Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Trip to Western Rajasthan - Part-2 : Jaisalmer and Sam Sand Dunes - December 2013

In Continuation of Trip to Western Rajasthan - Part-1

Day-4 : Jodhpur to Jaisalmer (275 kms)
One of the pitfalls of travelling in the peak tourist seasons like Christmas vacation and that too in a popular destination like Rajasthan is that one is unlikely to get the registered tourist vehicle of his choice. It happened with us on the eve of our second part of our trip from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer. Considering the size of our family with luggage, we required a SUV like Innova for the long travel, but the vehicle was not available. Somehow, the travel agency located in the RTDC complex could get  a Tavera for us on the last day of our stay in Jodhpur. The  total cost for 4 days of Jodhpur-Jaisalmer-Sam sand dunes-Jodhpur was Rs.13800/-, all inclusive. According to travel agency, in normal times, the same vehicle would have been available for Rs.10000/- plus driver's halting allowance.
After checking out from the hotel, we left Jodhpur at 9.00 a.m. for Jaisalmer. The initial 30 kms odd of the road was not the best of conditions with  some occasional patholes and rough surfaces. Once we crossed this stretch, the rest of the journey was smooth as the road was in excellent condition. With less of traffic on the road, we could drive on an average 80 kms of speed in this stretch.  The distance of about 275 kms was covered in 5 hours with one hour of lunch break at Amaravati Restaurant near Pokharan.
Day-4 Afternoon : Gadsisar Lake
We checked in our pre-booked Moonlight Hotel near Hanuman Circle in Jaisalmer around 2.00 p.m. The rooms were spacious and clean. One of our two rooms was facing the Jaisalmer Fort ( Deluxe AC double bedded room@2850/- including breakfast). After a couple of hours' rest, we proceeded to Gadsisar Lake, about 3 kms from our hotel. This lake is a popular evening destination for the locals as well as tourists. The lake was constructed sometime in the 14th century Rawal Gadsi Singh to meet the drinking water requirement of Jaisalmer city. However, this lake's water is now not potable and the lake is being used for boating. There are a couple of yellow sand stone pavilions constructed in the midst of the lake. It has also become a sort of pilgrimage place as there are temples at the shore of the lake the most famous one being Shiva temple and Krishna temple.
The popular monument at the shore of the lake is Tillon Ki Pol (Tillon Gate) constructed in the 19th century by a royal courtesan Tillon. It is constructed as a residence for the royal courtesan with archways below it for visiting the lake.There is an interesting trivia attached to this monument. The Maharaja of Jaisalmer did not like the idea of visiting the lake through archway as it was below his dignity to pass through the archway above which the courtesan was staying. So he ordered the demolition of the entire structure. However, the shrewed courtesan constructed a Krishna temple on the first floor which prevented the demolition. So, Maharaja constructed the stone slab stairs from the side of Shiva temple, adjunct to Tillon Ki Pol for him to visit the lake.
There is a rampart above the shore of the lake which is a good place in the evening to take a stroll and view the lake as well as the city from a vintage point. On the right of the Tillon Ki Pol is a road which takes to a point sunset view.
After sunset, we walked down from the lake across the road to visit the Desert Cultural Centre Museum. The museum also hosts two puppets shows in its hall after the sunset of the duration of about 45 minutes - one at 6.30 p.m. and another at 7.30 p.m. The museum displays some musical instruments, weapons, textiles, old utensils etc. The entry fee is Rs.50/- per head. After the end of the puppet show, we returned to our hotel and had dinner in their rooftop restaurant.
Some pictures of the day are uploaded below :
On the way to Jaisalmer on NH-114.

The first glimpse of sand dunes on Jodhpur-Jaisalmer road.

 Moonlight Hotel, Jaisalmer where we stayed.

Hanuman Circle, Jaisalmer.

 The main gate of Gadsisar Lake which is called Tillon Ki Pol

 The alternate approach to Gadsisar Lake constructed by Maharaja of Jaislamer through temple complex.

 A pavilion in Gadsisar Lake.

Shiva temple at the shore of Dadsisar Lake.

A folk musician plays Rawanhattha in the Gadsisar Lake complex.

A shop displaying fancy dresses, umbrellas and hats in Dadsisar Lake complex.

Necklaces made up of stones and metal on display in Dadsisar Lake.

Jaisalmer Fort seen from the rampart of Dadsisar Lake.

View of chattris (cenotaphs) and a part of Jaisalmer city from Dadsisar Lake complex.

