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Old 6th December 2014, 17:25   #1
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Default Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival

This travelogue is a little late - by over 1.5 years I should say! - but perhaps right on time for anyone planning to make it to the next Rajasthan Desert Festival @ Jaisalmer which is scheduled between Feb 1 and Feb 3, 2015.

If enchanting forts:
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-enchanting-jaisalmer-fort.jpg

Expansive deserts:
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-sprawling-deserts.jpg

Charming lakes:
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-charming-lake-gadisar.jpg

Lilting folk music:
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-lilting-folk-music.jpg

Riveting folk dances:
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-riveting-folk-dance.jpg

Joyous festivities:
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-joyous-festivites.jpg

Timeless ruins:
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-ancient-ruins.jpg

Ornate temples:
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-ornate-temples.jpg

Imposing Cenotaphs:
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-cenotaphs.jpg

Camel races:
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-camel-races.jpg

And camel parades:
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-camel-parades.jpg

...sound like fun to you, then you should head out to the land of the 'golden fort' to experience something straight out of a James Bond or an Indiana Jones movie.

And what better time to visit Rajasthan than during the annual Rajasthan Desert Festival, held in the months of Jan or Feb every year, in and around Jaisalmer? My trip was made in 2013, and covered Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. Given that it has been a very long time, I shall make this a Photolog, rather than a Travelog. If you need any specific information, I shall be glad to pitch in...

Happy traveling!

Last edited by chetan_l : 6th December 2014 at 19:11.
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Old 6th December 2014, 18:57   #2
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Default Re: Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival

Rajasthan:
The name for this state cannot be more befitting - the land of the Kings! Known around the globe for its sprawling Thar desert and the picturesque Aravali hills, Rajasthan attracts a large number of tourists who throng to make a 'Time Travel' to the past, and relive the glory of the days gone by. While many visitors flock to Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur, I can assure you that a travel to Jaisalmer will be quite a unique experience in itself.

Each of these cities deserve a dedicated itinerary by themselves for the traveler to do it justice. I chose to visit Jaisalmer last year (Feb 2013) to coincide with the annual 'Rajasthan Desert Festival', a 3 day extravaganza organized by the Rajasthan Tourism Board to showcase the rich culture and heritage of the land of the Rajputs. The festivities take place in the city of Jaisalmer for the first two days, before moving on to the Sam Dhani (Sam desert, 40+ km away from the city) on the third day.

I live in Bangalore, and making a trip to Rajasthan would involve taking some time off work for myself and my wife, and taking time off from school for my daughter and niece who would otherwise accompany me. Given practical considerations, I ended up planning a solo trip for 7 days - thankfully, my parents decided to join me towards the end of my journey, in time for the desert festival.

Logistically, I made reservations for flights to-and-from Jodhpur via Delhi, and took the train between Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. This allowed me to include a visit to Jodhpur in my travel itinerary.

I am listing down a few key aspects that could be of use to anyone interested in making a trip.

Jodhpur - Places I visited:
  • Mehrangarh Fort: The most imposing structure in the city is the Mehrangarh Fort - it is the largest fort in Rajasthan and was the site of Rao Jodha's capital. Built on top of a hill, it houses several places of interest including Moti Mahal, Sheesh Mahal, Phool Mahal, and so on. The fort is very well maintained, and meticulously exhibited to the visitor. It is worth investing in a guide or go for the guided audio tour. Also, better to pay for the elevator ride to the top and make your way down - else, you could get drained of your energy quickly!
  • Umaid Bhawan Palace: A modern palace built in the 20th century, it is the abode of the Maharaja of Jodhpur even to this day! It also houses the luxurious palace hotel and several well-kept museums. A must visit - even if it is for a half-day
  • Jaswant Thada: This is an ornate cenotaph built in white marble - quite a beautiful structure built overlooking a lake. It is easily accessible from the Mehrangarh fort
  • Mandore: Can be visited on the way from Mehrangarh to Umaid Bhavan Palace. A garden area interspersed with temples and the ruins of an old fort. I could not go to the fort but we did see the garden and a couple of temples inside
  • The Blue City - of course! The old town (Brahmpur) that lies on the foothills of the Mehrangarh fort is a photographer's delight. Unfortunately, my skills are not honed enough to capitalize on the few hours that I could spend there!
There are several other places of interest if you can plan for the same - but since I haven't visited them myself, I am only listing down the places that I had been to...

Stay:
One of the best perks of the tourism industry in Rajasthan is that it has led to several villas/mansions ('bhavans') being lent out as hotel accommodations at very, very reasonable prices! Since my itinerary involved two stints in Jodhpur, I stayed in a small hotel near the Railway Station (walkable to catch the early morning train) and on our return leg, me and my parents stayed in an expansive heritage villa at a price that would fetch me just a single bedroom accommodation in Bangalore!

