This was my birthday trip. I had initially planned to go to Gujarat during Navratri and meet Anupriya, but she herself had plans with her college friends so I changed the destination to Rajasthan. Since I was going to Rajasthan now, I asked Vibhi to join me. Jessica was supposed to come with me too, but her Nani’s health was not good at that time so she dropped out. I booked all the tickets and Zostels on 10th September 2019. By the end of September, Jessica wanted to join me but everything was costly by then so she couldn’t come.
Day 1 – 2nd October 2019
I had a 9am flight from Bangalore to Jaipur. When I landed in Jaipur I called Vibhi, he then started from his hostel. I reached Zostel Jaipur which is located in Pink City by 1pm. On the way to Zostel, I saw Patrika Gate, Birla Temple and Hawa Mahal. Vibhi reached there by 1:30pm and I kept his luggage in my room. Then we went out to have lunch.
Hawa Mahal was less than 800m from Zostel, so we decided to walk there. Hawa Mahal or “The Palace of Winds” or “The Palace of Breeze” is a palace in Pink City, Jaipur. Made with the red and pink sandstone, the palace sits on the edge of the City Palace of Jaipur, and extends to the Zenana, or women’s chambers. The structure was built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, the grandson of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh, who was the founder of Jaipur. He was so inspired by the unique structure of Khetri Mahal that he built this grand and historical palace. It was designed by Lal Chand Ustad. Its unique five floors exterior is akin to the honeycomb of a beehive with its 953 small windows called Jharokhas decorated with intricate latticework. The original intent of the lattice design was to allow royal ladies to observe everyday life and festivals celebrated in the street below without being seen, since they had to obey the strict rules of “purdah”, which forbade them from appearing in public without face coverings. This architectural feature also allowed cool air from the Venturi effect to pass through, thus making the whole area more pleasant during the high temperatures in summer. Many people see the Hawa Mahal from the street view and think it is the front of the palace, but in reality it is the back of that structure.
I had seen hero & heroine having lunch with a view of Hawa Mahal in a few movies so this was in my Jaipur bucket list. There were 2-3 rooftop cafes opposite Hawa Mahal so we searched for an entrance to any one of those cafes and found the entrance to Tattoo Cafe & Lounge. When we entered the cafe the host informed us that we could go to the rooftop to click pictures. The view of Hawa Mahal was just breathtaking here. There were seats on rooftop but we could use it only if our expected bill was above ₹1000/-. So we just clicked pictures and went down to order. We had to wait for 15-20 min to get a seat since it was lunch time. We ordered Hawa Mahal Gatta and Tandoori Roti. While we were eating it rained outside so people sitting on rooftop also had to come down. The food was good and we got a bill of ₹420/- so we were satisfied.
By the time we finished our lunch, the rain stopped so I decided to go to Jaipur City Palace because I had seen beautiful pictures of City Palace from Jessica’s visit and I didn’t remember it at all (last time we visited there in 2004). The City Palace of Jaipur was established at the same time as the city of Jaipur, by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, who moved his court to Jaipur from Amber, in 1727. Until 1949 the City Palace was the ceremonial and administrative seat of the Maharaja of Jaipur. It now houses the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, and continues to be the home of the Jaipur royal family.
Then we went back to Zostel to take rest. Since Vibhi came in a hurry, he did not have time to trim his unkempt beard and he did not bring his trimmer. So I asked the reception people to tell me where to buy a trimmer, instead they told me the way to a barber shop so I took him there and got it fixed. Zostel people had organised to go to Nahargarh Fort to see the sunset at 5pm, but we had our bus at 8pm so we didn’t go with them. I slept in the common room for an hour then got ready for our journey. We asked at the reception where should we get our food and she suggested us to order from a momo shop which was near the zostel. The food came a little later than expected. As soon as the food came, we left for the bus stand in an auto. We reached just in time for the bus so we boarded the bus to Jaisalmer.
Day 2 – 3rd October 2019
We reached Jaisalmer at around 10am. We took an auto from the bus stand and he took us to a travel agent on the way to Zostel. The travel agent told us about the Desert Safari which was for ₹2300/- and it included dinner, stay in a tent, camel ride, cultural program and breakfast in Sam Sand Dunes. We were too tired and also we didn’t want to decide without looking at other options so we took their business card and went to Zostel. Zostel Jaisalmer is located inside the fort so the police guard was not allowing our auto go inside. Someone saw this and called the Zostel owner who in turn talked to the police and we were finally allowed to enter the fort. The auto bhaiya dropped us near the Royal Palace because after that the roads were very narrow so auto wouldn’t fit.
As soon as the auto bhaiya left, Vibhi realized that his wallet was missing. He guessed that the wallet was most probably in our bus. One guy saw us getting worried and asked us what was the problem, we told him about Vibhi’s wallet. He immediately asked Vibhi to come with him on his bike. So I was left alone on the street with all the luggage. After a few minutes, some elder uncle came on a bike and offered to take me to Zostel. Later I found out that he was the owner of the Zostel. While I was waiting for Vibhi, he went to the bus stand with the other guy and found that the bus had left from there. He inquired and found out that the bus was at the nearby petrol pump, so they went there and found his wallet. His wallet had only ₹40/- but it had his driving licence and college ID card. The guy who took Vibhi to these places was the owner of a restaurant in the fort. This little adventure made me realise that the people of Jaisalmer are extremely helpful.
