Jaisalmer and the Desert

25th Feb, 2003 - Jaisalmer

As soon as we'd gotten out of Jaisalmer station, we were hounded by a bunch of hotel representatives and rickshaw drivers. Each guy offering to take us to his hotel for 10 bucks. We got into one, and asked him to take us to the RTDC. Dissapointed, he took us there, all the time trying to discourage us. We got there, but it was too expensive.

By then, the guy said he'd give us a room for 200 bucks, so we let him take us to hotel Prince. We got a three bed room, with bath and TV for 200 bucks a night. It was still before 7, so we all went to sleep and woke up around 9am.

The hotel owner then said that he was organising a sight seeing trip around the city for 75 bucks a head. Ok, so it wasn't really worth 75 bucks, and if you plan on doing this, then I'd suggest going around on foot - the city is that small.

The Golden Fort

Killa Sona We first went to the Golden Fort (Killa Sona). I believe Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan wrote a song about this place. There are still people living in this fort - about 7000 of them. It's an entire village in there. We got a guide inside, and he took us around to the main regions.

Jain Temple We first went to the Jain Temple. Even though the Maharawal was a hindu, he was impressed with the skills of Jain artisans, and invited them to take refuge in his fort. He also allowed them to build temples in there.

There are three Jain temples in the fort, all of different sizes, with some This is so good excellent artwork on the walls and ceilings. It's all done with sandstone, but some of it is made to look like wood.

In the larger temple, there's a secret door with a passage that leads some 17Km outside the fort. This was the route taken by the Jains to bring their This Side Up statues into the fort when their town was under attack. In the basement, there's also the vestements and mouth covering of a Jain priest. After his body was cremated, these garments remained unscathed.

The basement also has several paintings, one of which shows Prithviraj Chauhan and Mohammad Ghazni. Prithviraj broke into Ghazni's castle, but was captured before he could get to the king. Impressed by his bravery, Ghazni granted him one wish before he was killed. Prithviraj asked that he be allowed to fire his bow one last time.

He turned away from the king (since he could not point his bow at the king). His aide, through verse, gave him the exact distance and elevation of Ghazni, and Prithviraj fired a single arrow based on these readings, killing Ghazni.

Here are some more pics from the temples:

The second temple Pillars of NCST Short haired Samson Another view of the Jain Temple

That stone I'm standing on is a fossil from under the sea, said to have medicinal properties.

We then went around the armoury and the chambers of the King and Queen. One of the Maharawals was huge. About 7 feet tall and really stout. His bed robe is hung up to bear witness to the fact.

Our guide told us that in Jaisalmer, the kings are called Maharawals, while in Jodhpur, they were called Maharajas. In Udaipur, they are called Maharanas. He also said that places like Mewar, Jaisalmer, etc. are named after `mer' - the Marwari word for mountain.

I'm gonna jump You're fired The terrace is the highest point in Jaisalmer, and you can see the entire city from here. We weren't allowed to take photographs from this point, but we could from the guard towers. You can see half the city from here - the other half being hidden behind the fort, but it's still quite cool. Be careful where you stand though. The walls go straight down, and it's a long way.

Cannonball run The Lake After the fort, we went down to the lake, and then had a look at award winning artist N H Sharma's work. It was good.

The last part of our morning sight seeing was a bunch of Havelis. We weren't interested in checking out someone's house, so skipped that.

Lunch at Bikaner

For lunch the driver dropped us off at the same restaurant that we had had breakfast. We didn't really like our breakfast, so took a walk around to find another place. We walked through many lanes and through the market, and finally reached a place called hotel Bikaner. It was right across the road from hotel Prince.

Had a good thali, and watched parts of the Holland match in the mirror. It was about now that I started to realise that there were an awfully large number of French tourists around. Checking with a friend a few days later, I found that ce sont les vacances en France.