Puppets on display during a puppet show.

Day-5 : In Jaisalmer
1. Jaisalmer Fort
After breakfast, we left for Jaisalmer Fort around 9.30 a.m. The distance is hardly 2 kms to the last point after which no tourist vehicle is allowed. From the car parking slot, it is about one km of walk to reach the main gate of the fort. Those who can not take a long walk can hire a share auto from the last point for tourist vehicles @Rs.10/- per head for dropping at the main gate. There are three gates that are to be walked through before one can enter the main area of the fort - Surya Pol, Ganesh Pol and Hawa Pol. They are not located on a straight line but in 'S' shape so that it is difficult for  the elephants to have a enough headway to charge towards the gate to break open. The primary school located near Hawa Pol was once the prison.

The Fort is made up of yellow sand stones which stands on a hillock and is actually an old township spread over a little less than 6 sq. kms. Even now, one-fourth of the population of Jaisalmer resides inside the Fort. There are temples, hotels, restaurants and residence houses inside the Fort. The uniqueness of this fort is that it is living fort. Interestingly, the present descendants of Maharaja of Jaisalmer do not stay in the Rajmahal Palace located inside but stay outside the Fort near Hanuman Circle.

The palace and its chambers  inside the fort have been converted into museum displaying the rare collections of the royal family. There are some intricately carved Jain and Hindu temples inside the Fort. They are worth visiting. It took about 2 hours to see the bare minimum in the palaces, a museum and temples and another one hour to just to stroll around the shopping areas in narrow lanes.  

Some of the pictures taken while in Jaisalmer Fort are uploaded below: 

Suraj Pol, one of the three gates. 

The carved yellow sandstone on the top of the Suraj Pol.

 A part of the palace seen from the main gate which has now been converted in to a museum.

View of a part of the palace (Raj Mahal) from the Dushera Chowk.

A woman selling traditional Rajasthani jewelries inside the fort.

The Raj Mahal Palace  seen from Dusshera Chowk which is now a museum.

The silver chairs inside Raj Mahal.

Picture of the facade from inside Raj Mahal.

Stone sculpture of a king with a bow flanked by two dancing apsaras. The king with a mustache and beard is Lord Ram. Perhaps, the sculptor may have visualised King Ram as a rajput warrior.

View of Jain temples inside the fort from Raj Mahal.

Jain Temple. I did not go inside as it was very much crowded. But inside the temple. the domes and pillars are intricately carved

Top of the entrance to another Jain temple.

Paintings on the ceiling of a dome of Laxminarayan temple.

View of five bastion of the fort from Raj Mahal. These five bastions have been turned in to hotels. There are 99 bastions on the fort.

 One of the viewing galleries.

 Zoom shot of a viewing gallery atop the fort clicked from Jaisal Italy restaurant.

View of the roof top restaurant of Jaisal Italy with fort in the background.

2. Patwon  Ki Haveli
 After a lunch break at Jaisal Italy located inside the Jaisalmer Fort, we started our haveli tours. There were three prominent havelis within the radius of 2-3 kms of  Jaisalmer Fort. They are Pataon Ki Haveli, Nathmal Ki Haveli and Salem Singh Ki Haveli. These three are located within walkable distance of each other (about one km). We started out tour from Pataon Ki Haveli which is the largest haveli among the three.

Patwon Ki Haveli was constructed some time in C.1800 by a rich trader Ghuman Chand Patwa. As his family grew, some floors were added to the haveli over a period of next 50 years. The main gate frame has been constructed with brown sand stones while rest of the haveli is made up of yellow sand stones. The haveli is a complex in itself with a large courtyard. There are five parts of the haveli of which the first part located soon after entering from the main gate is best among them. This part has been converted into museum.The second part of the haveli has been probably occupied by some Government offices and as such it is not accessible for tourists. The the third part of the haveli is now under ASI where some restoration work is in progress. There is no need to visit rest of the havelis in the complex after visiting the first two havelis which would take about 1-2 hours depending upon the interest of the tourists.

The pictures uploaded below would give the extent of intricate stone carvings on the haveli facades with jharokas and the richness of the interiors which are self-explanatory.

The main gate (entrance) of Patwon Ki Haveli

Part of the haveli above the main gate.

The facade of the haveli with intricate stone carvings.

The close ups of jharokas and balcony of the haveli.

One of the room in the haveli with ceiling and arches with glass works.

Glass work on the ceiling.

A panorama of part ceiling and part paintings in a room of the haveli.