We sat at the reception for a long time and discussed with the owner on how to plan our 3 days. He suggested that we should go for Desert Safari since half the day had already passed. By the time we get ready it will be around 2pm. Zostel was offering their own Desert Safari package for ₹1900/- which included visit to Kuldhara, Oasis, Camal ride both ways, dinner, sleep under the stars and breakfast. And they would take us to a secluded desert where our group would be the only people there unlike Sam Sand Dunes. The owner told us that already 15-20 people were planning to go there and we could join the group. We liked their Safari package and decided to go for it. Vibhi told the owner that it was my birthday so he asked me what cake flavor I liked. He said he would send the cake there. After finalising our plan we went to our room and rested for a while. We then got ready and packed our bags for the night stay.
We met the others at the reception by 2:30pm and walked to the Fort entrance to get to our car. In our car there were 3 foreigners and an Indian guy. The Israeli guy was a diplomat who worked under Israel Ambassador. One girl was from Norway and other was from UK and they had met during their travel in India and decided to travel together. They were planning to visit Udaipur, Goa & Kerala after Jaisalmer. They asked us a lot of questions about India and the traditions that they saw during their travel and it was fun to explain the little details to them. The Indian guy was from Mumbai and worked in John Deere, Pune.
Our first stop was Kuldhara which is an abandoned village in the Jaisalmer district of Rajasthan, India. Established around the 13th century, it was once a prosperous village inhabited by Paliwal Brahmins. It was abandoned by the early 19th century for unknown reasons, possibly because of dwindling water supply, or as a local legend claims, because of persecution by the Jaisalmer State’s minister Salim Singh. A 2017 study suggests that Kuldhara and other neighbouring villages were abandoned because of an earthquake. A local legend claims that Salim Singh, the cruel minister of Jaisalmer, levied excessive taxes on the village, leading to its decline. However, a variation of the legend claims that the village was abandoned overnight. According to this version, the lecherous minister Salim Singh was attracted to a beautiful girl from the village. He sent his guards to force the villagers to hand over the girl. The villagers asked the guards to return next morning, and abandoned the village overnight. The local legend claims that while deserting the village, the Paliwals imposed a curse that no one would be able to re-occupy the village. Those who tried to re-populate the village experienced paranormal activities, and therefore, the village remains uninhabited.
Next we went to an Oasis near Kuldhara. Oasis is a fertile spot in a desert, where water is found. People from nearby village get water from here. It was a beautiful site so we clicked a few pictures before proceeding further.
After a long drive we reached the place where our camel ride would start. We kept our luggage in the jeep carrying our food and water and got on a nearby camel. When everyone was seated, we started our journey to the desert. It was a long 1.5hr ride to the desert. By the time we reached the desert, our inner thigh was hurting. We were supposed to watch the sunset from the desert, but the weather was cloudy. When we reached the sand dunes, wind started blowing which caused sand to blow over. By the time the wind calmed down it was dark, so we couldn’t click too many pictures on the sand dunes. We sat and talked to other while the organisers prepared tea, pakoda and fryums for us to snack.
We met a few more people there. There were 3 people from Bangalore, a student from Tamil Nadu, 2 Israeli sister (the elder one was an Art Therapist and the younger one didn’t talk much), a French couple (who couldn’t keep theirs hands off of each other even during the camel ride 😉 ) and a couple from UK (who had just finished college).
Soon enough dinner was served which had rice, roti, dal, veg curry, garlic chutney & papad. The food that they prepared was a bland & had less salt so that the 9 foreigners don’t find it spicy. They gave us salt to compensate the blandness. The chutney was the only spicy item. Halfway through eating, it started raining, so they created a temporary tent by hinging a plastic sheet between two jeeps. Rain stopped after a while so we went back to our cot and mingled for a while. The Israeli sisters were the most friendly people so we talked to them a lot. The French & UK people were sitting together. The Tamil Nadu guy had brought his guitar with him, and he sang a few Bollywood songs. Then the Bangaloreans decided to break the groups up and decided to start introduction session. That’s when people found out about my birthday and sang the birthday song for me. We were not even half done with introductions that it started raining again. This time it was heavy rain. All of us went inside the jeep or inside the temporary tent. We waited for hours for the rain to stop. By 10pm everyone decided to go back to Zostel. The organisers offered their home for us to stay but everyone else wanted to go back. I wanted to stay but it didn’t feel right since no one else was staying back so we had to leave too. We reached Zostel by 12am.
Day 3 – 4th October 2019
If our plans had not been ruined by rain we would have returned to Zostel by 11am or 12pm. Now that we were here already, we decided to visit some of the places in the city. We talked to Dilip bhaiya (Dilip Vyas) and Chintu bhaiya (Chetan) at the reception to get an idea on how to plan our day. I couldn’t wear my birthday dress the previous day because I though it would be difficult to ride camel, so I finally wore it on 4th Oct. Living inside the fort was the best part of our stay because just walking around gave us such delightful view of intricately carved buildings.
We walked to the Jain Temple inside the fort. There are seven Jain temples in total which were built during 12th and 15th centuries AD. These Jain temples are dedicated to different Jain tirthankars. Among these temples, the biggest one is the Parsvanath Temple and is most attractive; others being Chandraprabhu temple, Rishabdev temple, Shitalnath Temple, Kunthanath Temple, and Shantinath Temple. These temples are famous for their Dilwara style paintings and architecture that was predominant in the medieval era. The temples are built out of yellow sandstone and have intricate engravings on them. These temples have archaeological and religious significance attached to them. A huge chain of corridors connecting all the seven temples with numerous captions and stone sculptures is one of the key features of this religious place. The intricate carvings inside the temple was mesmerising.
