Tuesday, 7 May 2019

A Day tour to the Ancient City of Patan: All you need to know



The ‘Saurashtra’ region of Gujarat has always been gorgeous and opulent in both its natural and traditional resources. This peninsular part of Gujarat flourished due to its undisturbed waterways and canals that smoothened trade between countries. The realm has been ruled by many influential dynasties including the Chavdas, Solankis (or the Chalukyas) and the Vaghelas who writhed hard to up bring its prosperity. Furious battles were fought to keep the throne upright and safe from foreign hands. Anahilvada Patan or simply Patan was then the capital of rich and thriving Gujarat. It was around 650 AD when the capital city of Patan was founded by Vanraj Chavda, the first king of Chavda dynasty.  The following dynasties gifted Gujarat some of its best architectures and monuments. Modhera Sun Temple, Gyan Mandir, and Jain Temples are few of the architectural beauties in Saurashtra that need special mention. Education and learning also bore a rich heritage at Patan. It was then the main school of learning Sanskrit and scholars from every corner of the country visited Patan to learn the same. It continued to be its capital till 1411 AD when the Vaghela dynasty lost its battle to Alauddin Khilji. Massive destruction came upon Patan and it was grounded to dust. Patan lost all its glory and the capital was shifted to Ahmedabad.

This was a quick recap for me as I drove to Patan district. Sun was high and so was my spirit. As I checked my list, Patan has many junctions to roam around that resurfaces its historical significance. Below I have tried to cover some of the must-visit places in Patan without which the journey to history will remain unfinished.

Rani-ki-Vav (Also known as Adlaj Step Well or the ‘Queen’s Step Well’)


My first visit in Patan was to this stunning step well which is surrounded by a beautiful lawn with sequences of flower plants. This massive step well is also known as Adlaj Step Well is more than 60 m long and 25 m deep. The step well was constructed by the widow Queen Udayamati in the loving memory of her husband Bhimdev Solanki in the 11th century. 
History has perceived memorials and cenotaphs which were dedicated by the Emperors to their Empresses.  But this memorial is unique and the other way round. Perhaps women empowerment was much prevalent then. 
The seven-storeyed well was connected to River Saraswati whose water was stored in the tank during the hot days of summer. The impeccably designed regular intervals of steps in the well indicate that Saraswati gushed with all her valor in Patan. Individual storeys specify the water levels during different times of a year which helped in farming and irrigation in Patan. The planning and design of the well in every way showcase Patan’s advanced knowledge of engineering and science.


The reservoir also has a spiritual significance. The first element of nature has always been considered sacred and pious in Hindu mythology. And the stepped well connotes way to the shrine of the Water God while passing through the devout galleries. The stepped stone construction is an inverted temple where one needs to go down through the stairs rather than going up. Or in other words, you have to alight seven stories to get into the bottom of the well. Each one of the storey is supported by a series of ornate pillars which is surrounded by massive galleries. The columns along with the side walls of the galleries are exquisitely carved with statuettes and figurines. 




There are more than 800 sculptures in the seven galleries. Majority of the sculptures are of the Hindu Gods and Goddesses. The Dashavatar of Lord Vishnu (Lord Rama, Lord Buddha, etc.), Lord Ganesha, Lord Indra with his consort and Goddess Lakshmi accompanied by Narayana are the most common sculptures along the walls. 


                                                   Lord Rama standing with all His glory

Visitors are allowed to descend till the fourth floor only after which the entry is prohibited. People say that there are a 30 km long tunnel at the bottom of the well, ie. At the ground level which was used by the emperors as a secret passage to escape in case of an emergency.

Though in its last remains with retrofitting at many faces, Rani ki Vav continues to be one of the finest step wells in India. The current remaining of the well was excavated by the Archaeological Survey of India in 1985 when the artifacts of the well were found unspoiled.  It was also added to the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage site in 2014.

