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Old 2nd May 2014, 19:44   #31
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Post Day 5 #2: Mehrangarh Fort interiors

As we pass through Suraj Pol, we enter a courtyard named Shringar Chowk. This is surrounded by palace and museum galleries on all sides. Right in the front as we enter is a raised platform with a marble seat at one end. This place was used for coronation of the Rathore Kings.
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The room on the southern side of the Shringar Chowk currently houses the Howdah Gallery. Howdahs are seats for riding on elephants and are fastened onto the elephant’s back. The gallery has a large collection of these howdahs as well as ornaments used to decorate royal elephants.
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This silver howdah was presented to Maharaja Jaswant Singh by the Mughal Emperor Shahjahan, as a mark of special honor.
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Next to Howdah Gallery is the Palanquin Gallery which showcases a rich collection of palanquins used by the royal ladies as well by men on special occasions.
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Overlooking the courtyard were delicately carved windows and jaalis in red sandstone.
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Another important gallery around Shringar Chowk is the Daulatkhana, which literally means treasury. This room is now used for the display of some of the museum’s prize exhibits. A small cannon in front of Daulatkhana.
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Some of the exhibits inside include the Mahadol palanquin
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and Emperor Akbar’s sword.
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There are several period rooms in the palace with distinct names and themes. Mehrangarh's Sheesh Mahal, was Maharaja Ajit Singh’s bed chamber, decorated with mirror work. It features elaborate painted panels of sacred subjects.
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This one is called the Phool Mahal, built by Abhay Singh in the 18th century. The grandest of Mehrangarh’s period rooms, the gold for this room came from Ahmedabad as war booty.
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The ceiling features rich gold filigree work.
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The royal portraits on the ceiling were added later and reveal a distinct European influence.
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A view of fort ramparts with Jaswant Thara in the background.
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Old 3rd May 2014, 12:05   #32
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Post Day 5 #3: Mehrangarh Fort interiors (contd.)

Sileh Khana or the Armoury. An exquisite collection of swords with watered steel blades.
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Shields made of tortoise and rhino shells.
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Dagger collection.
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Rifles. Rajputs were initially opposed to use of rifles or any form of artillery, since it went against their chivalrous code to kill someone from a distance.
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A view of the topmost portions of the fort
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Takhat Vilas is another period room, built and lived in by Maharaja Takhat Singh. All the surfaces including the floor in the room are painted. It has an interesting and varied blend of styles with the glass balls on the ceiling pointing to British influence.
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A view of the blue quarters from the top of the fort.
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Moti Mahal. Finely crushed shells were mixed with lime plaster which gives the room a pearl like luster – hence the name Moti Mahal. Built by Raja Sur Singh, this is the largest of the Mehrangarh's period rooms.
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The wooden ceiling features gold leaf filigree and mirror work.
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A throne at one end of the room.
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Zenana Deori, this is where the audio guide tour ends.
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More examples of the carved stone jaali work. They are fascinating to look at and remind you of the dedication of the craftsmen who created them.
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Tour done, it was now time to climb down and out of the fort. A parting shot of the fort. Mehrangarh and the adjoining areas have served as backdrop for several big movies, both Hindi and English including Hum Sath Sath Hain, Veer, and Shuddh Desi Romance as well as The Dark Knight Rises and The Fall.
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Old 4th May 2014, 18:04   #33
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Post Day 5 #4: Jaswant Thada

By now it was lunch time already and the driver took us to a restaurant named On the Rocks serving some nice Indian fare. Post lunch, our next destination was Jaswant Thada. This is a white marble memorial cenotaph of Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, built by his son Maharaja Sardar Singh. Jaswant Thada, also known as the Taj Mahal of Marwar, is also the traditional creamation ground of Jodhpur rulers and the grounds include exquisitely carved gazebos, a beautiful multi-tiered garden and a lake.

