The Jaisalmer Fort is the second-oldest fort in the state of Rajasthan, and the oldest continuously inhabited fort in India. It was built on a hill in the 12th century by Rajput ruler Rawal Jaisal. The double-fortified ramparts and circular bastions are incorporated into the stunning architectural design for extra protection during defense and battle.
Jaisalmer is on the edge of India, very near the Pakistan border, but it wasn’t always off the beaten path. Centuries ago, it was at the crossroads of several important trade routes, including the ancient Silk Road. Rich merchants built intricately carved havelis in the fort, adding to the beauty and charm of the “Golden City.”
A paved road takes you from the city up a ramp into the fort, through four huge gateways to Dushera Chowk, presided over by the beautifully carved Palace of the Maharawal, the former home of the monarch. The palace was turned into a museum and visitors can wander among the painted and tiled rooms, and up to the roof, the highest point in the fort, which offers stunning views.
The view from the Palace of the Maharawal, as well as other rooftops in Jaisalmer Fort, reveals the maze of narrow, twisting lanes that honeycomb through this ancient edifice. It’s a joy and delight to wander among them, letting yourself get lost. Residents share the confined space with several impressive Jain and Hindu temples, endless souvenir shops selling Rajasthani crafts such as puppets and textiles, guest houses and boutique hotels for every budget, cafes and restaurants, and, the fort museum itself.
Jaisalmer Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage site, part of a group of six hill forts in Rajasthan. But unlike most other forts, Jaisalmer is a living city that both preserves the past and thrives in the present.
Jaisalmer Fort History
The Sonar Quila of Jaisalmer was constructed in 1156 AD, over 860 years ago, by the Bahti Rajput ruler (Rawal) Jaisal. It’s immediately evident that he also named the citadel desert city after himself.
The Jaisalmer Fort was an important trading hub, strategically constructed on the crossroads of historic trading routes, including the Silk Road. Jaisal and his city’s citizens used the fort as a secure capital that flourished from the network of regional trade caravans.
As you’d expect, there have been several raids, sieges, and battles at the Jaisalmer Fort in Rajasthan. The earliest recorded siege lasted for nine years by the Delhi Sultan Alauddin Khalji before falling and being abandoned for several years before re-occupation by surviving Bajtis.
Following several more attacks, it was the Mughals who occupied the Jaisalmer Fort for several hundred years before the colonizing Brits of the East India Company.