“Khamma Ghani” the Royal greeting of people and “Ram Ram Sa” meaning Welcome to Rajasthan, are two quintessential phrases you hear when you step on Rajasthani soil. With the men donning the Rajasthani pagri, angrakha, pyjamas with huge silver anklets on their feet and mojaris, huge moustaches, and the women in Ghagra choli with Odhnis, white ivory bangles up till their shoulders, intricately designed ornaments and mang tikka you know you’ve arrived in the Royal state!
Let’s take you on a royal arm-chair travel journey to the beautiful, golden state of Jaisalmer.
Located in the western part of Rajasthan, Jaisalmer sits in the heart of the Thar Desert. Jaisalmer means ‘The Hill Fort of Jaisal’. It is one of the iconic cities in Rajasthan, known for its massive magnificent golden sandcastle nestled in the midst of Thar desert, epitomising the desolate, impressive charm of the desert in Rajasthan. It is the third-largest district of Rajasthan, and the city got its name from the yellow-coloured sandstone that is used throughout the fort architecture and on the townhouses, all of which resemble golden yellow light.
As the sunrises, the golden stones shine in the daylight. The serenity of the city makes it a premier tourist destination for tourists all over the world. The city is popular also because it is one of the few cities in the country that offers a desert experience. Jaisalmer is known for beautiful monuments, iconic sandstone, hill forts, Havelis, handicrafts, architecture, food culture, traditions and lots more. The city traces its inception to the 12th century during the reign of Maharawal Jaisal Singhji, a Rajput king who founded the city in 1156 AD. Jaisalmer is adorned with scenic lakes, ornate Jain temples and Havelis.
When you visit Jaisalmer, here are a few must-visit places that must be a part of your itinerary.
Must-See Attractions in Jaisalmer
Jaisalmer Fort stands as a citadel, surrounded by narrow alleys inhabited by people residing there for generations. If you wish to see the replica of the popular television show The Arabian Nights, the Jaisalmer Fort is a must-visit. The fort is named after the former Bhati Rajput ruler Rao Jaisalji.
One of the largest forts in the world, the Jaisalmer Fort is located on the southern edge of the city and is popularly known as ‘Sonar Qila’ or ‘Golden Fort’. The fort stands at an impressive height of 250 ft and is surrounded by a 30 ft tall walls. It has 99 bastions and is from yellow sandstone, in the midst of gold sand dunes. This magnificient fort is a living fort with about 3,000 inhabitants who inhabit it even today and includes many houses, museum, shops, restaurants, residential accommodations, and hotels.
Palace of the Maharawal, as well as other rooftops in Jaisalmer Fort, reveal the maze of narrow, twisting lanes that are honeycombing through this ancient aged edifice. One can stroll around the fort or take a beautifully-decorated autorickshaw to get around. Owing to the altitude of the fort, it offers stunning, panoramic views of Jaisalmer, draped in golden yellow colour.
Below the hilltop, one can also witness the vast surrounding of the houses, a network of streets, shops, markets, etc., which makes the shopping experience very interesting. You can buy ethnic silver jewellery, scarves, shawls, bags, jholas, pendants, earrings, various Rajasthani accessories etc. Many small restaurants are placed too close to each other in narrow gallis, providing rooftop views to enjoy the serene view of the fort.
Patwaon ki Haveli
Patwaon ki Haveli gets its name as it stands near the Patwa Valley. The first among these Havelis was commissioned and constructed in 1805 by Guman Chand Patwa. The entire complex is not a single haveli but a cluster of five smaller beautiful Havelis. The mansion is made of yellow sandstone with a brown gateway. Walls are adorned with unique mirror work and exquisite paintings.
Five different palaces were meant for the five Patwa brothers. The hardwork and aesthetic skills of the local Rajasthani craftsmen can be seen in every corner of this Haveli and the individual theme-wise depiction on each and every arch gives it a mesmerising appearance. There are remnants of exquisite paintings on some walls with lovely jharokhas opening into the courtyard.
The terrace offers great views of the fort. Colourful frescos and murals, huge corridors, intricate stone carvings, sculpted pillars and delicate latticework look exotic, making the Haveli one of the popular tourist attraction in Jaisalmer.
Gadi Sagar Lake
Gadi Sagar Lake is a beautiful, located in the Southern part of the city, is an artificially-made lake built by Rawal Jaisal. There is historical importance as it was the only source of water for the town back then. Later, it was remodelled by Maharaja Garisisar Singh.
The banks of the Lake consist of shrines, temples, ghats and chattris. One can start by taking a look at the Gate of Tilon Ki Pol, which has an archway carved on rich yellow sandstone. It is placed on the banks of the Gadisar Lake where Lord Shiva’s temple is situated. A Scenic boat ride can give you a picturesque view of the architecture and spot various birds flying around the lake perching themselves on the bank. Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary is also situated close to the Gadisar Lake for tourists who wish like to explore the beautiful avian world. Southwards of the city, this lake has an entry archway in yellow sandstone known as Telia Pol, which was made by Telia, who was once a Royal Courtesan. The backdrop of the lake offers an amazing view of the Jaisalmer Fort.
The mysterious village, located 18 km Southwest of Jaisalmer, is known for its abandonment over 200 years ago. Kuldhara village is popular in folklore for the mystery that surrounds it and attracts tourists from around the world who are intrigued by what makes this a ghost town today.
The Kuldhara village was vacated overnight and its people just vanished without any trace. This led to many a myth and haunted stories that you get to hear when you visit the village. There have been stories of ghostly and paranormal activity over the years that deter people from settling down in this village and rehabilitating it.
The village was home to the Paliwal Brahmins. During the time, Salim Singh, the Diwan of Jaisalmer, known for his debauchery and unscrupulous tax collecting methods, set his eyes on the beautiful daughter of the village chief. The Diwan was absolutely hell-bent on having the girl and warned the villagers that if they came in his way, he would levy huge taxes on them.
Fearing the wrath of the Diwan, the residents of the village fled one dark night, leaving behind their homes and everything they had. Kuldhara was abandoned by its very own people. No one saw the thousand-odd members of the village leave. For generations now, no one knows where the Paliwals have resettled. All that is known is that they cursed the town when they left so that no one would ever be able to settle down in Kuldhara again.
Many stories floated around. Some say the “chudails” or wicked witches and ghosts walked around in the night, haunting the place. Others say that nobody lived here anymore as mysterious deaths have occurred. The silence of the village is far from comforting, bordering eeriness. No one ever knew anything about them, some say they came from Pali in Jodhpur, some say they went back to Pali but only their souls now rest in Kuldhara. The structures in the village are dilapidated, made from brick sandstone and amid the ruins stands a renovated temple too. But, the legend and the curse of Kuldhara definitely leaves one intrigued.
Let’s Wrap and Pack!
Jaisalmer is a charming little city which you absolutely need to visit when on a tour to Rajasthan. Apart from those mentioned, there are many places to visit in and around Jaisalmer such as the Salim Singh ki Haveli, Nathmalji ki Haveli, splendorous Jain shrines dedicated to Rishabdevji, Sambhavnathji and Parshvanathji, and many more. Well- maintained Havelis, converted hotels, Rajasthani dishes like daal batti churma, gatte ki Sabji, pyaaz ki Kachori, etc., are sure going to travel back with you in your memories.
Wish to spend some extra days in the city? Here are a few excursions for you to explore:
Devikot (40 km), Ramdeora (150 km), Lodhruva (17 km), Bada Bagh (6 km), Wood Fossil Park (17 km), Desert National Park (40 km), Barmer (153 km).