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25 ~ Pay no tax, no rent : Jaisalmer Fort

Graffiti with a difference

View India 18 - 19 on bruceontour's travel map.

Onto the Fort itself.

Standing 76m / 25 yards above the town, enclosed by a 9 km / 5.5 mile wall with 99 bastions, it certainly was an imposing sight.




Here is the link to Tripsavvy:

There aren't too many places in the world where you can visit a "living" fort but Jaisalmer, in the Thar desert, is one of them. The city's mirage-like yellow sandstone fort is home to thousands of people who have been residing in it for generations. The fort also has a multitude of shops, hotels, restaurants, a palace complex, old haveli mansions, and temples inside it.

Bhati Rajput ruler Rawal Jaisal began building Jaisalmer fort in 1156, making it one of the oldest forts in Rajasthan. It eventually expanded to cover the whole hill and transformed itself into a city, which swelled in population during times of conflict. The fort survived many battles. However, its condition is now rapidly deteriorating due to illegal construction and poor drainage. Waste water has been seeping into the fort's foundations, making it unstable and causing parts to collapse.


Here is the link to Tripsavvy:

Jaisalmer's ethereal sandstone fort, which resembles a massive sandcastle rising from the desert, is the city's focal point. The fort was built in 1156 by Rajput ruler Jaisal, who also founded the city at the same time. What really makes it unusual is that it's one of the few living forts in the world. Thousands of people reside inside its walls. It's also home to numerous hotels, guesthouses, temples, handicraft stores, restaurants, and the former maharaja's palatial palace. The palace is open to visitors for a fee, although it does get crowded and could be better maintained. Tickets cost 500 rupees for foreigners, including an audio guide. You'll need to pay 100 rupees extra to take your camera inside. It's pricey, so you may want to skip it!

Unfortunately, the condition of the fort is rapidly deteriorating, as drain water is seeping into its foundations. Hence, many people now choose to stay outside the fort in a hotel with evocative views of it.



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Poha, made up of flattened rice which is steamed and served with spices. Gently tempered with mustard seeds and fennel.


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Entered via the east Gopa Chowk, through the First Fort Gate (Akhai Pol), then up the ramp: Suraj Pol, Ganesh Pol, Hawa Pol and finally Rang Pol.




Suraj Pol

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Palace of the Maharawal


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Jain temples

One of the main attractions inside the fort is a stunning series of seven interconnected Jain temples that date back to the 15th and 16th centuries. Carved out of sandstone, the detail on them rivals that of the marble Jain temple complex at Ranakpur. You'll need to remove your shoes and all leather items before entering. The temples are open daily from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m., although foreigners may only enter all the sections after 11 a.m. Timings are prone to changing, so do check first. Tickets cost 300 rupees for foreigners. Indians don't have to pay but there is a camera charge.


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Pagdi (Turban) is a Rajasthani headwear worn by men and made up of cotton (printed).


Pagdi and Mooch (Moustache) are the pride of Rajasthani men.


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Then a climb to the roof top for a great view over Jaisalmer.


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Instead of visiting the armory, Prem showed me where he lived and sipping chai from the roof top had a slightly different view of Jaisalmer below.

Prem is one of the 3,000 people who live within the fort. Looked like more than 3,000. Was told that they pay no tax, no rent. Now approximately 150 hotels and many restaurants are located within the fort dotted around the narrow winding alleyways.


Prem with his sister's wedding invitation

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Note: For some unknown reason, videos are "foggy" at the bottom.

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Palace of the Maharawal

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Palace of the Maharawal



Looking south

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Graffiti with a difference

In Jaisalmer, the unique practice of painting wedding invitations on house walls continues.

Caught between the expectations of the world to nurture the rich legacy and the growing aspirations of its youth to take a giant leap forward, Jaisalmer is holding on to many unique customs and traditions.

One of them is the practice of painting wedding invitations on the walls of the house. Tracing the remnants of the past, in the narrow winding streets of the Jaisalmer Fort – oldest living fort in India -- home to old havelis, exquisite stonework and a multitude of narratives, the painted wedding invitations make one of the most intriguing sights.

At the entrance of almost every house is painted Lord Ganesha - the deity invoked before embarking on anything auspicious – announcing the date of the wedding and inviting one and all. “In the case of bride's house, the girl's name is written first and then the groom's name while in the case of groom's house, its vice-versa,” says a middle-aged Anita, who is visiting her parental house, where a wedding has just taken place.

Standing against the backdrop of the colourful invitation her Vasu Family extends, Anita helpfully adds, “The trend of distributing cards began as late as some thirty years ago. Jaisalmer was a small city where everybody knows everybody and this was the perfect way of inviting people and spreading the word around. A family in one street would see it and then pass the message to the others living elsewhere.”

While some prefer to do simple crisp ones in Hindi, a few families pep it up with amusing one-liners. The residents claim it's a tradition that's specific to Jaisalmer in Rajasthan but something that cuts across different Hindu castes and sects living there. According to Tarachand Vyas, the practice runs common to Pushkarna Brahmins, Bhatias, Khatris, and many more. “I was born here in 1940 and have seen these invitations ever since. Marriages or saawas, as we call them, are an auspicious occasion and how do we forget Ganpati on such an important event. So, we call a local painter three to seven days before the wedding, to paint. And it's important to note that the invite stays on the wall till a new wedding is announced and replaces the old one.” Another local citizen chips in, “That's why our weddings used to be so huge, around 2000-3000 people and still are…”

Practiced for centuries, the tradition's popularity hasn't faded a bit. The younger generation considers it an integral part of their culture which is indispensable. “Wedding cards are there but nothing can replace the charm of these wall invitations. Our grandfathers did it, then our fathers did it and now we will do it,” says Prashant Acharya who works as a guide.