We then walked to Maharaja’s Palace in the fort, ate Bhel outside the palace and got our tickets and booked a guide. He showed us around and recounted the history of the palace. Towering over the fort’s main square, and partly built on top of the Hawa Pol (the fourth fort gate), is the former rulers’ elegant seven-storey palace. One room contains an intriguing display of stamps from the former Rajput states. On the eastern wall of the palace is a sculpted pavilion-style balcony. Here drummers raised the alarm when the fort was under siege. We could also see numerous round rocks piled on top of the battlements, ready to be rolled onto advancing enemies. Floor upon floor of small rooms provided a fascinating sense of how such buildings were designed for spying on the outside world. The doorways connecting the rooms of the palace were quite low. It was a means of forcing people to adopt a humble, stooped position in case the room they were entering contained the Maharawal. The last part of the tour moved from the king’s palace (Raja-ka-Mahal) into the queen’s palace (Rani-ka-Mahal), which contained an interesting section on Jaisalmer’s annual Gangaur processions in spring. Highlights of the tour included the mirrored and painted Rang Mahal (the bedroom of the 18th-century ruler Mulraj II), a gallery of finely wrought 15th-century sculptures donated to the rulers by the builders of the fort’s temples, and the spectacular 360-degree views from the rooftop.
Our guide offered to be our guide for Patwon Ki Haweli too. Before heading out of the fort, he took us to Panorama View Point which had a canon installed and had an amazing view of Jaisalmer.
Then we walked to Patwon Ki Haweli which was the first haveli erected in Jaisalmer. It is not a single haveli but a cluster of five small havelis. The first in the row is the most popular, and is also known as Kothari’s Patwa Haveli. Commissioned and constructed in the year 1805 by Guman Chand Patwa, then a rich trader of jewellery and fine brocades, it is the biggest and the most ostentatious of the five. Patwa was a rich man and a renowned trader of his time and he could afford and thus order the construction of separate stories for each of his five sons. These were completed in a span of 50 years. All five houses were constructed in the first 60 years of the 19th century. Patwon Ji Ki Haveli is renowned for its ornate wall paintings, intricate yellow sandstone-carved jharokhas (balconies), gateways and archways. Although the building itself is made from yellow sandstone, the main gateway is brown. It was an opulent Haveli and we were captivated by its beauty.
By this time we were hungry because we had not had proper breakfast and it was 2pm. So we walked back to the fort by asking the way to the fort from people on the street. Since Jaisalmer is a small city, no one used card or paytm so we went to ATM to get cash before going back to Zostel. We were too tired to explore any other restaurant, so we ate in the restaurant inside Zostel. We ordered Roti and Ker Sangri which is one of the local Rajasthani dish. Ker Sangri was very delicious. We the went to our room and took some rest.
We again proceeded to Gadisagar Lake at 4:30pm. The Gadsisar Lake is one of the most famous tourist places in Jaisalmer which was built by Raja Rawal Jaisal, the first ruler of Jaisalmer. In the later years Maharaja Garisisar Singh rebuilt and revamped the lake. This historic lake is located towards the south of Jaisalmer city and the entrance to the lake is through Tilon-Ki-Pol, a magnificent and artistically carved yellow sandstone archway. The Tilon Ki Pol is adorned with an idol of the Hindu deity Vishnu, installed in the year 1908. The bank of the Gadsisar lake is surrounded by artistically carved Chattris, Temples, Shrines, and Ghats. Its charm lies in the fact that it was the only source of water for the Jaisalmer city in the olden days. We walked around and clicked pictures till 5:30pm.
We then walked back to Zostel to see the sunset. Zostel Jaisalmer has an amazing sunset view from Open Sky Lounge that gives a breathtaking panoramic view of the Golden city. Since we came early we occupied the best seats and enjoyed the sunset.
There was an activity arranged by Zostel called Fort Walk at 8:30pm where they would take us around the fort and tell us the history of the fort and Jaisalmer. Dilip bhaiya was our guide for the day. I voice recorded his explanations & stories so that I could write as much as possible.
Jaisalmer is named after Rawal Jaisal, a Bhati ruler who founded the city in 1156 AD. Jaisalmer means the Hill Fort of Jaisal. Jaisalmer is sometimes called the “Golden City of India” because the yellow sandstone used throughout the architecture of both the fort and the town below, imbues both with a certain golden-yellow light.
The fort was build on Trikuta Hill because it had 7 wells. When Maharaja Jaisal Singh visited the present Jaisalmer for the 1st time, he saw all the animals climbing the hill. He was a little shocked but later found out about the wells so he thought it was the best place to build his home because he would get water easily. He built houses for soldiers too so that they would protect the fort during any attack. In our Zostel, the common room & the Open Sky Lounge area was the Soldier’s Room so that they could see up to 10km from the fort. Between the walls of the fort and the houses there is an army road. If anyone attacked the fort, the soldier who saw the attackers would blow a horn so that all the people would come to that road and would be provided with gun powder and armouries. Every single house in the fort has an Underground Room where gun powder used to be stored. So by the time any attackers came, the soldiers would be ready to welcome them. In Zostel, it was now used as the luggage room.
