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JAISALMER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rising from the heart of the Thar Desert like a golden mirage is the city of Jaisalmer. A commanding fort etched in yellow sandstone stands, with its entire awesome splendor, dominating the amber-hued city. The city has an interesting legend associated with it, according to which, Lord Krishna the head of the Yadav Clan, foretold Arjuna that a remote descendent of the Yadav Clan would built his kingdom atop the Trikuta Hill. His prophecy was fulfilled in 1156 A.D. 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. Bhati Rajputs of Jaisalmer were feudal chiefs who lived off the forced levy on the caravans laden with precious silks and spices that crossed the territory enroute Delhi or Sindh. These caravans earned the town great wealth.

For years Jaisalmer remained untouched by the outside influences. The rise of shipping trade and the port of Mumbai saw the decline of Jaisalmer. But the desert fortress, that seems to be straight out of the "Tales of the Arabian Night" still enchants. The Life within the citadel conjures up images of medieval majesty visible in its narrow lanes strewn with magnificent palace, havelis, temples and of course skilled artisans and ubiquitous camels. The setting sun turning Jaisalmer into a beautiful golden brown is a spectacular sight. The perfect time to visit the golden city is during the Desert Festival, held in Jan/Feb. every year, when the city reverberates to the sound of melodious tunes and rhythms. Folk dances, exciting competitions and contests especially the turban-tying contest. Mr. Desert contest and camel races enliven the festivities. Colourful craft bazaars are set up for the occasion and a sound and light spectacle is organized with folk artist performing against the splendid backdrop of the famous Sam sand dunes on the full moon night. Surely a not-to-be missed event.

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PLACES OF INTEREST ARE:
Jaisalmer Fort: Life in the searing heat of the summer months of the medieval ages, once flourished within the 99 bastions of the fort of Jaisalmer. Rising from the sands, it merges with the sand dunes, resembling from a distance a giant ant hill. Closer, the bastions show up more formidable, vast chunks of honey-coloured stone blocks carved to dovetail together. Within these bastions is a complete township that consists of a palace complex, the havelis of rich Jain merchants carved with an incredibly light touch, & Hindu temples. Jaisalmer was founded in the 12th century by the Bhati Rajputs who shifted here from Lodurva. Placed strategically on the trade route along which ancient caravans passed, Jaisalmer soon became rich, so much so that the merchants, who also served as ministers in the royal courts, came to command more power than the rulers themselves. No wonder the large mansions of the merchants, built adjacent to each other in the nature of medieval desert cultures, are so profusely decorated that eh palace, in comparison, appears to pale. While the havelies & the palace, along with the temples, will warrant the mandatory visits, Jaisalmer is incredible for the experiment it brings alive of a medieval township caught in a time warp, as you move up its cobbled streets. Its incredible sculptors were Muslim craftsmen who were induced, on their journeys to the patrons in other parts of India, to stay. The result is an architectural purity that, because of Jaisalmer's incredible isolation, is not seen elsewhere.

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.

Nathmalji ki Haveli: The late 19th century Haveli with intricate architecture a display of sheer craftsmanship. The left and right wings of the mansion were carved by two brothers are not identical but very similar and balanced in design. The interior walls are ornate with splendid miniature paintings.

Patwon 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.

Jain Temple: Being the financers of the Rajputs, the rich and influential Jain community was given full religious liberty; and they built many temples in and around Jaisalmer. The Paraswanath temple is the oldest and the most beautiful of the Jain Temples. The walls of the sanctum are carved with animal and human figures and rising above is a tall Shikhar, which is crowned by an amalak and a waterpot containing a lotus flower.

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MUSEUMS & ART GALLERIES:
Folklore Museum: For anyone interested in seeing the culture of Jaisalmer on display through the ages, the Lok Sanskritik Sangrahalaya or the Museum of the Folk Culture situated on the bank of Gadsisar Lake in Mehar Bagh Garden is a must. This museum was established in 1984 by N.K. Sharma, a local connoisseur. This well organized museum is divided into six sections and has a rich collection of paintings, photographs, costumes, hairstyles and jewellery, utility articles of rural life, camel and horse decorations, fossils, ornamental arches, as well as articles connected with folk and cultural lifestyles.

Government Museum: The Government Museum of Jaisalmer is situated on Police Line Road near RTDC Hotel Moomal. It was opened in 1984. the large collection of wood and marine fossils in the museum gives an insight into the geological past of the area. The sculpture from the ancient townships of Kiradu and Lodurva dating back to the 12th century pulsate with youth and grace and depicts the artistic skill of the time a glass case exhibits the Great Indian Bustards and Tilor which are birds of the desert.

Gyan Bhandar & Library: Some of the oldest manuscripts of India are found in this library established as a part of Jain Temples.

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EXCURSIONS:
Lodurva (16 km): Northwest of Jaisalmer, Lodurva is an important center of Jain pilgrimage. It is town of great antiquity. Lodurva was the capital of Bhati Rajputs before Rawal Jaisal founded Jaisalmer in 1155 AD. Lodurva was flourishing town in 10th and 11th century AD. It was a center of art and architecture. The exquisite carvings and other remains of ancient monuments provide a glimpse of Lodurva's glorious past.

Desert National Park: the vast tracts of desert sands around Jaisalmer, with their wood fossils, have been designated the Desert National Park. To the lay person, there may be little about the desert that calls for "protection", leave alone support wildlife, but the desert has a fragile eco-system that has a unique variety of wildlife species. These include the somewhat ungainly great Indian bustard which, because of these efforts, has made a comeback in recent decades, though it is still on the endangered lists. Since the sandy desert has only a few grasses and shrubs, and a low scattering of indigenous trees, the leaf cover is limited.