A duck in the adjoining lake
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Beautiful carvings on the gazebos
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The main memorial had been built like a temple
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The grounds also housed other smaller cenotaphs
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The carvings were exquisite and the whole memorial looks heavenly in the evening sun.
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Umaid Bhavan Palace, the current residence of the erstwhile royal family was also visible in the distance.
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We skipped the visit to Umaid Bhavan Palace though since it was evening already. The rest of the evening was spent in shopping (mostly local handicrafts) and some lazy strolls in the streets. Returned to hotel and hit the bed early, tomorrow we were going to Jaisalmer.
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Old 5th May 2014, 20:12   #34
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Post Day 6 #1: Pokhran

The night was cold and the morning chilly and it was 8:30 AM by the time we packed up and started our journey for Jaisalmer. Our driver had promised earlier that he would take us to a shop selling the popular breakfast items in these parts Pyaz (onion) Kachori and Mirchi (chilli) Vada. We bought some for the road before we started for Jaisalmer and they we yummy and lip-smacking as expected.

Jodhpur to Jaisalmer was about 280 kms and the plan for the day was to check into the hotel in Jaisalmer and then go to the Khuri sand dunes for the evening sunset and return back to Jaisalmer. Although our initial plan was to visit the sand dunes the next day early morning to catch the sunrise and avoid the maddening rush to the sand dunes in the evening, our driver convinced us that it would be too much of a hassle to go to the dunes early morning before sunrise. With Jaisalmer expected to be even colder that what we had already experienced, we agreed and scheduled the sand dunes visit for today evening.

The roads were smooth and the surrounding flora gradually transformed from semi-arid to arid or desert type. We passed several military convoys on the road. About 70-80 kms before Jaisalmer our driver enquired if we would like to visit the Pokhran fort which was just 2 kms off our highway which passes through Pokhran town. The journey was long and the kids were getting restless, so we agreed to take a break at the Pokhran fort.

Fort Pokaran

Also spelt as Pokaran, it means place of five mirages. Fort Pokaran is a 14th century citadel, also known as Balagarh, built by the chief of the Champawats, a sub-clan of the Rathores of Marwar. It has played host to Mughal emperors Humayun and Aurangzeb in the past. The present Thakur of the fort has converted a portion of the fort into a heritage hotel along with a museum of the family collection of the armoury, garments, miniature paintings and handicrafts. As is well known, Pokhran is also the place where India conducted its two nuclear tests in 1974 and 1998.

We arrived at the fort close to 1:00 PM, with absolutely no info about or expectations from the place. What we saw in the next hour or so were truly surprising and a pleasant experience. The place doesn’t even compare to the other majestic and grand forts we had seen so far, but its charm lies in its intimacy, its miniature scale and the totally unexpected surprises it threw at us.

The facade of the hotel side of the fort
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The entrance to the museum side of the fort. The two domes on the top are part of a Krishna temple on the first floor.
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A small cannon at the entrance
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I believe this place is called Zenana Deori. Its inside a courtyard as you enter through the museum gate.
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A Ganesha painting in the courtyard
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Another painting in Zenana Deori
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The red sandstone jaali work were quite elaborate
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A close up of the Krishna Temple
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The collections inside were a revelation. The sword collection
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Miniature paintings
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The collections were quite elaborate. I do not have too many pictures of them though.

Window of one of the rooms of the hotel. I believe that portion of the fort is known as Mardana Bagh. Our Prime Minister during the Pokhran II nuclear tests, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee stayed in Fort Pokhran during the tests.
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As we winded up our visit to the fort, we left with a sense of genuine satisfaction at discovering this true little gem of a place.
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Old 6th May 2014, 19:31   #35
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Post Day 6 #2: Jaisalmer - Kuldhara

We resumed our journey to Jaisalmer from Pokhran fort. On the way, our driver pointed to an expanse of land beyond some small hills and indicated it as the place where the Pokhran II nuclear tests were conducted. I did not know the authenticity of his info and had no choice but to believe him. Also along the way we met a herd of camels resting in the afternoon sun. Kids were very excited to see them, this was the first time they were seeing so many of them together.
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We reached Jaisalmer around 2:30 PM and headed straight to a restaurant for lunch. After a satisfying Rajasthani thali, next task was to check into our hotel. We had booked Hotel Shahi Palace after reading good reviews of the place on Tripadvisor. However it turned out to be a small place tucked in a non-descript narrow road of the town. The rooms were also quite small (especially compared to the huge rooms we got used to in Udaipur and Jodhpur) without any natural light. I was in half mind to actually go and look for another place but finally decided against it. However, to be fair, the staff there was quite well behaved and the hotel terrace did have some good views of the Jaisalmer fort. We freshened up as quickly as possible and got ready to go to the sand dunes.