There is Annapurna Bhandar or food storage room in the fort where food for 1 year was stored. The fort already had wells so if there was any attack on the fort, they would simply close all the fort doors instead of fighting. The attackers would have to wait outside and Jaisalmer’s climate rises up to 50°C – 55°C. This way many times weather also helped them during attacks.
In the fort, the houses have huge balconies called Jharokhas build exactly opposite each other. One reason was for fresh light and wind because the weather in very hot. The 2nd reason was for the women of the house because they were not allowed to go out so they talked to other women through these balconies.
The water was pulled from the well by tying a rope to the ox. Now these wells are closed because they get enough water to drink from Indira Gandhi Canal which was built in 1984. They still do not have enough water for farming.
Before the 1980s very few Indians tourists came to Jaisalmer. In 1974, Satyajit Ray made a movie called Sonar Kella (The Golden Fortress). So when the Bengalis go to Jaisalmer, they are not that interested in visiting the Desert or architecture. They want to visit the place where the movie was shot. Dilip bhaiya showed us the house which was used as Mukul’s house (main character) and the stairs where a running Mukul is followed by a peacock. He asked all of us to watch the movie to see the real Jaisalmer Fort how he saw it when he was a kid. There was a Bengali couple in the group who was very excited to see these places.
It is believed to be one of the very few “living forts” in the world (such as Carcassonne, France), as nearly one fourth of the old city’s population still resides within the fort. For the better part of its 800-year history, the fort was the city of Jaisalmer. The first settlements outside the fort walls, to accommodate the growing population of Jaisalmer, are said to have come up in the 17th century. It is the 2nd largest fort in Rajasthan, 1st being Chittor Fort.
The weather in Jaisalmer is very hot for 9 months so the ceilings of the houses are made of wood and mud (mix of cow dung & desert sand called gaar) to maintain the temperature inside the house. Jaisalmer is very windy so there are many windmills installed all around. The wind passes along these walls and comes inside the house through the main door into the chowk which is made for fresh light & air. The people of the house sit around the chowk for cool air.
Jaisalmer was the part of Silk Route so people came from Afghanistan, Pakistan etc for trade. There were no proper roads and people travelled just using directions. They could not always carry everything they would need during their journey like enough food or water. They also needed someone to give them right directions to avoid quick sand on their way. The people living in desert wear clothes with mirror work so that it would reflect light and the travellers would know that there is life nearby. The travellers would go to those villages and get food, water, clothes in exchange of the goods that they carried. That is how both survived. The villagers who live between the deserts are called Dhani which consists of only one family. The Dhani may be big because they count 7 generations. Bhaiya then explained the difference betwwen Dhani, Village & City. Dhani consists of one family, village has many families of same caste and everyone lives in a city regardless of caste or religion. So the mirror work clothes are not just for decorations but to help travellers recognise that life exists in that place. The travellers carried water and a piece of mirror while travelling and if he got lost he would climb a hill and reflect light from his mirror. If any villagers saw the light, they would rescue the traveller from that location and provide food and water. It is ingrained in their culture to help people. I had already experienced that when I arrived there.
Since Jaisalmer is too far from city, no one came there for years and years. So if anyone comes there they treat them like God. I guess our Incredible India slogan Atithi Devo Bhava! came from here. They have a saying in Jaisalmer “Ghoda kije kath Ka, Pind kije Pashan, Pakhtar kije loh ka, tab dekho je shaan” which means the your horse should be like wood so that it doesn’t need food and water, your body should be like stone, your clothes should be like iron that are not torn and you don’t feel hot in it only then you can enjoy the beauty of Jaisalmer. Before 1990s, only a few foreigners came to visit Jaisalmer but since the advent of internet in 2000s people came to know about Jaisalmer which led to a blast in tourism. Now the people of Jaisalmer have better life because more than 70% of people in Jaisalmer work for tourism.
Before 1980s there was scarcity of water and it was very difficult to life there. People only depended on rain for water. Between 1960-1965 there was no rain so lots of cattle died. Some of the cattle born during those times were scared when it rained in 1965 because they didn’t understand what was happening. So they ran around and died due to stampede. Since 1965 every year the population of cattle decreased. People offered ghee instead of water because they had to go very far to bring water.
We walked to one of the 5 cannons in the fort. We had visited another cannon during the day. Dilip bhaiya explained to us how the cannon worked. The cannon was filled with gun powder till 70% of capacity and add a ball mixed with gunpowder, then add twine of fire from the top hole. The cannon was in the middle and there was some space between the cannon stage and the fort wall. Water was filled in this area and after lighting the cannon the soldier jumped into the water to save his eardrums from the loud blast. It was an awesome spot to take pictures of the entire city.
Bhaiya showed us Patwon Ki Hawali from there and told us about Haveli. Havelis are air conditioned house because wind can pass through every single room. In normal houses, there is no space for wind to pass through every single room.
The fort was built using interlocking system. No cement was used in the process. 4 hole is made in one of the sandstone brick and the stone that is put on top has 4 protruding stone carvings which is fitted into the hole. The building made by this method is called folding building because the whole building can be moved to a different place by dismantling it brick by brick. Building using interlocking system takes a lot of money & time. Now-a-days we need our houses to be built fast maybe within 2-3 months. We have to renovate our house after at max after 10 years. But the fort is more that 800 years old but it doesn’t need much renovation because building the fort also took a lot of time (almost 100-200 years). The foundation that we currently use is 3 feet deep but the foundation for the fort was 10 feet deep. This is why the fort does not need much maintenance (if not for mindless tourists ruining the fort). To maintain the beauty of Jaisalmer, there is a rule that in Jaisalmer you can use any stone to build your house but the front of the house should be made with sandstone. People also use sandstone because it has long life.
