A Weekend In Gold : Jaisalmer

by Kriti Jijja

Jaisalmer, The Golden City, famous for the historic legacy it preserves and inspiration of pride that every Rajasthani holds. It’s a little warm corner of India that wears its prosperous past proudly. With bustling Havelis,  mellow desert, compact lanes, ardent artists and musicians, fine architecture and gold splendour, the place carries something astonishing everywhere. It’s a dream place for every historian and cultural enthusiast, as it carries another distinct face of India.

In the month of October, my college friends planned a trip to Jaisalmer which was around 10-11 hours away from our college. Planning a trip of twelve people wasn’t a problem, it was convincing that took up all the energy. The ride to Jaisalmer was long but with songs, chit-chats and enthusiasm, in no time it took us to our first stop.

Sam Sand Dune was a desert camp located at about 45kms of distance from Jaisalmer City. As soon as we reached there, we rushed for a Desert Safari since it was almost closing time. We hopped in the jeep, with zeal rising high and started the ride in The Thar Desert. It was my first time experiencing this wildness and all I could remember from that was loud screams, beautiful sky and the sound of wind rushing in ears.  The whole ride took 45 minutes and once we pulled, we saw camels waiting for us. How funny looking creatures they were! The camel walk during sunset brought a profound peace and satisfaction, as we bobbed up and down in a slow rhythmic wave.

At night, the local artists performed an enthralling performance in the camp which gave us a view of Rajasthan’s ethnicity and culture. We danced there for hours celebrating the first day of the trip with excitement skyrocketing.

Traditional Havelis

The next morning, while going towards the city we made a sudden plan to visit Kuldhara, an abandoned village which once used to be a prosperous village of Paliwal Brahmin in Jaisalmer State. About 200 years ago, the people of the place vanished miraculously one night and left behind tales of this barren area. Some people say that Salim Singh, a minister of Jaisalmer,  set his eyes on the daughter of the village’s head and wanted to marry her by force. He threatened the village that he would levy huge taxes on them if they don’t adhere to his wishes. The situation bought terror in the villagers and they decided to leave the place in a single night. Nobody knows where they went or settled. It was a huge mystery. Villagers imposed a curse that – no one would ever be able to settle down in Kuldhara again. The place to this date remains barren. It dry and dusty and it made me feel a little eerie when I walked into a place which had such a story. The golden village held its temple and remains of the houses, but those lifeless rocks knew the depth of ruins and grief.

Soon we reached the city. We stayed at The Tokyo Palace which was a great place on a budget. After an hour of relaxation, we went to the infamous Gadisar Lake. 

The best thing about this small city was that it was easy to traverse on foot, it wouldn’t be difficult to grasp the whole city in one day but we wanted to take it all slow. The lake was surrounded by shrines and ghats and was a perfect place which showered peace and serenity. An interesting fact about Gadisar Lake place was that it once used to be the only water source of Jaisalmer. We did boating as well with four people in one boat. I remember this one time, our boat was stuck in the middle of the lake and it turned out to be hilarious, with one stressing about the situation, another trying to calm her down, one was trying to watch the sunset and the fourth one (me) was laughing out loud. Thankfully we survived that incident. 

For dinner, we went to a place called ‘1st Gate Home-Fusian’ which was an Italian place with great ambience and taste. We ended up having Fettuccine pasta, red wine(of course) and a lot of fun. 

The best thing about this small city was that it was easy to traverse on foot, it wouldn’t be difficult to grasp the whole city in one day but we wanted to take it all slow. The lake was surrounded by shrines and ghats and was a perfect place which showered peace and serenity. An interesting fact about Gadisar Lake place was that it once used to be the only water source of Jaisalmer. We did boating as well with four people in one boat. I remember this one time, our boat was stuck in the middle of the lake and it turned out to be hilarious, with one stressing about the situation, another trying to calm her down, one was trying to watch the sunset and the fourth one (me) was laughing out loud. Thankfully we survived that incident. 

For dinner, we went to a place called ‘1st Gate Home-Fusian’ which was an Italian place with great ambience and taste. We ended up having Fettuccine pasta, red wine(of course) and a lot of fun. 

Sonar Quila

The next morning we went to the infamous Jaisalmer Fort (‘Sonar Quila’) which was built by King Rawal Jaisal in 1156. It stood mighty by all the charm of history it possessed. It was made of gleaming gold sandstone and shimmered like anything. About a quarter of city’s population resides in the fort and it is the only living fort in India. Everything from the quaint Havelis, narrow lanes, colourful market, temples and view was all so mesmerizing that even the scorching heat couldn’t stop us from enjoying it. Since I was a sucker for old forts and architecture, the place was nothing less than a paradise for me. Tourists were booming, taking a fervid interest in everything they laid eyes on. The massive market had handicrafts, ornaments, Rajasthani dresses and bedsheets, musical instruments, jewellery, puppets and books. It wasn’t unusual to find little children speaking in different languages like Italian, German, Spanish and English. After a long and tiring day, we went out for dinner at ‘Jaisal Italy’ which was a highly recommended place by many and it sure was worth the hype. That was our last night in the city which brought a lot of mixed emotions for us and we certainly made the best of what little time we had. 

Narrow Market Lanes

Next day, we were off to the last stop in our Jaisalmer Trip which was Longewala War Memorial. It was 350 km away from Jaisalmer City where the battle of Longewala in 1971 between India and Pakistan was held. It was just 12 km from Pakistan and also the last spot where civilians were allowed. For public viewing, the Indian Army had converted this place into a memorial. There were tanks, weapons, bunkers, jeeps and many more interesting things which were used in the actual battle from both sides. There was a short movie which was a must-watch and explained interesting details about the war.  The movie “Border” was based on this war. The place kept astonishing us by giving gripping facts about that time.

And with that, our trip came to an end.

It was fascinating how everywhere you looked there was something unique that completely drew you into it.  It was a pocket of glorious golden which tucked a treasure trove of memories deep into our hearts.

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