If geology interests you, then Jaisalmer is where you need to journey. The Wood Fossil Park or Aakal is located about 15 kilometres away from the city. Here, one can discover and trace geologic tragedies that occurred in the Thar Desert 180 million years ago. The city of Jaisalmer also acts as the guard to western Rajasthan (and India’s) frontier. This 'Golden City’ is located close to the Pakistan border and in close proximity to the Thar Desert. The city’s most prominent landmark is the Jaisalmer Fort, also called Sonar Qila (Golden Fort). Unlike most other forts in India, Jaisalmer Fort is not just a tourist attraction. It houses shops, hotels and ancient havelis (homes) where generations continue to live. 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.
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).
Nathmal 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.
Patwaon 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 Jain Temples located inside the Jaisalmer Fort date back to the 12th and 15th centuries. The temples are dedicated to Rikhabdevji and Shambhavdevji, famous Jain hermits known as 'Tirthankars' (wise teachers who taught people how to attain nirvana). Like all other structures in Jaisalmer, the temples are carved out of yellow sandstone. They have been built in the famed Dilwara style which is known for its beautiful architecture.
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.
The underlying history of Kuldhara has piqued the curiosity of one visitor too many, and makes it one of the most enigmatic destinations to visit in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. The story has a beautiful daughter, an unscrupulous minister, scared villagers, an exodus in the middle of the night, and no idea where the villagers vanished. This is not the story of a movie, but the unfathomable legend that lies behind the abandoned village of Kuldhara. Located about 18 km from the city of Jaisalmer is this old town that was abandoned by its villagers in the 1800s. It was like the entire town vanished in the course of a single night. With about 85 villages full of people, it remains a mystery as to how no one saw them leave; in fact, even to this date, no one knows where all of them went either. The village remains uninhabited to the day, in the same state that the villagers had left it, hundreds of years ago.
Tanot Mata Mandir
Some 120 kilometres away from Jaisalmer is the Tanot Mata Temple. Tanot Mata is considered to be a reincarnation of Goddess Hinglaj. There are many stories of how during the 1965 India-Pakistan war, Tanot was under heavy attack and shelling. However, none of the shells or bombs fired at the temple exploded. This reaffirmed people’s faith that Goddess the temple. Post the war, the Border Security Force (BSF) rebuilt the temple and today, the temple is managed by a BSF Trust.
Located 12 kilometres from Pokhran on the Jodhpur – Jaisalmer route lies Ramdevra Temple. While most people assume it is a temple dedicated Lord Ram, it is in fact, dedicated to renowned saint Baba Ramdevji. The temple marks the eternal resting place of Baba Ramdevji and is visited by people of all faiths. Between August and September, a large fair known as Ramdevra Fair is held here, and it attracts large numbers of devotees who sing devotional songs all night long.
Jaisalmer War Museum
“If you ate today, thank a farmer, and if you ate in peace, thank a soldier!” Our military and defense forces spend their days facing perils and hardships, so the citizens of India can sleep peacefully. While we all appreciate and hold respect for all they do for us, the Indian Army has commemorated the sacrifices of their soldiers in a beautiful display at this war museum, situated at the Jaisalmer military base. This exhibit is primarily to pay respect to all the soldiers who took part and lost their lives in the 1965 India-Pakistan war and the 1971 Longewala battle. A visit to this museum lets you see a number of captured tanks and other memorabilia from the battle, instilling a sense of immense pride in your country and its soldiers. The museum also features an audio-visual room where they screen movies about the battle. You can also see an interview with Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri who was a crucial part of the Longewala battle. In the video, he gives a detailed description of how the soldiers fought the Longewala battle. The museum also has a war memorial replete with many war trophies and vintage equipment, along with tanks, guns, and military vehicles, murals of soldiers who lost their lives in the war, and weapons which were used during the same. Even the Air Force has given a Hunter aircraft, which was used during the Battle of Longewala in the 1971 Indo-Pak War, as a present to the museum. Located on the Jaisalmer-Jodhpur Highway, the museum has free entry, and holds a very important part of our country’s history.
Get off the beaten track and see Rajasthan in the best way possible – via the ship of the desert, the camel. There are plenty of reliable safari tour operators to choose from. You can take a one-day tour or choose to stay overnight in villages. Meals and mineral water is available on most rides.