Saturday, January 16, 2010


Well I wont tell you about the ordeal we had to go through just to get here as Katie has already done a very good job of describing that for you all. Let's just say that our India learning curve is very steep and I believe we have pretty much reached the apex of it by now. Jaisalmer is described in the Lonely Planet as " a giant gleaming sand castle rising some 80M high above Trikuta(three-peaked) Hill. I'm not so sure I would use the same adjectives to describe this place but it does nonetheless look like someone built a giant sand castle perched on a hill out in the middle of nowhere. It is known as the Golden City. Uh, not so golden. 99 huge bastions encircle the narrow streets of the fort(castle) which is still being inhabited by the locals to this day. In the old times the inhabitants worked for the maharajas(kings), but today they just run the guesthouses or shops and stalls swaddled along the way. One interesting thing about this place is that you can find an Italian restaurant on every street corner. Huh? I guess they must love Italian food. Jaisalmer is a camel-safari culture due the mass of sand dunes between the city and other far away places. It used to be a huge trading depot back in the day for travelers. So as you might expect there are hundreds of camel-safari companies that line the outer fort walls and they haggle you to death to go on a safari ride every time you pass them by. They are relentless here! It's pretty cool though. You can go on a half day up to a 4 week camel safari run all the way to Puskar if you like roughing it that much. We opted not to take one as it is the winter here and it gets very cold at night. I did not see the romance of sleeping next a drooling, smelly camel in the middle of the desert night freezing my tush off! Thx, but no thx. I will say that if it were warmer I might do a 2 to 3 day safari run because the desert nights here are so clear and beautiful. You can see Orion as if you were looking through a telescope. Pretty cool.

Jaisalmer was founded in 1156. The succesion of maharajas of Jaisalmer trace their lineage back to a ruler of the Bhatti Rajput clan, Jaitasimha. The Bhatti Rajputs trace their lineage back to Krishna. The 13th and 14th Centuries were a tempestous time. Rulers relied on looting for income and the city was repeatedly attacked as the ones looted sought their revenge. The early Jaisalmer rulers continued to fill their piggy banks with illicit gains won through cattle rustling as well as imposing levies on caravans that passed on their way to Delhi. They were renouned for their valour and treachery as they fought to expand and secure their kingdom.

Although professing to Hinduism, they were tolerant of Jainism which is why the Jain temples(see Katie's future post for a quick pic) that still stand as perfect as they did in the 13th and 14th century in the middle of the castle today. I have to say the the artistry and carving of the sandstones is quite remarkable and very much so a sight to behold. There are droves of Indians that still today come to these temples every day around noon to worship the statues inside. They are not very tolerant of foreigners near the temple as this is considered very holy ground. I think they actually frown on foreigners going in the temple altogether with good reason I might add. But I think they tolerate it because they need the $$$$ . Basically the temples here are considered the place where Jesus might have lived and worked while he was on this earth. So it is the Indian version of Jerusalem if you will. Indian people from all over the country come here on pilgrimages just to get in front of these Gods to pray to them. We finally got a chance to go inside and see the main temples. There are five of them. There were over 900 small and very large idol gods inside the temple if that gives you any idea how spiritual these people are. Each idol god has a different power. One might be prosperity, another healing, etc. There were a lot of hillsmen that come from the villages outside the city here to worship and then head back home on their camels. They have no wealth, only their faith and smarts about how to survive by using the land wisely. I saw one hillsman kneel down to a massive idol, say a long prayer and then put a pearl he must have been saving for just this occasion in the offering basket. Heart-wrenching kind of stuff to witness.

I thought I hated this place when I arrived because of how disgusting it is. But in the end all you have to do is get a glimpse of the temples that are hidden away in the castle and the people that come here to worship and you begin to understand why this is such a special place. Quite a sight.


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