Jaisalmer – Where The Forts Are Still Alive

Best Tourist Season (September – March)
Airport: 24 kms from city centre. Well connected from Jodhpur and Udaiur
Railway: Jaisalmer is linked by rail with Delhi and Jodhpur.
Road: Ahmedabad 606 kms, Bikaner 330 kms, Delhi 770 kms, Jaipur 558 kms, Jodhpur 280 kms, Khimsar 320 kms, Khuri 50 kms, Manwar 170 kms, Osian 245 kms, Pokran 110 kms, Sam 45 kms.

Jaisalmer is spectacular. This city was founded by Rawal Jaisal in 1156. Trikuta hill was chosen for the site of the new city and Jaisal abandoned his old fort at Lodurva and established this new capital – Jaisalmer. Due to its remote location, Jaisalmer remained untouched for years by outside influences and during British Raj, the Rulers of Jaisalmer were the last to sign the instrument of agreement with the British.
The glory of Jaisalmer faded when sea trade replaced the old land routes. But there is still an ‘Arabian Nights’ quality about the town. The narrow streets in the walled city preserve a traditional way of life: the craftsmen still work at the ancient crafts of weaving and stone carving, the making of silver jewellery and embroidery. And the stately, nonchalant camel is everywhere.
Winter is the perfect time for Jaisalmer. Jaisalmer’s Desert Festival, celebrated in January/February, is a must on any itinerary. The desert seems to bloom in a thousand colours. Camel races, folk dances, craft bazaars and traditional ballad singing, and a sound and light spectacle on the sand-dunes of Sam on the full moon night.

Jaisalmer is located at 26.92° N 70.9° E
Average elevation of 229 mtrs (751 feet)
Located on the border of India and Pakistan in West Rajasthan.

Jaisalmer is just 5.1 kms.

Summer maximum 41.6°C and minimum 25°C
Winters maximum 23.6°C and minimum 7.9°C
Railfall 150 mm (annual)

Population 58,286 (as of 2001 India census)
Males 57
Females 43
Jaisalmer has an average literacy rate of 64%, higher than the national average of 59.5%

Sightseeing In Jaisalmer

The Fort: The Jaisalmer Fort also known as Sonar Quila (Golden Fort) as it rises from the desert itself and seems to become one with the golden hues of the sand. This is one of the very few “living forts” in the world because nearly one fourth of the city’s population still resides within the fort. Originally the fort was the city of Jaisalmer and the first settlements outside the fort walls are said to have come up in 17th century, to accommodate the growing population of Jaisalmer.

The Fort of Jaisalmer is the second oldest fort in Rajasthan, built in 1156 AD by the Rajput ruler Rawal Jaisal from whom it derives its name. During the day time, The Fort’s massive yellow sandstone walls are tawny lion colour and changes to honey-gold as the sun sets.

Hence, this Jaisalmer Fort is also known as the Sonar Quila or the Golden Fort. This fort stands amidst the great Thar Desert on Trikuta Hill. Its dominant hilltop location making the sprawling towers of its fortifications visible for many miles around.

In 37th session of the World Heritage Committee held in 2013 in Phnom Penh, Combodia, The Jaisalmer Fort was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the group Hill Forts of Rajasthan, India.

Jaisalmer Government Museum: Towering over the Jaisalmer Fort’s main square, and partly built on top of the Hawa Pol (the fourth gate of Jaisalmer Fort), is the former ruler’s elegant seven storey palace. 

This Jaisalmer Museum was established by the Department of Archaeology & Museums, located within the Jaisalmer Fort and a prime attraction for tourists coming to Jaisalmer.  The most striking display is the trophy of Rajasthan’s State bird Godawan (the great Indian Bustard), mirrored and painted Rang Mahal (the bedroom of the 18th century ruler Mulraj II) and a gallery of finely wrought 15th century sculptures donated to the rulers by the builders of the fort’s temples. Other things on display are Traditional household items, rock-out crockery, jewellery and statues from 7th and 9th century AD which shows the rich cultural heritage of Jaisalmer. Also the spectacular 360 degree view of Jaisalmer City from the rooftop.

Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli: The Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli was built in 19th century by two architect brothers named Hathi and Lulu, located at a distance of 500m from Jaisalmer Fort and a renowned architectural marvel in the heart of Jaisalmer near Patwon Ki Haveli. It is believed that both the brothers started building the facets of Nathmalji Ki Haveli simultaneously and the two sides are similar but not identical. This Nathmalji Ki Haveli was constructed by Maharawal Berisal to serve as the residence of Diwan Mohata Nathmal – the Prime Minister of Jaisalmer.

