The name Jaisalmer evokes a vivid picture of sheer magic and brilliance of the desert. The exotic, remote and beautiful, Jaisalmer is a bit of a paradox. So far west that it is in the heart of the desert, one would expect barren near-desolation. Yet this frontier town is today one of Rajasthan's best-loved tourist destinations. Local colour and warmth prevail over the inhospitable and forbidding terrain, imbuing the medieval town with a special magic. Rawal Jaisal, a descendent of the Yadav Clan and a Bhati Rajput, laid the foundation of this city in 1156 AD. Trikuta was the hill chosen and Jaisal abandoned his old fort at Lodurva and established his new capital here. The Bhati Rajputs of Jaisalmer was a feudal chief who lived on the forced levy on the caravans that crossed their territory en-route Delhi. These caravans, laden with precious cargos of spices and silk brought great wealth to this town. Because of its remote location, Jaisalmer for years remained untouched by outside influences and during the British Raj, the rulers of Jaisalmer were the last to sign the instrument of agreement with the British.
In medieval times, its prosperity was due to its location on the main trade route linking India to Egypt, Arabia, Persia, Africa and the West. The glory of Jaisalmer faded when sea trade replaced the old land routes. But there is still and Arabian Nights' quality about the town. The narrow streets in the walled city preserve a traditional way of life: the craftsmen still work at the ancient crafts of weaving and stone carving, the making of silver jewellery and embroidery. And the stately, nonchalant camel is everywhere. Just a walk through Jaisalmer, savoring the medieval glory of old Rajasthan, is a marvelously rewarding travel experience. Desert Festival, celebrated in January/ February, is a must on any itinerary. The desert seems to bloom in a thousand colors. There are camel races and folk dances. Craft bazaar and traditional balled singing. A sound and light spectacle on the sand dunes of Sam on the full moon night. And all the colour and excitement of the best in Rajasthan. The perfect time to visit the golden city is during the Desert Festival every year when the city reverberates to the sound of melodious tunes and rhythms. Folk dances, exciting competitions and contest especially the turban-tying contests, Mr.Desert contest and camel races enlighten the festivities. Jaisalmer is a marvel of beautiful culture and harsh climatic conditions, together amounting to a memorable experience. This is a city to be visited.
The Jaisalmer Fort:
The golden - hued Jaisalmer Fort 'Sonar Kila' can be seen miles away before reaching the town.
Manak Chowk and Havelis: A main marketplace outside the fort leads to the narrow lanes dotted with famous 'havelis'.
Havelis: Some of the most exotic mansions or 'havelis', all intricately latticed, are stretched all over Jaisalmer, each with a different facade.
Gadsisar Sagar Tank:
A scenic rainwater lake with numerous beautiful shrines around. The lake is an idyllic spot for outings.
The fort has three exquisitely carved Jain Temples dedicated to the Jain Tirthankaras - Rishabhdevji and Sambhavnathji.
Gyan Bhandar or Library:
Some of the oldest manuscripts of India are found in this library established as a part of Jain temples.
Akal (16 kms from Jaisalmer):
It looks like a army frozen in its tracks, standing petrified in the forest of Aakal, in a bare hillside of mica, and red and yellow stone. It is a fossil park where 180 millions years ago stood a forest. The fossil trunks lie scattered in this part.
Barmer (153 kms from Jaisalmer): It is famous for woodcarvings, embroidered fabrics and block printed textiles.
Lodurva (17 kms from Jaisalmer): The ancient capital of Jaisalmer, some vestiges of former glory remain.
Desert National Park (40-km from Jaisalmer):
It preserves the eco-system of the desert within its confines. The Monitor lizards, desert foxes, porcupines, occasional wolves and black bucks, and the Great Indian Bustard (a protected bird) are found here, forming an ecological chain revolving around cacti and other hardy desert plants.
Bada Bagh (6-km from Jaisalmer) :
A fertile oasis on the bank of an artificial lake. Much of the city's fruits and vegetables are grown here. Surrounded by dense trees are the royal cenotaphs with beautifully carved ceilings and equestrian statues of the former rulers?
These are conducted on many routes.
Wood Fossil Park (17-km from Jaisalmer):
It has fossils dating to 180 million years ago.
Sam Sand Dunes (42-km from Jaisalmer):
It is the closest point to witness the total sandy desert. Sam (pronounced 'sum') has a truly magnificent stretch of sweeping dunes, with little or no vegetation. The best way to see this and other sights around Jaisalmer is to take a came safari. The standard trip lasts 4 days and three nights, and offers the opportunity to explore the area in authentic and leisurely fashion, with entertainment by folk performers, visits to villages, and chatter from colorful guides thrown in.
HOW TO GET THERE
Rail: Jaisalmer is 290-km from Jodhpur via Pokhran, Dechu and Balesar or 330-km from Bikaner via Pokhran and Phalodi. It is well connected by train with Jodhpur and other major cities of the country by a meter gauge line.
Road: A good network of roads joins Jaisalmer with Jodhpur and many other destinations in and around Rajasthan.
PLACES TO STAY
Being one of the major cities of Rajasthan, Jaisalmer is well equipped with standard and luxurious hotels as well as budget accommodations.
FAIRS & FESTIVALS
The Desert Festival takes place in January-February of each year. Camel races and dances, folk music, desert ballads, puppeteers - they're all part of the activity. At the full moon night, a sound and light drama is performed at Sam.
Jaisalmer is famous for mirror work, embroidered articles, woollen pattu and other items made of good quality, locally produced wood, wooden boxes, trinklets, silver jewellery and curios. The main shopping areas are Sadar Bazaar and Sonaron Ka Bas, Manak Chowk, Pansari Bazaar and also Rajasthali - Government shop for handicrafts and Khadi Gramodyog.
Jaisalmer has got extreme climate. Best time to visit from October to February.