Most popular Jaisalmer sites: A city that has come back almost from the dead in the past half-century, Jaisalmer was founded way back in 1156 by a leader of the Bhati Rajput clan named Jaisal. The Bhatis, who trace their lineage back to Krishna, ruled right through to Independence in 1947. Jaisalmer may be remote but it’s certainly not forgotten – indeed it’s one of Rajasthan’s biggest tourist destinations. Here in this post, you will find the most popular Jaisalmer sites and their special features.
Most popular Jaisalmer sites:
It was founded in 1156 by the Rajput ruler Jaisal and reinforced by subsequent rulers, Jaisalmer¨ Fort was the focus of several battles between the Bhatis, the Mughals of Delhi, and the Rathores of Jodhpur. You enter the fort from its east side, near Gopa Chowk, and pass through four massive gates on the zigzagging route to the upper part. The fourth gate opens into a square, Dashera Chowk, where Jaisalmer Fort’s uniqueness becomes apparent: this is a living fort, with about 3000 people residing within its walls. It’s honeycombed with narrow, winding lanes that are lined with houses and temples – along with a large number of handicraft shops, guesthouses, restaurants, and massage/beauty parlors.
Towering over the fort’s main square, and partly built on top of the Hawa Pol (the fourth fort gate), is the
former rulers’ elegant seven-story palace. Highlights include the mirrored and painted Rang Mahal (the
bedroom of the 18th-century ruler Mulraj II), a gallery of finely wrought 15th-century sculptures donated to the rulers by the builders of the fort’s temples, and the spectacular 360-degree views from the rooftop.
One room contains an intriguing display of stamps from the former Rajput states.
Within the fort walls is a mazelike, interconnecting treasure trove of seven beautiful yellow-sandstone Jain temples dating from the 15th and 16th centuries. The intricate carving almost rivals that of the marble Jain
temples in Ranakpur and Mt Abu and has an extraordinary quality because of the soft, warm stone. Chandraprabhu is the first temple you come to. Dedicated to the eighth tirthankar. To the right of the first temple is the tranquil Rikhabdev temple, with fine sculptures around the walls.
Behind Chandraprabhu is Parasnath, which you enter through a beautifully carved Torana culminated in an image of the Jain tirthankar at its apex. A door to the south leads to a small Shitalnath, dedicated to the 10th tirthankar, whose image is composed of eight precious metals. The remaining two temples, Shantinath and Kunthunath were built in 1536 and feature plenty of sensual carving.
The Hindu Laxminarayan Temple, in the center of the fort, is simpler than the Jain temples and has a brightly decorated dome. Devotees offer grain, which is distributed before the temple. The inner sanctum has a repoussé silver architrave around its entrance, and a heavily garlanded image enshrined within.
Inside the fort but outside it too, Jaisalmer is replete with the fairy-tale architecture of havelis – gorgeously carved stone doorways, jali (carved lattice) screens, balconies, and turrets.
The biggest fish in the Haveli pond is Patwa-ki-Haveli, which towers over a narrow lane, its intricate stonework-like honey-colored lace. It is divided into five sections and was built between 1800 and 1860 by five Jain brothers who made their fortunes in brocade and jewelry. It’s most impressive from the outside, though the first of the five sections is open as the privately owned Kothari’s.
This late-19th-century haveli also used to be a prime minister’s house and is still partly inhabited. It also contains some tourist shops. It has an extraordinary exterior, dripping with carvings, and the 1st floor has some beautiful paintings using 1.5kg of gold. A doorway is surrounded by 19th-century British postcards and there’s a picture of Queen Victoria.
Desert¨Cultural Centre & Museum¨
Next to the Tourist Reception Centre, this interesting little museum has material on the history of Rajasthan’s different princely states and exhibits on traditional Rajasthani culture. Features include Rajasthani music, textiles, and a phad scroll painting. It also hosts nightly half-hour puppet¨ shows with English commentary.
This privately run museum near Gandhi Chowk has an intriguing assortment of Jaisalmer area artifacts.
It’s brought alive by the guided tour you’ll probably get from its founder, local historian and folklorist LN Khatri. Opening hours are variable, but if it’s closed, you should find Mr Khatri at his shop, Desert Handicrafts Emporium, nearby on Court Road.