Close up of painting and mirror glass work.

Paintings and mirror glass work on apart of ceiling and walls.

Antique telephone and a clock kept on a table decorated with glass.mirrors.

Sitting room.

Gold painted ceiling with mirror work.

An old gramophone record player.

Close up of jharokha and windows with intricate carvings on haveli No. 2.

Fresco in haveli No.2.

A panoramic view of Jaisalmer from the terrace of Patwon Ki Haveli.

Puppets and other handicrafts on sale in the courtyard of the haveli.

3. Nathmal Ki Haveli
From Patwon Ki Haveli, it is about one km of walk through the by lanes to reach Nathmal Ki Haveli. This haveli is huge and like Patwon KI Haveli, it has intricate stone carvings. However, it is located on the road side and therefore does not have a outer courtyard. The main entrance to the haveli is 'gaurded ' by two life size elephants made up of yellow sand stones with carvings.
The haveli was constructed by Diwan Mohata Nathmal, the prime minister of Jaisalmer royalty. It is said that the construction of this haveli was given to two architect-brothers. Both of them started constructing the haveli from two sides. However, the the meeting point, the design of both the sides did not align properly. Nonetheless, the stone carvings of his huge haveli is something different than what is usually seen in the other havelis of Jaisalmer.
This haveli is still a living residence. Hence tourists are not permitted to enter the haveli. One can only see it from outside. Those who had privilege of seeing this haveli from inside says that there are murals and frescoes on the walls like that of havelis in Shekhavati region.
A few pictures are uploaded below:

Intricately stone carved balcony of a residential house on way to Nathmal Ki Haveli

Facade of Nathmal Ki Haveli.

One of two elephant sculpture at the main gate of Nathmal Ki Haveli.

The facade of Nathmal Ki  Haveli.

A part of the delicately carved facade of Nathmal Ki Haveli.

4. Salem Singh Ki Haveli
Salem Singh Ki Haveli is the smallest of the three we had seen in Jaisalmer. But its architecture is unique. The main entrance to the haveli is just outside the road and the two story structure rises perpendicularly above the gate. There are rooms located on the either side of this structure. It is not a living haveli now but a caretaker with his staff live here to take care of the haveli while tourists visit this place. A haveli guide accompanies the tourist batch to explain the history behind this haveli and the techniques employed in constructing this haveli.
The haveli was constructed by Salem Singh, the prime minister of Jaisalmer royalty. The The haveli has 38 balconies having different stone carvings. On top of the perpendicular structure is a room with four pavilions made of fine granite stones. This was the place for entertainment like dance and music concerts.
A few pictures of the haveli with captions are uploaded below :

Salem Singh Ki Haveli seen from the road side.

A granite slab with inscriptions and Sun God at the entrance room.

Balconies of the western sides of the haveli.

Angular view of the main gate structure from the first floor of the haveli.

Southern side balcony view of the haveli.

One of the four granite stone pavilions  floor of the main gate structure of the haveli.

View of the street from the second floor balcony of the main gate structure of the haveli.

By the time, we had finished our visits to three havelis, it was already dark. We returned to our hotel by 7.00 p.m.
Day-6 : Jaisalmer excursions and Sam Sand Dunes
1. Bada Bagh Chatris (Cenotaphs)
Today was our last day of sight-seeing in around Jaisalmer. While the afternoon was reserved for visiting Sam sand dunes, we were easy on the morning as we were to visit two places - Bada Bagh cenotaphs ( 6 kms ) and Mandir Palace (also called Jawahar Palace) which was located very close to our hotel. So after a late breakfast, we left the hotel at 9.45 a.m. for Bada Bagh. This place was a funeral ground for Bhatti rulers of Jaisalmer. While there are several cenotaphs of various sizes constructed from yellow sand stones which are impressive, the garden is in a state of disarray. There is no dwelling places nearby Bada Bagh. In fact, it is now surrounded by wind mills. The place does not require more than half an hour to complete the visit. If short of time, one an bypass the visit.

A few pictures of Bada Bagh cenotaphs below :

 Bada Bagh cenotaphs view from a hillock.

The biggest cenotaphs in Bada Bagh with stone carvings.

The agricultural fields with drip irrigation just below Bada Bagh cenotaphs.

Heritage and modernity go together in Bada Bagh - Cenotaphs and Wind Mills.

This stone pillar pathway appears to be a combined memorials of the Bhatti families.

Another rows of cenotaphs at Bada Bagh.

