“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.”
―Ralph Waldo Emerson
When we visited Bhopal and Pachmarhi in the month of August, this trip was planned then and there. 18th of October came very soon; the day I had to begin my journey for Jaisalmer. Diwali celebrations were due on 19th of October. I booked an auto to go to the railway station and throughout my way could see the people decorating their houses, children lighting crackers intermittently just like the trailer to the much awaited movie about to hit the theatres the next day.
I went back to the memories of my childhood where once my father had suggested me not to light crackers and instead distribute sweets to the needy children in the neighbourhood. I had immediately rushed to my room to get my Hindi textbook . We were taught a poem with the lines “ Deep Jalao Deep Jalao, aaj Diwali re, aaj pathake khub jalao”. I specifically showed those lines to my father stating that we should follow what is taught to us. He smiled at my innocence and bought me crackers. As I grew up, I realized the significance of Diwali is not in lighting crackers but in celebrating it to bring happiness and joy to the life of others. And during the Diwali of 2005 when I was in the 9th Std., I voluntarily told that I would not light crackers. That day my father reminded me of the incident which had taken place almost 6 years ago where I had brought my book to emphasize my inclination to light crackers. It made both of us smile .
We have to believe in God’s timing. The events happen according to His timeline. I was lost in these thoughts when the driver asked me to deboard as we had reached the station. I checked on the display board for the status of the train and it was already 2 hours behind the schedule. I went to the waiting room and put on my earphones to listen to songs. Gradually the waiting room got crowded with people heading towards their home for the celebration of Diwali. The major chunk constituted of students wearing IIT Kanpur’s T-shirts .It reminded me of my hostel days where we eagerly waited for such festive occasions to go home.
After some time I checked in the display board and the train was then running 4 hours behind the scheduled time. I got irritated first at the increasing delay in the train but then came a girl who sat next to me and was waiting for her train to Benaras. I initiated a conversation with her and she gave me a glimpse of Benaras. In front of me, there sat a child who was feeling extremely sleepy but was forced to sit to wait to wait for the train . His curved eyebrows showed how angry he was . These observations helped me pass the time till the announcement for the arrival of the train was made. I picked up my luggage and proceeded towards the platform to board . Thus began my journey to Jaisalmer. The first halt was at Delhi. I reached Delhi and went to Noida to my travel partner’s room. Rested there for a while and then both of us took the Delhi Metro to reach the destination.
The train to Jaisalmer arrived on time and we were en route to the golden city in the evening of Diwali. The Delhi – Jaisalmer Express doesn’t have a pantry car , yet the supply of drinking water and dinner/breakfast was taken care of. It takes 18 hours by train from Delhi to Jaisalmer. In the morning when I woke up , I could hear a familiar language nearby. The family sitting next to us were from Odisha. I started a conversation with them in my mother tongue and got to know that that they have also planned their vacation in Jaisalmer. Meanwhile, the train stopped at Pokhran and the defence personnel alighted. Pokhran: This place makes us feel proud because of the successful underground nuclear test being done here. Here we could see military tanks lined up on the railway track. At approx. 12:30 p.m on 20th October, we reached the Jaisalmer station. The distance from Pokran to Jaisalmer gives a feel of travel through the arid desert.
Afterwards we checked in to the accommodation which was inside the Jaisalmer Fort. It was a very pretty place. On one side we could see the city view and on the other the famous Jain temple of the fort dating back to the 12th century.I was glad to witness the warm reception at the guesthouse named “Mud Mirror” and the beautiful and well-maintained interiors of the room. Staying in that room made me feel like being a part of the history. We had lunch afterwards . I was amazed by the view from one side of the room. Guess what it was? Numerous windmills from a distance. I was seeing windmills in real for the very first time in my life. Had learnt about it during school days as well as had seen projects on the same during engineering days. And here I was seeing them in actual.
In the evening we roamed inside the fort. It is well inhabited by the local people and almost every house hosts a rooftop restaurant. We explored outside the fort and enquired about the travel facilities for Longewala and Tanot Mata ka Mandir for the next day. After discussing with the travel agent for a while we booked a cab for the next day’s tour. I was pretty excited for it as Google indicated that the road connecting Jaisalmer and Longewala has windmills all along. Inside the fort, we visited the Canon point( it is named because it has one of the oldest canon placed there), where one can get the glimpse of the city. We proceeded to dinner on one of the rooftop restaurants nearby. It presented an amazing view of the city at night. On 21st morning , we started off. The journey from Jaisalmer to Tanot Mata Ka Mandir presented a picture of the Arid Thar Desert. It was a completely isolated road with the land scantily covered with green bushes. As soon as we moved out of the city , we could see the windmills installed just like crops planted on a farm. I was amazed at the huge size of the structures and felt equally happy to see the efforts being put to tap this renewable source of energy.
