Jaisalmer, the golden city of India, rising far above the sands of the Thar desert of Rajasthan, come into the picture in the 12th century under the hands of the Rajput king Rawal Jaisal. The city swims in color pools of golden yellow hues, with its urban fabric lying in complete synchronization with the soil, terrain, and lifestyle of the people, to shape the architectural heritage of Jaisalmer.
Jaisalmer has a hot and dry climate and, the local architecture responds to it. The rainfall is scanty and, hence, landscape architecture consists only of desert plantations. However, the absence of some of the natural resources does not discourage the people. The unique decorations on the walls, the ceilings, and the pillars personify the rich craftsmanship of Jaisalmer. Jaisalmer focuses more on the Haveli style of architecture, a tradition of the Imperial Rajput rulers to portray its uniqueness. In addition to the Jaisalmer Fort, the Raj Mahal, Chandra Prabhu temple, the Salim Singh ki Haveli and the Nathmal ki Haveli are some structures portraying Haveli architecture. Apart from these, the forts, palaces, and shrines remain ornamented with fine jali work and delicate motifs. Furthermore, the excellent latticework on pillars and walls of forts and palaces attracts worldwide tourists and shapes the architectural heritage of Jaisalmer beautifully.
Architectural heritage of Jaisalmer : Nathmalji ki Haveli
- Built: The 19th century.
- Style: Arabic and Rajput architecture.
Besides numerous architectural monuments, a grand structure of yellow sandstone and two elephants at the entrance blesses the architectural heritage of Jaisalmer. Apart from intricate carvings, the walls, and ceilings of Nathmalji ki Haveli shine with detailed paintings of the by-gone era. Nathmalji ki Haveli beautifully blends the Rajput and Arabic style of architecture while illustrating various landscape schemes and towering over Jaisalmer. The buildings show a central and rear courtyard with a three-storied main building. Apart from this, a two-story rear building features spillover places and subsidiary living. However, there is a difference in the right and left facades of the building. Furthermore, the building portrays craftsmanship in sandstone and limestone, mortar-free joints, and thick walls plastered in mud. Additionally, varying wind pavilions and parapet walls of the Haveli attract tourists to Jaisalmer.
- Built: 1156 AD.
- Style: Rajput architecture.
Built by King Rawal Jaisal, the Jaisalmer Fort or the Sonar Quila shines with its golden sandstone walls. It depicts the route that joins India with Central Asia and the Middle East. The second-largest fort of Rajasthan, the Jaisalmer fort, stands 460m long and 230m wide with a 4.6m base. The complex not only includes palaces and temples but bazaars and residences too. Furthermore, double fortification walls and circular bastions protect the fort from attacks. Additionally, it includes pitching walls, toe walls and the mori, pathways between fortifications, and a modern plumbing system. There are houses of wealthy merchants with numerous stories, windows, archways, doors, and balconies, all of which add up to the architectural heritage of Jaisalmer.
The Parshvanath temple
- Built: 1615 AD.
- Style: Dilwara architecture.
The main Jain temple has a tall boundary that hides the architectural marvel. The Torana or the free ornamental arch highlights the focal point of construction. Besides these, yellow sand stones that glitter in the morning sun exempt sciographical studies for architects. Not only is the style of architecture unique, but it shows eight slanting jali walls to personify the architectural heritage of Jaisalmer. These walls not only cool down the temple interiors but boost the cross ventilation. The interiors have detailed carvings, geometric designs, and animal motifs. Furthermore, about a hundred carved snakes join together to form the roof above the deity with human and animal motifs sculpted on marble. The temple architecture lights up a different aura of temples altogether.
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Architectural heritage of Jaisalmer : Bada Bagh
- Built: The 18th century.
- Style: Islamic and Rajput.
Bada Bagh translates to a big garden. The vast site features a series of chhatris of the Rajput architecture built for Jai Singh 2 by his descendant. Though it stands in a desert, devoid of greenery and water, it was a garden complex near a dam during its construction. Besides chhatris of different sizes, Bada Bagh features sandstone pavilions to dramatize a look against the blue skies. The domes sit on a square or hexagonal base, supported by pillars and with a carved ceiling. These domes vary in size with the memorials for whom they shelter – the ruling kings, queens, and other royal members. Bada Bagh personifies symbolism of the architectural heritage of Jaisalmer.
- Built: 1886 AD.
- Style: Muslim architecture.
Apart from the Rajputana architecture, the city features ornate Muslim architecture to bless the architectural heritage of Jaisalmer. The five-story Tazia tower lies in the Badal palace and reflects the architecture of the mausoleum of various Muslim imams. It has ancient yet intricate carvings, each of which conveys a story. Muslim workers of Jaisalmer erected the Tazia tower as a symbol of their religion. Thus, each balcony portrays intricate craftsmanship that boasts of an Islamic touch to its architecture.
Patwon ki Haveli
- Built: 1805 AD.
- Style: Rajputana.
Patwon ki Haveli emerges from narrow streets with its windows, balconies, and intricate carvings to add grandeur to the architectural heritage of Jaisalmer. Besides being a cluster of five small Havelis, the complex is the largest one in the city. In addition to its wall paintings, balconies, gateways, arches, mirrors, and mural works highlight. Though the whole complex is in yellow sandstone, the brownstone constructs the main gateway. Amongst the five Havelis, one of them is now an antique furniture museum for architects to study.
Architectural heritage of Jaisalmer : Mandir Palace
- Built: 1800 AD.
- Style: Rajputana.
The two-century-old Mandir palace, now a resort, is a mixture of the medieval charm of the architectural heritage of Jaisalmer and modern amenities. Besides stone carvings, balconies and canopies justify the ardent syle of crafts here. Additionally, carved stones, golden stone architecture, and grand pillars attract architects to this place. The Badal Vilas, the main attraction of the complex, offers a panoramic view of the city. Apart from this, the hotel now has air-conditioned rooms, suites, safaris, swimming pools, badminton courts, and house museums against a backdrop of rustic silver furniture.
Salim Singh ki Haveli
- Built: The 17th century.
- Style: Rajputana and Mughal architecture.
Also known as the Jahaz Mahal, the 300-year-old structure resembles a ship’s stern. Unlike the rest of the architectural heritage of Jaisalmer, it has cement and mortar joints that stand firm despite its age. Thirty-eight balconies with pale blue cupolas align themselves on the facade. Besides this, two stone elephants guard the gateway with the interiors of imperial paintings. Additionally, a Moti Mahal to entertain courtiers is present in the Haveli. Furthermore, the mansion has an arched roof with peacock brackets that add a Rajput touch to the otherwise Mughal architecture.
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- Built: The 18th century.
- Style: Rajputana.
Binding golden sandstones, the architecture of the Vyas Chhatri is a sight to behold. Intricate carvings and raised dome-shaped pavilions overview a sandstone complex. The cenotaph of Sage Vyas sits at the extreme north, whereas those of the royal family members scatter, depending on the position. Besides carvings all over the facade and even on the domical pavilions, Vyas Chhatri is a suitable place for architectural photographers as it promises to offers royal shots beforehand.
- Built: The 14th century.
- Style: Mughal architecture.
Hidden well between sandy, rocky and salty ranges, the Pokhran fort has a grand door with spikes protruding out that help stop elephant attacks. Although most of the architectural heritage of Jaisalmer features yellow sandstone, Pokhran fort stands in red sandstone. Besides artillery, the complex also has a museum that displays armories, pottery, miniature paintings, and costumes of the royal era. Like any other fort, the Pokhran fort has space for cannons, bastions, gun points, and watchtowers.