Opening hours: 10 am to 6 pm
Entry ticket: 40 INR

 Sahastralinga Talav




Adjacent to the Vav stands the Sahastralinga Talav or ‘The Lake of a Thousand Shivlingas’. Chalukya king Siddharaj Jaisingh built this huge water tank in 1084 AD. This artificial tank stands its own from any other in the country. Spread over a 7 hectare of land, the tank has 3 sluice gate and various outlets that channelize the flow of Saraswati to the Vav. As the Vav, the tank water was also treated with extreme sanctity and a thousand Shivalangas were constructed along its stone embankments (from which it derived its name Sahastralinga Talav). The tank once had a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati which was located in its eastern banks.  The temple ceiling was supported by a cluster of 48 stone pillars that boasted of rich artistry and creativity. Though the temple exists no more, the ruins of the gorgeous pillars are still there. The architecture and design of the tank signify Patan’s skills in water management and storage. It is also said that the tank had natural filtration capacity which made the Vav water purer.



Locals say that during the construction of the tank, King Jaisingh expressed his ill intentions towards one of the worker girls. Out of rage and insult, she cursed Jaisingh that in no time Patan will be shattered and devastated. They also believe that it was not Khilji but the girl’s curse which destroyed Patan.

Patan Museum


A 500 m walk from the step well is Patan Museum. The four-gallery museum was established in 2010. It was set up with an aim to up bring the rich cultural heritage of Patan that was lost in due course of time. The exhibition hall has all the ruins from the excavation ground of Rani Ki Vav. Sandstone and marble sculptures dating back to the medieval period has been displayed in the museum along with parts of other figurines that were rescued during the excavation. One of the galleries of the museum presents stories and incidents from the life of the famous maestro Tansen and the Solanki King Jaisingh. The ancient art heritage of Patola Saree with their unique designs were also displayed in the wall frames of the halls.




There was no guide inside the hall but luckily, a native lady accompanied us and showed us around the museum. She beautifully explained the showcased incidents from King Jaisingh’s life and how the swearword shattered the kingdom. We paid the considerate lady some bucks for her guidance as we would have roamed clueless around the pavilions without her enlightenment.

Opening hours: 10 am to 5.30 pm
Entry ticket: 5 INR

Patan Patola Heritage


My next destination was the Patan Patola Heritage museum which stood at the junction of the main roads at a stone’s throw distance from the museum. Patan is the home of the renowned Patola silk and Patola Sarees. Since the early times, Patola has been a unique art form of Patan which cannot be found elsewhere in India. History says that in the 12th century, King Kumarpal of Solanki Dynasty invited 700 weaver families from Maharashtra to practice the Patola heritage in Patan. They accepted his invitation and moved to Patan. Since then, out of those 700 families, only the Salvi family is practicing the art to date. Their 35 generations worked hard to keep the art form alive. The raw materials of the Patola silk includes traditional pure silk and the natural dyes from vegetables that result in sober colors of the fabric. The fine Patola silk is famed for its smoothness, lightweight and vibrant colors that make it an exception. It has an intricate and difficult process of Tie-dyeing known as ‘Bandhni Process’ that supplements an added hue to the textile. The fabric has no reverse side and the print appears the same from both the verges.  They say that the silk is so fine that it passes slickly through a finger ring. 
The intricate designs along with its illustration time on the fabric pedal its price whose range varies from 1 lakh (with silver designs) to 2.5 lakh (with golden embroidery). 
A normal Patola saree takes four to six months to complete. The Salvi’s customers include personalities Jaya Bachchan, Om Puri, and Soniya Gandhi. The museum is both a workshop and a display of the Salvi family’s Patola works. The halls with a simple interior design display the entire looms and the dyed threads that are used in the weaving of Patola Sarees. The family has received many awards and accolades for their exceptional artistry. They have also taken their art form outside India where they have received equal praise and honor. For more information on the same please check in Patan Patola.

