Jaisalmer, nicknamed “The Golden city”, is a city in the state of Rajasthan, located 575 kilometres (357 mi) west of the state capital Jaipur. Once known as Jaisalmer state it is a World Heritage Site. The town stands on a ridge of yellowish sandstone, crowned by a fort, which contains the palace and several ornate Jain temples. Many of the houses and temples are finely sculptured. It lies in the heart of the Thar Desert (the Great Indian Desert)
Jaisalmer traces its inception to the 12th century. History tells us of Rawal Jaisal, the eldest heir of the Rawal of Deoraj, was passed over for the throne of Lodurva and a younger half-brother was crowned king. Rawal Jaisal went looking for a new location to set up his capital when he came across sage Eesul. The sage told him about Krishna’s prophecy which said that a descendant of his Yaduvanshi clan would found a new kingdom at this same spot. It was in 1156 that Rawal Jaisal constructed a mud fort, named it Jaisalmer after himself and declared it his capital.
Geography and climate
Jaisalmer, being an arid desert region, is prone to extremes in terms of temperature. The temperature varies greatly from day to night in both summer and winter. The maximum summer temperature is around 49 °C (120 °F) while the minimum is 25 °C (77 °F). The maximum winter temperature is usually around 23.6 °C (74.5 °F) and the minimum is 5 °C (41 °F). The average rainfall is 209.5 millimetres (8.25 in). Highest ever recorded temperature was 50.0 °C (122.0 °F); the lowest ever recorded temperature being −5.9 °C (21.4 °F).Temperatures of up to 52.4 °C (126.3 °F) have been recorded near the international border close to Pakistan, but standard conditions of this temperature recording remain unverified.
Water is scarce, and generally brackish; the average depth of the wells is said to be about 250 feet (76 m). There are no perennial streams, and only one small river, the Kakni, which, after flowing a distance of 48 kilometres (30 mi), spreads over a large surface of flat ground, and forms Lake Orjhil (“The Bhuj-Jhil”). The climate is dry. Throughout Jaisalmer only raincrops, such as bajra, jawar, motif, til, etc., are grown; spring crops of wheat, barley, etc., are very rare.
Sam Sand Dunes
Sam Sand DunesLocation: In the outskirts of Jaisalmer, 42 K.M. from the main town
How to reach: Jeep or any other 4 wheel drive SUV or Camel back according to your convenience
Famous for: Sand, sands and only sands
There is no point coming to the Thar Desert if you don’t go for the Desert Safari. That is why Sam sand dunes are becoming the major attraction in Jaisalmer. This is the closest place from where you can loose yourself in ‘the Great Thar Desert’. Sam has a truly magnificent stretch of sweeping dunes, with sparse or no vegetation. The best way to get here, of course, is on camelback.
Join a camel caravan at Jaisalmer on your Rajasthan tours and ride along the breathtaking crests and troughs. Enjoy the romance of solitude as your camel takes you deep in the hearts of the Thar Desert. Put yourself in the camp and experience the sun setting behind the horizon. Organize a bonfire with the fellow tourists in the night and enjoy the rustic and earthy music and dance of Rajasthan.
In the month of February/March, this whole place turns into a cultural hub. The desert festival organized amid these dunes is the showcase of Rajasthani culture as a whole. Open-air cultural extravaganzas, puppet shows, folk dance performances, camel races, competitions and general festivities mark this annual event that is held with great pomp and show at the Sam Sand dunes in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan.
Desert National Park
Nearest city Jaisalmer
Area 3,162 km2 (1,221 sq mi)
Desert National Park, Rajasthan, is situated near the town of Jaisalmer. This is one of the largest national parks, covering an area of 3162 km². The Desert National Park is an excellent example of the ecosystem of the Thar Desert. Sand dunes form around 20% of the Park. The major land form consists of craggy rocks and compact salt lake bottoms, intermedial areas and fixed dunes.
Despite a fragile ecosystem there is an abundance of birdlife. The region is a haven for migratory and resident birds of the desert. Many eagles, harriers, falcons, buzzards, kestrel and vultures. Short-toed eagles, tawny eagles, spotted eagles, laggar falcons and kestrels are the most common among these. Sand grouse are spotted near small ponds or lakes. The endangered great Indian bustard is a magnificent bird found in relatively fair numbers. It migrates locally in different seasons. The most suitable time to visit the area is between November and January. The Desert National Park has a collection of fossils of animals and plants of 180 million years old. Some fossils of dinosaurs of 6 million years old have been found in the area.