Along the way somewhere we could see abandoned houses. In around 2 hours(120 kms from Jaisalmer) we reached the temple premises. Legend says during the 1971 war with Pakistan, almost 3000 bombs were thrown in this region and not a single one exploded because of the miracle of the Goddess. The bombs are carefully preserved inside the temple for the tourists visiting the place. After visiting the temple, we headed to the war memorial of Longewala. We reached there in half an hour and witnessed the various tanks of Pakistan on display which were destroyed during the war.
After a while, we started our return journey. One of the BSF personnel got seated in our cab till Ramgarh.He told us some facts about the war and India’s line of defence at the border. Ramgarh is the only place on the route between Jaisalmer and Longewala which is inhabited by people especially the BSF personnel. It is situated at 45 kms from Longewala. We stopped there for lunch and then again resumed our return journey. Before entering Jaisalmer, we stopped at Bada Bagh which hosts the royal cenotaphs.
As we were entering the city we enquired the cab driver for a viewpoint of the entire fort. He took us to a place called Shuli Dungar where we could see the entire fort.The view was amazing. He dropped us on the street connecting the main market, Gadisar Lake , Patwaon ki Haveli and Nathmal Ki Haveli. We headed towards the Gadisar Lake. Sun had already set and it was quite pleasant to relax on the banks of the lake. Visitors were dropping eatables in the water and plenty of fishes were competing to grab it.Near the lake, there were plenty of shops selling Rajasthani artefacts, handloom and souvenirs.
We browsed through different items and then returned to the fort (our accommodation) to have a sound sleep. The next day(22nd October) we got up early to see the sunrise. It was something I rejoiced for the first time in my life. The beautiful sun gradually revealed itself from the horizon and in a few minutes, its illumination lighted the whole city. The whole city of Jaisalmer along with the various structures is made of yellow sandstone. When the sun rays fall on them, they shine like gold and thus the name Golden City. We explored the different corners of the fort viz. King’s Palace, Queen’s Palace, the Jain Temple and the alleys hosting Rajasthan’s rich cultural heritage. By noon our exploration was complete and we moved to have lunch.
Our pickup for the desert camp at Sam Village arrived at 4 p.m . In an hour we reached Royal Peepli Desert Camp in the Sam Sand Dunes. The tents were waiting for us. They had very pretty interiors. We went to the sand dunes to experience the desert. The vast stretch of sand with people enjoying camel safari was quite picturesque. And the sunset began. The sun going down the horizon for preparing for another new day presented an equally mesmerizing picture like the sunrise.
At 7 p.m the cultural program began with the welcome song of “Padharo Mhare Desh”. While I was a spectator to Rajasthan’s folk dance , my friend was gazing at the clear sky full of stars. And suddenly she indicated a shooting star.That was also something which I witnessed for the first time. After a while, I saw another shooting star. I was immensely pleased to be a spectator of this rare astronomical phenomenon. The program was followed by Rajasthani traditional dinner. It was extremely cold by the time we headed towards our tent. It was an altogether different experience to feel the drastic drop in temperature.
Next morning we got up early to experience the camel safari on the desert. I was initially scared after getting seated because we were at a great height . The ride was pretty different on the “ship of the desert”. We stayed on the sand dunes for a while and after having a sumptuous breakfast we started off at 11 a.m . In an hour we reached Jaisalmer and then headed to view the Nathmal ki Haveli and Patwaon ki Haveli. Nathmal ki Haveli is inhabited by the descendants and so the visitors are not allowed beyond the courtyard. After that, we went to see Patwaon Ki Haveli and viewed the various parts. The tour of the two havelis was followed by lunch and then we boarded the train to Delhi.
For me , the trip to Jaisalmer became the trip of many firsts( Stay inside a fort, Windmills, Sunrise-Sunset-Shooting Stars (all in one day), Desert Camp and Camel Safari) . With these firsts I boarded the train again from Delhi and reached Kanpur on the night of 24th October.