Opening hours: 10 am to 7 pm
Entry: Free of cost

Hemchandra Acharya Gyan Mandir

                                                   Courtesy: Gujarat Tourism

Hemchandra Acharya Gyan Mandir or simply Gyan Mandir is dedicated to Acharya Hemchandra who was a Jain scholar and a poet of the 11th century. His extensive works on Sanskrit and Prakrit grammar, mathematics, contemporary history, and philosophy crowned him with the title of ‘Kalikal Sarvagya’ or one who knows every aspect in Kali Yuga. During the four months of monsoon when the Jain monks stay at a particular place, Hemchandra started living in Patan. It was during his stay in Patan that he did the majority of his works. His intelligence and talent made him dear to the King Jaysimha Siddharaj as well. His works include Dvyashraya Kavya, Salakapurusha, Kavyanuprakash and many more. It is said that due to the influence of Hemchandra and Jainism, animal killing in the name of religion were completely expelled. Hemchandra Acharya Gyan Mandir is home to more than 15 thousand valuable Jain manuscripts that were mostly composed in Sanskrit and Prakrit. It is one of the richest collections in India and signifies the intellectual prosperity of Patan. 
People say that some of these manuscripts were written with ink made from gold and accessing those in the temple requires special permission. A seated marble statue of Hemchandra can also be witnessed inside the premises.

Jain Temples

                                          Courtesy: Maharashtra Jain Teerth

There are more than 100 Jain temples in Patan that were erected during the Solanki period. White marble works of the temples depicting the life of Mahavir can be witnessed along its stockades and crowns. The most popular and beautiful among them is Panchasara Parshvnath Jain Derasar or Patan Jain Temple. It is said that earlier the Jain temples were made of wood. One day the chief builder saw a mouse running with a burning candle in the temple and was terrified to foresee its consequences. Since then, the wood carvings of the temples got replaced by the marbles.

Khan Sarovar
Located in the Southern part of Patan, Khan Sarovar or Khan Lake is another giant water reservoir of the 16th century. It was constructed by the then Governor of Gujarat, Khan Mirza Aziz Kokah. The tank is made up of stone masonry along with the outflow of waste-weir with three openings separated by pillars. The presence of the waste -weir prohibits the water level to rise further after a fixed level during the rainy seasons.

Some other places to visit in Patan are Veer Meghmaya Mandir, Old Kalika Mandir, Jalaram Mandir, and Gayatri Mandir. Believe me, when I first started planning to Adlaj Step Well, I was sure enough about the fact that it will be somewhat like Chaand-Baori of Rajasthan. In fact, since I have not been to Chaand-Baori, I started imagining the place like that! Utter to my surprise, I found Adlaj much more fascinating and captivating than I have ever imagined. No comparison can be drawn between Chaand-Baori and Adlaj!

How to reach
Mehsana is the nearest city (50 km) from Patan after Ahmedabad (130 km). Buses are available both from Mehsana and Ahmedabad that takes to Patan but the best way is to hire a car from either of these to visit Patan.
Trains are also there to reach Mehesana from where buses are available for Patan.
Ahmedabad is the nearest airport for Patan.

Best time to visit
Except in the summer, all seasons are the best to visit Patan.

What to eat
There are not many eateries in this small city. Minor hubs and restaurants can be found at the bus stand and the road crossings.
It is better to have the main food courses before entering to Patan from the highway hotels which are ample in number while on the way to Patan.
However, small snacks like corn cups, tea, Gol-Gappas, Pav-Bhaji and fruit juices are available near Rani-Ki-Vav.

My opinion

  • Patan can be covered in a single day or even a half day if planned accordingly.
  • Wearing sneakers over heels is advised as a lot of leg work is involved particularly at the Vav. 
  •  Carrying your own food and water is preferable due to lack of proper restaurants in Patan. 
  • Preserving and sustaining historical monuments are our prime responsibilities as a traveler. Acting accordingly makes an ordinary travel responsible travel.

