Jaisalmer – A Citadel in the Middle of Thar Desert

Jaisalmer in the Indian state of Rajasthan is also called ‘The Golden City’or ‘Sone ka Quila’.The city has been built using yellow sand and yellow sandstone that glows in reflection of sun rays;giving a yellowish-golden tinge to the city and its surrounding areas.A declared World Heritage site, the city was once capital of the princely state of Jaisalmer.The town stands on a ridge of yellowish sandstone hill, crowned by a fort, which contains palaces, houses and several ornately sculptured Jain temples. Built in the middle of Thar Desert, the citygets its name from Maharawal Jaisal Singh, a Rajput king who founded it in 1156 AD.

The fort, second oldest in Rajasthanis the longest inhabitated fort in the world, with a quarter of city's population still living inside the fort. The fort is an architecture marvel, with a good blend of Islamic and Rajput architectural style. A unique feature of the fort built atop Trikuta hill is the drainage system known as ‘Ghut Nali’ that allows easy drainage of rain water. The drainage system allows rainwater to flow in four directions of the fort.Jaisalmer, one of the largest districts in India bordering Pakistan, always faces water scarcity. The citydoesn’t have any perennial stream for water supply and depends onKakni,a small river which after flowing for 48 kilometres, spreads over a large surface to form the Lake Orjhil (The Bhuj-Jhil). Tourist can also visitGadsisar Lake built by Rawal Gadsi Singhin 1367, a lakefed by rainwater and surrounded by temples and shrines;and also,the Amar Sagarlake.

Tourism is important occupation for local economy as people from across India and world come to seenumerous temples, lakes, palaces, and museums. Desert safari and tour of wild life sanctuaryare major tourist attraction.Tourists interested in city’s heritage and Rajasthani culture;on must visit list areDesert Culture Centre & Museum, Government Museum, Laxminath Temple,Thar Heritage Museum, Patwon Ki HaveliMuseum,Jaisalmer Folklore Museum, Rajmahal Palace,Jaisalmer Fort,and Palace Museum. Tourist agencies with registered tourist guides regularly conductdesert camps as well asdesert safari for tourists seeking adventure.Tourist can stay in the numerous magnificent havelis that have been converted into hotels as well as 3-star to 5-star hotels, resorts, and classy desert camps. Backpacking foreign tourists, however prefer to stay in cheap homestays and lodges inside the fort.

Tourists canalso visitBada Baghcomplex of chhatris of Jai Singh II (1743) and successive Maharajas of Jaisalmer;Lodhruva, the capital before Jaisalmer. Forbirdwatchers a visit to Desert National Park to see eagles, falcons, buzzards, harriers, kestrel, vultures, sand grouse and endangered great Indian bustard in their natural surroundings is must. Tourists can also visit historically important places like Raja Ka Mahal,Bhaniyana, Lanela,Jaisalmer War Museum, Rani Ka Mahal,Vyas Chhatri,Akal Wood Fossil Park, Laungewala War Memorial,Bhagirath Bhavan,Baiya Haveli,Salim Singh Ki Haveli,Nathmal Ki Haveli, Tazia Tower, Badal Palace,Baba Ramdev Samadhi, Baa ri Haveliand Tanot Mata temple. Tourist can also visit the Indira Gandhi Canal.Several films, TV serials and documentaries have been shot in Jaisalmer including ‘Sonar Kella’(1974);a film by the legendary film director Satyajit Ray.

Well connected by air, road and rail with rest of India, best time to visit Jaisalmer is from November to February. The Desert Festival, an amalgamation of color, music and festivities to promote local art, crafts and culture is held each year in February.Tourists can also visit Ramdevra village andKuldhara ruins;a once prosperous village inhabited by Paliwal Brahmins, abandoned for unknown reasons in 19th century. Those interested in shopping can buy a variety of embroidered hand-made products andleather bags made from wild camel hides from thegift and specialty shopsacross the city. There are several eateries that serve French, Rajasthani, Tibetan, North Indian and Italiancuisine in veg and non-veg varieties.There are several pubs where tourists can enjoy their drinks. The highlight of the city are the light shows, live dances, songs and theatrical performances by local artists in open air arena at night.

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