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The fort of Jaisalmer

the fort of Jaisalmer.jpg

Most historians place the foundation of the city and fort around 1156, when Jaisal, ruler of the Bhatti Rajput clan, moved his former capital Lodhruva there, as it had become vulnerable. The subsequent history is derived from the tales and songs of the bards and the succession of maharajas of Jaisalmer traces their lineage to Jaitasimha, a ruler of the same clan.

Jaisalmer is a place that should exist only in the imagination. Nothing else in India comes close to this enchanting city, which has been dubbed the "Golden City" because of the honey colour its stone walls take on when the sun goes down.

The sight of the massive Jaisalmer fortress rising from the desert is unforgettable and the magic does not diminish as you approach its walls and bastions and lose yourself in its labyrinthine streets and bazaars. The fort, which resembles a gigantic sand castle, is one of the only living forts on the planet housing several thousand people. Although it is showing signs of subsidence, this desert fort looks like something out of the Arabian Nights. It has been a Unesco World Heritage site since 2013.

Jaisalmer fort
Jaisalmer Fort


Built in 1156 by Jaisal, chief of the Rajput Bhatti clan, the fort crowns the hill of Trikuta at a height of 80 metres. Over the centuries, it has been the focus of many battles between the Bhattis, the Mughals of Delhi and the Rathores of Jodhpur. It is protected by three successive walls and 99 bastions. ​

It is fascinating to walk around this living fort which is full of houses, temples, craft shops and beauty salons, and is embellished with narrow winding streets, all paved with stone. Everything is calm: vehicles are not allowed and even building materials must be transported by camel cart.​

The fort’s walls offer great views of the old city and the surrounding desert. Walking on the outer ramparts is a very popular activity at sunset.

havelis of jaisalmer


Jaisalmer has several havelis built by the wealthy merchants, some of them still in excellent condition. If the interior is open to the public, it is however recommended to admire them from the outside. Here are two of them.  ​

Patwon-ki-Haveli, the most elaborate and magnificent, stands in a narrow lane. It was built between 1800 and 1860 by five Jain brothers who made their fortunes in the jewellery and brocade trade. There are remnants of frescoes in vibrant red and gold tones.​

Salim Singh-ki-Haveli was built about 400 years ago for a prime minister. Its roof is arched with beautiful carved peacock supports. Stone elephants, traditionally erected in front of the prime ministers' house, guard the haveli, which is built without mortar or cement, the stones being joined by tongue-and-groove joints.

Jaisalmer Gadi Sagar


Gadi Sagar is a reservoir located south of the city walls, which was once used to supply water to the city. Given its major importance in providing precious water to the inhabitants of this arid city, it is surrounded by small temples and shrines. The reservoir was built in 1367 by Maharaja Gadsi Singh, taking advantage of a natural slope which already retained some water.

To access the tank, you have to pass under a beautiful yellow sandstone gate, the Tilon-ki-Pol, which legend has it was built by a famous prostitute, Tilon. When she offered to pay for the construction of the gate, the maharaja refused permission on the grounds that he would have to pass under it, thus diminishing his dignity. However, while he was away, Tilon built the gate and added a temple dedicated to Krishna, thus ensuring that the maharaja would not destroy her work.

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