Also read,

Gir Jungle trails

The Abode of Kashi Naresh


Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Top 5 Places to Enjoy Your Holi This Season


                                                           
As the cold days of winter bid a goodbye, colors of spring peep in. The fresh tiny green leaves hanging from the trees mark the beginning of an altogether different season. It is the time when farmers plant new harvest and the air gets filled with a saccharine smell of the bloodshot ‘Palash’ (Butea monosperma) flowers. The blooming of Palash marks the festival of colors, Holi which is joyfully celebrated in different parts of the Indian subcontinent and abroad. The varied colors of the festival indeed symbolize brotherhood and harmony among different orientations of India’s citizens that has been always a distinguishing mark of the country. ‘Dol-Yatra’, ‘Falgun-Poornima’ and ‘Dol’ are some of the synonyms of Holi. 

                                                 Palash, Credits: TreeSeller

The festival is celebrated yearly on every ‘Falguni Poornima’ ie. On full moon night in the month of Falgun (generally falls between last week of February and last week of March). People splash each other with buckets of colors and water balloons that are filled with dyed water. 


Sidewise, a powder form of natural color called ‘Gulal’ is dusted from regular ingredients like Neem, Haldi, and Kumkum which is used while playing Holi. This Gulal also protects one from seasonal ailments like cough and cold.



Holi in legends

The festival dates back to a period when the Demon Hiranyakashipu ruled the planet. After attaining boon from Lord Brahma, he declared himself as the only Lord of the universe. His son Prahlad was a worshipper of Lord Vishnu and denied his father’s divinity. Out of rage and anger, Hiranyakashipu asked his sister Holika to kill Prahlad while sitting on fire. Holika possessed a superpower owing to which she remained unaffected in flames. She tricked Prahlad and made him sit with her on the pyre. As soon as the fire was set, Lord Vishnu appeared and Prahlad made out of the fire safely while Holika was burnt to death. The next day everyone welcomed Prahlad with colors and festivities that celebrated ‘Holika Dahan’ (‘Dahan’ refers to burning). Holi celebrates the victory of noble over the evil, good over the bad. Many places in India still have the tradition of Holika Dahan on the evening before the full moon. They create a small figure of a lady (who represents Holika) using dry leaves and in the evening burn it down marking the beginning of the festival.

Another legend says that once Lord Shiva was in deep meditation for a long time and Goddess Parvati wanted him to come back to the real world. She called upon the Love God, Kamdev who along with his mistress Rati shot an arrow to the meditating Shiva. Suddenly, he opened his third eye and Kamdev melt down to ashes. Upon losing her husband, Rati asked for forgiveness and worshipped Shiva to bring back her husband to life. Shiva bestowed mercy on Kamdev and his day of return marked the festival of Holi.

This festival also adorns the past time of Radha and Krishna in Vrindavan where the festival even continues for a month.



Below mentioned are the five places where you can enjoy your next Holi, either solo or with your family:

Shantiniketan, West Bengal

                                                    The kids of Bolpur, Credits: Wedding affair

Shantiniketan or Bolpur celebrates Holi much as ‘Vasant Utsav’ or the Festival of Spring. Once the home of the celebrated Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore,  Holi is celebrated here in a unique fashion. At this town, the festival gets a varied tint of Bengali culture and tradition and of course, colors. Students from Biswa Bharati University perform a variety of cultural programs that continue till mid-day. Commoners both men and women, while dressed in lovely attire and Palash flowers sing and dance to rejoice the season. While in Bolpur, yellow color takes the foremost seat among the other colors. As soon as the program ends, the official festival of ‘Dol’ begins. Only powdered colors and not dyed water is used during the jubilee to endorse each other. Artists and craftsman from local hamlets also gather here to display their artwork and talent. Small fairs, bonfires, and tribal performances are also held at various places in Shantiniketan during Holi. Travelers from all around the globe flock here to get immersed in the culture of Bengal that blooms to its fullest during ‘Vasant Utsav’.