Salim Singh Ki Haveli: Salim Singh ki Haveli was built in the first half of 18th century and a part of this Haveli is still occupied by descendants of the original residents. The high arched roof is supported by carved brackets designed in peacock shape. Legend says that there were two additional wooden storeys that made it match the Maharaja’s palace in height, but he ordered for the upper level to be demolished.

Patwon ki Haveli: Also known as the Mension of Brocade Merchants, is a cluster of give large havelis in Jaisalmer. Built in 1805 by Guman Chand Patwa, which took almost 55 years to complete the first haveli. History says that Patwa was an extremely wealthy man who was a well known trader of his time and the Patwon ki Haveli actually the first largest haveli constructed in Jaisalmer.

Mandir Palace: This five-storeyed majesty of Badal Mahal (Cloud Palace) is further enhanced by its pagoda-like Tazia Tower (Tazia means – a float that’s part of the procession of Muharram). Each of the floor of Mandie Palace has an intricately carved balcony. This Mandir Palace or Badam Palace owes its beauty to the skills of Muslim craftsmen who moulded the tower in the shape of a Tazia.

Jain Temple of Jaisalmer: This Jain Temple of Jaisalmer located in the Jaisalmer Fort, founded, date back to the 12th and 15th centuries. The Jain Temple is dedicated to famous Jain hermits ‘Rikhabdevji and Shambhavdevji’ known as “Tirthankars” (wise teachers who taught people how to attain nirvana). The Jain Temple also carved out of local yellow sandstone like all other structures in Jaisalmer. 

Gadisar Lake: In 14th century, Maharawal Gadsi Singh constructed Gadisar Lake, to meet the water needs of his arid lands. Considering the importance of this Gadisar Lake, many small temples and shrines were constructed around, transforming it into a pilgrimage centre and a tourist attraction.

Bada Bagh: Bada Bagh is located about 6 km to the north of Jaisalmer, also called Barabagh (literally Big Garden). The Bada Bagh complex houses chhattis or royal cenotaphs of the Maharaja’s of Jaisalmer state, including that of Jai Singh II. Location of Bada Bagh is such that it offers wonderful sunset view of Jaisalmer.

Vyas Chhatri: Vyas Chhatri, located in Bada Bagh, Jaisalmer, is one of the most beautiful examples of Rajasthani architecture. This old Brahmin cemetery, full of local versions of cenotaphs, is dedicated to Ved Vyaas – the sage who wrote the Hindu epic, Mahabharata.

With many cenotaphs all around, this place is popularly referred as the sunset point of Jaisalmer. Every day at sunset, hordes of tourist visit this sunset point of Jaisalmer. Vyas Chhatri, a popular tourist point among tourist visiting Jaisalmer, offers a bird’s eye view of Jaisalmer, the fort and even the adjoining areas.

Gyan Bhandar or Library: Gyan Bhandar or a library is a perfect destination for a great time with your dear ones, originally constructed as an addition to the famous Jain Temple. 

Established in 1500 A.D., Gyan Bhandar, the literal meaning is “Treasure of Knowledge”. This library was founded by an Acharya Maharaj ‘Jin Bhadra Suri’, the most sought after place among historians and researchers. This Gyan Bhandar of Jaisalmer houses priceless manuscripts, some of which even date back to the 11th century and a huge collection of astrological charts and various illustrations. This small library has gained immense popularity amongst tourist and visitors.

This small underground library was once a part of the well known Jain Temple that lie in the Jaisalmer Fort. Due to availability of rare scripts, this is of great importance for the students of archeology. Various valuable inscriptions that belongs to the Jain community are placed within the Gyan Bhandar, Jaisalmer. 

Excursions around Jaisalmer:

Jaisalmer War Museum: This Jaisalmer War Museum is situated at the Jaisalmer military base. This exhibit is primarily to pay respect to all our soldiers who took part and lost their lives in the 1965 India-Pakistan war and the 1971 Longewala battle. A visit to this Jaisalmer War Museum lets you see a number of captured tanks and other memorabilia from the battle, instilling a sense of immense pride in your country and its soldiers. This museum also features an audio-visual room where you can see movies about the battle. In this video Major Kuldip Singh gives a detailed description of how the soldiers fought the Longewal battle. This museum also displays a war memorial replete with many war trophies and vintage equipment, along with tanks, guns, and military vehicles, murals of soldiers who lost their lives in the war, and weapons which were used during the same. Even the Air Force has given a Hunter aircraft, as a present to this museum, which was used during the 1971 Logewala Battle between India-Pakistan. The Jaisalmer War Museum holds a very important part of our country’s history which is truly a place tourist must not miss to visit. Entry is free to Jaisalmer War Museum.

Laungewala War Memorial: The first major engagements in the western sector during Indo-Pakistan was of 1971, the Battle of Longewala was fought between assaulting Pakistani forces and Indian defenders at the Indian border post of Longewala – a border town in the desert in the western part of Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. This battle was fought between 120 Indian soldiers accompanied by 4 hunter fighter aircrafts against 2000-3000 Pakistani soldiers accompanied by 30-40 tanks.