We then walked to the Maharaja’s Palace. The king’s palace had large jharokhas but the queen’s palace had net like walls so that she could see outside but nobody could see the queen. There was a large chair kept outside where the king comes and addresses the people every Dussehra. If we had stayed for Dussehra we would have been able to see the present king at such close proximity. Earlier during dussehra, buffalo’s kid called pada was sacrificed. But since it is ban now, a goat is sacrificed and offered to Chamunda Mata temple. The area was getting decorated for its preparation of Dussehra. The current king lives in Badal Vilas which is known by 3 names: Badal Villas (because it is big building which seems to touch the sky), Mandir Palace (because there is a Krishna temple inside the palace) and Tajia Tower (because of its architecture of the tower). We then found out that we were standing at Sati chowk where women went into the pyre with her dead husband after changing from her wedding dress to white sari. The last sati happened there in 1910. Next he told us about Johar where the women created a large fire and jumped into it to protect their honour when they were attacked by a large army and their defeat was guaranteed. Johar happened twice in the history of Jaisalmer. He told us about Holi celebrations in Jaisalmer and invited us to experience it once.
Then we walked to Jain Temple and he started the stories about Jains. When the fort was built, the king invited the brahmins, soldiers and Jains to come and live in his fort. The Jains did not agree to shift because their business was already established there. In the 14th century when the Mughals attacked there, the Jains came to the Maharaja and asked him to build a Jain temple and for a place to stay in the fort. Mahararaja Lakshman Singh said that when Maharaja Jaisal Singh asked you to come you denied and now we don’t have any place in the fort. The Jains were and still are rich people. So the Maharaja gave them permission to build a Jain temple in return of heavy taxes. All the havelis in Jaisalmer were owned by Jains because they were rich merchants. After the Silk Route stopped in 1947, the Jains slowly moved from Jaisalmer and sold their houses to baniya. Now only 27 Jains house are present in Jaisalmer who take care of the temples using temple funds. There was a Jain girl called Astha and a baniya guy in our group so we had quite a few jokes about how Jains were very clever because they don’t show their money but they are very rich people and same goes for baniya people.
Before 1980s, the lives of the people in Jaisalmer was not very good. If someone in government job got transfers there their friends would make a joke say Jaisalmer – ja sale mar (go and die).
The marriage invitations with Ganesha was painted on the front walls of the house and everyone from the same caste had to come to the wedding. They didn’t have to invite you individually before but now to keep the tradition alive they paint the invitations but also invite individually.
Finally he talked about the scarcity of water in Rajasthan. He said that the people living in the city don’t realise the value of water but the people in Jaisalmer know the importance of water. Even today, in some villages they have to travel 3-4km to get 20Ltr of water while we waste 20Ltr in a single flush. The reason why they took us to Oasis during the Desert Safari was for us to realise the importance of water.
After our more than an hour walk, Dilip bhaiya told all of us to assemble in the common room. I knew that it was for my birthday celebration since they could not send the cake the previous day. When everyone assembled there, I cut the cake and had a mini cake facial done to me. After washing my face, Dilip bhaiya decided to start a boys VS girls Antakshari competition. We were 3 girls and there were more number of boys but the boys were so shy they didn’t sing much so Dilip bhaiya had to come and rescue them. It was a fun night. We sang lots of songs and were unbeaten.
While the game was still going on Dilip bhiaya left to have dinner so Vibhi and I also took this opportunity to go have dinner. When we came out of the room we saw Chintu bhaiya & Dilip bhaiya having dinner. They invited us to join them. After initial hesitation, we decided to join them. We ordered more roti from the restaurant and ate the rajma & bhindi cooked by Chintu bhaiya’s mom. We bonded quite a lot during the dinner. We were planning to go to Longewala Border the next morning which required atleast 3 people for the trip otherwise we would have to pay for the 3rd person to book the car to ourselves. So we decided to persuade either the baniya guy or Astha to join us. After a lot of deliberation, Astha decided to join us not only for the trip to Longewala but also to Jodhpur. We had to checkout the next day, so we packed our bags and went to sleep by 1am.
Day 4 – 5th October 2019
We woke up at 5am and got ready because we had decided to meet at 6am to see the sunrise before heading to Longewala. At 6am, we asked the directions from people and went to Cannon Point to see the sunrise. The sun looked so beautiful rising from beyond the city. The view was enchanting and I felt that our decision to wake up early paid off.
