Places to visit
Situated amid picturesque Thar Desert, the Jaisalmer city commands premiere position among the tourist attractions scattered all over Rajasthan. The Jaisalmer city is revered both by Indian as well as foreign tourists.
Who would have dreamt in such a vast sand oasis a castle worthy of an ancient throne, such an art in carven work of stone? It is like straight out of an Arabian Nights fable. The name Jaisalmer induces a dramatic picture of utter magic and brilliance of the desert. The hostile terrain not withstanding the warmth and color of people is simply over whelming.
Like various other cities of Rajasthan, in Jaisalmer too you will find different facets of its own glorious heritage too. Tough you can find historical monuments scattered all over the city, the Jaisalmer Fort will immediately command your attention. Made of sand stones and locally known as Sonar Quila, the Jaisalmer Fort is a dominating structure between the sands. The Jaisalmer city is also revered for its Havelis. Among many of them you will find Salim ji ki haveli and Nathmal ji ki haveli as the most striking. There are other monuments too, which are equally important because of there distinct and individual architecture. The amalgamation of ancient and the medieval era architecture will catch your fancy.
Had enough of architecture jargons, move out of it. Visit Gadsisar Lake and take a close look on the migratory birds as they indulge in amorous fight. Or else visit Desert Cultural center to take a sneak peek of Rajasthani culture. There is enough to keep you busy for days in Jaisalmer itself.
Desert Cultural Center Jaisalmer
Location: Jaisalmer city on Gadi Sagar Road
How to reach: Take a cab or auto Rickshaw from the hotel
Timings: 10 A.M. to 5 P.M.
Importance: Rare coins, manuscripts are in abundance
Desert cultural center and museum is a place where you will get to know about the rich cultural heritage and customs of Jaisalmer, a popular destination in Rajasthan. So if you are short on time and cannot mug up in library, this is the place to be. The place is well maintained and harbors rare coins and manuscript related to Jaisalmer history and the history of Rajasthan in whole.
This museum has some eye-catching collection of traditional Rajasthani textiles, utensils, weapons, musical instruments and fossils. One thing that is very popular among foreigners is 'Karal', the traditional opium mixing box. The place regularly organizes showcase programs for tourists. Try to get there before the mentioned time in order to avoid rush.
Location: Near 'Tillon ki Gate' in Jaisalmer
How to reach: Take an auto rickshaw or rickshaw
Attraction: Lake and birds
Gadsisar Lake is one of the major tourist attractions of Jaisalmer. Just leave the madding crowd behind and venture towards the outskirts and you will find yourself next to the famous Gadsisar Lake. Contrary to the popular belief, it is not an oasis but a water conservation tank made around 1400 A.D. by the then maharaja of Jaisalmer, Maharwal Gadsi Singh. Can you believe this structure just outside the city walls once acted as a reservoir that controlled the entire supply of water to the arid city!
This place was selected because it had a certain amount of declivity already and it automatically retained some of the rainwater. If you are lucky and venture out in winters, you might get to see a variety of migratory birds. Due to its proximity to Bharatpur, some of the birds get attracted to this place also. Don't miss to carry a good pair of binoculars and SLR camera with a wide-angle lens if you want to take away some really mesmerizing snaps.
You will find whole varieties of temples and shrines surrounding the lake. In later years it became more of a pilgrimage spot. The beautiful gateway that arches across the road down to the Lake was built by royal courtesan named Tillon in the end of 19th century, known as Tillon Ki prol (Gate of Tillon). Lord Vishnu's statue was installed in the year 1908 A.D. or the gate by the courtesan & declared Krishna Temple to save it from demolition by the then Maharawal.
Jain Temples of Jaisalmer
Location: In the Jaisalmer Fort
How to reach: Take a rickshaw or share an auto rickshaw
Attraction: Dilwara style paintings, Architecture
Timings: Early morning till 12 noon
Jain Temples situated in the Jaisalmer Fort are a must visit site in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. You will find these temples to be very old and high pilgrimage as well as archeological value attached to them. These are a group of Jain temples dating back 12th and 15th centuries and are dedicated to various Jain Tirthankars (Hermits). On the walls of the temples, you can find animal & human figures, carved in famous Dilwara style.
