the sand shifts constantly hiding the landmarks. Exploring the vast desert is best conducted on camelback. The guides are knowledgeable about the area and will be able to make your visit worthwhile.
Day 2- Begin the day at 9 AM by making a short stop at the Lodurva village, famous as the capital of the Bhatti dynasty. There are a number of ruins and Jain temples to visit there, and the place is reckoned to be older than the city itself. A visit to the Bada Bagh will amaze you with the cenotaphs erected in memory of the ruling elite of the royal family of Jaisalmer. The garden includes a water tank and dam that has made this area green in sharp contrast to the desert beyond. Drop in to visit the Gadsisar Lake and note the main source of water for the entire city. It is a favourite sightseeing place within the town at present with many activities available for the tourists. Finish your tour by checking the Folklore Museum situated on the banks of the lake and learn about the culture and tradition of Jaisalmer via a video show.