An ideal holiday, it is said, is one that leads to nowhere. OK, we made it up! But that’s the Jaisalmer-effect. In this land of deserts and palaces, peddlers and kings, sun, sand and music, when you pull over in the middle of nowhere on the unending golden sands reaching to the horizon, with not a soul in sight, it’s when you are in the spell of Jaisalmer. You and the world. You and only you. It’s a trip that you didn’t bargain for; you didn’t pay for, and didn’t know about – a spiritual package deal that comes as a Jaisalmer bonus.
Jaisalmer is a curiously small city which can be covered in a two-hour stroll, but those two hours make for a mesmerizing experience. The extraordinarily medieval feel, the incredible atmosphere, the Havelis that showcase its architectural marvel (a national heritage), blend in to become the most fussy tourist’s fantasy dream come true.
Sundown in the desert, as the sun kisses the sand-swept horizon, a cultural show emerges from the night, and suddenly from nowhere, a troupe entertains you with traditional Rajasthani style dancing, draped in rich fabrics and mirror work, urging you to join them in their twirling dance, and in a lavish feast before you turn in for the night. Amidst the lazy and hot barren deserts, the city of Jaisalmer shimmers like a mirage, giving you an unexpected glimpse of its beauty at every turn and twist, like a fairy tale in 3D.
The havelis are of course, Jaisalmer captured in stone. The Jaisalmer Fort, the second oldest fort in Rajasthan after Chittaur, lords over the desertscape from its 250 feet high pedestal on the Trikuta Hill. Its five palaces are a resting place, with latticework screens of excellent craftsmanship shading interiors from the fierce heat and desert winds. There are some exquisite murals painted on arches and spandrels.
Within the fort are three finely chiseled and sculptured Jain temples that make for an ideal spiritual retreat. Another haveli near the city centre, called Patwon-ki-Haveli
basks in its delicately chiseled balconies, where oblique sunrays create enchanting and dramatic shadows. It is better described as a museum piece in the open.
Jaisalmer is not just magical, but also mystical. Check out the Kalpataru, a mythical tree of wish fulfillment, at Lodurva, 16 kms from Jaisalmer. And for a fix of horror, there is Kuldhara, the ghost village.
Jaisalmer’s history too has a mythical edge to it. Legend has it that Raja Rawal Jaisal, a Bhatti Rajput ruler, founded it at the behest of a local hermit named Eesaal, in 1156 AD. This was foretold by Lord Krishna, the head of the Yadav Clan, to Arjuna, the Pandava warrior.
If you are a Bollywood fan, you would have seen Jaisalmer’s famous desert camel safaris and jeep safaris on the silver screen. Nothing can describe this experience. Just do it and tell us about it!
For history freaks, there’s the Fossil Park. It can’t get bigger than this! It’s Jurassic Park live, where you get to see the fossilized remains of 180-million-year-old forests! This park winds back the clock to the Jurassic period when the whole Thar region lay submerged under the sea. There’s also the history-steeped Amar Sagar or Bada Sagar where you can live the rich Rajasthani cultural heritage once and forever.
Regulars at Jaisalmer swear that the city’s very own Taj Mahal, is not its palaces and safari rides, but Sam Sand Dunes, where the ripples on the wind-caressed dunes create a wondrous mirage. If you are trigger-happy photographer, just shoot.
Shopaholics too will love Jaisalmer for its curios and Rajasthani specials on display, viz. intricate embroidery works, Rajasthani mirror work, rugs, blankets and beautiful antique pieces, silver jewellery and carpets made from camel hair!
The local Rajasthani people are known for their warm hospitality all over. Add to that, the Rajasthani cuisine, its rich customs, architectural wonders, history tidbits on-the-go, the folk music, the magic and mystery of the sun, sand and music, the changing colors of the desert, and you have a once in a lifetime experience. Our advice: Just hunker down to Jaisalmer and enjoy the traditional rhetoric of ‘padharo mahare desh’ (welcome to our lands).
Someone has said that in the deserts of Jaisalmer, the unbelievable happens in the blink of a camel’s eye. Sounds incredulous – until you see it.
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