The city of Jaisalmer is largely dominated by the Jaisalmer Fort standing atop a small hill called Trikut. Yellow is the dominant color in the town owing largely to the yellow sandstone that is found in abundance in the area. Many of the houses in the town are built using these yellow sandstone and even the new ones have elaborate carvings on their facade. Jaisalmer is also called the Golden City and lies in the heart of Thar Desert.

Tourism is the major industry of the city and the city owes a lot to filmmaker Satyajit Ray and his iconic creation Sonar Kella for its popularity as a major tourist destination. The place is hugely popular with Bengalis so much so that some of the hotels and restaurants in the city carry Bengali signage.

But today we were headed for the Khuri Sand Dunes. There are two popular destinations for sand dunes near Jaisalmer. The more popular and hence crowded of the two is the Sam Sand Dunes, we decided to avoid the crowd as much as possible and headed for the Khuri Sand Dunes. On the way, our driver took us to the abandoned village of Kuldhara, about 15 kms from Jaisalmer.


The story of Kuldhara, as told by our driver, is that it was a prosperous Brahmin village till about 19th century. Around this time the villagers were reeling under the tyranny of the local Diwan who had set his eyes on the village chief’s daughter and gave him one month to arrange for the marriage. The chief went to the Mewar court in Jodhpur for help where the king advised him to abandon his village and settle in an area close to Jodhpur. Thus, one night the whole of village just abandoned their homes and went away to settle in Pali village near Jodhpur. It is also said that the village is haunted and nobody dares to stay here at night. It is believed that the villagers cast a curse over the village as they departed that would bring death to anyone who tried to inhabit the land.

There are many versions of this story depending on whom you ask, this one is on lines of what we heard there.

The government maintains Kuldhara as a heritage site. They have restored a couple of houses to give visitors an idea of how the life was in these parts.
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A restored gazebo
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The village temple has also been restored
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You can climb to the roof of the restored house to get a bird’s eye view of the abandoned village
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It is said that close to 400 people stayed in this village once.
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Old 8th May 2014, 00:16   #36
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Post Day 6 #3: Khuri Sand Dunes

We were in for a shock when we reached Khuri. The whole place was lined with small camp resort kind of establishments with tented cottages and a common gathering place each. The whole area was also almost deserted (pun intended!). Our camel minders later told us that the tourist influx had been very less this year owing to a variety of reasons, recent state elections there being one of them.

Anyway, we were already late in reaching Khuri and by the time we hired the camels to reach the dunes it was already 6:00 PM.
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The dunes were a good 3 kms from there and there was almost no chance that we would reach the dunes before sunset. Hence we enjoyed the sunset on camelback enroute to the sand dunes.
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The sky was especially clear today and the sunset was bright and gorgeous.
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Sitting atop a camel is not a very pleasant experience once the initial excitement wears off
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At last we reached the dunes with vast expanses of sand all around
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Our camel turned out to be a very photogenic one
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He even smiled for the camera posing with the kids on his back
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Dusk had already fallen when we started back after enjoying our time in the sand. The camel ride back was almost surreal in the full-moon light. Alas I do not have any photos that capture its beauty.

We returned back to Jaisalmer after this and headed straight for Trio located in the main bazaar near the Mandir Palace Hotel, for our dinner. This is a busy restaurant quite popular with the tourists and we found the food and quality to be quite acceptable. Returned to the hotel post dinner and retired for the day, tomorrow is the day I was looking forward to most in this whole trip.
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Old 9th May 2014, 19:58   #37
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Post Day 7 #1: Tanot

The plan for the day was to visit Tanot Rai Mata Temple (and if possible, get permission to visit Border Post 609), Longewala, Bada Bagh (which we unfortunately skipped due to paucity of time) and then return to Jaisalmer to the Fort and other sights in the city. As I already mentioned, I was really looking forward to this day of the trip for a variety of reasons, which will become clear as we proceed.


