Monday, June 18, 2012. Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India.
Sury arranged for a local guide to meet us this morning and show us around town. That way we can avoid most of the hawkers and find our way to the best sites (hopefully!)
Being right in the heart of the fortress, we are located very close to a series of Jain temples. Although Jains were a relatively small portion of the population, they were often traveling traders, so Jain temples developed along the trade route.
There is a lot of Hindu iconography in the Jain temples, because they were built by Hindus who added their own deities for good luck, blessings etc.
As best as I can understand it, the Jains take the Hindu elements as decorative rather than religious. Their objects of veneration are their 24 holy men.
The inclusion of elements such as dragons (seen above) clearly indicate foreign influences, in this case, China.
There are 99 bastions in the fort, and about 96 of these date from the early to mid 17th century. The fort was developed with 3 rings of walls and provided great protection.
Walking along the streets, we frequently came across posters like the one above with Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, who is also a good luck symbol and is widely found all across India. These are actually marriage announcements/invitations. Rather than printing and mailing invitations to everyone, they put up these posters which announces the bride and groom’s names and the date of their event, thus spreading the word to everyone who reads the poster or talks to those that have. My favorite part of this poster is the little mouse (rat?) in the lower corner. Unlike in our mythology where elephants are afraid of mice, in Hindu lore, the mouse is Ganesha’s mount. Talk about a heavy goods vehicle.
As previously mentioned Jaisalmer is famous for its Havelis, or mansions, with their rich decorative sandstone carvings. The Jalis or screens are especially impressive – that they have withstood the test of time is a testament to their creator’s skill.
We spent time at two famous Havelis in particular, the Nathumal Ki haveli built in 1885 and still occupied by the original family. And the Patwon-ki haveli, built for five sons of the same family, but no longer occupied as the family are Jains and moved to another location where I suppose there is more business.
There is an interesting story about the Nathumal Ki haveli. Apparently the Maharaja employed two stone carvers who were brothers to create the façade and had one work on one side and the other on the opposite side. At first glance when you look at the building everything looks to be symmetrical, but as you look closer you notice that details are different in the decorations as each brother put his imprimatur on this work. The Maharaja was said to be very please with the end result and it certainly is beautiful.
Just outside the other haveli some kids were playing street cricket so our guide and I joined in. I think I have pretty good form considering I haven’t played for about thirty years!
The Star of David seems to be a fairly frequent design element and this is a Murghal Muslim influence.
After an enjoyable morning of sight seeing we had an Italian lunch (our first non Indian meal in India). Wasn’t bad – probably about as good as Indian food in Italy. We returned to our Haveli and had a nice rest.
For dinner we went to a restaurant called The Trio where we had another enjoyable meal on a rooftop terrace, this time overlooking the fort and a palace that has been turned into a fancy hotel.
Tonight, in addition to the air conditioner (which barely works) we have an extra fan and a swamp cooler to try to make it a bit more comfortable. Here’s hoping the power stays on.