Jaisalmer in Rajasthan is a desert city nestled in the foothills of Trikuta and
is famous for its imposing forts, exquisite palaces and havelis, that showcase Jaisalmer's
distinguished 'jali' work (stone lattice work), which truly depict the aesthetic
sense of the medieval Rajput warriors. One of the most favored tourist destinations
in Rajasthan, the city is frequented by domestic travelers as well as by foreign
It is in this beautiful city of Jaisalmer that the Gorbandh Palace is ideally located.
The very name of this Royal Retreat is inspired by the desert and its associated
stories. Gorbandh is a harness which the desert women decorate for their husband's
camel with any material they can find such as cowry shells, beads, sequins, couloured
threads and even buttons. It is a matter of pride for women to deck their husband's
camels out in the most splendid way possible as a mark of respect for this majestic
working beast and for the men who rely on their strength and aptitude in the undulating
sand of the desert.
Jaisalmer is located at a distance of 120 km from Pokhran, 325 km from Jodhpur,
310 km from Bikaner, 150 km from Phalodi and 50 km from the Sam sand dunes.
Forts & Havelis
Sonar Kila, the Golden Fort of Jaisalmer: Jaisalmer fort is the
second oldest in Rajasthan after Chittor and commands the desertscape from its 250
feet high perch on the hill. Three strong walls protect the citadel. The first buttress
wall was constructed by the local Jain panchayat in the 15th century. The Rawals
built subsequent additions and fortifications. The steep cobblestone pathway leading
to the royal palace passes through four gates - Akhai Pole (Ganesh Pole), Suraj
Pole, Bhuta Pole and Hawa Pole. Sharp turns on the road topped by high defense gateways
made it invincible. At the highest point of the place can be seen an umbrella -
Meghadamber symbolic of Krishna.
Palaces inside the Jaisalmer Fort
The fort has five palaces called Sarvottam Vilas, Akhai Vilas, Gaj Mahal, Rang Mahal
and Moti Mahal - all interconnected behind the seven-storied façade. Small stairs
take you from one court to another with superb jali screens shading interiors from
the fierce heat and desert wind. The Rang Mahal built by Mool Raj II has some exquisite
murals painted on arches and spandrels. Music and dance soirees were held here for
royal ladies. From the balconies you get a terrific view of the mammoth ramparts
below guarding the small city. Balconies at the Gaj Mahal are also breathtakingly
beautiful; if only the English Romantic poet John Keats had seen them. The fort
contains one third of the city's population within the small houses on the narrow
lanes. Many houses also operate as curio shops.
Within the fort are the three most exquisitely sculptured Jain temples dedicated
to Rishabhdevji, Sambhavanathji and the Ashthapadi temple. Their ornamentation done
in the style of the Dilwara temples at Mt. Abu is simply marvelous. The emerald
icon of Mahavira is an unparalleled gem.
(Manors) of Jaisalmer
Salem Singh Haveli -It is at an unhurried pace that the havelis
(houses of rich merchants) should be seen and admired. These havelis are the pride
of Jaisalmer architecture, a part of the national heritage. Salem Singh Haveli at
the eastern end of the city is an Arabian Nights structure.
- Patwon ki Haveli -Near the city center is the Patwon ki Haveli,
built by Guman Chand Patwa and his five sons, dealers in brocade, gold and silver
embroidery with business stretching between Afghanistan and China. The five suites
built between 1800 and 1860 are virtually the showpiece of Jaisalmer's legendary
architectural wealth. The carving on stone far surpasses in beauty the work on brocade
and gold. The balconies are so delicately chiseled you would stand mesmerised by
the splendor of it all, particularly when viewed early in the morning or in the
late afternoon. Oblique sunrays create enchanting and dramatic shadows, highlighting
the carving and infusing it with a life of its own. It is the grandest mansion in
Jaisalmer, a veritable museum piece in the open.