Posted by bruceontour 01:08 Archived in India Tagged jaisalmer jain jain_temple pagdi mooch jaisalmer_fort sonar_quila golden_fort Comments (0)

19 ~ Bhandasar Jain Temple : Bikaner

Beautiful leaf paintings, frescoes & ornamented mirror work

View India 18 - 19 on bruceontour's travel map.

Bhandasar Jain Temple is a three-storey temple, famous for its beautiful leaf paintings, frescoes and ornamented mirror work. This temple is constructed using red sand stone with beautiful paintings and yellow-stone carvings on walls, pillars of the sanctum and mandapa. On the walls there are illustrations depicting the lives of the 24 Jain tirthankaras. The temple consist of garbhagriha, antarala, mahamandapa and ardhamandapa. The sanctum is pancharatha (five rathas) is covered by shikhara having karna-amalakas and amalakas at top.


Jain temple is one of the oldest temples in Bikaner, and was built in the 15th century. It is decorated with mirror work, frescoes and leaf paintings. The temple is built of red sandstone and is divided into three floors. One can see the skyline of Bikaner by climbing to the topmost floor of this temple. It is believed that the temple was made with 40,000 kilograms of ghee instead of mortar, which locals insist seeps through the walls on hot days.




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Posted by bruceontour 02:47 Archived in India Tagged jain jain_temple bhandasar_jain_temple bhandasar_temple Comments (0)

12 ~ Why are most cars painted white? Delhi to Mandawa

Day 3 : Fields of golden yellow mustard

View India 18 - 19 on bruceontour's travel map.

A 7.30am / 07:30 departure to try and avoid Delhi’s infamous commute traffic so it was an early up and breakfast.

It wasn’t that bad leaving Delhi in amongst the morning winter’s fog, or was it haze and pollution. I suspect a bit of everything.

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One thing that I quickly noticed was the abundance of white painted vehicles. Very few cars of other colours. Reason … Easy to repaint after the inevitable minor dings. I also will say tongue in cheek “a person who learnt to drive in India can drive in New Zealand but someone who learnt in New Zealand can’t drive well in India”. With the lack of road markings and how close they can drive next to other vehicles, tuks tuks and pedestrians, I was amazed that I didn’t see too many accidents. Just the odd near miss or “touch”.

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About an hour later after passing the airport, soon we were out of the city limits.

Then there were the many trucks going into Delhi loaded up with gravel.

School where Ashok’s children goes to.


Passed Rewari where Ashok lives.

One feature of this trip would be passing kilometers and kilometers of fields of the golden yellow mustard.


Passed a group of Jain with no shoes walking along the road. They practice ahimsa to the point that they wear no shoes so that they do not step on insects and kill them.

What is Jainism?

Thou shalt not harm

Jainism is an ancient Indian religion grounded in the principle of non-violence.

Their 'do no harm' approach extends to humans, animals, plants and even bacteria.

It's the reason Jains are strict vegetarians — they don't eat root vegetables because they believe the practice kills the entire plant, and any microorganisms living in the surrounding soil.

Jains only eat between sunrise and sunset to avoid accidentally consuming insects or needlessly killing bacteria.

But the faith affects more than just diet.


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Three hours into the journey a 30 minute stop for Ashok to have a meal break.

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Local brick kilns were in this area.

Yes, I had a cup of tea but as it was too early for lunch, didn’t want anything to eat plus I had what I will call a double breakfast. This was to become the routine ... a huge breakfast enough to see me through till dinner. That plus my packets of orange Raro juice brought from home was enough for hydration during the day.

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Camels pulling loads of sand so at least there was something else for me to see from the road side.

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Huge bales of hay with most from Punjab being transported were to be a sight seen throughout the trip. It really fascinated me hence so many photos of that and the overloaded vehicles. Hate to see what happens when the wind picks up.


This looks like more of a biscuit and it could be a unique sweet or possibly a peda (sweet) made out of milk solids and sugar shaped in a mould or with a hand.

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By now the sun was reaching the high of 23C / 74 F. Passed fields of wheat, more kilns, some with smoke billowing from their chimneys, the countryside quickly became dry. Dead dogs and animals on the road was something else that I didn’t see last year. Perhaps that was because I was sitting at the back of the bus as oppose to this trip being in the front passenger seat at the front of the 2.4 litre diesel Toyoto Innova. Much better than sitting in the rear passenger seat as most tourists do. At least I had a near uninterrupted view of the scene in front of me and out of my left window for my photography. Thanks for the unexpected upgrade of the vehicle. Plus, it had complementary wi-fi but wasn’t strong enough for a Facebook Live.




The road for a short section got really narrow with just one lane sealed so it all depended on who was the smaller vehicle to move onto the unsealed section of the road. Local bus won this time.

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Arrived at the overnight heritage hotel Udai Vilas Palace which was out of Mandawa itself at 1.30pm / 13:00. So that was 5.5 hours from Delhi. This was my first heritage hotel and felt strange and empty. Sure enough of the 66 rooms available, only 3 were occupied that night.

It’s web site… spread over more than 3 acres of verdant lawns is a veritable oasis in the midst of the stark grandeur of the Rajasthan desert. The charm and charisma of Mandawa truly comes alive at Udai Vilas Palace Mandawa.

I was told several times through the trip that it is between 20 December and 10 January when the local Indians travel, whereas few international foreigners travel as they stay home for their Christmas and New Year celebrations.

Spent a few hours sitting in the sun on the restaurant first floor terrace above the pool. It was so peaceful after hectic bustling Delhi.

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View from my bedroom

Posted by bruceontour 00:55 Archived in India Tagged jain jainism Comments (1)

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