Flora and fauna:
The blackbuck is a common antelope of this region. The national park’s other notable inhabitants are the desert fox, wolf and desert cat. Birdlife in this sandy habitat is vivid and spectacular. Birds such as sandgrouse, partridges, bee-eaters, larks, and shrikes are commonly seen. In the winter, the birdlife is augmented by species such as the demoiselle crane and MacQueen’s bustard.
Two great Indian bustards at the Desert National Park
Perhaps the greatest attraction of the park is a bird called the great Indian bustard, an endangered species found only in India. Desert National Park is one of the last sites in which this species can be found in good numbers. As such, the species draws in thousands of birdwatchers from all over the world. In addition to the great Indian bustard, the park supports a variety of other birds of interest to birdwatchers and conservationists alike.
The Thar Desert, often called an ‘ocean of sand’, covers a large area of western Rajasthan. The fragile ecosystem of the Thar supports a unique and varied wildlife. In this vast ocean of sands lies the famous Desert National Park, which provides an excellent example of the ecosystem of the Thar Desert and its diverse wildlife adventure.
The vegetation is sparse, and patches of sewan grass and aak shrub (Calotropis) can be seen. The landscape includes craggy rocks and compact salt lake bottoms, as well as intermediate areas and both fixed and shifting dunes. Around 20 percent of the vast expanse is covered with sand dunes.
Flora: ronj, palm trees, ber, dhok.
Mammals: desert fox, Bengal fox, desert cat, wolf, hedgehog, blackbuck and chinkara.
Reptiles: spiny-tailed lizard, monitor lizard, saw-scaled viper, Russell’s viper, common krait.
Avifauna: sandgrouse, partridges, bee-eaters, larks and shrikes are year-round residents, while demoiselle crane and houbara bustard arrive in winter. Raptors include tawny and steppe eagles, long-legged and honey buzzards, and falcons.
Chestnut bellied sand grouse male at the desert national park
Long legged buzzard flying over the desert national Park
What To See And Do
The Jaisalmer Fort also goes by the name Sonar Quila (Golden Fort) as it rises from the desert itself and seems to become one with the golden hues of the sand. The setting sun adds its own magic and shrouds the fort with mystique. The fort is constructed in the classic style of the royals by local craftsmen. This fort is a world heritage site and forms an important plot point in one of Satyajit Ray’s famous Feluda stories and corresponding movie, Sonar Kela (The Golden Fortress)
JAISALMER GOVERNMENT MUSEUM
Established by the Department of Archaeology and Museums, it is a prime attraction for tourists visiting Jaisalmer. The most striking display is the trophy of Rajasthan‘s state bird Godawan (the great Indian bustard). Traditional household items, rock-cut crockery, jewellery and statues from the 7th and 9th century AD displayed here are remnants of the city’s rich cultural heritage..
NATHMAL JI KI HAVELI
Two architect brothers built Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli in the 19th century. They worked on the haveli from two sides and the outcome is a beautiful blend of the symmetrical construction. Miniature style paintings and mighty tuskers carved out of yellow sandstone are used for decoration.
SALIM SINGH KI HAVELI
This haveli was built in the first half of the 18th century and a part of it is still occupied by descendants of the original residents. The high arched roof is supported by carved brackets designed in the shape of peacocks. Legend has it that there were two additional wooden storeys that made it match the Maharaja’s palace in height, but he ordered for the upper level to be demolished.
PATWON KI HAVELI
Among the largest and the most elaborately carved havelis in Jaisalmer, this five-storey structure sits proudly in a narrow street. While the haveli has lost some of its early glory, a few paintings and mirror work art can still be seen on the inside walls.
The five-storeyed majesty of the Badal Mahal (Cloud Palace) is further enhanced by its pagoda-like Tazia Tower. Each floor of the palace has an intricately carved balcony. The Badal Palace owes its beauty to the skills of Muslim craftsmen who moulded the tower in the shape of a Tazia (a float that’s part of the procession of Muharram).
