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Desert Travel Circuit

Places of Interest: Jodhpur - Barmer - Jaisalmer - Bikaner.
Places to Visit: Jodhpur, Barmer, Jaisalmer & Bikaner

Rajasthan has long been synonymous with camels, sand dunes and colorfully dressed people. A lot of people are pleasantly surprised when they visit the state and find so much greenery - the lush green hills and deep valleys, the lake palaces and gardens. If you are wondering just where the desert lies, welcome to Marwar. This is your desert land. Come and see as much sand as you want, ride camels and be fascinated by the colorful costumes of the inhabitants.

Places to See:

Jodhpur can be your starting point. Popularly called the Sun City, Jodhpur gives the impression of being a rugged , no nonsense city that has little time for the decorative and pretty. Take a look at Mehrangarh Fort, one of the most impressive and formidable structures that looks down from a height of 125m. The solid walls with tiny openings appear so daunting that it is easy to imagine the dread with which the enemies must have viewed it. That is how the fort appears from the outside- but when you're inside its as if you've entered into a different world altogether- magnificent palaces with marvelously carved panels and latticed windows like the Moti Mahal, Phool Mahal, Sheesh Mahal and the Daulat Khana.

Spend a lot of time in the museum, one of the best in Rajasthan, and see the fabulous collection of Jodhpur royalty - palanquins, howdahs, furniture, miniature paintings, musical instruments, and costumes. There are other interesting areas in and around Jodhpur like the Jaswant Thada, Girdikot and Sardar Market, and the 20th century Umaid Bhawan Palace.

A little further away from the city is Balsamand lake and gardens, Mandore with its unusual Hall of Heroes, Mahamandir temple, and Kailana lake. The observant visitor will notice that most of the houses here use the red stone typical of Jodhpur, giving a rather near and uniform look to the city.

Today, craftsmen use the stone to produce a wide range of gift items that the visitor can take away as a memento. There is also a greater demand for this stone from other cities where carved pillar and balconies are shaped to give a unique look to houses.

Another thriving desert city, though not on the usual tourist circuit, is Barmer, a city that can trace its origins to the 12th century. Once on the ancient camel trade route, barren land and rough terrain surround the town. It is a lively town but the harsh climate has also kept this town a little isolated from growing into a major tourist center. The town, however, does have its little areas of interest. The ruined fort and some Jain temples should be visited.

A little away from Barmer is the famous town of Kiradu, an archaeologist's dream, where ruins of some beautiful 12th century temples should not be missed. Barmer is famous for its carved wooden furniture and hand block printing industry. This area is best visited to gain an insight into the desert life and admire the decorative skills of the simple village folk. Undaunted by the harsh, unfriendly climate, the villagers have some of the most beautiful mud huts that are decorated with delicate folk motifs. The neat huts are a wonderful backdrop for the colorfully dressed men and women. Try and visit Barmer when it is festival time, the Tilwara cattle fair is a good time to be here. Don't make the mistake, of thinking that if you've visited one desert city you've seen them all. Desert cities are not all alike.

A visit to Jaisalmer will make you realize just how different each desert city can be. No matter what you may have heard about this golden city, nothing can quite prepare you for the sheer magic and poetry of this brilliant city. Very few cities can boast of the magnificence that surrounds Jaisalmer. The fort seems to rise out of the desert haze, its yellow sandstone walls and bastions taking on a golden hue in the afternoon sun. In fact, at whatever time of the day you look at the sonar kila, or golden fort, it looks like a fairy tale creation.

The fort dominates the small city that spreads around it. History records the fact that the Bhati Rajputs of Jaisalmer lived off the forced levis on the great caravans that crossed their area enroute to Delhi, or Central India. Those caravans, laden with precious cargoes of spices and silk brought great wealth to this town. The princes prospered and so did the merchants. They displayed their wealth in the exquisitely carved and ornamented havelis that lined the narrow cobbled streets.

In the past, getting to Jaisalmer was not easy. Its remote location kept it safe from external influences, very few invading armies had the courage to cross the harsh desert to attack Jaisalmer. Even during the British ''Raj, Jaisalmer was the last to sign the Instrument of Agreement with the British. This remote citadel is today famous for its carved havelies, its narrow cobbled streets and its well-preserved Jain temples.

The small market located just outside the fort is the main hub of activity; you can pick up a large variety of local crafts here and explore the streets on foot. In fact, the streets do seem like a walker's dream - no traffic, no crowds and clean lanes. Just follow you instincts and you'll have covered the entire town on foot. If you can pull yourself away from the charm of the carved havelies then the to the places that you can see are Gadsisar Lake, Ludrava Aakal and the royal cenotaphs at Bada Bagh. For a closer look at the sand dunes, get somebody to take you to Sam. Ride a camel on the dunes and gear yourself up for an unforgettable experience of watching the sunset over the desert. This lonely area comes alive at the time of the desert festival every spring. Some more desert life awaits you at Bikaner. This city lies on the northern point of the triangle of the desert cities. A city that goes back over 500 years when it was founded by one of the princes of Jodhpur clan. One rather interesting element about the history of these deserts cities is that though they were located on the major trade routes that connected Central Asia and North India with the Gujurat ports, outside influences were minimal. This is true of Bikaner as well. Like most of the other cities of the desert region, Bikaner has been able to keep its medieval flavor alive. Water has been limited here so the customary water palaces and pleasure gardens are missing.

The wealth of its architectural heritage lies in its fort, palaces and temples. Two outstanding palaces of Bikaner are the Lalgarh Palace and the Gajner Palace. Other important sights are Junagarh Fort and the Camel Breeding farm. For those inclined towards archaeology, it would be interesting to know that the Rajasthan State Archives is located here. The Ganga Golden Jubilee museum here has a vast collection of rare exhibits covering almost every period of Indian history.

When in Bikaner don't miss the famous temple fo Karni mata at Deshnok, it is a beautiful temple where the humble rats are also venerated, Gajner, for lovers of wildlife, and Kolayat, an ancient pilgrimage center. Visitors will love the camel wool products of this region. Carpets, durries, carved wooden furniture, stone carving and block printing are popular items to pick up from here. Other desert crafts like leather work, basket weaving and pottery are interesting.

Rajasthan Travel Circuits»Dhundhar Circuit: | Brij-Mewar Circuit | Hadoti Circuit | Mewar Circuit
Vagad Circuit | Godwar Circuit | Desert Circuit | Merwara Mewar Circuit | Shekhawati Circuit

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