Jaislamer, Desert castle in the sand

Trip Start Sep 01, 2009
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27
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Trip End Dec 27, 2009


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Flag of India  , Rajasthan,
Friday, October 16, 2009

We took a private bus from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer. Again we are close to the Pakastani Border. This time it is about 100 KM to the east. Jaisalmer is located in the Great Indian Thar Desert. Kids grow to be 7 years old here before they experience rain outdoors. Jaisalmer's glory days faded with the advent of Mumbais port which now serves the world with shipment of Indian goods. Jaisalmers glory days are behind it. 

Like some giant golden sandcastle rising up out of the scrub desert, Jaisalmer fort is an amazing site above the now sprawling city lying at its base. It was constructed on top of Triuka hill and is composed of 99 enormous bastions, each connected to the other with a strong, tall stone wall. Inside the protective wall of this ancient fortress are Jain temples, guest houses, and old Haveli homes from a faded era.

The citadel is in trouble, and is listed as one of the world's most en danged historic sites. Overcrowding, lack of water, poor drainage for the periodic downpours are causing this city of stone to sink into its desert base. It was founded in 1156, situated along the camel trade routes between India and Central Asia. The merchants here grew rich off the opium ,silk,and taxes they levied on caravans. They built beautiful homes inside the fortress, made of carved sandstone and wood. Their is no adequate drainage system in this fort built on a mountain of sand and clay. Recent increases in tourism have caused the water discharge within the castle to jump 12 fold. This waste water is causing the castle to sink into its own base. Several people were killed a few years ago, when a building collapsed.  

Rich as it was, and perhaps due to its richness, the city suffered many sieges and sackings. On at least three occasions (2.5 exactly) these sieges resulted in the Rajput practice of Jauher. Jauher is a Rajput practice which is in keeping with the strict Rajput fighting spirit and mantra, " Death before dishonor" and "Death before Defeat". They would employ Jauher only as a last resort. When the fortress was under siege in 1295, for example, and all hope was lost, they would declare Jauher. They had no other option, but defeat or surrender, so they built a large fire below a Palace wall 9near the current main gate. Then all the women would jump from the Palace wall into a huge fire.Their handprints are marked on the walls to this day. Following this event, the Rajputs would dress themselves in saffron cloth, then ride out of the fort in one giant saffron wave. There mission: kill as many of the enemy as possible before their inevitable death.

I say it happened 2.5 times not three, because in 1315, just twenty years after a previous jauher, they were up against it again. This time there was no time for a declaration or even time to build a fire. They simply ran about their palace and cut the throats of all their women and children, before riding out to meet their enemy and certain death.

Remember the Rajput code: "Death before dishoner or defeat"

We visited the Castle, and the Jain Temples housed inside. The Jains are another off shoot religion rooted in Hinduism. They worship no god, just their beloved leaders. I thought it was a Buddha image at first, but noticed that the eyes were wide open and a medallion was placed on his chest. We will be seeing more beautiful Jain Temples next few days. I'll try and study up on Jainism before I post much more related to them,
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Comments

sactodst
sactodst on

Castle in the Sand
Much of the castle architecture and decoration looks Islamic to me, like the Taj Mahal, would make sense given its location I suppose. Quite a place, thanks for the story and all the great photos!
Alu Akbar.
Don

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