Its called ‘The Golden city’, for the color, an apt enough reason one would say. Looking beyond the color, you would find Jaisalmer to be old, very old, doesn’t have a large group of admirers (unlike Taj or Shimla), has about 76 thousand lives to boast of, no water, is afar from so-called developed establishments of humanity (read Delhi, Bombay), no industries and is habitable only for the months of non-summer. As I drove few times on the central main road, it seemed to be a old dusty city where time doesn’t move too quickly. It sort of had no impact, if I visit this place again I think it would look same. Jaisalmer – a city full of bright golden sparkling shimmering life.
What makes it going for as long as 800 years, probably one of the oldest forts in India which has survived time and reason and the only one which is a living fort. The grandeur is lost but not forgotten. As you come out of Fort, the ‘Rawan Hattha’ (its a hybrid musical instrument, a bad mix of violin/ik-taara/sitar) laden artists still sing “Kesariya baalmo….padharo mhaare desh”, the sound diffusing in the ambiance, the fort which still works and probably attracts a large number of Bengali tourists (as if , that is a news) after Mr. Ray made it famous, Sonnar Killa, on celluloid.
From Delhi, its about 800 KM. The train takes a lot of time to reach, almost 18 hours, so we decided to drive. Click here to read on how did the drive go.
As you enter Jaisalmer, the minarets along the main road reminds you of royal past and the fort, standing atop a hillock, stamps the thought. We reached by evening and checked-in at Mandir Palace, the king heir lives there and a better part of it has been converted into a heritage hotel, run by King’s man, marketed by ITC under ‘Welcome Heritage’ brand. A small review with lots of pics should follow later this week.
We were there for three nights which we think should suffice. First comes the sonnar kila, or the Fort. The city is small, about 6 square kilometers. So if you stay in the city, you can walk over to Fort. Its open all the time since its inhabited but the king’s palace is open only from 10. The fort is 800 year old and is done entirely out of stone, there is no mortar or bricks. Infact even today there is no house which we could spot which was using the standard bricks (sand smoked till it gets stoned). You can either climb the way up or take an auto-rickshaw for Rs 10 per passenger. Once inside, you would find yourself flanked with kings’ palace, queen’s place and couple of more high rises and as you look more closely there are tea-shops, usual tourist souvenir selling shacks, and as you look further, there are alleys and more shops. The king’s palace is well maintained with its usual mix of paintings, amazing stone-work, more amazing stone-jaali-work, rooms, artefacts, weapons, trivia, open terrace and so on. This fort was initially constructed by King Jaisal on this hillock, trikuta hills, way back in 1156 and have gone through its share of seizes and struggles. It has Raj Mahal (Royal Palace), Jain Temples, Laxmi Narayan temples, large gateways, human lives and livestock.
Enjoy the video to get a feel whats its like inside the fort. Notice the chaos, hustle-bustle, movements. It would all feel like a normal chauraha.
This Photo is very interesting. First time Lord Ram with beard.
As we got out, we found this guy playing Rawan-hattha, enjoy the song. Play it couple of times, to notice the background, late afternoon light, and the beautiful song.
Enough of Fort, time to eat. Eat at ‘Desert Boys Dhani’ which is a large restaurant with sitting on floor, on chairs, in open, in cabins and on verandahs, serves good Rajasthani cuisine. The name might sound like a music band but not get fooled and rather enjoy fried raayata (yeah you read it right, fried raayata), gatta, ker-saangvi, naan and gulab-jamun.
The usual tourist ring of Jaisalmer would include Patua Ki Haveli but dont spent too much of time. Take a guide to feast on folk-lores on how King never wanted Patwa (its a kind of traders who engaged in moti-work) to have a taller house so he gave him the low lying land. There is a set of 5 big houses which locals claim as ‘foldable’, the walls can be taken out and taken elsewhere if needed. That Rahul Bajaj almost bought one of them to be used for his 5 star hotel at bombay. One of the haveli has been bought over by some Mr. Kothari where he has put up a museum. Avoid. Go there, look at the Haveli and if you are lucky you might find Mr. Bheel who has this real long moustache (4.5 feet odd), unfolded on a price (Rs 20 onwards).
By now, we were tired and retired for the day. 2 more days and more fun to come. Keep reading.