It was a golden opportunity for me and my family to visit the unique golden and popular desert city of Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, India in Sep 2013. It is famous for Camel races and dances, folk music, desert ballads, puppeteers, Fort, Havelis and Sand dunes etc. Having travelled about 605 kms, by a comfortable train journey from Jaipur to Jaisalmer via Jodhpur, we arrived on a warm afternoon at Jaisalmer railway station, when the world famous “Palace on Wheels” train had earlier arrived and was parked at the platform of this railway station. Thereafter we proceeded to and arrived at Gorbandh Palace Hotel for our stay, to a very warm welcome. It is a very good hotel, with multiple facilities and it makes the traveller at ease & comfortable. Here we formed a team of nine persons to see this colourful part of the state.
On one of the afternoons we visited two Havelis, the Fort, Gadisagar Lake and the market of the city. The Fort was built by Rawal Jaisal in the year 1156 and is about 100 meters over the city and many persons are living therein. It has steep roads at entrance. It has narrow stone lanes and several main entrances. It houses Jain temples built during 12 th to 15 th centuries. These are beautifully carved. (Jain Temple and Museum could not be seen as they were closed at that time.) There is also a library containing some very old manuscripts. Within the fort we also have a Shiva and a Ganesh temple. In the night, electric light is focused all around on the outside walls of the fort, which presents a fantastic view. Jaisalmer had a strategic position on the camel train route, due to which the businessmen grew rich and their status increased. They built Havelis to show this to others. These are made of local golden yellow sandstone and wood. Most of the Havelis are beautifully latticed. These are mostly in narrow lanes. The most important, famous and largest is Patwon ki Haveli. Many of the old items, utensils, paintings etc. have been retained for display. In this Haveli, we had to climb the steps to go to various floors. The old items and displays were properly arranged and demarcated and our guide explained the various matters at different points. In one of the halls, we saw local persons displaying popular items for buyers especially the foreigners for effecting purchases. The other two important Havelis are Salim Singh ki Haveli and Nathmal ki Haveli. Many of the works, murals, paintings and art treasures are being preserved in Haveli Museum. Gyan Bhandar, in the centre of the city has some very old manuscripts. There is a Tazia Tower having five storeys, each having a beautifully carved balcony. Bada Bagh is at a distance of 5 kms. from Jaisalmer and is a fertile oasis, having an old dam. It supplies vegetables and fruits to Jaisalmer. It also has royal Chatris (Cenotaphs). Jaisalmer is famous for shopping for mirror work embroidered articles, several items made out of the good quality local wood, wooden boxes, silver jewellery etc. in the main areas of Sadar Bazar, Manak Chowk, Pansari Bazar, which are all outside the Fort. Manak Chowk is said to be the centre of local activity. One of the famous shops here is Rajasthali, a Government shop for handicrafts. The beautiful Gadisar Lake has many small temples and shrines around it. It has a beautiful arched gate way across the road. In winter months, varieties of birds come here. This lake supplies water to the Jaisalmer town. Near the lake there was a museum earlier, but now it has been shifted from here.
The visit on the next day afternoon from 330 PM to 900 PM approximately, was unique. This visit was for Moolsagar Jain Temple. Kuldhara village, SAM sand dunes, ride on a camel or a camel cart, Sun-set view, Kalbelia dance etc. with dinner back at the hotel around 930 PM, after a tiring but highly entertaining trip. Moolsagar is about 9 Kms. away from Jaisalmer. Besides the Jain temple, it also has a garden. Moolsagar temple has several idols. In a portion, it is having two storeys. Kuldhara is about 25 Kms. from Jaisalmer and is in ruins but a protected monument. There is said to be a story about this village. This village is about 1000 years old and lies uninhabited and only walls are there in the form of layers of stones. Most of them are without roof but some have roofs and columns to support the roof, though these were having cracks. A few were having two floors. We also saw a well for water supply. Roads were narrow and kachha. The place is said to have ghosts in the night. Sand dunes in SAM are 42 Kms. from Jaisalmer and these show the real desert where wind carves out designs on the sand. We can go up these dunes riding on camels and to some extent with camel carts. The most important sight is the unique sunset view from here. These dunes have little or no vegetation. It is a pleasure to explore the area. In SAM all the camels and camel carts were observed to be colourfully decorated and the view of some camels going on sand dunes in a line presented a view worth remembering. Going up the sand dunes by ourselves, was a nightmare, as every time the sand below our feet would make us slide down. But finally we succeeded in going up the slope and then we enjoyed throwing sand on each other and also clicked photographs sitting and slipping down on the sand. The folk performers entertain the tourists, with music and dance, which is unforgettable. Several of the Kalbelia dancers were fast and appeared to be having exceptional expertise and practice. Everybody appeared to be engaged in clicking photographs. There are facilities of Camel safaris and Jeep safaris available for the tourists.
Loudurva is 17 kms. away from Jaisalmer and is the ancient capital of Jaisalmer. It is famous for its Jain temple. Aakal wood fossil-park is 16 kms. from Jaisalmer and has fossils scattered in it. About 40 kms. from Jaisalmer, in the desert is the village of Khuri having houses of mud and straw. Desert National Park is at distance of 40 kms. from Jaisalmer and has eco-system of the desert. Jaisalmer is well connected by road to many destinations. Although the season for visiting this city is during October-March, still the month of September was pleasant. During our stay, we also got light showers rain three times. On the whole, it was an entertaining, educative and pleasant trip, with several memories of the places, people and the programmes, with hopes of coming here again in near future.