The city of Jaisalmer sparkles like a mirage amidst the desolate beauty of the hot barren deserts of Rajasthan. It is a small city that can be covered within three hours of relaxed strolling through the lanes and by-lanes, and has an extremely medieval feel and incredible atmosphere. The havelis (mansions of rich merchants) which are the pride of Jaisalmer's architecture and a part of the national heritage should be seen and admired at an unhurried pace. The Jaisalmer Fort, balanced atop the triangular-shaped Trikuta Hills, contains some gems of Jain temple buildings, while attractively decked Havelis are dispersed throughout the town. The city is also well-known for its lovely embroidery.
During the medieval times Jaisalmer made rapid progress due to its strategic location on the camel trade route between India and Central Asia. Even now, particularly after the two wars with Pakistan, its planned importance has led to the building of national highways, a railway track, and an airstrip, and brought Jaisalmer within easy reach of the people.
The climate of this city is of typical desert character. Temperatures range between 45°C and 36°C in the summers, and 13°C and 3°C in the winters. The best season to visit is between October and March, particularly between January and February when Jaisalmer becomes a hub of traveller activities during the desert festival.
Jaisalmer has a large number of tourist sites of unsurpassed architectural wealth.
The Jaisalmer Fort is the second oldest fort in Rajasthan after Chittorgarh, and commands the deserts cape from its 251 feet high pedestal on the Trikuta Hill. Three strong walls protect the citadel. The fort has four palaces called Sarvottam Vilas, Akhai Vilas, Gaj Mahal and Moti Mahal. Jali or latticework screens of outstanding craftsmanship shade insides from the fierce heat and desert winds. The fort covers one-third of the city's population. Many houses provide budget accommodation to visitors and have curio shops.
Three beautifully sculptured Jain temples devoted to Rishabhdevji, Sambhavanathji and the Ashthapadi temple are situated within the fort. Their ornamentation, done in the style of the Dilwara temples at Mt. Abu, is marvellous. The emerald icon of Mahavira here is an unparalleled gem.
The Salim-Singh-ki-Haveli is a superb edifice whose two upper storeys had to be smashed and yet whose surviving structure has unsurpassed splendor. Mainly noteworthy are the rows of peacocks below the jharokhas (projected arched balconies).
Near the city centre is the Patwon-Ki-Haveli. Its five suites built between AD 1700 and AD 1800 are sign of Jaisalmer's imaginary architectural wealth. The balconies are delicately chiselled, and oblique sunrays create charming and dramatic shadows. It is the grandest mansion in Jaisalmer, a veritable museum piece in the open.
This haveli has two identical-looking portions, which are, in fact, two diverse parts united by a common façade. The projected balconies or jharokhas are a perfect example of jeweller’s art applied to stone carving.
The Desert Culture Centre and Museum has an amount of old coins, diverse kinds of textiles, traditional Rajasthani instruments, and some fossils that were exposed in the desert. It gives a tourist an insight into the history of Rajasthan.
There are plenty of excursion sites of varied character near Jaisalmer.
Lodurva, the ancient capital of the Bhattis, is 15 km from Jaisalmer. Its ruins are visited for the great Jain temple and the Kalpataru, a mythical tree of wish fulfilment. Lodurva has a great amount of peacocks that hover around the temple walls lending spectacular colour to the dry and stony landscape.
The Akal Wood Fossil Park is a 20-hectare preserved area that takes you back to the Jurassic period when the whole Thar region lay under the sea. Fossilized logs of trees trunks lie exposed to view. Innumerable trunks lay buried deep under sand, 24 are seen and 16 are above the ground.
The largest log is seven meters in length and 2 meters in width. The ghost village of Kuldhara, the Sam Sand Dunes and the Desert National Park are the other seats that must be visited.
Jaisalmer is 890 km from Delhi; 630 km from Jaipur; 290 km from Jodhpur; 490 km from Ajmer and 335 km from Bikaner. It is linked by a good road network to Jodhpur, Bikaner via Pokhran, and Barmer via Devikot. Jaisalmer is a small city that is best explored on foot. The Jodhpur Airport is the closest airport that is 300 Kms from Jaisalmer. The Palace-on-Wheels is the most lavish way to travel to Jaisalmer, recreating within the coaches the ambience of the legendary palace comforts.
Jaisalmer is well-known for its embroidery, Rajasthani mirror work, rugs, blankets, and the finely cut antiques. It is a good place for buying beautifully embroidered garments with mirror work in a brilliant mosaic of colours, traditional rugs, blankets and shawls, silver jewellery, stonework, carpets made from camel hair, and colourful silk and cotton cloth. The Desert Festival that is held between January and February is a celebration of the Rajput heritage, with lots of singing and dancing, cultural programmes and other interesting competitions.
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