When my train entered it terminal station; Jaisalmer – my destination. Travelling for more than 800 kilometres intersecting the width of the state of Rajasthan, I am now in the heart of the Thar Desert. When I got down from the train, the sky was dark and nothing was visible. I entered the vacant waiting room in the railway station and had a nap on the chair. It was around 7:30 when I was awake by the whistle of a train. I came out and to my surprise – the Sonar Kella (Golden Fort) was in front of me. My journey has reached its climax.
Once I stepped out of the Railway Station, I realised it is not the city of the Golden Fort – It is the Golden city itself. The entire city, street furniture, kerbstones, most of the buildings, their boundary walls – everything is so golden. I realised that it is the Yellow Sandstone, which is available in plenty here, that has been extensively used. To be honest it is a perfect example of using the local materials in architecture.
I did not rush to the fort and kept it in the last row of my list – the first being the Gadsisar Lake. The artificial lake was excavated in the fourteenth century by Maharaja Garsi Singh – whose name stayed with the lake. At some point in time, Gadsisar Lake was the sole source of water for the city of Jaisalmer. As a town planner, Rajasthan was a great learning for me. The state with the minimum rainfall and hardly any perennial river had created so many huge cities and survived for centuries. The reason – their planners & rulers created so many innovative ways to preserve whatever water was there. Today, we are destroying all our waterbodies without learning anything from our past. Architecturally, Garsisar Lake has an amazing setup. What I liked most is the two stand-alone Jharokha/chhatris – built in Indo-Islamic architecture with a beautiful dome in top and chhatri style arches all around. The Jharokhas were surely built for the kings to seat and enjoy the view of the lake and have some fresh air.
My next destination was the largest and the most exquisite Haveli I have ever seen – the Patwon ki Haveli. Located in a narrow street at the heart of the city, the five-storied haveli (residence) is absolutely stunning. The facade of the building is full of superbly inscribed patterns and decorations. Typical Rajasthani style chhatris & marvellous Jaali work adorn the windows. The detailing in the craftsmanship is something that will always remain close to my heart. In true sense, I felt like standing in front of a huge gold ornament where the creator has left no space untouched and displayed all his skills to create a masterpiece. The intricacy of design is no less inside the building and the courtyard, columns, doors, windows, ceiling everything is neatly crafted to perfection.
– PIN IT FOR FUTURE –
Guman Chand Patwa, a renowned trader of the region who made a lot of money from selling gold and silver jewellery (some say from opium and marijuana also) decided to build a haveli for his children. In 1805, the first of the Havelis was commissioned. later within a span of fifty years, four more inter-connected Havelis came up – all as beautiful as the others. from inside, the Havelies are built around three courtyards – one large and two small. It will not be wrong to call it a very old apartment building.
Each of the apartment had, just like modern ones, living room, bedrooms for men and women with attached dressing rooms, dining room, kitchen, toilet, games area. Presently, a part of the building has been converted into galleries displaying paintings, turbans, locks, musical instruments. Entry fee for the building is Rs.30/- (Indians) & Rs. 50/- (Foreigners).
Patwon ki Haveli was not under use for many years. Once the Bombay (Mumbai) Dock was opened, India’s trade with the Arabs & West shifted to sea route. This was a major setback for the entire Silk Route – of which Jaisalmer was a part – and thus the city saw a reduction in income. Patwon, who was one of the major traders of the city relocated themselves to the port cities of Bombay & Chennai. It is only in the latter part of the last century when the then prime minister Indira Gandhi saw the building and was amazed by its beauty. Under her direction, the building became a heritage building and she also ordered to remove a few buildings across the narrow lane so that people get a better view of the facade of the building.
Patwon ki Haveli is undoubtedly a remarkable piece of architecture. Totally speechless with the detailing in the craft I headed towards my next destination – Nathmalji ki Haveli.
To many, Nathmalji ki Haveli is even grander than the Patwon ki Haveli in terms of intricacy. Diwan Mohata Nathmal hired two architect brothers, Hathi & Lulu, to construct a residence for himself. They made a plan for an extremely decorated building and started construction from two side simultaneously. Without proper instruments to maintain parity, they ended up constructing a building with different heights at different sides. Despite the fact, the building is no less in terms of its beauty. The windows and the facades are elaborately designed with patterns inscribed on yellow sandstone. Highly decorated chhatri style lintels pointed arched windows and superbly executed patterns of facade make it a fantastic piece. The interior of the building is equally well crafted just like the Patwon ki Haveli.
Two giant elephants on two sides of the main entrance mark the building which is a unique exhibition of blend in Islamic & Rajput Architecture. Another very interesting fact about the interior is that the architect brothers crafted the walls, columns & ceilings with excellent decorative patterns which also include modern day items such as a car, fan etc – something they never saw themselves but only heard of. Both the Havelis, rich in their architectural glory, left a deep impression on my mind and with that, I headed for the Mandir Palace- the Royal Residence.