2. Mandir Palace 
The present descendants of Jaisalmer royal family stay in Mandir Palace which is also known as Jawahar Palace. Some even all it as Badal Palace as in monsoon, its tower is covered under cloud. There is a temple inside the palace which made this palace as Mandir Palace for public at large. The palace is now in three parts: one part of the palace has been converted in to a heritage luxury hotel which is out of bound for tourists except those staying as guests in the hotel as well as those visit its restaurant for refreshments and lunch. The second part with a huge tower is the residence of the present descendant of the Jaisalmer royal family. The middle part of the palace has been concerted into museum which is not as great as we had already seen Jaisalmer Fort and Patwon Ki Haveli. However, the palace has some of the outstanding and delicate carvings. If short of time, one can bypass the visit.

We returned to our hotel which was very close to Mandir Mahal and had lunch at their roof top restaurant.

A few pictures taken inside Mandir Palace are uploaded below:

The multi-layer tower of Mandir Palace. This part of the palace is the residence of the present Jaisalmer royal family.

Intricate carvings on the facade which is a part of the hotel.

The left part is the entrance to the hotel lobby and the right is the entrance for tourists for visiting museum.

Delicate stone carvings of the facade of one of the hotel rooms.

This gate is the side entrance to the hotel.

Entrance to the museum.

The close-up of the museum facade.

A dressing mirror table made with ivory designs.

Hand operated air coolers - small and big.

Delicate jalli (net) work on a window going towards Zanana Mahal.

Intricate stone carving around a window of a archway leading to Zanana Mahal.

Side wall of Zanana Mahal with peacock motifs.

Zanana Mahal Window.

Kitchen utensils on display in Zanana Mahal.

Antique radio, record player, fan, Kodak movie camera and musical instruments on display in Zanana Mahal.
3. Jain temples of Amar Sagar and Lodurva
After lunch and some rest, we collected the vouchers for our Sam sand dunes visit from the hotel. This included a 3 km camel ride to the sand dunes, tea and light snacks, the cultural shows of folk songs and dances and the dinner @Rs.750/- per head with our own vehicle. I will come back on this package later with my comments.

Our first halt was at Amar Sagar (6 kms from Hanuman Circle). Amar Sagar is a lake which has dried up in December.  At the shore of the lake are some old Jain temples. We visited Parshvanath Jain temple complex in which there are three more Jain temples of Adeshwarnath , Sambhavnath and Asthapadi. These temples have been constructed in yellow sand stones in C.1600 and have intricate carvings reminding me of Dilwara temple.

A further drive of 10 kms on Sam road took us to Lodurva which has another Jain temple complex. Once upon a time, Lodurva was the capital of Bhatti rajput rulers of Jaisalmer. A highlight of this temple complex is that there are four temples in the four corners - Rishabhnath, Parshvanath, Ajitnath and Sambhavnath. As usual, these Jain temples have intricate and delicate stone carvings both inside and outside the temple walls. These temples have also been constructed in yellow sand stones some time in C.1600.

Pictures of these temples have been uploaded below:
Parshvanath temple complex, Amar Sagar
Deities in Parshvanath temple.
Adhishwarnath  temple, Amar Sagar.
Adishwarnath temple hall carvings.
Adishwarnath temple facade carvings.
Interior of a Jain temple, Amar Sagar.
Lodurva Jain temple complex.
Intricately stone carved arch leading to Lodurva Jain temple complex.
Lodurva main Jain temple with octagonal fortification wall.
Lodurva main Jain temple deity.
Lodurva Jain temple's Kalpavrisksha Ashtapadi Giri.
4. The abandoned village of Kuldhara
From Lodurva, it is 14 kms drive on the Sam road followed by a single lane village road to reach the abandoned village of Kuldhara. There is a weird story of once a very prosperous village inhabited by Paliwals brahmins from 13th century to the beginning of 19th century. It is said a cunning minister of Jaisalmer wanted to marry a beautiful daughter of village chief who decline the minister's demand. The minister gave them time to reconsider his demand for marriage failing which he would take his daughter forcefully. The another variant of this story was that the minister threatened the villagers with high taxes which would ruin them. The villagers met as dead line came nearer and unanimously decided to abandon the village. While abandoning the village, they left a curse that whoever occupies their houses would be doomed. It is believed that they all settled in around Jodhpur. With the curse in force, no one in interested in settling in this village.  