Tanot Rai Mata Temple is located about 120 kms from Jaisalmer in the remote village of Tanot. It is said to have been established in the year 847 AD by Bhati Rajput King Tanu Rao and had been revered since then by people in the surrounding areas. The temple came into prominence during the Indo Pak War of 1965, when Pakistan Army fired more than 3000 shells in the area out of which 450 fell in the temple complex itself. However due to divine power, it is said that most of the shell went blind and what so ever exploded could not cause much damage. Since then the temple and the Goddess Tanot Mata has been a great source of inspiration for the BSF troops posted in the area. After the war, the management of the temple was handed over to the Border Security Force. Read about the incredible story of Tanot Mata and her significance for the BSF on BSF’s own website here.

There was no way I was going to miss visiting this revered place, even though it was a good 2 hours one way journey from Jaisalmer. In a space of 3 months, this was the second time I was visiting a place with such miraculous stories, highly revered by our Jawans, the first instance was the Baba Harbhajan Singh temple near Nathu La near Ganatok.
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By 9:00 AM, we were on our way to Tanot. The road literally passes through the Thar Desert and the vistas are breathtaking.
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On the way, we stopped at another temple called Ghantyali Mata before reaching Tanot around 11:00 AM. However, the temple was closed due to some reason when we reached and we had to wait for half an hour for the temple to open. In the meantime, I approached the BSF office there hoping to get permission to visit Border Post 609 with Pakistan, which is about 12 kms from there. But permissions are seldom granted these days, so we were told by the locals, and our case was no different. So we resumed our wait for the temple to open up, albeit with a touch of disappointment. Again the comparison with Nathu La popped to my mind, I was peering over Indo China Border just a few months back.
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This Vijay Memorial was constructed at the entrance of the temple in memory of the 1965 victory.
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Proud of our soldiers who make this possible day in and day out.
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This goat was not actually paying homage to the martyrs, it was more interested in the flower wreath that was placed there.
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A brief history of the temple.
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At last the temple opened and we were allowed to enter.
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A display of the unexploded shells from 1965 war, inside the temple.
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After paying our respects we returned to our taxi and started on our way to Longewala which was about 35 kms from Tanot.
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Old 12th May 2014, 14:06   #38
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Post Day 7 #2: Longewala

The legendary Battle of Longewala was one of the most crucial battles fought during the Indo Pak War of 1971. Several factors contribute to what made Indian victory in this battle so crucial and noteworthy.

Consider the stakes. This victory foiled Pakistan’s plans to capture Jaisalmer airbase and then the city of Jodhpur, thus denying then any bargaining chips to trade against once the war ended.

Consider the odds. The Longewala Post was manned by a single company of Army regiment commanded by Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri, who was given the choice of either attempting to hold out until reinforced, or fleeing on foot. The strength on Indian side were 120 soldiers, one Jeep mounted recoilless rifle and later air support in the form of 4 Hawker Hunters and 1 HAL Krishak. The strength on Pakistani side was 2000 soldiers, 1 mobile infantry brigade and 45 tanks. Such was the scale of overwhelming superiority of numbers that Pakistan enjoyed before commencement of battle.

Now consider the losses. The Indian side lost just 2 soldiers (regardless of what movie Border would have you believe) and the Jeep mounted rifle. The losses on Pakistani side were 200 soldiers killed, 36 tanks destroyed and 500+ vehicles destroyed or abandoned. That’s as lopsided as the result of the battle could have been.

The story of the Battle of Longewala is fascinating to read and one Jawan posted there mentioned that there has been a lot of interest from general public about Longewala since the wiki entry of the battle has been updated with all the details. It’s a fascinating read and I urge people to do spend some time there and here.

