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In the modern age heritage tourism has further galvanised Jaisalmer. Its distinctive traditions in the creations of handicrafts, handlooms, gems and jewellery have been kept alive for tourists who marvel at the finesse of products and uniquness of design and texture. The warmth of Rajasthani hospitality is evident in quaint bazaars where camel carts unhurriedly weave their way through noisy roads. Camels are the pride of the simple desert folk who love their land and its soulful music. They decorate their camels with strings of beads, cowries and shells. Its their way of adding colour to the golden desertscape.
There are some fasscinating places to see around Jaisalmer, the most interesting means of exploring the desert around Jaisalmer is a camel safari. It is a great way to see the well populated desert sprinkled in ruins.
How to reach
By Air - Nearest airport is Jodhpur, which is at a distance of 285 km from Jaisalmer.
Ry Rail - Jaisalmer railway station is an important railway station in Western railway zone. It is connected to Jodhpur and other cities in India.
By Road - A convenient mode of travel , there are a number of tourist buses plying to Jaisalmer from Jodhpur, Jaipur etc
Places to see
Jaisalmer fort rises like a fabulous mirage out of the sands of the Thar Desert, the awesome contours of its 99 bastions softened by the golden hue of the stone. Built in 1156 by Maharwal Jaisal and added by his sucessors this citadel stands on the peak of the 80 m high Trikuta hill. In medieval times Jaisalmer's entire population lived within the fort and even now thousands of people reside here making it India's only living fort.
Royal palaces a cluster of Jain temples mansions and shops are all contained within its walls. The exquisitely carved Jain temples were built in the 15th and 16th centuries by the town's wealthy traders. Intricate sandstone carvings are found in these seven temples dedicated to the Jain tirthankaras including Rishabdeo, Sambhavanatha, Parsvanatha and others. . The Gyan Bhandar in the basement of the Sambhavnatha templeis a library of illustrated Jain palm leaf manuscripts some of them dating to the 11th century.
The Sarvottam Vilas has blue coloured tiles and glass mosaic built in the 18th century. The Annapurna Bhandar was once the fort's grannary. The Dussehra Chowk was where festivals, royal performances and parades took place.
Sam Sand Dunes
A short drive away (40 km) lie Sam sand dunes, a relentless stretch of softly flowing sand in typical dune formations, a sharp contrast to the slightly hilly and scrub-covered sand that characterises much of the Rajasthan desert. Sam sand dunes is a fun outing, offering opportunities for camel rides and spectacular sunsets. The former can be spectacularly uncomfortable and thrilling at the same time as the animal walks with its awkward gait through soft sand that its hooves sink right in to, especially when going up or down the slope of a dune.
Sand dune dinners, swiss tents, special theme dinners on the lawns
An hours drivee hotel the sand dune dinners are organised for the guests of Gorband palace. The drive to the Sam Sand dune is breath taking. The long ribbon of the road cuts through desert land flat as far your eyes can see. The dunes are spectactularly beautiful as they stretch out into the horizon indulating mountains of sand. Gaily decorated camels transport guests to the dinner venuewhere folk musicians sing and dance their hearts out. The sand dune dinner is unbashdely romantic, flames of bonfire, rythymic movements of the dancers, shrill folk songs, a sip of chilled wine as you tilt your head and see the wide desert sky bewildering you with stars. As the evening progresses dinner is served in the traditional seating arrangement or the buffet can also be opted for.
For those wishing to spend a night out in the sand dunes there are swiss tents that can be pitched. The portable Swiss tents are sleek, electrified and come complete with bath and running water facilities. Security, hygenic and eco friendly measures are taken to make your stay on the Sam Sand Dunes a truly comfortable and memorial experience.
Patwon ki Haveli
This enormous and very elaborate haveli was built between 1805 and 1855 by Guman Chand Patwa one of Jaisalmer's richest merchants and bankers who dealt with silk, brocade and opium and had trading with Afganistan and China. This six storeyed mansion has five adjoining apartments for each of his sons and 66 balconies. The curved eaves on the balconies suggest a fleet of sailing boats and the numerous latticed windows are carved with intricacy.
Salim Singh's Haveli
This haveli was built in 1815 by a powerful prime minister of Jaisalmer. Narrow at the base its six storeys grow wider at each level, and all its 38 balconies have different designs. Peacocks dance between the arches on the topmost balcony and blue cupolas cap the roof. The rear portion of this haveli was sadly damaged during the Gujarat earthquake in January 2001 but visitors are still allowed in.
The late 19th century palace is distinguished by its multitired tower in the shapeof a tazia-the ornately decorated tower of wood, metal and coloured paper, carried by Shia Muslims at Muharram. The Tazia Tower of Badal Vilas, built in the mid 20th century was a parting gift to the maharwal from the town's Shia stone carvers, many of whom moved to Pakistan after Independence.
Located at the entrance to the fort, this is the main market place where caravans used to halt in the past. The tiny shops sell camel hair, blankets, silver jewellery and gorgeous embroidered textiles. Desert nomads and their camels add to the colour of the baazar.
The rainwater reservoir built in 1367 was once the city's sole source of water. Lined with ghats and temples it comes alive during the Gangaur festival (March/April) when the maharwal leads a procession here. The beautiful gateway leading to the tank was built by a royal courtesan Telia whose audacity so enraged the queens that they demanded its instant demolition. The quick witted Telia immediately had a statue of Krishna installed on top thereby ensuring not only that the gateway would stand but that everyone would bow before passing through it.
Bhattiani Rani temple (2kms)
This secluded Hindu shrine was built in honour of a 19th century Jaisalmer princess who suprisingly committed Sati on her brother in law's funeral pyre. A clan of muslim musicians are the caretakers of the temple.
Bada bagh (7kms)
The royal cenotaps with elaborately carved celings and fine equetrain statues of the rulersare seen in a green oasis. Next to it is the Bhaironji temple where childless women come with prayers.
The capital of the Bhatti Rajputs before they built the fort of Jaisalmer, Lorduva was abandones after it was sacked by Muslim invadersin the 11th century. A group of Jain temples are found here but the remains of many buildings lie beneath the sands. The temple has a Kalpavriksha tree which is said to have fulfilling powers.
Set among the sand dunesthis village is functional as well as beautiful with village houses having thick mud walls that provide protection from the fierce desert heat and winds and beautiful paintings decorate the exteriors.
Desert National Park (43kms)
The park of scrub and sandy wasteland close to the border of Pakistan. Lying south west of Jaisalmer it is a protected biosphere spreading 3000sq kms. The awe inspiring sand dunes are within the park. This is also the bustard breeding location and wildlife park where you can see the Indian gazelle, eagle and many other birds and animals. Foreign tourists require permission from the District magistrate and Desert National park office to enter the area. Domestic tourists require permission from the Desert National Park Office.
Kuldhara (11 kms)
Enroute to Sam Sand Dunes is a fine example of city planning as it existed in the 13th century. A heritage village today, remanants of the 600 houses built then shows the distinct lifestyles of the era. With rooms marked for womenfolk on the rear side and men upon entrance, the village testifies the architectural knowledge prevelant then. A temple in the centre of the village has the priest's house opposite it.