In this Longewala War Museum, you may see fighter jets, weapons, tanks etc. used in the battle of Longewala. There is a 20 minutes clip which is shown to tourists who visit the museum.

Ramdevra Temple: Ramdevra Temple is located about 12 km from Pokhran on the Jodhpur-Jaisalmer route. Most of the people assume it is a temple dedicated to Lord Ram, but in fact this temple is dedicated to renowned saint Baba Ramdevji. This Ramdevra Temple marks the eternal resting place of Baba Ramdevji and is visited by people of all faiths. Between August and September, a large fair known as Ramdevra Fair is organised here which attracts large numbers of devotees who sing devotional songs all night long.

Tanot Mata Temple: Tanot Mata Temple is about 120 km from Jaisalmer and considered to be a reincarnation of Goddess Hinglaj. There are many stories of how Tanot was under heavy attack and shelling during the 1965 India-Pakistan war. However, none of the shells or bombs fired at the Tanot Temple exploded and this reaffirmed people’s faith that Goddess the temple. Post India-Pakistan was, the BSF (Border Security Force) rebuilt the temple and today this Tanot Temple is managed by a BSF Trust.

Akal Wood Fossil Park: Akal Wood Fossil Park is a National Geological Monument (declared in 1972) of India located in Akal village about 17 km from Jaisalmer towards Barmer. It is also a Biodiversity Heritage Site around 21 hectares in extent.

This fossil park lies in Jaisalmer’s fossil belt, a region noted to have the potential for geological parks. Fossils and footprints of pterosaurs have been in the nearby Thaiyat area.

This Wood Fossil Park consist fossils of Petrophyllum, ptyllophyllum, equisetitis species and dicotyledonous wood and gastropod shells of the Early Jurassic period. Visitors can see about a dozen fossilised wood logs lying horizontally oriented in random directions, the largest of which is 13.4m in length and 0.9m in width. Also can be seen a total of 25 petrified tree trunks. The fossils date back 180 million years.

Amar Sagar Lake: Amar Sagar Lake is a lake cum oasis lying adjacent to the Amar Singh Palace, located about 7 km towards the western outskirts of Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. The Palace was built in 17th century. The Palace complex that includes the palace and the lake is also home to several ponds and wells, along with an old temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Numerous figureheads of animals carved in stone surround the Amar Sagar Lake and according to legends, these carved figureheads are supposed to be protectors of royal family. At one end, there are pavilions with stairs that lead down to the lake; while at the other end there is a beautiful aesthetically carved Jain Temple. The Amar Sagar Lake is yet another spot for a gorgeous sunset point in Jaisalmer.

Desert National Park: The Desert National Park of Jaisalmer displays the best of the Thar desert’s ecosystem and its varied wildlife. This national park is formed of undulating sand dunes, jagged rocks, dense salt lake bottoms and inter-medial areas. The Park inhabit various species of animals such as black buck, chinkara and desert fox. Can also see the highly endangered Greak Indian Bustard, one of the world’s heaviest flying birds. During winter, the park hosts an incredible variety of migratory raptors such as Himalayan and Eurasian Griffon Vultures, Eastern Imperial Eagle and the Saker Falcon. 

Kuldhara Village: An abandoned Kuldhara Village in Jaisalmer district of Rajasthan established around 13th century. The Kuldhara Village was once a prosperous village inhabited by Paliwal Brahmins and was abandoned by the early 19th century for unknown reasons, possibly because of dwindling water supply, or as per local legend, because of persecution by the Jaisalmer state’s minister Salim Singh. A Study in 2017 suggests that Kuldhara and other neighbouring villages were abandoned because of an earthquake.

Over years, Kuldhara acquired reputation as a haunted site and Rajasthan Government decided to develop this site as a tourist spot in 2010.

The ruins of Kuldhara village includes 3 cremation grounds, with several devalis (memorial stones or cenotaphs).

As per local legend, while deserting the village, the Paliwals imposed a curse that no one would be able to re-occupy the village and who tried to repopulate this village experienced paranormal activities, and the village remains uninhabited.

Gradually, the Kuldhara Village acquired reputation as a haunted place and started attracting tourists. The local residents around Kuldhara village area do not believe in the ghost stories but propagate them in order to attract tourists. Early 2010, Gaurav Tiwari of Indian Paranormal Society claimed to have observed paranormal activities at the site. 18 member team of the society along with 12 other people spent a night at the village and claimed to have encountered moving shadows, haunting voices, talking spirits, and other paranormal activities.

In 2015, Rajasthan government decided to actively develop Kuldhara village as a tourist spot.

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