                             A group performance in Shantiniketan, Credits: My DesiLook




                                                           With the local performers

Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh


                                                             Credits: Unknown

Vrindavan plays what you call a riot of colors! The festival there continues for a month and the streets get drenched in colors. Both in dusted and watered dyes, this holy town in Mathura get immersed in all tints of colors. Vrindavan hosts more than 5000 temples and each of them has their own unique way of playing with colors. Holi is mainly celebrated here glorifying the past times of Radha and Krishna. The deities are dressed exquisitely and people sing and dance to the folklore at the temples that praise the duo. Buckets of colors and oodles of Gulals are splashed from the temple balconies to the visitors during the festival. Color guns and ballons are only a trifle thing in Vrindavan and people are flapped with heaps of color. Devotees play a special ‘Phulon wali Holi’ where the devotees visiting the temples are showered with tons of multicolored flowers. Holika Dahan is also organized in the evening at several temples a day before the Holi. 


Another not to miss is the widow-Holi played by the widows who reside in different ashrams of Vrindavan. The widows were earlier banned from playing Holis but recently this convention has been broken and the widows play to their fullest.




                                                     Widow Holi, Credits: Unknown


 Barsana, Uttar Pradesh
This small village at a distance of 40 kilometers from Vrindavan is another den for playing Holi. The village is famous for their ‘Lath Mar Holi’ where the local women chase and beat the men with long bamboo sticks which is referred to as ‘Lath’ or Lathi and the men protect themselves using a circular shield. The legend dates back to the time of Krishna when he visited Barsana from Nandgaon and playfully agitated Radha and her friends. Hearing this, from the next day the women of Barsana chased him with a stick and kept him away from Radha and her friends. Following this tradition, women of Barsana till date greet the men from Nandgaon with long sticks. 


                               The attacked men from nandgaon, Credits: tour Rider

This event occurs a day before Holi when men from Nandgaon come to Barsana to play Lathmar Holi while the next day men from Barsana go to Nandgaon to play the same. On both, the day men and women together endorse each other in gallons of colors and sing the Holi songs together. 


Thousands of tourists gather here to spectacle the mass of men being toiled by women. 

Barsana is the birthplace of Srimati Radha and the white temple dedicated to her above the hills gets spotted with all shades of colors during Holi. Traditional sweets like Peda and Gujiya are distributed at the end of the day to rejoice the festival. A beverage called ‘Bhaang’ (milk blended with cannabis) is also distributed along with the sweets. Relishing this festival at Barsana is indeed a lifetime experience for those who want to get a tang of the true spirit of cultural India. 



                                                 Try the Bhaang, Credits: Leafly

Anandpur Sahib, Punjab

                                                          Credits: Journey Mart

The Sikhs celebrate one of their major festivals during Holi which they refer as ‘Hola Mohalla’ or simply ‘Hola’. The legend goes back to the era of the Sikh’s 10th Guru, Guru Govind Singh who started the tradition of military exercises and mock battles in Lohagarh Fort. This was initiated with a purpose to train the Sikh militants to defend their state from foreign invasions. Later this tradition passed on to Anandpur Sahib and Kartarpur Sahib where every year the Sikhs gather in masses to pay tribute to their 10th Guru by showcasing their spirit and valor through soldierly calisthenics and mock battles. The ‘Nihang Singhs’ is the chief military members of the Sikh army that was founded by Guru Govind Singh. Till date, they carry on their martial tradition and swordsmanship along with other military acts. The three-day long festivity comprises of colorful processions, mock battles, and music and poetry competitions. 


Daring acts like ‘Gatka Fighting’, tent pegging, mock encounters, and bare-back horse riding are also performed during this fiesta.


 ‘Langars’ or free food stalls are set up during this time to serve the visitors coming from far and near to spectacle the spirit and heroism of the Sikhs.

                                                  Credits: Exotique Expeditions

                                                         Credits: Punjab Kesari


                            Decking up the Royal evening, Credits: Unknown

If you want to have a royal taste of colors, come to Udaipur! Udaipur has always been known for its enchanting lakeside palaces and royal courtyards. The festival here gathers an entire new cosmos as the royal families participate in the carnival too. The fete starts with Mewar Holika Dahan, the evening before the full moon night by burning the idol of Holika in the premises of City Palace. 