Last edited by chetan_l : 6th December 2014 at 19:14.
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Old 6th December 2014, 20:00   #3
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Default Re: Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival

Jaisalmer
Known for the omnipresent 'Sonar Quila' (the Golden Fort), this is a place where Time has stood still! The best part of Jaisalmer Fort is that it is one of the very few 'living' forts in the world! People actually live inside the fort and several of them have their entire lives entwined within the fort - they make beautiful arts and handicrafts to sell to the tourists and supply to merchandisers, and they do all their trade - including purchase of groceries, vegetables and other essentials - just outside the main gate of the fort.

Outside of the fort, Jaisalmer is also renowned for the 'havelis' (intricately designed mansions built by rich traders and people in power) that dot the old city. Since Jaisalmer was literally like an oasis on the 'Silk Route', this city has had its fair share of riches which is reflected in the lavish money that the erstwhile businessmen have spent on their houses.

I reached Jaisalmer a couple of days before the Desert Festival began, and hence I managed to visit a few places upfront. My parents joined me on the day that the festival started and I could take them around to a few more of the city's attractions during the festival itself.

Places of interest that we saw:
  • Jaisalmer Fort: Enough said about this already. However, one interesting point to note is that we stayed at a hotel within the fort itself - that was a brilliant thing to do since we could amble along aimlessly within the fort and take in interesting sights and sounds every day! There are several hotels that provide you great value-for-money accommodation - pick one based on the reviews on hotel booking sites. You cannot go wrong. We stayed in Hotel Surja and I give my full thumbs up for the hospitality shown by Mr Raj and his team there.
  • Gadisagar lake: A rainwater lake designed to supply water to the city. The lake is surrounded by beautiful temples and tombs. The lake is also a breeding ground for a large number of massive catfish, which the locals and tourists alike feed bread to! Best seen during sunrise
  • Havelis: There are several havelis dotting the city - the most well known being Patwon ki haveli and Salim Singh ki haveli
  • Sam Dhani (Sam Desert): Located about 40 km from the city, this is the place where the festival comes to end on the third day under the full moon. I would recommend that you stay out in the desert on the third day so that you can get to enjoy a night out in the desert (be prepared to be chilled to the bones!). There are several private desert tented accommodations, but I highly recommend the one run by the Rajasthan tourism department - because the entire festival is held very close to this place while other hotels are quite a distance away!
  • Vyas Chatri: The cenotaphs (tombs) built on the outskirts of the city where several of the rulers and prominent persons lie buried. This place would make a great place for sunset photography
  • Kuldhar village: There is a widely held belief that when one of the chieftains, who was cruel to the villagers, laid his eyes on the daughter of one of the villagemen, the entire village along with their neighboring villages as well, decided to abandon their dwelling and relocate to a newer place rather than give in to the evil designs of the chieftain. It is painful to see the whole city in ruins today - a reminder of what was once a living entity!

As usual, there will be other attractions but I cannot comment on them.

A few points to consider if you plan to visit during the desert festival:
  • The festival has a few activities of interest - the best being the parade that starts from inside the fort on day one and takes a long winding route within the city. This is followed by the Camel Parade that is held on the second day - this will be at the CRPF Parade Grounds on the outskirts. The highlights of the third day is an amazing race of the camels on the third day, out in the Sam Desert.
  • However, the rest of the festival activities are nothing much to write home about. It is best if you plan your activities around these main attractions and use your time to actually visit some of the other sites.

Enough talking, now some photographs...
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Old 6th December 2014, 20:46   #4
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Default Re: Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival

Sonar Qila - The Golden Fort @ Jaisalmer:
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-fort-14.jpg
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-fort-6.jpg
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-fort-7.jpg
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-fort-2.jpg
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-fort-1.jpg
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-fort-4.jpg
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-fort-13.jpg
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-fort-12.jpg
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-fort-8.jpg
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-fort-9.jpg
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-fort-10.jpg
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-fort-11.jpg

The hotel where we stayed...do not be fooled by the entrance.
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-fort-hotel-surja.jpg

The place is small but comfortable, has steep stairs to climb but comes with a fantastic view from the top.
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-fort-5.jpg
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-hotel-surja-view-room.jpg
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Old 6th December 2014, 21:02   #5
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Default Re: Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival

The intricate works of the havelis are breathtaking!
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-haveli-2.jpg
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-haveli-1.jpg
I forget this gentleman's name - he is the son of the Guinness world record holder for the longest mustache; and the son continues the tradition of his father...
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-haveli-3.jpg

The beautiful Gadisagar Lake:
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-lake-1.jpg
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-lake-2.jpg
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-lake-3.jpg
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-lake-4.jpg

The ruins of the Kuldhara village:
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-kuldhara-1.jpg
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-kuldhara-2.jpg
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-kuldhara-3.jpg
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Old 6th December 2014, 21:19   #6
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Default Re: Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival

