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JAISALMER

JAISALMER

TODAY A REMOTE OUTPOST in the Thar Desert, Jaisalmer I was founded in the 12th century by Maharawal Jaisal of the Bhatti Rajput clan. It was once a flourishing trade centre, strategically located on the busy caravan trade route to Afghanistan and Central Asia. Its earlier rulers grew rich by looting gems, silk and opium from the caravans, but by the 16th century Jaisalmer had become a peaceful town, whose wealthy traders and rulers vied with each other to beautify their austere desert surroundings with splendid palaces and haveli. Made of the local golden-yellow sandstone, they are the most spectacular examples of the Rajasthani stonemason’s art. In the 18th century, with the growth of sea ports at Surat and Bombay (Mumbai), Jaisalmer’s importance dwindled. But the buildings from its golden age still stand, clustered around a magnificent fort.

MANIK CHOWK

Located at the entrance to the fort, this is the main marketplace, 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 bazaar’s colour.

BADAL VILAS

This late 19th-century palace is distinguished by its multitiered tower in the shape of a teazia – 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 Manik Chowk Located at the entrance to the fort, this is the main marketplace, 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 bazaar’s colour.  Badal Vilas Near Amar Sagar Gate. daily This late 19th-century palace is distinguished by its multitiered tower in the shape of a teazia – 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 maharawal from the town’s Shia stonecarvers, many of whom moved to Pakistan after Independence.

GADISAGAR LAKE

This 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 nsaharawal 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 how before passing through it. BP Salim Singh’s Haveli Near the Fort entrance. Local guides can arrange visits for a fee. This haveli was built in 1815 by a powerful prime minister of Jaisalrner . 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 havelis was, sadly, damaged during the Gujarat earthquake in January 2001, but visitors are still allowed in.

NATHMALJI HAVELI

Near Gandhi Chowk. Local guides chi arrange visits for a fee. Built in 1855 by another prime minister of Jaisalmer, the particular charm of this five-storeyed mansion is that the two sides of its façade were carved by two craftsman-brothers, Hathu and Lallu. Though at first glance they seem identical, the details on each side are actually quite different. Besides the usual floral, geometric and animal patterns, this havelis motifs also reflect new influences – a European. style horse and carriage, bicycles and steam engines.

PATWON KI HAVELI

This enormous and very elaborate haveli was built between 1805 and 1855 by Guinan Chand Patwa, one of Jaisalmer’s richest merchants and bankers, who dealt in silk, brocade and opium, and had a chain of trading stations stretching from Afghanistan to China. This six-storeyed j mansion has five adjoining apartments for each of his sons, and 66 balconies. The curved eaves on the balconie . suggest a fleet of sailing boats, and the numerous latticed windows are carved with breathtaking intricacy.

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