Jaisalmer Fort: A Photo Journal of Sonar Kella

What comes to your mind first when you hear 'Jaisalmer'? Sonar Kella? Of course, that's a timeless classic and pretty much etched in our brains. Like Ray's famous Professor Shanku story where the mythological creatures become alive because of their timeless unforgettable status. On my trip, however, Jaisalmer reminded me of another movie, Sarfarosh. The Amir Khan-Nasiruddin Shah starrer 90's blockbuster is perhaps a more appropriate thematic representation of the current day desert town. It's a beautiful town and I do not wish to besmirch its exotic image that had begun with Ray's golden touch (pun very much intended) but Jaisalmer is nothing like the rest of the Rajput cities. The urbane yet rustic affability of Jaipur, the regal yet slightly detached hospitality of Udaipur, or the dazzling charm of Jodhpur -- none are to be found in the dusty, sandy landscape of this border town. People aren't so friendly; in fact they might con you into buying something you didn't want in the first place. You might visit this uncouth Punjabi auntie's café who would just command you to eat and drink whatever the hell that is readily available. Boundary of religion being blurred beyond the innermost sanctums of households. You would be allowed to make a stop at the last village on the Indian side but cannot take any photographs. No prize in guessing the community of the villagers. Jaisalmer is not your typical Rajasthan. And despite what they are trying to tell you, Jaisalmer is more Sarfarosh than Sonar Kella. A nice symbiotic collaboration between Mirchi Seths and Gulfam Hussains. Sounds too cynical? Pardon me, I am just writing whatever I observed on my sojourn.

Jaisalmer Fort is the second oldest fort of Rajsathan. It was built in 1156 AD by the Bhati Rajput leader Jaisal. Back then Jaisalmer was part of one of the most active trade routes of the subcontinent. Scum of the earth Alauddin Khilji sieged the fort in 1294 AD. The long siege ended with mass jauhar followed by a total annihilation of the Bhati community that ended in abandonment of the fort for many years.

Jaisalmer Fort was attacked many times by other scumbag Islamic invaders until the Mughals established their reign over it using what the Mughals did the best -- love jihaad. Eventually Jaisalmer Fort lost its strategic value as the old Silk Route was closed. The modern day Jaisalmer, however, has its own strategic importance as it shares border with our asshole neighbour, the petulant illicit child of India.

Jaisalmer is a living fort, unlike the other forts of Rajasthan. Every nooks and crannies of this miniature city is a photographer's delight. But you gotta be careful of the shopkeepers. We bumped into this Bengali shopkeeper who acted like a total jackass because I refused to buy an overpriced bowl from him. A reason why I hide my Bengali identity outside of Calcutta with utmost care.