The present royals of the family grace the occasion which is followed by a grand rally where the regal members also take part. Giant elephants and camels with elegant tufts and tassels walk through the long assembly along with the commoners who dress up beautifully in Rajasthani attires. 


The rich and luxurious rally ends with a gala dinner where the evening’s celebration ends with fireworks. Stage shows with dance performances presenting the pass times of Radha and Krishna are also organized which is yet another charm of the evening. The next day is a normal Holi day like other places where anyone splashes color on everyone to rejoice the festival.

                                Holika Dahan, Credits: Royal Holi Udaipur

                                                      Credits: Travel Triangle

                            A decorated animal during Holi, Credits: Hangouts

Apart from the above places, you can also spend your Holi in places like Manipur, Hampi, Delhi, Bangalore, and Mumbai where the festival is celebrated with much zeal and vigor. Along with traditional and folk performances, live DJs and karaoke lit up the colorful evening of the fiesta

  Also read,

Celebrating Womanhood with Garba
Blissful Vrindavan




Saturday, 9 March 2019

Inside the Golden Fortress, The Jaisalmer Fort

            
                                 The Fort, Courtesy: Rajasthan Tourism

Indian filmmaker and Oscar winner Late Satyajit Ray has always been in my nerves since my childhood days. When I first saw his Bengali film ‘Sonar Kella’ (‘The Golden Fortress’ is its English version) as a child, it straight got into my mind and I always longed for its visit. Those who are not familiar with the storyline of the film let me brief it for you. Mukul is a small boy living in Kolkata. He claims that he is a ‘Jatiswar’ (one born with a special ability to recall his/her past birth) and can recall that in his earlier life he used to stay in some forts of Rajasthan and that his family possessed many precious gems and stones in his home. Stricken by this news, some criminals follow him to his ‘Sonar Kella’ (where Mukul used to live in his previous birth) in Rajasthan in search of those valued gems and stones. In the meantime, many incidents followed. In the end, the hero of the story ‘Feluda’ rescues him from all odds and takes small Mukul back to his home ‘Sonar Kella’ where he truly used to stay in his earlier life. 


The Bengali film poster, Courtesy: IMDB

The English book by Penguin

Satyajit Rays’ ‘Sonar Kella’ or ‘The Golden Fortress’ (the film was released in the USA with this name) is better known as Jaisalmer Fort to the world. We were both cold and hungry when we reached our BnB in Jaisalmer Fort at eleven, in one of the freezing nights of January. Our host gave us a nice and warm welcome to his place. Luckily we got a Bengali cook there who cooked an exclusive cuisine of Boiled Rice, Lentils, Potato Fry and Cauliflower Curry for us! What else could we ask for after a tiring bus journey from Bikaner? The aerial view of the fort from the rooftop restaurant of our BnB made all our gloominess fade away. The fort was standing in front and around us with all its majestic and royal beauty. While snapping the fort’s magnificence, our host stated his gratitude towards Ray in making the fortress famous with his film. Upon asking, he gave us the particulars about the fort.

                         A Fort view from the rooftop restaurant of our BnB

                    Fort view, Courtesy: Royal Tours and Adventures

Jaisalmer Fort is one among the two ‘Living’ forts of India, the other being Chittorgarh Fort. A ‘Living’ fort is such a castle where still individuals of present generation live or stay after their ancestors who lived there in the same house or ‘Haveli’ since the fort was built. Though most of the houses in the fort required repairing and retrofitting, yet most part of an individual house has been kept intact as was since their ancestors. From ‘Sonargarh’ to ‘Sonar Quila’ and finally to Jaisalmer Fort, it was built in 1156 AD by Rawal Jaisal (from whom the place derived its name Jaisalmer). Jaisalmer being an important trade center, Maharaja Rawal decided to make the city as his capital and named it after him.  Since then, the fort has perceived many ups and downs till 1762 after which the Mughals handed over the fort to Maharawal Mulraj. Later in 1818, the East India Company allowed Mulraj to take over its possession and protect the ‘Quila’ from trespassers.  The fort, standing on Trikuta Hill is triangular in shape. It is the second oldest castle in Rajasthan and holds its position in the link of many important trade routes including ‘The Silk Route’. The Citadel is made of yellow sandstone which imparts a light brown to brownish orange color in the day. As the sun sets more to west it gives the color of melting gold as a result of which it derived its name of ‘Golden Fortress’ or ‘Sonar Quila’. The whole area of the fort is divided into two segments, the upper segment is meant for the Brahmins and the lower is meant for the Rajputs. Though this fort has been declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site, yet this tradition is being followed till date! As we were feeling the cold profoundly, with this much in a row from our host we bade him goodnight. As we retired for sleep, my long-awaited dream for the fort kept me awake.


