Jaisalmer: The Golden City
Jaisalmer is called “the Golden City” and the secret is majority of the structures are made of yellow sand stone. In the above picture you can see how the fort glows under the lights. One must definitely not miss the night view of the city, glittering like gold from the top of the Jaisalmer fort. I was quite surprised to see people living in the fort. It is a strange thing for someone coming from the south, as we always heard that Kings and Nawabs lived in the fort. I was amazed when one the aunt said that she lived inside the fort.
India is a vast country. Traditions in southern part of India are quite different from that of the north. I think the diversity is what makes India so unique. Weddings and festivals are few events where you get to see the culture and tradition. I was lucky to attend my friend’s wedding at Jaisalmer. I was keen in attending all the events of the wedding. Starting with the bridal ceremony to sending off the bride (Vidhayi). Having been part of all the events, I actually felt like family. The marriage traditions were quite different, but one thing was common, “Athiti devo bhava” (Guest is God). Where ever you go in India, a guest is always treated like a God.
So here are some of my experiences in Jaisalmer: (places to visit, likes, dislikes).
3 places to visit:
- Local site seeing: Patwon ki Haweli, Jaisalmer Fort, Gadisagar:
Jaisalmer is definitely a touristy place. Old forts and monuments are well-preserved.
- Kuldhara village and Sam – 1 evening (Total 100km):
Kuldhara: The so called haunted village that disappeared overnight. The story of the village is that roughly 200 years back the king of Jaisalmer liked a girl, who happened to be the daughter of the village head (Brahmin). So the king asked her father for the girl’s hand. The village head told that they don’t eat meat and felt that it would be an embarrassment for the village. So everyone fled away from the village overnight. Listen to the story as told by the villager in the video below. Not sure how authentic the story is, I just hope it is not a stunt to attract tourists.
One other must visit place in Jaisalmer. Camel ride and the sunset are the best parts of the visit. The only source of income for the people in Jaisalmer is tourism. So they will try to project higher prices, ideally do bargain for a worthy price.
Tip: check for the dates of Jaisalmer festival before you go, it usually happens in the 1st or 2nd week of February. I missed it by few days and I have heard that the event is culturally rich.
- Longewalla and Tanot – 1 day trip (Total: 280km)
Longewalla has a historical importance for India. During the 1971 Indo-Pak war a huge battalion of Pak army attacked the Longewalla border during the night. The small unit at the border held the surprise attack till the next morning when the Indian Airforce got things back in control. This is one of the epic battles which was also portrayed into a Bollywood movie named “Border”.
Tanot devi mata temple: This is the only place where the Pakisthan’s missiles didn’t blast. They still preserved the missiles in the temple remembering the miracle. Sometimes miracles are not explained. I recently went to Dera baba nanak border in Punjab and saw another Tanot devi mata temple. The army built this temple in belief of the miracle happened in Rajasthan. Indians are strong believers, I must say.
3 things I really liked:
- Love and affection of people:
People are so welcoming that you don’t feel like leaving the place. My plan for 3 days got extended to a week. The love and affection I was shown by the families was just right beginning of my journey.
Rajasthan is one of those places where the traditions are still intact. Sometimes it is good to see the old traditions which is what makes it different from others.
- Local stuff: (food, music, dressing style):
The food is full of spices. There is a custom where people sit around a big thali and eat from it. Sometimes they also feed each other. It is actually fun sharing the food (as long as you don’t force others :D).
As far as music is concerned the folk music is quite prominent. Below is a sample from Ritu Khan from Jaisalmer.
The dressing style is also quite unique. The “Pagadi” in Rajasthan is tied in a unique way. Traditional dresses reflect the colourful culture of Rajasthan. I got an opportunity to dress in a similar fashion (a modernised version).
3 things I didn’t like (where I would like to see a change):
- Freedom for girls:
Strange that it is a strong male dominating society in Jaisalmer. Before marriage a girl has all the freedom to do whatever she wants, but after the marriage things change drastically. Girls usually don’t have a say in anything, there is a parda to cover their face, they have to speak in low voice. I have also heard that a girl has to sit on the floor in front of her mother-in-law. This is actually quite strange to me. I would like to see this change in this equal world.
- The idea of not leaving the city (A frog in the well):
Most people from the city usually stay in the same place. If one doesn’t travel he/she will feel that their world is the best. To know the colours of the world one must travel. One would actually get to know life is actually larger than what they have seen.
- Caste system and untouchability:
Strange after 67 years of independence people still follow caste system and untouchability so strongly. When people asked my name, they usually asked which caste I belonged to. I strongly said that I didn’t know and I didn’t bother to know. I told them that I don’t believe in the caste system. I tried to explain them in my usual way. I also wanted to ask them whether they wouldn’t host me if I was from a lower caste, but I couldn’t. People didn’t eat food made at a restaurant if the owner/cook is of a lower caste. I definitely would like to see it change soon.
Overall these are some of my views and experiences from my trip to Jaisalmer. It was a great experience to travel to Rajasthan for the first time. Thanks to my friend (Bhagawathi) and her family for all the love and affection. Hope to have many more visits to Rajasthan.