JAIN TEMPLES OF JAISALMER
EXPERIENCE TRUE SERENITY
The Jain Temples of Jaisalmer are a cluster of temples dating back to the 12th and 15th century. The temples, dedicated to two Jain Tirthankars (hermits) – Rikhabdevji and Shambhavdevji – are popular pilgrimage destinations. As is characteristic of any structure in Jaisalmer, these temples too, are built of yellow sandstone. The Dilwara style of architecture is borrowed from the famous Dilwara Temples at Mount Abu, a hill station popular among tourists and pilgrims. The walls of the ancient temples are beautifully decorated with intricate carvings. One can sit quietly within the complex and feel at peace. One can also visit the Gyan Bhandar Library. Students of comparative archaeology, or anyone else looking for knowledge, will delight in browsing through some of the rare manuscripts preserved here.
Gadisar Lake was constructed in the 14th century by Maharawal Gadsi Singh to meet the water needs of his arid lands. Considering its importance, many small temples and shrines were constructed around it, transforming it into a pilgrimage centre and a tourist attraction.
About 6 kilometres to the north of Jaisalmer lies Bada Bagh, also called Barabagh (literally Big Garden). This garden complex houses chhatris or royal cenotaphs of the Maharajas of Jaisalmer state, including that of Jai Singh II. The location of the garden is such that it offers wonderful sunset vistas to tourists.
DESERT NATIONAL PARK
The Desert National Park displays the best of the Thar desert’s ecosystem and its varied wildlife. The Park is formed of undulating sand dunes, jagged rocks, dense salt lake bottoms and inter-medial areas. Various species of animals such as black buck, chinkara and desert fox inhabit the Park. The highly endangered Great Indian Bustard, one of the world’s heaviest flying birds, can also be seen here. In winter, the park hosts an incredible variety of migratory raptors such Himalayan and Eurasian Griffon Vultures, Eastern Imperial Eagle, and the Saker Falcon.
GHOST TOWN SHROUDED IN MYSTERY
Kuldhara is a ghost village about 17 kilometres west of Jaisalmer. Three centuries ago it was a prosperous town, but today it is an abandoned village shrouded in mystery. The village was established in 1291 by the Paliwal Brahmins, and was a rather prosperous community thanks to their ability to grow bumper crops in the arid desert. But one night, in 1825, all the people in Kuldhara and the nearby 83 villages vanished in dark. Legend says that Salim Singh, the evil prime minister, set his eyes upon the daughter of the village head and declared he would marry her, with or without her consent. He threatened the villagers with dire consequences if they did not comply with his wishes. Rather than give in to his demands, the council of the villagers decide to leave their ancestral homes overnight. But before leaving they cursed Kuldhara so that no one would ever be able to settle there. True to the curse, the village remains abandoned. Nobody has been able to spend even a night in the village. The ruins of Kuldhara are a fine example of the architectural excellence of that era and draw photographers and movie-makers to their narrow lanes. Today, the village is a protected monument under the authority of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Where To Stay
Many hotels and Resorts are available in Jaisalmer as per the budget
How To Get Around
Jaisalmer is located 300 km (190 mi) from Jodhpur airport.
A civil airport has been constructed in Jaisalmer and will soon be inaugurated.
Jaisalmer has daily connectivity with Bikaner, Lalgarh, Jodhpur, Ajmer, Pali, Jaipur, Alwar, Rewari, Gurgaon, Delhi, Ghaziabad, Muradabad, Kathgodam, Kashipur & Ramnagar. The weekly train connectivity with Abu road, Lucknow, Gaya, Varanasi, Mughalsarai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Vadodra, Surat & Mumbai. Occasionally special AC super fast trains or express trains available on Diwali, Deshhara, Winter leaves, Christmas, New year & Desert festival (during peak seasons) from Jaipur & Delhi. Jaisalmer is also one of the major stations in the journey by India’s most luxurious train “Palace on Wheels”
Jaisalmer town lies on Highway No. 15. It has luxury Mercedes and Volvo bus connectivity with Delhi, as well as Ahmedabad. Many buses are of the RSRTC and also many private bus operators ply from Jaisalmer to Jodhpur, Jaipur, Barmer,Udaipur, Bikaner,Mt Abu, Ahmadabad, Mumbai, Pune and other cities of India.