Jaisalmer Fort, Rajasthan, an exciting place in the desert

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In the past the capital of  kingdoms was mainly  a self-contained fort around which a township grew and developed. This type of planning was true  in many South Asian cities such as Delhi, Agra, Rajasthan, etc. The oldest surviving fort in India is the Qila Mubarak at Bathinda which had it origins in 100 AD during the Kushan empire. Fortification was a way of defending the ruling family and the subjects against the invading enemies.  Commonly there are  three ways to build a fort. First part is earthen rampart made of sand dug from the ditch; the second is reinforced rubble with earth; the third one is  masonry work made of stone and mortar. At some forts  there will be wide space between walls for troop movements. In many ancient forts,  a wide, deep  moat  around the fort  filled with water and crocodiles  was built to make access to the fort difficult.

India, being an ancient country has lots of unique forts and many of them are classified as heritage sites by the UNESCO. Among the forts of India, the Jaisalmar fort is quite fascinating because  it is located in the middle of a desert.

Jaisalmer Fort, situated in the city of Jaisalmer, in the Indian state of Rajasthan is one of the largest fortifications in the world. Classified as a  a World Heritage Site,  it was built in 1156 AD by the  Bhatti Rajput ruler Rawal Jaisal, from whom it derives its name. Construction began  in 1196 and  it took 7 years to complete it, and subsequent rulers kept making additions and alterations to it. Unlike many forts of India, the unique fact about this ancient fort is it was built  amidst the golden sandy expanse of the great Thar Desert, on Trikuta Hill. In 1276 King Jetsi strengthened the fort against the invading Sultan of Delhi. The fort was almost damaged by the army of invading sultan and later it was rebuilt  strengthened by   Dodoo. In 1570s Babur defeated the Rawals and the fort came under his control

 With a length of over a kilometer, a circumference wall of 5 km, a 2–3 meter  thick fortification wall, 99 bastions, a retaining wall at the base of the Trikuta Hill, and a stone barricade ringing the hilltop, the Jaisalmer Fort has an excellent defense system in place. Built on a 250 foot tall hill the massive fort stretches 1,500 ft (460 m) long and 750 ft (230 m) wide.  The fort is well fortified and is made of three layers of walls so that crossing the massive fort for the enemy was not easy. The outer layer is made of solid blocks  that add strength to the loose rubbles of Trikuta Hill. The second and third walls meander around the fort.“The main fort has two walls running parallel with a gap of 3–4 meters to enable movement of troops.  The arrangement was such that between second and third wall  if enemies would get trapped in between them, upon them the Rajput  soldiers  would hurl huge stones and boiling oil and water to put the trapped enemies  out of action. The 99 bastions  were built in 1633-47.

An unusual feature about  this fort is  roughly 3000 people are living within the confines of the fort. It is a self-contained living space  characteristic of narrow, winding lanes, shop lined with houses and temples along with restaurants, etc. The Gopa Chowk, which is just beyond the first gate, is filled with tourists and locals, folk musicians and  shopkeepers selling  their wares. Once inside one will be enthralled by an explosion of colors.  Dussera Chowk or the Central Square is an active, and  important public space in the Fort. From here narrow lanes lead to various parts of the Fort. Rajmahal or the erstwhile royal residence  is a 7-storey structure built over many generations. It is  a  residential complex   consisting of many buildings, which are connected by low and narrow passages. There are Jain and Hindu temples inside the fort. This fort is worth a visit.This great monument in the world of sandy desert stands as a silent edifice of the by gone era of war and violence and festivals of light and colors.