A very kind auto driver had been arranged by our Airbnb host to pick us up from the Railway station at an ungodly hour. Even as we dragged our luggage across the alleys of Jaisalmer in the dark, I knew it’d be my favourite of the places in Rajasthan and I was right.
A quick nap and we were ready to start our day with breakfast at our stay itself.
In the morning light, the old city of Jaisalmer woo-ed us some more and we couldn’t help grinning at the sheer beauty of every structure around us- the intricate craftsmanship in the uniformly brown buildings lent themselves to being admired endlessly.
We ordered breakfast as per the host’s recommendation and gobbled up our 2 plates of delicious Dal Pakwan with some tea- it was our favourite dish of the trip. It was also Christmas and it received one vote from us to be part of Christmas meals going forward.
Reaching Jaisalmer at midnight seemed to set just the right mood to visit the ghost town of Kuldhara. We hadn’t learnt our lesson with maps yet and were yet again lost – this time in the desert!
It would have made for a fun horror story of its own. However, it was also hauntingly beautiful and the barren landscape had its own kind of magic. We happened upon a herd of wild camel and deer which was somehow a surreal experience when by ourselves in an unfamiliar landscape looking on in awe at these creatures unshackled from human need.
Thanks to Anand’s skills of retracing routes being better than mine, we finally made it to the dusty site of Kuldhara. It’s often referred to as a ghost city or a haunted town due to the intrigue around why people from an entire village deserted it seemingly overnight. The reasons theorized are
- An earthquake leading to panic/destruction of property
- Unreasonably severe taxation by a minister and his cruelty to the villagers
- Water just drying up causing the inhabitants to move away- this we heard from a guide in Gujarat still happens to this day.
The mystery around the town comes from the fact that there are said to be “hauntings” and ghost sightings when anyone ever tried to inhabit the place again. However, currently, it’s only afflicted by the influx of tourists wandering around the place hoping for one of the ghosts to flit by.
We ambled around the ruins imagining the lives and times of the village people who once had their homes there and how hard it must have been for them to leave it all behind and disappear/move to another place- depending on the version you’d want to believe.
By now the desert heat and time we’d spent getting lost, led us to be ravenous, and the one icecream we each had in Kuldhara wasn’t enough any more. In the very first restaurant we saw along with rotis we ordered ker sangri which sounded unique to us and we quite enjoyed the exotic looking vegetable. The hotel staff on my request enthusiastically even showed us the “raw” vegetable and explained its pre-processing and cooking. Later on the trip, we even picked a bottle of ker sangri pickle for ourselves on our way back from Rajasthan.
Just after the meal we then promptly ran out of fuel. Thanks to some support by an auto-rickshaw driver pushing our bike with his foot as he drove by its side, we made it to the nearby fuel pump. We then made our way to Bada Bagh(big garden) which I think is a strange name to give to a group of cenotaphs from the 16th century.
The memorials are referred to as chattris(umbrellas) due to the shape of the yellow sandstone structures. Stone slabs in some of them describe the person the memorial is dedicated to in a language long lost. We were lucky to also be there in time for the sunset and see the structure slowly glowing in the warm orange of dusk till it was gently enveloped by the inky winter evening.
Making our way to the town of Jaisalmer we “escaped” the Tibetan restaurant we first entered, thanks to the desperate waiting customers who let us know they’d been waiting for over an hour. Thankfully the next place -though lit up in suspiciously blue lights- had food we enjoyed with not much wait despite a very large Bengali family having just made a significantly large order just as we were seated.
The next morning we decided to indulge in street-fare of dal pakwan, kachori, cutlet, jalebi and tea that made up our yummy breakfast.
The Jaisalmer Palace is right in the center of the Jaisalmer fort where we were staying and we had to ofcourse give it a look. It was relatively less crowded we had a good time enjoying the filigree work and remnants of the lives and times of royalty in Jaisalmer.
It was relatively less crowded we had a good time enjoying the filigree work and remnants of the lives and times of royalty in Jaisalmer.
Baa-ri Haveli , a 450 year old heritage home was next on our list and was a joy to enjoy the colorful space with every nook and cranny filled with local art and quirky household items.
Next was Patwon ki Haveli. The Haveli itself was interesting and also full of knick-knacks everything from attire to utensils but the crowd from Christmas vacations having all landed in Rajasthan at the same time made it hard to really enjoy it.
We also went in front of Nathmal-ki-Haveli but the crowds were a turn off. and considering how much we liked Jaisalmer we decided it was perhaps meant for our next trip.
Incidentally there was an eclipse on that day, so the temples had delayed opening times due to their eclipse-specific ceremonies that needed to be done. So after passing by it several times, we found the Jain temples in Jaisalmer fort finally open in all its glory. The detailed ceilings of the structure in yellow sandstone are utterly hypnotising and it’s easy to imagine the cool interiors providing respite from the unforgiving heat of the scorched desert land.