I will let the pictures do the talking of our visit to Longewala. This single tank is kept at the spot where it was gunned down, as a memorial to the historic battle.
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And this in brief is its story.
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You can actually get on top of and inside the tank. All of us had some fun doing that.
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One of the grounded armoured vehicles.
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The armyman who showed us around had an interesting story to tell about this memorial. Apparently this border post (BP 638) was brought along by the invading Pakistani Army from the actual border during the Battle of Longewala with the intention of establishing the post here or somewhere even farther inside. The motive was to claim the occupied territory as theirs after the cessation of hostilities after the war. After the foiled attempt to claim Longewala, the post was converted into a memorial dedicated to this splendid victory.
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Another memorial dedicated to the martyrs of two Indian military operations, Operation Parakram of 2001-2002 and Opeartion Cactus Lily of 1971
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Finally it was time to leave, we thanked the soldiers there for their hospitality and bade them goodbye with this thought in our hearts.
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The road back was again through the deserts of Thar, where the roads are in constant struggle of existence and barely surviving against the mighty desert.
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Old 13th May 2014, 19:28   #39
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Post Day 7 #3: Golden Fort

Sonar Kella

Jaisalmer Fort was built in the 12th century by the Bhati Rajput king Rawal Jaisal from whom the fort and the city derive their name. It stands on a small hill called Trikut, towering over the city that has grown on the plains around the hill. This is one of the few (not sure if it’s the only) ‘living’ forts of India meaning that about a quarter of the city’s population still lives inside the fort. The fort is more commonly referred to as the Golden Fort or Sonar Qila primarily due to two reasons. One is due to its massive yellow sandstone walls which gives it that enchanting golden hue during sunsets.

The other reason, of course, is the 1971 Bengali detective novel Sonar Kella and the subsequent 1974 film by the same name, of writer and director Satyajit Ray. They captured the Bengali imagination in such a way that even today hordes of Bengalis are drawn to Jaisalmer to relive and experience the scenes depicted in the film and in the process immortalizing Jaisalmer Fort as the Sonar Kella. I must admit that we are no different from others and one of the prime movers of our entire Rajasthan trip was seeing the Sonar Kella. Sample this to get an idea of what I am talking about.

We returned from Longewala, finished our lunch as quickly as possible and set out to explore Jaisalmer city. Our driver had intimated a local friend of his, who would be our local guide for the rest of the day. We begin with the fort and our driver drops us at the entrance of the fort. The roads inside the fort are narrow and hence cars are not allowed inside.
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The golden walls of the fort.
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An advantage of ‘living’ fort is that you do not need to pay any entry fee unlike all the other forts that we had visited so far. As is usual, a succession of gates or Pol lead you into the fort, there are four of them here – Akhai Pol, Ganesh Pol, Suraj Pol and Hava Pol. Pictured here is the final Hava Pol which is designed in such a way that there is always a light breeze flowing as you pass through it.
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As you enter, you land up in a square surrounded by the King’s Palace, Queen’s Palace and Jain temples, with lanes leading to the Rajput and Brahmin quarters on either side of the square. This is the Raj Mahal or Royal Palace, our guide mentioned that it was more beautiful from outside than inside, so we did not bother to climb the place.
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The coronation seat of the King. The white marble presents a nice contrast to the sea of yellow around.
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The Queen’s Palace. Notice the lack of any large windows here.
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The Jain Temples, it is said that there 6666 statues inside. By the time we reached the temples were already closed.
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We walked through the narrow lanes to the Brahmin quarters of the fort.
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And climb up one of the defensive bastions of the fort. There are about 99 of them here. As you can see, the whole city is bathed in yellow.
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The fort visit will not be complete for any true Bong unless you visit Mukul’s Bari. In the film Sonar Kella, the child protagonist Mukul claims to be the son of a gemstone carver from Jaisalmer. The final climax of the film was shot in this fort and this house served as Mukul’s house. According to our guide, this is the most sought after destination in the fort.
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And thus we winded up our fort visit and made our way out.
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The fort walls are lighted up quite beautifully in the night. Unfortunately, despite a few attempts, I do not have any good pictures to show.
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Old 13th May 2014, 20:45   #40
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Default Re: To the Land of the Royals - Rajasthan!