At around 8am we sat in our Scorpio and started our journey to Longewala. After a short drive we stopped at Bada Bagh which is a garden complex about 6 km north of Jaisalmer on the way to Ramgarh. Overlooking a mango grove sits a set of royal cenotaphs, or chhatris, of Maharajas of Jaisalmer state, starting with Jait Singh III (d. 1528), built by the son of the Rawal Jait Singh III, Maharawal Lunkaran Singh. Later, with time 104, members of royal family graves and their chattries were built. The cenotaphs are of different sizes and carved of sandstone. There are cenotaphs for rulers, queens, princes and other royal family members. Each ruler’s cenotaphs has a marble slab, with inscriptions about the ruler and an image of a man on a horse. The guide told us about the significance of horse. If the king died a natural death, the horse would have 1 leg raised in the air but if the king died fight a war, the horse would have both its front legs above the ground. We then realised that the statues of Shivaji & Maharana Pratap always have horses with both its legs in the air. In Rajputana, different regions had different title for the king. In Jaisalmer, the king was titled Maharawal, in Jodhpur they called him Maharaja, in Udaipur the king was addressed as Maharana, in Jaipur he was titled Sawai and in Bikaner & Kota the king was called Maharao. The guide also told us that the years written in the stone of each king was not his birth to death year, but his years as a king. According to tradition, the chattries are built by the grandson of the deceased. If the king died without any child, there would not be any chattri created for him and the slab would be the only thing built for him. He also told us that in order to build a kalash on top of the chattri and to add a statue inside the chattri, the grandson has to feed lots of people. The chattries looked marvellous so we clicked lots of pictures there.
After this we had a long drive and on the way stopped near sand dunes to click pictures.
We then continued our journey to Tanot Mata Temple. As per the oldest Charan literature Tanot Mata is an incarnation of divine goddess Hinglaj Mata. The village is close to the border with Pakistan, and is very close to the battle site of Longewala of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. Contemporary folklore credits the temple for the outcome of the battle. Tourists cannot go beyond this temple to see the Indo–Pak Border unless one gets the relevant documentation in advance from the District and Military Authorities. Some people were tying white handkerchiefs after writing their mannat on it.
We again went on a long journey to reach the Battle Site of Longewala. The Battle of Longewala (4–7 December 1971) was one of the first major engagements in the western sector during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, fought between assaulting Pakistani forces and Indian defenders at the Indian border post of Longewala, in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan state in India.The battle was fought between 120 Indian soldiers accompanied by 4 Hunter fighter aircraft and 2000-3000 Pakistani soldiers accompanied by 40-45 tanks. A Company (reinforced) of the Indian Army’s 23rd Battalion, Punjab Regiment, commanded by Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri, was left with the choice of either attempting to hold out until reinforced, or fleeing on foot from a mechanised infantry Pakistani force. Choosing the former, Chandpuri ensured that all his assets were correctly deployed, and made the most use of his strong defensive position, and weaknesses created by errors in enemy tactics. He was also fortunate in that an Indian Air Force forward air controller was able to secure and direct aircraft in support of the post’s defence until reinforcements arrived six hours later. The battle of Longewala saw heavy Pakistani losses and few Indian casualties. Since the Indians were able to use the defenders’ advantage, they managed to inflict heavy losses on the Pakistanis. Indian casualties in the battle were two soldiers along with one of their jeep mounted recoil-less rifles knocked out. Pakistani losses were 200 soldiers killed. The Pakistanis suffered the loss of 34 tanks destroyed or abandoned, and lost 500 additional vehicles. The Battle of Longewala was depicted in the 1997 Bollywood film Border, which was directed by J.P. Dutta and starred Sunny Deol as Maj. Kuldip Singh Chandpuri, Jackie Shroff as Wg. Cdr. M.S. Bawa, Sunil Shetty as Dy.Commandant Bhairon Singh (BSF), and the then teen idol Akshaye Khanna as 2Lt. Dharam Veer Bhan. The battle ground now has a war museum and we could see destroyed Pakistani tanks around the place. There was a 15 min video about the war which told us some of the details of the war.
During our journey back to Zostel I could not stay awake so I slept the entire time. When we reached Zostel Chintu bhaiya and Dilip bhaiya were eating lunch at 4pm after waiting for us for a long time. We again tasted their home cooked bajra ki roti and dal. Since we had checked out of our rooms, we stayed in the reception area and talked to Dilip bhaiya and Chintu bhaiya. When it was time for sunset we went upstairs but the Open Sky Lounge was occupied by a group of Israelis so we went upstairs. The sky was cloudy so we could not see the sunset.
After resting for a while we decided to take a walk in the fort. We went to Desert Boys Restaurant where Dilip bhaiya had taken us during the Fort Walk and told us that if we mention that we are staying in Zostel, they will give us 20% discount. The view from that restaurant was amazing so we decided to go there. The prices were quite high so we just ordered a veg Pizza and sat in the lounge to enjoy the view. The pizza acted like an appetiser for us and we were even more hungry after this.
We went back to Zostel where Fort Walk was about to start. Since we had nothing better to do, we joined the group again. Dilip bhaiya had asked Chintu bhaiya to be the guide for the day so that he would also learn. We had heard all of the stories so we were hanging back with Dilip bhaiya and judging how well Chintu bhaiya was doing and joking around with Dilip bhaiya. Chintu bhaiya was doing good for his 1st time although he did miss out on a few stories. Later Dilip bhaiya took over to help out Chintu bhaiya when he was unable to recount some stories. I felt that if I heard the stories maybe one more time, I would be able to guide the tour and tell the stories too. Since I did not have to focus much on the stories, I clicked more pictures of the fort.