                                      Top View of the city from the fort

Our morning started with Pancakes, Potato Curry and tea. The morning view from our rooftop restaurant was breathtaking. The whole city rested in front of us, the roads, the vehicles, the antique shops, travelers everything. We could see every detail of the city! Rooftops of houses, temples, wall tops along with their boundaries, every single feature were evident. Far beyond the city, the Thar Desert can be seen. The citadel itself was built in such a manner so as to keep an eye on both the capital and the desert so that an alarm can be raised in case of any intrusion. After having some tips and facts from our host we set out for the day. As we drew near the center or Dussera Chowk, hustle-bustle of the city became more distinct and flawless. We found quite a big number of visitors from far and near exploring and gazing at the old sandstone structure. We caught up a guide quickly for our fort expedition.
Main entrance of the fort is surrounded by four huge and colossal gates that keep an eye on every trespasser. They are precisely names as Ganesh Pol, Suraj Pol, Rang Pol, and Hawa Pol. In earlier days, cannons and large boulders were kept at the top of these gate entrances. These were fired at the enemy as soon as he tried to enter the citadel through these gateways. 

                                                            One of the entrance
                                        Large boulders still placed at the top

                                                  Backside of the fort

The main bastion is the Raj Mahal Palace which was also the residence of Maharaja Rawal. The seven storey palace cum museum is located at Dussehra Chowk and is the main attraction of the fort. The museum inside displays numerous historical items including royal arms and weapons, carved furniture, majestic attires and ornaments, and kitchen ladles.  The palace demonstrates a unique combination of the Rajputs and Mughal architecture that add special tint in its exquisiteness. The windows and balconies of the forts of Rajasthan have their exclusive ‘Brand’ of representing the Royals and this fort doesn’t fall short in the same as well. The splendor of the sandstone frieze along with its finishing signifies the labor and skill with which the fort was constructed.

                                            The Rawal Palace

 There are a number of temples inside the fort including seven Jain temples. These temples were built during the 12th and 15th century and are dedicated to the Jain Tirthankaras. Built-in Dilwara style, the art, and sculpture in each of these temples have their own panache and exclusivity. Out of these, Paraswanath Temple is the largest and the most attractive. Apart from Paraswanath Temple, there are Chandraprabhu temple, Laxminath Temple, Rishabdev temple, Shitalnath Temple, Kunthanath Temple, and Shantinath Temple. All these temples are carved of yellow sandstones and have long corridors that connect all the seven temples. The carvings along with their design and chic still bear the emblem of a prosperous and wealthy fort of past. There are also few small Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Ganesha and Lord Shiva.

                                      Jain Temple, Courtesy: A Niche World



                                      Carvings inside the temple

Apart from temples, there are some museums and merchant ‘Havelis’ in the fort. These were built by the wealthy merchants who used to carry out trade in this city. Some of these sandstone erections date back to even 15th century. I explored Mukul’s house (as detailed in the film) and other spots where the film flashed live in front of me. Every direction of the film got sketched in front of my eyes as we went through the flaps of the ‘Quila’. The fort has numerous small interconnecting ‘Galis’ or narrow lanes. The classy houses standing along the lanes have an unmatched singularity. Some of the house’s walls also had beautiful paintings and designs on it. Apart from the places mentioned above, nomads can also go around Patwon Ki Haveli, Salim Singh ki Haveli, Jawahar Palace, and Tazia Tower.
   