These temples are built in the Dilwara style that is famous all over the world for its architecture. The style got its name from the famous 'Dilwara Temples' situated on Mount Abu, a famous Hill station and pilgrimage destination in Rajasthan. The Jain temples in the Jaisalmer Fort are dedicated to Rikhabdevji and Shambhavdev Ji, the famous Jain hermits known as 'Tirthankars'. Like all other structures in Jaisalmer, these temples are craved of yellow sandstones. The beautifully carves decorations on the wall will give you divine peace. The Astapadhi Temples that are situated in the same complex are a must visit too.
The temple complex is open through out the morning till 12noon, for the visitors. So try to get up a bit early or you might miss this splendor. The campus also contain Gyan Bhandar library. Well if you are a student of comparative archeology or otherwise, the library will prove to be a good place to prowl as it contains some of the rare manuscripts available in India.
Location: In the very heart of Jaisalmer
How to reach: Better to take an auto-rickshaw or a rickshaw
Attraction: Architecture, miniatures and Bazaars
Timings: Early morning till 5 P.M.
Jaisalmer Fort is a monument worth visiting and worth retaining in your conscious mind. Like various other cities of Rajasthan, in Jaisalmer too you will find different facets of its own glorious heritage. Though you can find historical monuments scattered all over the city, the Jaisalmer Fort will immediately command your attention. Made of sand stones and locally known as Sonar Quila, the Jaisalmer Fort is a dominating structure amidst sands.
The city is said to be founded by one Raja Rawal Jaisal, a Bhatti Rajput ruler, in approximately 1156 A D. Legends go by that he did it on the behest of a local hermit named Eesaal. The raja choose Trikuta hill as the new site for his fort as his earlier adobe at Luderwa(16 k.m from present Jaisalmer) was too vulnerable to his comfort. But it should always be kept in mind that these legends are most of the time product of conscious minds that are very vulnerable to the oriental exaggeration.
Jaisalmer fort is the second oldest in Rajasthan. Two hundred and fifty feet tall and reinforced by imposing crenellated sandstone wall 30 feet high; it has 99 bastions, 92 of which were built between 1633 and 1647. Wells within the fort still provide a regular source of water. Even today, you will find that nearly one fourth of the old city's population resides within the fort. If you are a student of cross-cultural merging, the subtle fusion of Rajput and Islamic architectural styles, visible in this fort, will catch your fancy. Ganesh Pol, Akshya Pol, Suraj Pol and Hawa Pol are a must see.
Tazia Tower Jaisalmer
Location: Near Badal Palace in the heart of Jaisalmer
How to reach: Take an auto-rickshaw or a rickshaw
Attractions: Minarets and architectural fusion
Timings: Early morning till 5 P.M.
Tazia Tower of Jaisalmer is one of the major tourist attractions. If you have done with the various Rajputana architectures scattered in the city, Tazia tower will come as a welcome break to you. It is situated in the excellent 'Badal Palace' complex located near Amar Sagar Gate. These were the homes of the former royal family. The Tazia tower is a 5-storied structure where each story has significance in its own. On each floor there is a balcony that is famous for their individual designs. This was built by Muslim craftsmen and is based on the shape of Tazia. Tazia is actually the replica of Mausoleum of various Imams. They are made of wood, thermocol and colored papers. The architects gifted it to the then royal patrons.
Havelis of Jaisalmer
The city of Jaisalmer has witnessed different forms of architecture in different eras. The ancient times saw dominating Rajputana architecture where as the medieval period witnessed the fusion of Rajputana and subtle Islamic architecture. It is this era that saw the construction of most of the Havelis. Haveli is places, which served as the residence of Wazirs i.e. ministers and landlords. Usually they are very big and have lots of rooms and open space.
There is no dearth of Havelis in Jaisalmer as the place has witnessed many wazirs and Landlords. The most famous among these is Patwon Ji ki Haveli. This Haveli was the first in Jaisalmer that is why it has greater significance. This Haveli became the pioneer of the constructions in Jaisalmer. Patwon Ji ki Haveli is actually the collection of 5 small Havelis.
If you want to witness the continuity in design, you will have to visit Nathmal Ji ki Haveli. Take a close look at the subtle fusion of Rajasthani and Islamic school of architecture. It is a Haveli constructed by two brothers. There are interesting stories related to its construction. They give an insight to the then prevailing forms of Architecture.
Last but not the least among major Havelis is Salim Ji ki haveli. Built in 1815, this Haveli is famous for its unique architecture based on the Peacock. Have a view of the city from one of its numerous balconies and you will get the real picture of the bustling city.
Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli
Location: In the heart of Jaisalmer
How to Reach: Take a rickshaw or just walk the distance
Attraction: Architecture and miniature
Timings: Early morning till 5 P.M.
This Nathmal Ji ki haveli was commissioned to serve as the residence of Diwan Mohata Nathmal, the then Prime Minister of Jaisalmer. Maharawal Beri Sal commissioned the construction of this Haveli. The architects of this haveli were Hathi and Lulu who happened to be brothers. There is a very interesting story regarding its construction. It is said that the two brothers started building different facets of haveli simultaneously. In those days there were no such instruments, which could keep a track on continuity and thus when this building came up finally it had irregular shape.
Barring that, this haveli is still considered the best in Jaisalmer in terms of grandeur. There are other minute details worth appreciation. For example there are two Elephants made of yellow stone. These life-size replicas have been put in front of the main entrance so that it looks as if they are guarding the Haveli. Other than these, there are pictures engraved on pillars and walls. These consist of Horses, Cattle, and depiction of Flora among other things. But the most interesting aspect of this haveli is the drawing of modern amenities such as cars, fans etc. It is said and believed that the Architect brothers dint see these things ever in their life and engraved it with mere help of their descriptions given by people who had seen it.
Thus the architecture present in this haveli is quite different from the one popular in other parts of Jaisalmer. The workmanship of Jaisalmer havelis is an amalgam of both Rajput architecture as well as Islamic art that was imported via the traders' caravan through the desert.
Patwon Ki Haveli
Location: In a narrow lane near Patwa Complex
How to reach: Take a rickshaw, better if you walk the distance
Attraction: Architecture and miniatures, balconies
Timings: Early morning till 5 P.M.
The Patwon Ji ki Haveli is an interesting piece of Architecture and is the most important among the havelis in Jaisalmer. This is precisely because of two things, first that it was the first haveli erected in Jaisalmer and second, that it is not a single haveli but a cluster of 5 small havelis. The first among these havelis was commissioned and constructed in the year 1805 by Guman Chand Patwa and is the biggest and the most ostentatious. It is believed that Patwa was a rich man and was a renowned trader of his time. He could afford and thus ordered the construction of separate stories for each of his 5 sons. These were completed in the span of 50 years. All five houses were constructed in the first 60 years of the 19th century.
The havelis are also known as the 'mansion of brocade merchants'. This name has been given probably because the family dealt in threads of gold and silver used in embroidering dresses. However, there are theories, which claim that these traders made considerable amount of money in Opium smuggling and Money-lending.
This is the largest Haveli in Jaisalmer and stands in a narrow lane. This haveli is presently occupied by the government, which uses it for various purposes. The office of the Archeological Survey of India and State art and craft department is situated in the haveli itself.
Nevertheless, even after these encroachments and abuse you can find a good amount of paintings and mirror-works on the wall. The other important aspects are its gateways and arches. You will notice individual depictions and theme on each and every arch. Although the whole building is made yellow sandstone, the main gateway of the Patwon Ji ki Haveli is in brown color.
Salim Ji Ki Haveli Jaisalamer
Location: In the heart of Jaisalmer near Railway station
How to reach: Take a rickshaw ride to avoid traffic jam
Attraction: Architecture, chiefly balconies
Timings: Early morning till 5 P.M.
Salim Singh ki haveli has been built on the remains of an older haveli built in the late 17th century. The new building was built in the year 1815 and was occupied by the Mehta family of Jaisalmer. They were the most influential family of their time. This haveli was commissioned by Salim Singh, the then Prime Minister of the kingdom when Jaisalmer was the capital.
The haveli has a distinct architecture. The roof has been constructed in the form of Peacock. The haveli is situated beside the hills near the Jaisalmer Fort. People claim that Salim Singh made two additional floors in order to make it as high as the fort but the Maharaja did not take this attempt in good spirit. He ordered the extra floors to be torn down. Nevertheless we do not find enough evidence to corroborate the story.
Like other havelis in Jaisalmer, this too has tuskers guarding the gateways. These are made of sand stones and look very close to the original in appearance. The haveli consists of as many as 38 balconies and they all have distinct designs for themselves. The front facet of the haveli resembles ship stern and thus this haveli is also sometimes referred as Jahazmahal.