After the walk, we again gathered at the common room for someone’s birthday. After their cake cutting, Dilip bhaiya announced that even I had my birthday the previous day so I cut the cake again and got a cake facial part 2. Later when everyone dispersed, Chintu bhaiya brought his tiffin box to the common area and Dilip bhaiya, Astha, Vibhi and I shared his food for one last time before leaving. During the dinner, Dilip bhaiya revealed the real reason why he asked Chintu bhaiya to be the guide. His friend had ran away with a girl and married her which was a huge scandal among the local people of the fort. He didn’t want others to ask him about his friend. Our train to Jodhpur was at 1am so we left Zostel by 12am. Even though we were there for only 3 days, we had bonded so much with Chintu bhaiya & Dilip bhaiya that we felt sad to leave Jaisalmer.
Day 5 – 6th October 2019
We reached Jodhpur at around 7am and took an auto to Zostel Jodhpur. We were supposed to get our room at 12pm so instead of waiting for the room, we kept our luggage in the common area and got ready using common washroom. We asked the reception guy about the tours organised by Zostel but he said that since it was Sunday there was nothing planned. So we proceeded with our tour of the city.
Our 1st stop was 2 min walk from Zostel called Toorji Ka Jhalra. Toorji Ka Jhalra (Toorji’s Step Well) was built in Jodhpur the 1740s by Rani Tawar Ji, Maharaja Abhay Singh’s consort, continuing an age old tradition that Royal women would build public water works. As with all step wells, the steps follow the fluctuating water table down to provide easy all-year round access. The well’s original system consisted of a Persian Wheel driven by a pair of bullocks circling the platform on top, which drew water up to two different access levels and a separate tank. Interestingly, the Rajput Princess who funded the well hailed from Patan in Gujarat, home to one of the finest Step Wells in the country. Even though Toorji Ka Jhalra is just a few hundred meters from the Clock Tower in Jodhpur, the step well still seems to be largely off the tourist map.
We then walked to Mehrangarh Fort which was 800m from Zostel but the catch was that it was steep climb up the hill. It was Durga Ashtami so there was a long queue of people for praying in the fort temple. We asked the guards about visiting the fort and they asked us to wait till 9am. It was 15 min to 9am so we drank water while we waited for 9am and then proceeded inside without waiting in that long queue. We got our tickets and got an audio guide for ₹120/- (since Vibhi got a student discount) and then followed the route accordingly. One or two of us heard the audio and explained what we heard to the others. Mehrangarh or Mehran Fort is one of the largest forts in India. Built in around 1459 by Rao Jodha, the fort is situated 410 feet above the city and is enclosed by imposing thick walls. Inside its boundaries there are several palaces known for their intricate carvings and expansive courtyards. A winding road leads to and from the city below. The imprints of the impact of cannonballs fired by attacking armies of Jaipur can still be seen on the second gate. To the left of the fort is the chhatri of Kirat Singh Soda, a soldier who fell on the spot defending Mehrangarh. There are seven gates, which include Jayapol (meaning ‘victory gate’), built by Maharaja Man Singh to commemorate his victories over Jaipur and Bikaner armies. There is also a Fattehpol (also meaning ‘victory gate’), which commemorates Maharaja Ajit Singhji victory over Mughals. The museum in the Mehrangarh fort is one of the most well-stocked museums in Rajasthan. In one section of the fort museum, there is a selection of old royal palanquins, including the elaborate domed gilt Mahadol palanquin which was won in a battle from the Governor of Gujarat in 1730. The museum exhibits the heritage of the Rathores in arms, costumes, paintings and decorated period.
By the time we were done with the Fort Tour, we were exhausted and hungry. So we exited the fort using old city exit and reached Blue City. Legend has it that the colour blue is associated with Lord Shiva, who during the time of Samudra Manthan (also, known as Churning of the Ocean Milk) gulped down vicious poison called Halahala, in order to save the planet. This venom turned his body blue, and since then, his followers consider it to be a sacred colour. Owing to its sacredness, many of his followers who were settled in the region daubed their houses in blue hues , thus the town received the moniker, Blue City. Yet another belief is that the blue colour is determinant of social status. A blue pigment coating on a house used to indicate that a Brahmin—the priests of the Indian caste system—lived there, but over time the colour became a badge of identity for non-Brahmins, too. It’s also said to have insect-repelling abilities. Some locals believe that the colour blue is a good reflector of sun rays, so painting the house like this will keep their house cool in warmer months. Regardless of the truth, the blue landscape is aesthetically pleasing nonetheless. We walked around Blue City and clicked pictures and simultaneously searched for a place to eat. We found a snack shop selling Jodhpuri Mirchi Vada which is a famous Jodhpur dish. Mirchi Vada is a spicy snack consisting of chilli and potato or cauliflower stuffing, served hot with tomato sauce or occasionally with mint and tamarind chutney. Banana pepper is used for making mirchi vada. The vada was so tasty that we filled our tummy by eating several vada.
We then walked to Padamsar Lake which was made by Queen Padmini of Rao Ganga, daughter of Rana Sanga of Mewar. The lake looked more beautiful in pictures than in real life.
We then walked to Chandpol Gate and took an auto back to Zostel. The auto dropped us near Ghanta Ghar or Clock Tower which was built by Maharaja Sardar Singh (1880-1911). We had some chat from the street shops and walked back to Zostel which was on 10 min walk away from Ghanta Ghar.
We found out that there was a Blue City tour starting at 5pm. We had initially planned to take some rest before going anywhere but we wanted to join the tour so we immediately kept our luggage in our rooms and booked an auto to go out again.