This environment supports the spiny-tail lizard that lives in underground colonies, desert monitors that look like miniature replicas of dragons, sandfish that 'swim' under the sand, chameleons, and of course, snakes that include the deadly sawscaled viper and Sind Krait. Other faunal species here include the desert hare, hedgehog, the predatory Indian wolf, desert fox, and desert gerbil. However, it is with the great Indian bustard that the Desert National Park is most closely associated, especially since its conservation efforts have borne fruit. A bird that lives in small flocks, it has strong legs meant for walking and feeds on everything from cereals and berries to grasshoppers, locusts, and even snakes. The Desert National Park unlike most preserves throughout the world, does not overwhelm with a profusion of either vegetation or wildlife, but its precisely because of this that its preservation has ensured that a vital link in the eco-system has not been destroyed. Visitors to the park will need patience and perseverance to establish the sighting of wildlife, and though they may miss the 'glamour' of tiger sightings, a view of the long-legged bustard cresting a sand-dune is every bit as rewarding.

Wood Fossil Park, Aakal (17 km): Lying on the Barmer Road, this park takes you back to the Jurassic period (when the whole Thar region lay under the sea) with 180 million year old fossils the geological landmarks for the study of the Thar Desert.

Sam Sand Dunes (42 km): No trip to Jaisalmer is complete without a trip to the most picturesque dunes of Sam. The ripples on the wind-caressed dunes, that create an enchanting mirage, are surely a delight for a trigger-happy photographer. Various cultural programmes are organized against the backdrop of these fascinating sand dunes. Exciting camel safaris allow you to get the real feel of the desert on camel back.

Khuri (40 km): This fascinating desert village, located near sand dunes, lies 40 km south-west of Jaisalmer. Its huts, typical of the desert regions of Rajasthan, are brilliant examples of folk design: at once highly functional ( they are designed to withstand 122 degree F temperatures and 84 miles per hour desert winds ) as well as being highly esthetic. Made of clay mixed with cow dung, each hut is actually a complex of different functional spaces around a central courtyard, the whole of which - walls, floor and rooms - seems to be molded out of one single piece of clay. Their strikingly decorative folk art, ornate papiermache storage systems and mandana floor patterns are not to be missed.

Amar Sagar (5 km): A pleasant garden besides a lake with mango and other fruit trees. Beautifully carved Jain temples added to its splendour.

Bada Bagh (6 km): A fertile oasis on the bank of an artificial lake. Much of the city's fruits and vegetables are grown here. Surrounded by dense trees are the royal cenotaphs with beautifully carved ceilings and equestrian statues of the former rulers.

Mool Sagar (18 km): The pleasant shady grove is perfect picnic spot during summers.

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FAIRS & FESTIVALS:
Desert Festival, Jaisalmer: Held in the months of January-February, the Desert Festival exudes a delightful spirit. For three days, the otherwise barren land of Jaisalmer comes to life and is clustered with hordes of colourfully dressed people. In fact during these days, Jaisalmer gets a chance to parade its exuberant charm to the world. Some chosen and cherished moments of the glorious and illustrious past and affluent culture are on display. The traditional dances backed by high pitched music take the folk dancer and the audience on an euphoric trip. The turban-tying competition and Mr. Desert contest add a touch of excitement to the festival celebrations. The famous Gair dancers and the traditional fire-dancers leave the crowds enchanted whenever they perform. The grand finale is a trip to the sand dunes where one can enjoy the pleasure of a camel ride and at times also view the musicians and dancers performing on the dunes.

Ramdevra Fair: Situated about 12 kms to the north of Pokaran, the village of Ramdevra known after Baba Ramdev, a Tanwar Rajput and a saint who took Samadhi (conscious exit from the mortal body) in 1458 AD. He had miraculous powers and his fame reached far and wide. Legend goes that five Pirs from Mecca came here to test his power and after being convinced, paid their homage to him. Since then he is venerated by Muslims also as Ram Shah Pir. The Hindus regard him as an incarnation of Lord Krishna. Near the village, there is a tank known as Ramsar Tank which is believed to have been constructed by Baba Ramdev himself. A large step well, the Parcha Baori is also situated nearby. Baba Ram Dev believed in the equality of all human beings, both high and low, rich and power. He helped the down-trodden by granting them their wishes. Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner constructed a temple around the Samadhi in 1931 AD. Rice, coconuts, churma and wooden horses (toys) are offered to Ramdevji by the devotees.

A large fair is held here form Bhadon Sudi 11 (August - September) which is attended by lakhs of devotees who come in large groups from far and wide. Irrespective of their caste, creed or religious affiliations, these devotees throng the shrine dedicated to the saint. These groups organize night long singing of Bhajans and Kirtans to pay homage to Baba. Visitors to Ramdevra are not allowed to indulge in vices.

SHOPPING:
Shop for exquisitely carved wooden boxes in tiny curios shop, traditional rugs, hand-woven blankets and shawls in typical Rajasthani colours and weave are also available. Mirror work, embroidered articles, silver jewellery, trinkets and curious are other buys of Jaisalmer.

The main shopping areas are Sadar Bazar, Sonaron ka Bas, Manak Chowk, Pansari Bazar etc. Rajasthali the Govt. Shop for handicrafts and Khadi Gramudyong Emporium are also recommended.

 

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