                                                    Mukul's house
            



One unique thing about the walls is that the name of the last person who got married in a particular house is painted during the occasion. And the paint remains on the wall till another one from the same family gets married. Like this, the saga goes on and on.


                                       Along the paddles of the fort

Along these ‘Galis’ one can also find shops selling Rajasthani costumes, knick-knacks, sandstone crafts, and implements, colorful puppets, Rajasthani turbans, camel skin shoes, wallet, and many other vintages and unique items. Diverse stone carvings other than that of sandstone can also be found in these shops.

                                                 Rajasthani goods

Wrapping up most of the fort’s exquisiteness took us three hours. Walking continuously through the up and down roads of the fort wearied our legs. Every nooks and corner of the citadel gleamed brownish of its blush. The flashy and gaudy street shops supplemented vigor to the brown tint of the fort.  As the sun inclined, gathering at the fort augmented. Our tired feet and hungry stomach tempted us for lunch which took us back to our BnB. As we returned, words of both our host and our fort guide were still ringing in our ears, ‘Aapke Satyajit babu ne to humare quile ko famous bana diya!’ (‘Your Satyajit Ray has made our Jaisalmer Fort famous!’)

A little grain of gold from Golden fortress:
  • Make sure you watch the film before landing there. Fine points of the film will drag you further towards every door of the fort. 
  • Make sure you are wearing sneakers or boots. The stones and pavements of citadel will prove hard to your feet.
  • Do bargain and hire a guide for the fort exploration. Details of the fort until and unless explained will not fetch interest to the travelers.
  • An entry ticket is required to enter the seven storey Maharaja Rawal palace which does not include the guide charges. A guide charge for showing around the quila is separate.T
  • hough the fort is open till five in the evening, the temples close at 12 in the noon. 
  • Don’t spoil the construction walls with your love letters, paan-gutkha decorations, and other nonsense. Be aware of its spotlessness and safeguard the archaeological beauty for your children as well. 
  • Though a bit costly than outskirts, try to take home inside the fort. One cannot feel the castle by staying outside.


Where to stay
I stayed at Hotel Siddhartha which is inside the fort. Our host was a much helpful and welcoming man who helped us in sorting our entire stay at Jaisalmer. He even arrived at 11 in the night just to pick us! The place also has a rooftop restaurant from where you can grab a magnificent view of the city and the fort. Would love to stay at his place again!

How to reach

From Jaisalmer bus stand, the fort is just a few kilometers away. A mere auto fare of 10 INR will fetch a nomad to the fort.

About

Bird of passage, who can survive solely on the feel of new roads beneath her incurably nomad, sneaker clad feet. HELLO travellers....!! You are most welcome to my travel and adventure BLOG!! Talking about myself is something I find extremely uncomfortable, because, WHAT DO I TALK ABOUT? My daily routine, my preference for blindingly bright colours, or my awesome transition from a boring Physics-loving Middle-schooler, to part-time Techie and full-time Lover-of-new-places? My passion for jumping around from one landscape to another parallels my extreme attachments with vegan food, and take my word for this one, that says a LOT. Anything that tempts both my stomach and my eyes are my darling. My trolleys and backpacks are quite frayed and harried-looking, but I think I would be proud of myself if I looked like that, had I been a trolley or a backpack. Just kidding, they're overworked. It's fine to be overworked, that other time, I was in Paris... But never mind that story, I tend to go off on too many tangents. I'm fundamentally not an extremist: I love both hills and beaches, but neither to the extent of disliking the other. I love long drives on highways, clicking in sunny beaches, driving through green hills, walking across white mountains, dancing in vibrant desert, running in dense woods and etc etc etc. :) All my photographs are proud exhibitors of the imperfections of my skin, because they are natural, and unburdened by filters, thank you very much. This blog is more of an account of the thousand and one ways to blunder around the world, and less on what planned traveling should be like... I hope you relate and enjoy! Just get ready and join me to unleash the beauty and charm of travelling!! Less filter..more real!