Be a king or queen for a day and visit the Jaisalmer Fort. It is not only one of the oldest forts in Rajasthan (1156) after Chittorgarh, but it is also the second largest. Built almost entirely out of the locally available yellow sand stone, the fort rises 250 feet high on formation of three hills, Trikuta, formed almost totally of mud. At the break of dawn, the Golden Fort (Sonar Quila) is an imposing sight from miles around; it shines like a golden tiara atop the lofty hill. It is also the only ‘Living Fort’ in the country. The fort is host to over 1000 families whose forefathers have been settled there by the Kings (Maharawals of the Bhati clan of Rajputs) some eight centuries ago and continue to live in the ancestral houses on the original streets and Paras. A large percentage of these houses also double as hotels, restaurants and antique shops during the tourist season. Situated inside the majestic Jaisalmer Fort, It was an erstwhile royal residence, which was later converted into a heritage centre and museum. The museum houses a great collection of artifacts depicting the rich culture and heritage of Jaisalmer. The silver coronation throne, bed, dish, local stamps, banknotes, and sculptures of the royal family are main attractions of this palace.You can enjoy a bird's eye view of the city from the rooftop of the palace. It is a must-visit for history buffs and those keen on learning about the heritage of Rajasthan.
Be a foodie!
When in the desert state, try the desert shrub. Ker Sangri. It is an unusual but lip-smacking vegetarian dish made with desert beans and capers. Do not miss the usual suspects—dal baati choorma and panchkoota (five desert vegtables cooked in yogurt). The non-vegans can feast on laal maas. Top your meal with the local lassi and make sure it has dollops of cream. Try the local bhang chocolates. The Bhaang Shop is near the gate of Jaisalmer fort, where Bhaang is available in the form of biscuits and milk mixed variety. The biscuits cost about 80 rupees. The milk bottle costs about rupees 360.
Patwon ki Haveli
The Patwon 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 five small havelis.
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.
Jaisalmer beholds the medieval mystic and charm. It offers a unique shopping experience to its visitors. The narrow bazaar lanes are lined up with shops on both sides, offering a wide range of items including irresistibly beautiful handicraft items. Puppets and joothies are other popular items. You can also shop for a host of other items, which include textile, camel leather items, woven jackets, wooden boxes and ornaments.
Jaisalmer is known for its mirrorwork embroidered garments and carpets, blankets and shawls, woolen pattu, carpets made from camel hair, tapestry, oil lamps, finely cut antiques, old stonework, silver jewellery and silk and cotton textiles. The good quality wooden items like wooden boxes, trinkets, souvenirs and curios are also worth buying in Jaisalmer.
The main shopping areas in Jaisalmer are Sadar Bazaar, Sonaron Ka Bas, Manak Chowk, Pansari Bazaar, Gandhi Darshan, Zila Khadi Gramodan Parishad, Khadi Gramyodyog Bhawan (Seema Gram) and Rajasthali—the government store, selling handicrafts.
Visit the ghost town
Drive to the so-called ‘ghost town’ of Kuldhara (18km from Jaisalmer). The village is an abandoned collection of ruined houses. Legend has it that it was once a prosperous and bustling settlement of the Paliwal Brahmins. They were oppressed by the high taxes imposed by the rulers and when the ruler pursued the chief’s daughter, they abandoned the village overnight along with the inhabitants of 83 nearby villages. Their vanishing act continues to be a mystery. It is believed that they cast a curse over the village as they departed— that would bring death to anyone who tried to inhabit the land. Go in the evening, to experience the excitement.
Images courtesy: Shalabh Saxena