- Nathmal Haveli -The third haveli belongs to Nathmal, a later day
prime minister who gifted it to the Rawal and was allowed to retain it. Built by
two brothers in 1885, this haveli has two identical looking portions, which are
in fact two different parts united by a common façade. Look for the projected balconies
which seem to emerge from books of poetry. The carving never looked better. A perfect
example of jeweler's art applied to stone carving. The Muslim silavats (artisans)
did a wonderful job here and left a marvelous legacy of craftsmanship excellent
in detail and flawless in conception. If only for viewing these havelis travelling
to Jaisalmer is more than amply rewarded.
- Manak Chowk -The chowk was once a Sadar Mandi (grain-market), and
merchants from Persia, Iraq, Egypt and Arabia used to visit the city to trade. Jaisalmer
in those days can be compared to the 'great silk route' from Europe to China.
- Gyan Bhandar Library - This library was founded in 1500 A.D. by
Acharya Maharaj Jin Bhadra Suri. This small underground vault houses priceless ancient
illustrated manuscripts, some dating from the 11th century.
and Ancient sites
- Gadisar Lake: This lake was excavated in 1367 AD by Rawal Gadsi
Singh. It is surrounded by small temples and shrines. A wide variety of waterfowl
flock here in winter.
- Amar Sagar: From Lodurva, the road to Jaisalmer passes through
Amar Sagar, which has a grand artificial reservoir for water, a temple and a promenade
on the bank. Bada Bagh, cenotaphs of the Jaisalmer Rawals, has some magnificent
chattris (canopies) set amidst an oasis of greenery. The elegant chattris are in
white marble and mostly in the fabulous yellow sandstone. Another beautiful place
is the Gadi Sagar Tank, the main source of the city's water supply. Early morning
on the tank is charming with the temples resounding with chanting of mantras and
prayers.The main gateway was built by a courtesan, Telon, who installed a Krishna
image atop the arched gateway to ward off royal ire at having had to pass under
a construction financed by her.
- Bada Bagh Cenotaphs: This is a complex with royal cenotaphs and
carved images of past Maharawals (rulers) of Jaisalmer. Each chhatri commemorates
a particular ruler and preserves an inscribed tablet recording his death.
- Lodurva ruins: The ancient capital of Bhattis, mostly in ruins,
is visited for the great Jain temple, which contains the most exquisite jali work
screens, a grand ceiling and a magnificent triumphal arch at the entrance. The original
carriage for the deity, made in 1675, is still preserved. The most interesting object
d'art is Kalpataru, a mythical tree of wish fulfillment. Lodurva has a great number
of peacocks, which hover around the temple walls lending spectacular color to the
dry and stony landscape. Here once flowed the river Kak. Along its banks had flourished
the romance between princess Momal, and prince Mathendru of Amarkot. Their tragic
end is the theme of folk songs. When the lovers perished, the river Kak stopped
- Moolsagar: Situated 8 km west of Jaisalmer, this historic site
has a small garden and tank. It belongs to the royal family of Jaisalmer. One major
attraction of this place is a Shiva temple, which is said to be constructed out
of just two large blocks of sandstone. It is enroute to the Sam sand dunes.
- Kuladhara ruins: One of the most interesting places is Kuladhara
village. This is among the 84 villages inhabited by the rich, hard-working Paliwals.
The Paliwals deserted their houses overnight with the curse that anyone who removed
even a stone from the houses would come to grief and perish. Howling winds rush
through empty streets and skeletons of houses now exposed to the elements remains
of the village.
- Wood Fossil Park, Aakal: This unique site showcases fossilised
remains of 180 million-year-old forests.
- Desert National Park: This is one of the largest national parks,
covering an area of 3100 sq. km. It is a haven for several migratory birds in the
winter and also shelters the Great Indian Bustard.
- Sam Sand Dunes: The most picturesque dunes, no travel to Jaisalmer
is complete without a visit to these fascinating sand structures. Wind-caressed
slopes are marked with ripples creating an enchanting mirage, a visual illusion
of extraordinary splendor. The dunes can be extremely treacherous since they can
sink to a few feet the moment you step over one. Occasionally you can see the dunes
shifting with the strong desert winds - an astonishing feat of nature. Watching
sunrise and sunset on the dunes can become etched on your memory - such an unforgettable
spectacle with the great ball of light rising from behind the low hills of sand
amid a perfectly still scene. A mysterious silence prevails.