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Golden Fort (Sonar Qila)
Golden Fort (Sonar Qila) Review
Jaisalmer's dazzling 12th-century fort, often likened to an oversized sandcastle, is unquestionably the most charming aspect of an already very charming city. Some 250 feet above the town, the fort has been inhabited for centuries; it's protected by a 30-foot-high wall and has 99 bastions, and several great pols (gateways) jut outward from the battlements. Built of sandstone and extremely brittle, the fort is rumored to be an architectural time bomb, destined to collapse in the face of a particularly aggressive sandstorm. So lovely is this structure that the poet Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941) was inspired to write a poem Sonar Kila after seeing it; this, in turn, inspired another creative Bengali—Satyajit Ray made a famous film by the same name.
Inside the web of tiny lanes are Jain and Hindu temples, palaces, and charming havelis. The seven-story Juna Mahal (Old Palace), built around 1500, towers over the other buildings and is now home to the Jaisalmer Fort Palace Museum and Heritage Centre. A visit to the museum is worth the time: enter via the Satiyon ka Pagthiya (Steps of the Satis), where the royal ladies committed sati, self-immolation, when their husbands were slain.
Jain temples. Make sure to visit the eight Jain temples within the fort. They were built from the 12th to 16th centuries, and house thousands of carved deities and dancing figures in mythological settings. There are a few rules to observe: photographing some sculptures is not allowed; you'll have to leave any leather items at the gate—Jains worship life in all forms, so leather is sacrilegious; and menstruating women are asked not to enter the temple. Inside Fort. Rs. 120, including camera fee. Daily 8–noon.
Gyan Bhandar. Within the fort, the Jain temple complex library contains more than 1,000 old manuscripts—some from the 12th century, written on palm leaf, with painted wooden covers—and a collection of Jain, pre-Mughal, and Rajput paintings.
- Address: Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
- Cost: Free. Museum Rs. 300, includes audio tour; camera fee Rs. 100; video camera fee Rs. 200. Jain temples Rs. 30, camera fee Rs. 70; video camera fee Rs. 130
- Hours: Fort always accessible. Museum daily 9–5. Jain temples daily 8 am–noon
- Location: Jaisalmer and Environs
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