The Havelis of Jaisalmer
Rajasthan, a gold mine of beautiful architecture and rich heritage has a special place in the hearts of all its visitors. Every city here has a charm of its own and as you explore these historic places, it weaves a magical web of being a part of a different era. During our visit to Jaisalmer we came across some of the very beautiful structures that left us speechless with all the masterful craftmanship, delicate designs, colourful paintings and mostly the enticing tales behind them.
While giving us a tour of the Fort of Jaislamer, our guide pointed us towards a haveli that was visible from the palace rooftop and told us an intriguing story of a Minister, Salim Singh and the so-called haunted village (Click here to read more). Upon prodding him, he further revealed that we can actually take a tour of the haveli to know more about the old tales. He also suggested us to visit two other havelis (Patwon ki Haveli and Nathmalji ki Haveli), that were well-known for its grandeur and beauty back in old days. On completing the fort tour, we decided to start our haveli tour with Patwon ki Haveli and then proceed to the next two.
After endless walking through the maze of streets in the market, we reached a large building complex that had a narrow lane like path leading in and this was the famous Patwon ki Haveli. From the exteriors, one can see large wall covered with jalis (latticed screen) and Jharokhas (balconies) with an arched entrance in a corner of the building. As we walked through the entrance, a guy at the information desk imparted information about the haveli and offered us to give detailed tour of the haveli. Although initially we were sceptical to take up on the offer as we did not have a great experience with fort tour guide, we finally decided to give him a chance and much to our delight, he was one of the best guides (also a good photographer) we have met so far.
The haveli, which is a group of five smaller havelis was built by a merchant named Guman Chand Patwa in the 19th century for his family. Out of the five houses, sadly only one of them was open for visitors. At a glimpse, the haveli looked average sized but as we started exploring the house entirely we were quite surprised by how massive the house was. The haveli is an artistic masterpiece showcasing the grand life of the merchants during the Golden era of Jaisalmer and the sheer beauty of the place took our breath away. Each room in the house is beautifully done with unique artwork adorning the walls and ceilings, minute details added on every day-to-day article.
Of all the room, the ladies dressing room was our favourite, displaying gorgeously feminine touch in every nook and corner of the room. Floral designs adorning the walls and colourful outfits and various accessories of the ladies hung around the room, making us wish that this was our room ;). On completing the tour our guide took us to second haveli, that currently is a small craft shop. We were allowed to walk around the main living room, which although isn’t as well maintained as the first haveli but still has a lingering beauty of its own. If one wants to have a look into the life of the rich merchants when the city was flourishing, we would definitely suggest you to visit this haveli and also go for a guided tour like we did, you wont regret it :).
All the walking around in the heat had our stomach growling, we decided to take a break from our tour and had a scrumptious traditional lunch in the market. Our next stop was the Salim Singh ki haveli, house of the famous (and supposedly one of the cruel) minister of Jaisalmer. Unlike Patwon ki Haveli, Salim Singh ki Haveli does not offer much in terms grandeur as it currently left in ruins, but it has a unique architecture and a beauty of its own. We were acquainted with one of the caretakers of the house, who took us around giving interesting tidbits of the place. The haveli boasts of the elaborate stonework on its balconies, pillars and railings and it is interesting to note that the building was designed in a way to give peacock like appearance. As we walked around this dilipated building listening to the stories we couldn’t help but imagine the state of the place in its full artistic glory.
We then moved on to the last haveli in our list, Nathmal ki Haveli, which wasn’t easy to look for as the locals kept giving confusing directions (and for some reason google maps was acting really funny!!). Luckily some kids who were playing around lead us to the Haveli and this place from the exteriors looked like pure work of art. The Haveli was a gift by the king to the Diwan and just looking at the magnificent work on the outer façade we were quite dumbstruck. Unfortunately on entering the place, we were politely informed that the haveli was not open for visitors as there are families residing in it. This put a damper to our spirits, however, as we quietly left the building we made a quick scan of the surroundings just out of curiosity and were successful in noticing some of the artwork inside the haveli.
These havelis have brilliantly captured the inherent artistic abilities of the craftsmen of those times and also the gives you a glimpse into the glorious history of Jaisalmer when it was thriving as a result of succesful business and trade connections.