Text & Photography ©Nayan Sthankiya
Jaisalmer, Rajasthani, nicknamed "The Golden city", is a town in the Indian state of Rajasthan. It is located 575 kilometers west of the state capital Jaipur. It is a World Heritage Site. It was once known as Jaisalmer state. The town stands on a ridge of yellowish sandstone, crowned by a fort, which contains the palace and several ornate Jain temples. Many of the houses and temples are finely sculptured. It lies in the heart of the Thar Desert (great Indian desert) and has a population of about 78,000.
Jaisalmer is named after Maharawal Jaisal Singh, a Rajput king 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 sand and the yellow sandstone used in every architecture of the city gives a yellowish-golden tinge to the city and its surrounding area.
While Jaisalmer may always have been remote, it is filled with many artistic structures and monuments of local historical importance. Jaisalmer's medieval mud fortress and walled township make it a popular tourist destination. The surrounding desolate landscape evidences a stark, austere beauty. Camel safaris through the nearby desert dunes are popular with tourists; competition for business is fierce. Prices range wildly and one has to bargain for everything, hotel rates included. Jaisalmer is known for huge mark-ups which range between 400% to 500% depending on the product. So buying shawls, carpets, jewelry etc. can be a very time consuming and nerve rattling experience. A few quiet days spent wandering around the town and the surrounding desert can be a wonderful way of unwinding from the chaos of larger Indian cities.