The Magnificent Jaisalmer Fort – A Glorious Slice of Rajasthan’s History

Rajasthan, the land of majestic forts and lavish palaces, has no shortage of spectacular structures that stand testament to its glorious history. But even among these, the Jaisalmer Fort occupies a special place – not just for its magnificent beauty but also for still being a living fort.

Jaisalmer Fort

Built in 1156 AD by the Rajput ruler Maharawal Jaisal Singh, this gigantic fort crowns the Trikuta Hills and dominates the skyline of the Golden City of Jaisalmer. The yellow sandstone walls appear to rise organically from the hillside, camouflaging the fort into the barren landscape. This is one of the few forts where you can still see life thriving within the walls, just as it did centuries ago when the fort housed the entire population of Jaisalmer.

So join me as we explore the nooks and corners of this living fort and unearth the many stories that these walls hold.

Getting through Akkai Gate

Our tour starts from the main Akkai Gate (Akki meaning inner) located on the eastern side. As we pass through the gate into a large chowk or square, one can feel the lively hustle-bustle typical of any fort. This chowk leads to the four main sections of the fort which served different communities.

Jaisalmer Fort

The Rajputs who offered their military services stayed to the west and south, while the Brahmins offering spiritual guidance to the royals lived in the eastern section. The northern parts housed the administrative offices. The fort is designed in such a way that no section opens directly into the other, adding an extra layer of security.

Graceful Palaces

As we walk past the chowk, on the left is a majestic seven-storied façade with a flag fluttering on the top – this marks the Maharaja’s palace. Next to it stands the intricately carved Rani ka Mahal or Queen’s palace. While the King’s palace has windows opening outwards for him to address his subjects, the Queen’s palace has enclosed balconies that allowed her to watch any proceedings while staying out of the public eye.

Jaisalmer Fort

Both palaces were accessed only by the royals while the ladies-in-waiting resided on the lower floors. The opulent interiors give us a glimpse of the now-departed regal splendor. The rooms have exquisite mirror-work, the Sheesh Mahal or hall of mirrors being the finest of them. It is almost impossible to discern the glass columns from the real ones! Graceful jharokhas or lattice windows with stone jaalis allowed the breeze to flow in while keeping harsh direct sunlight out.

Centuries-Old History

Time truly stands still as we walk along the ramparts overlooking the city on one side and the shadowy interiors of the fort on the other. The high defensive walls and elevated watch towers that once protected the fort now offer unparalleled views. Lining the bastions lie spherical cannonballs that weighed almost 50 kgs each!

Jaisalmer Fort

Scattered across the ramparts one can also see smooth round boulders almost a meter wide. These were kept ready to be pushed down upon invading armies trying to scale the walls. The numerous temples within the fort walls, small havelis and old architecture lend an old-world charm that modern structures usually lack.

jaisalmer’s Spiritual Side

While Hinduism has been the dominant faith, the tolerant rulers of Jaisalmer gave permission for people of other faiths like Jainism to build temples here. Prominent among them is the group of beautifully carved Jain temples situated close to the main square.

Jaisalmer Fort

Built between the 15th to 16th centuries from yellow sandstone, these temples are dedicated to various Jain tirthankaras (spiritual teachers). What makes them unique is that they were built by utilizing extremely intrinsic interlocking techniques without using any cement or mortar. Yet, these temples have stood solid in the face of changing weather over five centuries.

Intricately carved torans or arches with floral patterns decorate the outside while the insides have been adorned with smooth finishes. One temple displays a beautifully polished circular sandalwood stone that was used to manually prepare sandalwood powder for worship.

Garsisar Lake

Jaisalmer was always at risk of running out of water being located in the middle of the parched Thar desert. The winter rains collected in a man-made lake called Garsisar were the inhabitant’s sole source of water. But increased population over time led to severe water shortage within the fort walls. It was Maharwal Garsi Singh in 1367 who senses this problem beforehand and orders the construction of this vital lake which still meets most of Jaisalmer’s water needs.

Jaisalmer Fort

With this insight into the history of the fort, it’s time for us to exit from the Suraj Gate located on the eastern wall. But remember, there are many more stories these walls hold within their bosom, waiting to be discovered again!

FAQs about Jaisalmer Fort

Here are some frequently asked questions about the magnificent Jaisalmer Fort that will help you plan your visit better:

When was Jaisalmer Fort built and by whom?

Jaisalmer Fort was commissioned in the year 1156 AD by the Bhatti Rajput ruler Maharawal Jaisal Singh who also founded the city of Jaisalmer.

What is unique about the location of this fort?

Unlike most forts, Jaisalmer Fort sits directly on the Trikuta Hills instead of a plain ground. This offered natural defense in case of sieges along with camouflage against the similarly hued sandstone hills.

How many people still live within the fort?

Around 3000-3500 residents still live inside the Jaisalmer Fort, making it one of the rare living forts still inhabited just as they were centuries back.

What are the timings to visit this fort?

The Jaisalmer Fort is open from 6 AM to 6 PM everyday of the week. The ideal times however are mornings between 8-11 AM or evenings 4-6 PM to avoid the noon heat.

What is the entry ticket cost?

For domestic tourists, the entry ticket costs Rs 200 inclusive of camera charges while for foreign nationals it is Rs 500. Children below 15 years can enter for free.

So come immerse yourselves into the vibrant history of the desert land once ruled by mighty Rajput warriors and their generations more. Lose yourselves in the labyrinthine bylanes where every corner has an astonishing tale waiting to be heard again under Jaisalmer’s clear blue skies!

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