Camel Safari, Sunset and Dinner in the Desert

Just going down the road In the late afternoon, we set off for our sight seeing tour outside the city Does it ever end? and the camel safari. There were more Jain temples, and an endless road. This is the same road featured in the hindi movie "Road". The second picture was taken while the car was in motion. It's a good thing they stopped for the first. The entire road goes on straight for some 15 Kilometers.

On the route we also saw windmills that are used to generate all the power of Well whaddya know Jaisalmer. I'm not sure if it was 3.9 or 4.9MW of power, but there were a lot of them. We were a bit too far here, but got much closer the next day.

We passed an Oasis on the way and then came to the only spot for miles where one gets sweet water - all other springs and wells produce salty water. Nearby we saw a bunch of wild camels.

4.9MW of wind and little else The desert fleet

Finally, we started our camel safari. Mehta and I on one camel, and Joju Shadows in the desert and Jacob on the other. Maybe Jacob should have sat in front, since he's Three wise men? the shorter of the two. We got our camel to run a bit, but not too much. Don't think Jacob and Joju did any running, because they ended up far behind us. That's the shadow of me and Mehta on the camel - time nearing sunset. You can also see my shadow in the picture to the right.

The place is called Sam (pronounced Sum) and it has some large sand dunes. It's 40 Kilometers from the border with Pakistan.

Sam and sands Here comes the sun We sat around in the sand for quite a while, waiting for the sun to go down. Numerous locals tried to sing and dance for money, while others tried to sell us soft drinks for three times the regular price. Hah!

Don't let the Sun go down on me - Oh for a Zoom lens Sunset was around 6:45 that evening. We brought back Sam sand :P - most of it in our pockets, shoes and wallets. We're going that a way After sunset, we took the camels for a short round, and then returned to the jeep. We then left for the spot in the desert where we were to have dinner and watch the folk music and dance program. It was twilight still, so we could see quite a bit, but once it got dark, there was nothing - just the stars above - all of them - it was an absolutely wonderful sight.

Dancing in the dark Apart from the four of us, there were a Bengali Family, an elderly couple, and Hats off to the musicians three young Rajasthani couples who were in quite a joyful mood. After we'd had our tea/coffee, the musicians arrived. They had a tabla player, a harmonium player, two dancing girls, and two guys who played some sort of clapping instrument.

They played a host of traditional Rajasthani numbers, and then some popular hindi film numbers on request from the audience. By the end of it all, Fire flies Four in a row everyone was dancing around the bonfire.

We had dinner at 10 - which was ok, but the jaggery was good. As always, there was ghee in everything.

Got back to the hotel before 12, and went straight to bed.

26th Feb, 2003 - Cenotaphs

Cenotaphs and... The next morning we visited Bada Bagh - also known as sunrise point. Sunrise was at 6:30 or 7 - we wouldn't know. We were asleep. Bada Bagh has the cenotaphs of all past Maharawals of Jaisalmer, and their wives who committed sati after their death. We decided not to disturb the last two which still had a light burning.

I'm guessing that's Jacob in the picture, but it could also be someone risen from the dead. Lovely cloud formations too.

The rickshaw driver took us to Bada Bagh and brought us back for 30 bucks. On the way, we passed an Air Force base - or maybe quarters - and the power plant with all those windmills. Here's some more pics from Bada Bagh:

Hey wait for me Over and out Look ma three hands What now? It's those pillars again

Monkey on a hot tin roof Apno Japanese awdo che Got back for lunch - again at Bikaner, and then went shopping. On the way back found that our route had been blocked by an angry monkey who had stolen a radish from the vegetable market. We got past him when he stopped to take a bite.

Back to the hotel and then stayed in to watch India bat against England. We had an 11:15 train back to Jodhpur, so went for dinner around 9:30. There was a fountain in the centre of the city, and we thought we'd photograph it on the way out - since we didn't take our cameras to dinner - but it was switched off by then.

Joju adds a bit of Kerala to Jaisalmer Mehta wanted to have some badaam milk, so we went down to the local shops, and saw Nick Knight get run out and Marcus Trescothick get caught. We slept well that night. The train got in to Jodhpur at 5:15am.