Beyond Jaisalmer lies the Thar desert. Some of the lesser known places here are what this post is going to be about. Places where you will hardly find any tourists. When we went to these places, most of the times we were the only people around. I will talk about these places in the order in which we covered them over a period of two days.
Bada Bagh aka The Big Garden is midway between Jaisalmer and Lodhruva (the old capital of the Bhati Rulers). The cenotaphs of the kings of Jaisalmer have been built here on top of a small hill. A serene and calm place for the departed to lie in peace! The sight of windmills behind the cenotaphs make the place look like the blend of both past and present. The panoramic views of Bada Bagh make good pictures.
Khabha is one of the 84 villages which was abandoned by the Paliwal Brahmins overnight in the eighteenth century. They left the villages overnight leaving behind all their wealth and property. They never returned back. Kuldhara is the most popular of these villages amongst tourists. As we wanted to go to unconventional places, Prince Vikram Singh of Nachana Haveli where we stayed suggested Khabha instead of Kuldhara.
The exact reasons for this surprising act of the Paliwal Brahmins is not known for sure. There are many stories and versions of the same stories as well. One of the popular stories as to why they deserted these villages is as follows. When Salim Singh (the vile minister in the court of the Jaisalmer king) was passing through one of these villages, he saw a beautiful Brahmin girl drawing water from a well. He wanted to marry her and went to meet her father to talk about this proposal. The father did not agree to this as Salim Singh was already married and also of a community that ate meat. Irked by this Salim Singh threatened that he would wreak havoc on the villagers if they did not get her married to him. The people were petrified as Salim Singh was responsible for all the tax collection for the kingdom and held an important position in the King’s court. The queen treated him like a brother. When the girl got to know about Salim Singh’s threats, she decided to end the problem at once. She committed suicide. When the villagers saw this, they decided to abandon these villages and leave all their wealth as they did not want anything from this land. The villages were deserted overnight and the people migrated to different parts of the country. When the kings of neighboring kingdoms heard of this incident, they appealed to the Maharawal of Jaisalmer to intervene and make the people come back. The king tried in vain but the people refused to budge from their stand. Salim Singh was taken to task by the King and lost his importance gradually. He ended up being murdered upon the orders of the king as he had become impossible to handle and threatened him.
At present one can see the ruins of the Khabha fort and the small houses around. We hiked up to the fort which is on a hillock strewn with ruins. Some of the artifacts found here have been kept inside the fort ruins. There was not a soul in sight except for us and our driver.
Here is a picture of the caravan of camels that we saw en route Khuri from here.
A small village in Jaisalmer district. The gateway to the Sand dunes of the Thar and the Desert National Park. An alternative to the Sam Sand dunes which is very crowded and throngs with tourists and camel carts. In Khuri we had the dunes to ourselves. We were there from late afternoon till sunset. We spotted black bucks from afar and they were warily looking at us. Watching the sunset from atop the dunes was a pleasant experience.
The old capital of the Bhati rulers before moving to Jaisalmer. An important Jain centre. The place where Princess Moomal and King Mahendra’s love story (a popular Rajasthani folk story) took place. A place where the Kak river used to flow. Today this place is isolated and the ruins depict a mere shadow of its glorious past.
An old Jain temple dedicated to Bhagwan Parshwanath is intact. The entrance to the temple is flanked by beautiful arches. Like most of the Jain temples in Rajasthan, this temple also has intricately carved walls. Another important feature of this temple is a 10 meter high artificial Kalpavriksha made out of wood and metal.
Amar Sagar is a water reservoir built by Maharawal Amar Singh in the seventeenth century. It has a Jain temple, summer palaces and gardens. The water had dried up when we were there. We spent some time in the temple next to the dry lake bed.
Desert National Park
The Desert National Park is one of the largest national parks in India and a place to watch some unique flora and fauna supported by the ecosystem of the Thar desert. It takes close to 2 hours to reach here from Jaisalmer. One of the few places where the extremely endangered and elegant Great Indian Bustard which is the state bird of Rajasthan can be seen. They say that this bird was considered for the National Bird of India. However it lost out to the Peacock because of its name and the possibility of it being manipulated to mean something else :| We were lucky enough to spot both male and female birds.
We were the only ones there apart from our driver and the camel cart driver who took us on the safari in the park for two hours. Prior permission is needed to visit this place. This has to be arranged from the forest department office in Jaisalmer. Our driver took care of this for us. The infrastructure in the park is not developed yet. There are no jeep safaris. Probably a good thing anyway that it remains like this. Else we humans will destroy what remains as well!!