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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)

7 ~ But would I wear it back home? Chandni Chowk - Delhi

Was tempted to buy a Pagdi ... but would I wear it back home?

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

Still on foot it was through the fabled area of Chandni Chowk with its narrow alleyways. Yes, very easy to get lost in here!

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These are just pooris / puris which are made out of wheat flour, rolled into small discs and deep fried/puffed.

Served with aloo subzi (potato vegetable) or any runny curry (not like chicken masala or paneer masala).

Here is the link to Tripsavvy:

Chandni Chowk, the main street of old Delhi, is a shocking contrast to the wide, orderly streets of New Delhi. Cars, cycle rickshaws, hand-pulled carts, pedestrians, and animals all compete for space. It's chaotic, crumbling and congested, but completely captivating as well. As one of the oldest and busiest markets in India, its narrow winding lanes are full of inexpensive jewellery, fabrics, and electronics.

For the more adventurous, Chandni Chowk is an excellent place to sample some of Delhi's street food. The renowned Karim Hotel, a Delhi dining institution, is also located there.

Everything you've imagined about India being tumultuous and teeming with activity comes to life at Chandni Chowk in Delhi. This prominent thoroughfare and surrounding market area is one of the most crowded places in India. Yet, it's also where you'll get some of the best street food, spices, and bargain goods.

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By chance as it turned out I passed Haveli Dharampura where Eve my travel agent would be staying later next year. The photo of the entrance way is certainly so different to their web site!


Look at their “then and now” photos of how the place has been restored.


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Down another alleyway where shop after shop were wedding material suppliers. Yes, I was tempted to buy a Pagdi / pugdi/ pagri but, would I wear it back home?

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Not knowing how long that I was to spend at the remaining sites today, I wish that I could have spent much more time here as 30 minutes was certainly not enough for my “street photography”.

Back towards the main street and into a tri-cycle for the very short ride back to Jama Masjid and the car.

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Posted by bruceontour 13:16 Archived in India Tagged chandni_chowk pagdi Comments (0)

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