The Government of Rajasthan has now  made this village as a heritage village without any restoration except a couple of single story houses for tourists to have a feel of the period when this village flourished. A temple of Kuldhara Devi has been constructed. From the terrace of the temple, one can get 360 degree view of the abandoned village. All the houses which are in ruins now appeared to have been constructed symmetrically with roads and side streets. Obviously, the houses were constructed with yellow sand stones.

There are two ways of exploring the village. Those who have come to visit the village in their own or hired vehicle can pay Rs.50/- per vehicle and move inside the village in the car. Alternatively, one can leave the car at the car parking lot and walk inside the village for exploration.With car, it can be covered within 30 minutes.

This is an interesting place. One feel as if one is walking through the history of the place.

A few pictures taken of the abandoned village of Kuldhara are uploaded below :    

A panoramic view of the abandoned Kuldhara village.
Ruins of Kuldhara village.
A partially restored house in Kuldhara for tourists' viewing.
A temple  of Kuldhara Devi in Kuldhara village.
5. Sam Sand Dunes
From Kuldhara, we proceeded to Sam for what would be our last place to be visited before we wound up our trip of Western Rajasthan. We reached around 4.00 p.m. at the outskirt of Sam sand dunes as we were stopped by our Camel rider to park our car and take the camel ride for remaining 3 kms of sand dunes. There were two options available for us - ride on a camel or ride on a camel cart. We all opted for camel ride. It took about 45 minutes to reach the sand dunes. The camel ride can be continued on the sand dunes also at extra cost. We did not opt for camel ride on the sand dunes and instead we walked to reach a top point on a sand dune.

Being the peak tourist season, the sand dunes were crowded by tourists to the hilt with camels and camel carts moving to and fro like vehicles on a busy road. On top of it, there were sellers of all kinds - bear, tea, soft drinks, handicrafts etc pestering us to buy. then there were so called folk singers and musicians requesting us to listen to their impromptu 'concerts'. All in all, this was not a place for spending some time peacefully. At around sunset time, all the tourists converged to vintage point, the highest point in the sand dunes to view sunset. Just about when sun was about to set in, we walked out from the sand dunes to get to our car in the parking lot.

Our hotel had assigned us to Oasis Camp for the cultural show followed by dinner. The show was being organised in the open air. It was very cold night with cold wind blowing. Even with the adequate protection, it was difficult to sit through the cultural show. The artists especially folk dancers appeared to be amateur. Probably all the professional and good folk dancers may have been hired by upscale resorts in Sam. The dinner served after the cultural show was a ordianry fare. All in all, it was not worth Rs.750/- per head.  I would suggest the visitors to avoid cultural shows and dinner at Sam especially it the peak tourist season, as they are not worth the amount and time spent. After dinner, we drove back to Jaisalmer by 9.30 p.m.

A few pictures taken at Sam sand dunes have been uploaded below :

The camel rides which started about 3 kms away from here are about to reach sand dunes.

Those who do not like to ride on a camel, there are camel carts available on the sand dunes.

 The expanse of the sand dunes can be judged by the  people standing at the far end looking dwarfs.

I had walk about 2 kms away to take this picture of sand dunes without crowd.

The view of tent accommodation at the far end for those who would like stay overnight here.

With tourists in thousands, it was a rare sight to see only one camel rider.

Tourists on the sand dunes waiting for sunset view.

The sun is about to set in.

A folk dance performance at Oasis Camp.

Day-7 : Jaisalmer to Jodhpur

Jodhpur Railway Station.


Today was the day of our return journey after spending a week in Western Rajasthan. Our train was scheduled to leave in the late evening from Jodhpur. So we had enough time to reach Jodhpur. We took it easy and after a late breakfast, we started our return journey to Jodhpur around 10.00 a.m. The journey was smooth with good road condition and less of a traffic. After a  lunch break at Manwar Resort, we reached Jodhpur railway station at 3.30 p.m. For next 3 hours, we took rest in a Waiting Room located on the entrance hall  of the station. The waiting room was surprisingly not crowded and it was clean. Our train was already stabled at the platform. The train left at 7.00 p.m. (15 minutes late) and reached  Borivali at 11.00 a.m. on the next day.


unitedrestorations12 said...

Great information about the jaselmer i think one time we should visit the jaselmer

TouristSafari said...

Very Well written post, thoroughly enjoyed it. Bada Bagh of Jaisalmer is really amassing place. You can also check my post about Bada Bagh Jaisalmer at http://www.touristsafari.com/parks/bada-bagh-jaisalmer