We went to Umaid Bhawan Palace which is one of the world’s largest private residences. A part of the palace is managed by Taj Hotels. Named after Maharaja Umaid Singh, grandfather of the present owner Gaj Singh. The palace has 347 rooms and is the principal residence of the former Jodhpur royal family. A part of the palace is a museum. Ground for the foundations of the building was broken on 18 November 1929 by Maharaja Umaid Singh and the construction work was completed in 1943. The Palace is divided into three functional parts – the residence of the royal family, a luxury Taj Palace Hotel, and a Museum focusing on the 20th-century history of the Jodhpur Royal Family. Priyanka Chopra & Nick Jonas recently got married in this palace hotel. The museum has exhibits of stuffed leopards, a very large symbolic flag given to Maharaja Jaswant Singh by Queen Victoria in 1877, lighthouse shapes. The classic cars of the Maharajas are also on display in the garden in front of the museum. The museum just had 3-4 rooms and a courtyard which we could visit so even though it was beautiful it did not feel as spectacular as I had expected.
After this we went back to Zostel and were just in time for the Blue City Walk for ₹200/-. Bhaiya took us around Blue City and even though we had been to Blue City during the day, this part of the city was probably the bluest and picturesque. We also climbed Pachetiya Hills & a temple on the hill to watch the sunset and blue city from above. The sky was cloudy so we could not see the sun properly but the view of blue city from the hill was awesome. We then took an auto and went to have some street food. We ate Pani Puri, potato chips and samosa. Then we walked to Ghanta Ghar and took pictures.
After returning to Zostel we sat in the rooftop restaurant called The Blue Turban and enjoyed the view of Mehrangarh while we ate pasta.
While returning to Zostel we found out about a Navratri Celebration near Zostel, so we decided to go there after dinner. We took Rosaline (she was from Washington DC and reminded me of Mark Mausaji’s mom) also with us to experience Navatri celebration. The place was decorated and the kids were enjoying among themselves when we reached. We asked and found out that the dandiya for adults would start soon. Finally when dandiya started Astha & I joined the group. I don’t know any dandiya steps so I just followed whatever Astha did. I did screw up the steps a few times but it was still a lot of fun.
Day 6 – 7th October 2019
We had asked the reception people the previous night if there was any sunrise point nearby. He suggested us to go to Pachtiya Hill again. We did not know the way and it was definitely not 10 min walk away. Vibhi was not interested in getting up at 5am again so Astha and I decided to go to Ghanta Ghar whenever we get up in the morning. We woke up at 6am and texted each other. Both of us were too tired to get up so we decided to sleep some more. Astha again texted me at around 8am then we went to Ghanta Ghar and clicked a few pictures.
Astha had booked a Zip lining activity at Mehrangarh and then she had her flight back to Bangalore at 1pm so we said our goodbyes and proceeded with our plans. After I got ready, I woke Vibhi up and we checked out of our room. We had covered most of the places in Jodhpur the previous day so we asked the reception what else we could do and they suggested 2 places. We walked to Ghanta Ghar and ate Mirchi Vada for breakfast then booked an auto for ₹500/- for both the places and return back to Zostel.
The 1st place we went was Jaswant Thada which is a cenotaph built by Maharaja Sardar Singh of Jodhpur State in 1899 in memory of his father, Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, and serves as the cremation ground for the royal family of Marwar. The mausoleum is built out of intricately carved sheets of marble. These sheets are extremely thin and polished so that they emit a warm glow when illuminated by the Sun. The cenotaph’s grounds feature carved gazebos, a tiered garden, and a small lake. There are three other cenotaphs in the grounds. The cenotaph of Maharaja Jaswant Singh displays portraits of the rulers and Maharajas of Jodhpur.
We then took a long auto ride to reach Mondore Gardens. Mandore was the capital of the erstwhile princely state of Marwar (Jodhpur State), before moving to Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur. It is believed to be the native place of Ravan’s wife Mandodari. Ravan is treated as son in law among some local Brahmins. The Mandore garden is the collection of memorials and temples of the Marwar dynasty. The Royal Cenotaphs of Marwar Kings are made of complete Red stone. Each cenotaph is unique and completely different from each other.
Having nothing else left to see, we returned to Zostel and retired in the common room. We decided to have Laal Maas & Roti for lunch. It was the most expensive meal of our trip. Reception bhaiya also told us how laal maas is actually made in the village and we realised that we can never get authentic laal maas in the city.
While resting in the common room, I decided to try some of the games kept there. I brought UNO but realised it would be boring with just 2 people so I brought Othello which is a 2 player board game. Both of us were new to this game so we read the instructions and started playing the game. Vibhi destroyed me in the game every single time 😥 .
After resting for a while we decided to go for shopping near Ghanta Ghar. One of my office friend Nipun, who is from Jodhpur, had suggested to go there for shopping. So I decided to have ₹1000/- as my budget for street shopping. The accessories were quite cheap so I bought quite a lot considering I spent just ₹1000/-. We went to the upstairs restaurant one last time and took pictures with Mehrangarh in the background.
Finally we left for station at 7pm and we bought Mirchi Vada and Kachodi for dinner. We watched Bhool Bhulaiya & Khoobsoorat on the way to Jaipur since we were still in the royal family mode.
Day 7 – 8th October 2019
We reached Jaipur at around 1pm and went to Zostel Jaipur for the night. We finally left Zostel at 7am for airport. Vibhi dropped me off at the airport and both of us departed with wonderful memories!