Now for some action from the actual desert festival - day 1:
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-festival-1.jpg
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-festival-2.jpg
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-festival-4.jpg
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-festival-5.jpg
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-festival-3.jpg
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-festival-6.jpg
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-festival-7.jpg
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-festival-8.jpg
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-festival-9.jpg

And the camel parade from day 2:
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-festival-12.jpg
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-festival-10.jpg
Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival-festival-11.jpg
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Old 8th December 2014, 14:16   #7
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Default Re: Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 9th December 2014, 09:32   #8
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Default Re: Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival

the 2nd pic of the Sun and the folks standing right in front of it is stunning. Rajasthan has to be the most colorful state ive ever seen. More importantly, i feel the superior hospitality, the friendly approach and a tendency to never cheat the tourist is the key to the fact that it attracts the most number of tourist across any state in our country. Beautiful clean cities, extremely well maintained forts and historic monuments, and a terrain that is beautiful and serene. Lovely pics indeed :-)
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Old 9th December 2014, 09:40   #9
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Default Re: Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival

This thread comes less than a month before my planned Jodhpur-Bikaner-Jaisalmer trip. Thanks for the pointers. Some beautiful photos indeed.

Don't have a complex about your photographic skills. While you could do with a better camera (or better processing ), you certainly have the eye for angles, or photographic moments. Beautiful.

Where did you take the photo of the catfish?

Last edited by predatorwheelz : 9th December 2014 at 09:42.
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Old 9th December 2014, 10:42   #10
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Default Re: Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival

Quote:
the 2nd pic of the Sun and the folks standing right in front of it is stunning...the superior hospitality, the friendly approach and a tendency to never cheat the tourist ...
Thank you Dieselritzer - I completely agree with your observations. In general, folks in Rajasthan have realized that if they play by fair rules even with the naive traveler, they will stand to gain in the long run. Amazing hospitality from the locals who live there.

Quote:
...Some beautiful photos indeed...Where did you take the photo of the catfish?
Thank you @predatorwheelz. The catfish is found in abundance at the Gadisagar lake. There are vendors who sell bread packets to locals and tourists alike, and the people merrily feed the catfash. They have grown huge in numbers as well as size! There is no fishing allowed in this lake as the locals consider the fish to be holy.
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Old 9th December 2014, 11:46   #11
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Default Re: Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival

This couldn't have come at a better time -
I'm off on the 24th December with fmly to exactly the same two places- Jodhpur and Jaisalmer and all accommodation has been booked. Never knew about the hotels inside the fort, could have booked those. Many thanks for this, gives me a good idea of what to expect.
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Old 10th December 2014, 12:13   #12
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Default Re: Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival

Excellent photographs.
Which camera did you use?
It seems to be a DSLR, going by the clarity.
Kindly mention the make and model no if its a DSLR.
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Old 11th December 2014, 10:24   #13
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Default Re: Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival

Hi Chetan, great set of fotos, thank you for giving us the flavor of the desert festival. One question though, did you go to Tanot and Longewala? If yes did you manage to get a permission for BOP 609?


Quote:
Originally Posted by jkrishnakj View Post
This couldn't have come at a better time -
I'm off on the 24th December with fmly to exactly the same two places- Jodhpur and Jaisalmer and all accommodation has been booked. Never knew about the hotels inside the fort, could have booked those. Many thanks for this, gives me a good idea of what to expect.
Hey, that's nice! would love to say hi to you. If you see a XUV with Hella's and "I Drive Safe" sticker in the front with a WB number, flag me down. Reaching Jodhpur from Jaipur on 23rd afternoon. Putting up in Kuchaman Haveli.

Ciao!
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Old 11th December 2014, 11:43   #14
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Default Re: Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival

Quote:
Excellent photographs.
Which camera did you use?
It seems to be a DSLR, going by the clarity.
Kindly mention the make and model no if its a DSLR.
Thanks @drabhayshah76. These photos were taken with my Canon 1000D (4 year old entry level DSLR) and with the standard 18 - 55 mm kit lens, and my Sigma 55 - 200 mm zoom lens (which is a fantastic VFM investment). Any DSLR will do if you are thinking of buying one. You need to invest in good lenses though.

Quote:
Hi Chetan, great set of fotos, thank you for giving us the flavor of the desert festival. One question though, did you go to Tanot and Longewala? If yes did you manage to get a permission for BOP 609?
@me_sid: Unfortunately, I did not go beyond the Sam Desert. I believe you do not require permission to visit Tanot or Longewala, but you have to take permission from BSF station @ Tanot Mata Temple to visit BOP 609. However, my knowledge is purely secondary - please take required inputs from experts and Government sites if you are planning to go.
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Old 15th December 2014, 14:55   #15
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Default Re: Reliving the glory of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival

Hi Chetan,

Thanks for the detailed travel insights and information regarding Jaisalmer and Jodhpur. It'll surely help when planning a trip. Nice pictures...!!!
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