Travelogue's coming along nicely with very nice pictures. Especially liked your Tanot and Longewala posts - I was there just two months back, and already reading about it and seeing the familiar pictures brought a touch of nostalgia , although my own trip was so recent !!

The Tanot-Longewala sector, was easily the most evocative road in all of the trip. Brilliant desert setting, good road and absolute desolation.

As an aside, both in Tanot and Longewala, I found a Kannadiga soldier who was eager to converse with me in Kannada. They had seen my KA number plate and were rubbing their hands. Alas, much to his disgust, I had to confess my Kannada vocabulary was a princely one word - Gothilla !! After that there was no chance of wrangling the permit to the Tanot border.

Thanks for writing a nice travelogue. I was motivated to undertake my own trip after reading a travelogue by a BHPian and no doubt somebody will equally be motivated on reading yours.

Last edited by Secretariat : 13th May 2014 at 20:47.
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Old 14th May 2014, 20:08   #41
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Post Re: To the Land of the Royals - Rajasthan!

Originally Posted by Secretariat View Post
Thanks for writing a nice travelogue. I was motivated to undertake my own trip after reading a travelogue by a BHPian and no doubt somebody will equally be motivated on reading yours.
Your own solo drive travelogue is quite an inspiration in itself . Will someday get back to you for more details on the Kutch part of your trip.

I do agree with you, some of the travelogues in these pages are truly awe inspiring.
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Old 16th May 2014, 20:14   #42
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Post Day 7 #4: Havelis of Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer is also known for its several Havelis, elaborate and beautiful mansions of the rich and wealthy of Jaisalmer merchants, ministers, etc. They are famous for their elaborate and breath-taking carvings, etched and carved on sandstone in infinite detail. We would be visiting two of these today.

We came out of the Golden Fort and made our way on foot towards Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli. As we passed through the Bhatia Market, our guide pointed us towards Dhanraj Bhatia Sweets, a traditional and old establishment renowned for its local specialities Ghotua Ladoos and Panchadhari Ladoos. We stopped by to sample some and had some kachoris too. The ladoos were excellent and highly recommended, we even carried back some home.

Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli was commissioned in the 19th century as the residence of then Prime Minister Diwan Mohata Nathmal by Jaisalmer King Maharawal Beri Sal.
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The architects of the haveli were two brothers named Hathi and Lulu. It is said that the brothers divided the haveli into two halves right from the middle and constructed their respective halves in competition to better each other’s work. The result was a rich and finely carved haveli with the two halves not being symmetric to each other. In the picture below, you can make out the differences in design between the two halves either side of the window.
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And this is how you announce an impending marriage in the house, in these parts. It is quite a common sight and we saw several of these in various cities.
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Our next destination in this haveli circuit was the Patwon Ki Haveli. This is actually a cluster of 5 smaller havelis and was the first of the havelis to be built in Jaisalmer. It was commissioned by Ghuman Chand Patwa who built one haveli each for his 5 sons. This is the largest haveli in Jaisalmer and stands in a narrow lane.
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The first of the havelis is the largest and the best preserved and restored one. It is also the one which is open for visitors. Some of the other havelis are occupied by government.
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We took a tour inside the first haveli. This mirror work room is called Mohini Vilas.
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Notice the hole in the wall on the right? It was one of the secret hidden vaults used to store valuables.
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A close look at the stone carvings.
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Painted ceilings
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Kitchen utensils and open part of the kitchen
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One of the rooms of the haveli
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Painted ceiling
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A view of the Jaisalmer Fort from the haveli terrace.
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Coming out of the haveli, it was shopping time. We were looking for something specific – yellow sandstone made bowls. The significance of this is again related the movie Sonar Kella, we were looking for Sonar Pathorbati (gold stone bowl). Any true blue Bong will get it but it’s a little difficult to explain is otherwise, you see, these stone bowls play a crucial part in the movie. The workshop we went to had a huge collection of these in various shapes and sizes along with other decorative items carved mostly in yellow sandstone. There was another interesting stone available there namely the Habur limestone. Locals claim that it can be used to set curd using this stone without adding any starter culture. We got a small pyramid shaped one thrown in for free with the other items we bought. Tried setting curd with it once but did not seem to work, the stone is beautiful to look at though with yellow patterns on a dark brown base.

