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Jaisalmer Fort

The Jaisalmer Fort is situated in the city of Jaisalmer in the state of Rajasthan in India. It is one of the very few ‘Living Forts’ of the world, with nearly one-fourth of the old city’s population still residing within the fort. For the better part of the eight hundred years of its history, the fort was in fact the city of Jaisalmer. Due to its growing population, the first settlements outside the fort walls were founded in the 17th Century AD. It is the second oldest preserved fort in Rajasthan after Chittorgarh. Its massive yellow sandstone walls are tawny coloured during the day, fading to honey gold as the sun sets, thereby camouflaging the fort in the yellow desert. The fort stands amidst a sandy expanse of the Great Thar Desert and meets the new city of Jaisalmer at its southern border. Like most of the Rajasthan forts, the Jaisalmer Fort is also a hill fortress. Situated on the Trikuta hill, its dominant hilltop location makes the sprawling towers of its fortifications visible from afar.

History of the Jaisalmer Fort

The Jaisalmer Fort in its current form was erected by Rawal Jaisal in 1155 AD. However, a smaller citadel used to stand in that location from a much earlier date because of its strategic position on the old trade routes between India and the Middle East, probably dating back to 500 BC. Mythology relates Jaisalmer to Lord Krishna and the Pandava Prince Bhima, whereas the royal family of Jaisalmer claims its antiquity to Lord Krishna and his Yaduvanshi clan. Inside the present-day fort a water stream can be found, which is associated to the ages of The Mahabharata. Rawal Jaisal understood the strategic importance of the township because of its location at the crossroads of significant trade routes including the ancient silk road, and thereby built the formidable fortress city of Jaisalmer. To this end, he suspended an earlier construction at Lodhruva, to Jaisal’s dissatisfaction. The new capital of Rawal Jaisal and his clan of Bhati Rajputs was established in the fort city of Jaisalmer in 1156 AD. (more in the History section)

The Fort as You See Today

The fort as it stands today is fifteen hundred feet long and seven hundred and fifty feet wide and is built on a hill called Trikuta that rises 250 feet above the surrounding countryside. The base of the fort consists of a 15 feet tall wall forming the fort’s outermost ring within its triple ringed defense architecture. The fort’s upper bastions form a defensive inner wall whose perimetre is around four kilometres long. The fort currently incorporates 99 bastions, 92 of which were built or subsequently rebuilt between 1633-47. Moreover, the fort comprises fortified entrances or gates from the townside, one of which is still guarded by a massive cannon. Other points of interest within the fort walls include the Rajmahal Palace ,which is the former residence of the Maharawals of Jaisalmer, and the four massive gateways that visitors have to pass through on their way to the fort, situated along with the main approach to the citadel. The fort also has seven Jain temples built in yellow sandstone between the 12th and the 16th century. In the 14th century, the traders of Merta built a huge temple dedicated to Sambhavanatha with more than 600 idols and many old scriptures. In the 15th century, Chopra Panchaji erected the Ashtapadh Temple inside the fort. The Laxminath Temple of Jaisalmer, dedicated to the Hindu gods Vishnu and Laxmi, is also situated within the fort grounds.

Another unique attraction inside the fort is merchant havelis, which are numerous large houses with ornate sandstone carvings built by wealthy merchants during Jaisalmer’s historical era of economic prosperity. Many of these are constructed of yellow sandstone with multiple floors, decorated windows, archways and balconies. Today, some of these havelis have been transformed into museums, but many of them are still inhabited by families that had built them. The Vyas Haveli, erected in the 15th century as well as the Srinath Palace, the residence of the erstwhile Prime Minister of Jaisalmer, continue to serve as residences for families of their original owners. The fort has an ingenious drainage system called ‘Ghut Nali’, which allows for easy drainage of rainwater from the fort in all four directions. In 2013, the fort has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site as one of the “Hill Forts of Rajasthan”.

Opening Hours

Still partially inhabited by permanent residents, the fort is open 24 hours a day, but its inner attractions are open at specific timeframes. Therefore, travellers are advised to visit the fort between 9 am and 7 pm. Many of the inner attractions are closed on Tuesdays.