“Travel far enough, you would meet yourself.”
Truly so, in the far off sand dunes of a desert with not a single soul or structure for miles, I finally met myself.
Jaisalmer, the Golden City, entranced me with its sheer beauty and calm aura as soon as I laid my eyes on her. Far off from the hustle bustle of city life, the desert town is like a mysterious creature allowing you to feel its pulse only if you delve deep into its veins.
The first time Jaisalmer opened up its veil to me was during night time. The night beauty of the desert was breathtaking: the golden heritage architecture, well-lit streets and the night guard- the Jaisalmer fort standing right in the middle of the town as if protecting the town people with its watchful eyes.
Even after a tiring 18-hour long journey from Delhi, I stood on the terrace of my hotel for hours soaking in the beauty of the mystified town in my eyes.
The morning began with the ritual that every traveler to the town has to go through- paying a visit to the royal fort. The sandstone structure seems to be rising from the sand itself and as such, its exact geometrical bottom cannot be seen from the outside. An element of mystery makes everything far more enchanting.
The inside of the fort is beautifully carved in red sandstone and is as grand as any other fort in Rajasthan. However, it is the view from its top that leaves us mesmerized. With barren desert land as far as the eyes can see on one side, the crystal blue Gadsisar lake on the other, heritage havellis dotting the landscape and windmills dancing to the tune of the wind- the view is unparalleled. Nevertheless, the fort claims its full beauty only at night when it is thoroughly lit up and gleams pompously in its characteristic Golden hue.
Wandering around the vibrant streets of Jaisalmer was an exhilarating experience. The colorful handicrafts dangling down the walls, the high-energy vendors flaunting their souvenirs, the versatile bazaars, paved streets and archaic architecture- all made me feel like I had travelled back in time to some mysterious lost city.
Desert Festival and Sand Dunes
The ongoing Desert Festival 2017 had an atmosphere of exuberance up in the air. Some typical desert events were showcased- camel race which gave everyone an adrenaline rush, folk dances, trumpet dance, moustache competition etc.
For the 3 days that the festival was on, the aura of Rajasthani traditions and culture soaked everyone in.
It was not until sunset that the desert revealed its ethereal beauty. Our lovely hosts from Zostel Jaisalmer had arranged a desert safari for us into isolated dunes away from the touristy areas. Vivid hues formed up in the sky ending the monopoly of blue. For once, I could steal a panoramic view of the sky from the top of a dune with no building or structure obstructing the view. It was as if we could feel the innermost vein of the desert which few manage to get hold of.
As if to bid adieu to the setting sun, moon had also crept in almost the same time sun was setting in. With sunset in one direction and moonrise in the other, the two dazzling phenomenon had us spoilt for choices. The full moon lit up the entire desert with its soothing white light and the fine sand crystals were all beamed up as if in joy. In the moonlight, under the stars the sand prints on the dunes were exquisite. It gave the feeling as if a witch had cast her spell on the sand prints to be dissolved as soon as someone put her foot on them.
With the advent of the nightfall, night rituals of the desert began. Bonfire was started, food cooked on stove was devoured, stories were exchanged over fire, camping games were played in the group, and music was relished.
In my guide’s words, “No one can escape the charm of this place. Travelers from far and wide surrender themselves to the calmness of the desert; others reclaim their lost selves. This place is magical. You cannot leave as the same person that you were before you set foot in here.”
After hours of merriment, finally it was time to sleep. We slept in the open and in that infinite desert we had the liberty to lay our mattress anywhere in the dunes. Despite sleeping out in the open with no wall covering my head, I have never felt safer. The moon and the stars gave me company throughout the night.