Our next stop for the day was the Gadsisar Lake. It is a manmade water conservation tank built in the 14th century by Maharawal Gadsi. This was once the only source of water for the entire city of Jaisalmer. This archway below acts as a gateway to the lake and is known as Tillon Ki Pol. It was built by a royal courtesan named Tillon, who had to install a Krishna idol in the gateway to save it from demolition by the Maharawal.
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These Chattris in the water once served as picnic spot for the royalty. The movie Sarfarosh has a few scenes shot near this lake.
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Right opposite the Gadsisar Lake is the Desert Cultural Centre and Museum. This was founded, grown and maintained by a local historian named N. C. Sharma, and it hosts puppet shows every night. The show was a treat to watch with some very talented local performers.
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We returned back to Trio again for our dinner that night. The restaurant has some local musicians performing there and our daughter decided to join them and try her hands on harmonium.
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And the very satisfactory dinner perfectly capped a day of travel to some varied and gratifying sights and places.
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Old 19th May 2014, 19:37   #43
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Post Day 8 #1:Ramdevra

The plan for today was to travel to Bikaner which was about 340 kms from Jaisalmer, and visit the main attraction of the city the Junagarh Fort. By 9:30 AM we were all packed up and ready to start, but not before we had some fun with the ready-made turbans available at the hotel. Also, do notice that the entire hotel is made of yellow sandstone blocks.
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The day was foggy and the visibility was not great, hence we were progressing cautiously. About an hour or so into the drive our driver casually asked us if we would like to visit Ramdevra. My ears immediately perked up on hearing this. Ramdevra is a small village north of Pokhran and is known for the temple of a local saint called Baba Ramdevji, who is well regarded and worshiped in these areas. However, ask any Bengali about Ramdevra and chances are that he had heard of the place and would be able to give you a rough location of the place. The reason is again linked to the same film I have referring to so many times in the last few posts. Since we had been tracing many of the locations of Sonar Kella in the last few days, we decided why give Ramdevra a miss?

There was another reason I wanted to go to RamdevraI wanted to say something .
And I got my chance when we stopped for a tea break en-route. As we were getting into the car after tea, I finally said it “Chailiye Ji Ramdevra!”. Context? Well, those among you familiar with Sonar Kella would have got it by now, for the uninitiated, here goes. This is actually quite an iconic dialogue in movie uttered by the hero at one point. You can view the scene here. See between 3:10 and 4:25.

I know what you are thinking by now, . Well I do agree, but I simply couldn’t pass the urge to mouth this dialogue, albeit cheesily.

So then, we reached Ramdevra, made our way to the temple to pay our respects and returned back. Nothing much to shoot here since we didn’t take our camera inside the temple. This was at a spot just behind the temple.
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We resumed our journey towards Bikaner stopping for lunch in between. The progress was not very quick and by the time we reached Bikaner it was already 4:00 PM. We decided to head straight for the Junagarh Fort before checking into our hotel.
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Old 21st May 2014, 20:22   #44
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Post Day 8 #2: Junagarh Fort

The city of Bikaner was founded by Rao Bika, the second son of Rao Jodha, the founder of Jodhpur. The Junagarh Fort however was built by Raja Rai Singh during the 16th century. The fort was originally called Chintamani and was renamed Junagarh or "Old Fort" when the ruling family moved to Lalgarh Palace outside the fort limits. It is one of the few major forts in Rajasthan which is not built on a hilltop.

We reached Junagarh around 4:00 PM and kids were already tired from the long journey. To save time we decided to skip taking the audio guide and instead used the free guide service that was available at the fort. These are paid employees of the trust that runs the fort and hence are generally quite knowledgeable about the fort and its history. The guides generally take a group of about 15 people each.

