Sunday, October 21, 2012

Jaisalmer Fort - Stepping Back in Time

The view of the golden fort rising from Trikuta Hills.

Lonely Planet calls it a “living museum”. The Jaisalmer Fort is a wonderment comprising a Palace, havelis (intricately designed traditional houses), seven Jain Temples, narrow winding alleys carved from yellow sandstones, and a bustle of market commerce. It’s a palpably magical experience of stepping back into time; a place where nothing much has changed.

The fort was constructed by Rajput ruler Jaisala in 1156 to ward off Muslim invaders from the west. It sits atop the 80 meter high Trikuta Hills, framed all around its circumference by 99 bastions (projecting structures from a fortification). A fourth of the city’s population resides within the fort’s golden walls. The entrance is through a series of thick gates from the east. 

Southern end of the fort. I had to walk north then turn right to get to the main entrance, through a market.

One of the 99 bastions and view deck.

My rickshaw took me to the southwest portion of the fort. From there I had to walk 180 degrees to get to the eastern gates, almost overwhelmed by a market just outside it. From the main entrance, you’re ushered into a large courtyard. There are buskers playing their sitars and other indigenous musical instruments; circus acts walking the tight rope; peddlers selling their trinkets and bags. But what catches your fancy is the seven-story palace: imposing, elegant, majestic. This post will feature the general atmosphere of the fort. The palace (selectively open), havelis and Jain Temples will follow thereafter.

Entrance into the fort is free, but there are different rates and schedules for the havelis, palace, and Jain Temples.

This is the Eye in the Sky

Main Entrance from the eastern side.

From the main gate, the palace looms large.

Leather products are sold at the other side of the Main Gate.

"Buy something after you see the fort," she tells me. True enough, she waited for my return.

Circus act (above and below)

Colorful corner

Another narrow alley with vendors selling wood carvings.

Rajasthani flipflops

Market just outside the Main Entrance (above and below).

The outer red line outlines the boundary of the whole city while the inner red line marks Jaisalmer Fort. The city was
once fully fortified by thick gates. These days, only the main gates remain. Meanwhile, the fort's walls are intact.


R.Ramakrishnan said...

Lovely images of the fort and life around it.

eye in the sky said...

Thanks, Ram.

Mom with a Dot said...

With heritage like that, one would think they'd preserve it or respect it; but isn't it sad to see the palace walls being used to hang merchandise? The unfortunate plight of most monuments in my motherland - sigh!

eye in the sky said...

@ Mom with a Dot:

So true. There's a bit of frustration in the ways in the Fort. However, I also understand that the Jaisalmer Fort is unique in that this is a "living fort" - people live and work here unlike other Indian forts, thus they must feel comfortable doing stuff with the fort like it's their own home (it is). I just wish, like you, that they consider a more active stance on maintenance and conservation of the structure.

Despite this quibble, the other parts of the fort are beautifully maintained - like the Jain Temples, which gets posted later today. It is a beautiful piece of history living its modern life. :)