Near the entrance of the fort, waiting for our guided tour to begin. The fort is constructed predominantly with red sandstone (dulmera) found in this area.
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The usual narrow pathways leading to palaces. This was to prevent large scale enemy troop movement during siege.
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Karan Mahal, the public audience hall. Notice the Bikaner State emblem in the background. The gazebo in the middle, called Holichowk, was where the King would sit during Holi celebrations.
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A window framed in tiles imported from Netherlands called Sur Mandar Jharokha
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Notice the three modes of transport depicted in the painting on the building.
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The painted ceilings of Karan Mahal
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An idol of Sun God in Phool Mahal
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Swords of Bikaner Maharajas
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Courtyard of Anup Mahal, one of the grandest sections of the palace. Notice the marble tiled floor.
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Anup Mahal or the Diwan-i-Khas with its gold leaf painting, mirror and glass mosaic work. The carpet was apparently made in Bikaner Jail.
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An idol of Radha and Krishna inside Badal Mahal
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The ceiling of Badal Mahal has been painted to represent clouds and thunder, with frescos of Radha Krishna on the walls amidst rain clouds. Monsoons were a rare experience in these arid regions.
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A sandalwood carved Jhoola displayed in Gaj Mandir. Notice the carved wooden dolls on the frame.
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Maharaja Gaj Singh’s bed in Gaj Mandir. The bed was designed such that no one could hide below the bed and it was shorter than the body such that feet were on the floor, so that the king could stand up even when tied down to the bed. That was apparently how one of the Maharaja’s ancestor was killed, hence such an arrangement. Talk about paranoia!
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Painted ceilings of the Gaj Mandir
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An ivory inlaid door in the palace
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More decorated ceilings, looked like lacquer-work to me
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Dungar Niwas
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From here we moved to the armoury section of the palace. Besides the usual swords, daggers and spears, we found a few interesting stuff here.

These machine guns were used during World War I
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You literally had to fire this gun keeping it on someone else’s shoulder. This was used for hunting elephants.
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A World War I DH-9DE Haviland fighter plane. The British presented Maharaja Ganga Singh with parts of two such shot down planes as souvenirs in return for combat services rendered during the war. It was later reassembled into a replica of the original.
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We actually rushed through the whole tour since it was almost closing time. There were a lot of other details that we missed. Once outside it was time for some shots of the palace facade.
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The former Bikaner State Coat of Arms
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The palace facade actually reminded me a lot of Prince of Persia. Perhaps it was the color combination along with the long galleries and the arched domes.
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It was past 6:00 PM when we wrapped up our visit to the Jungarh fort.
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Old 22nd May 2014, 19:59   #45
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Post Day 8 #3: Bhairon Vilas

Our next stop for the day was our hotel in Bikaner the Bhairon Vilas, a haveli of the former Prime Minister of Bikarner converted into a heritage hotel. This haveli was the personal residence of Maharaja Bhairon Singh, first cousin and Primer Minister of Maharaja Ganga Singh. The haveli is said to have hosted several British Viceroys and Governors including Lord Curzon. It is located right behind the Junagarh fort.

The room we were allotted was suitably grand, along with period furniture and a small ante room.
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The terrace also afforded a good view of the Junagarh fort.
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A Chevrolet Model 1932 convertible owned by Maharaja Bhairon Singh. The reflection on the glass is a bit ironic.
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One of the corridors of the haveli.
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After lounging around in the hotel for a while, it was time to visit the other must-go place in Bikaner, the Bhujia Bazar on the Station Road. Bikaneri Bhujia is of course famous the world over and now even carries the Geographical Indication (GI) tag, so a visit here was always on cards. The place was also good for buying other tid-bits of food items. After shopping to our heart’s content, we decided to cap the day with a nice and slow dinner at the Gallops Restaurant, located right opposite the Junagarh Fort. The food was delicious and some of the local delicacies were mouthwatering, highly recommended.
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