The age-old Jaisalmer fort in Rajasthan, is the only one of its kind in India, where people have been living for free for years. As per records, thousands live within this fort in the middle of the desert. Small wonder then, that this is known as the “living fort” of India or the fort with a life.
The Jaisalmer Fort, built by the Raja Rawal Jaisal in 1156, also happens to be on Unesco’s World Heritage Site list. Not for nothing is it called the only living fort in the world, for such is the life that throbs inside.
When other grand forts in Rajasthan were converted into star and luxury hotels, the Jaisalmer Fort chose to play host to thousands who have now made it their home and enjoy the benefits of free stay. It’s this life that’s given the fort its identity.
Rajput King Rawal Jaisal not only completed the fort’s construction in 1155, but also lend his name to the place which came to be known as Jaisalmer. The fort, built in yellow sandstone stands loftily on the Thrikoot hills in the Thar desert, which is also known as the great Indian desert. Almost all the constructions in and around have been done in yellow sandstone and when the sun is at its brightest, the color of the yellow sandstone takes on a golden hue which is why Jaisalmer is known as the Golden City of India.
Steeped in history, the fort has been in the thick of battle activities over the centuries. Centuries later, the administration handed over the fort to the public who then turned it into a residence of sorts. Today, more than 4,000 people live inside the fort.
The fort has 99 bastions and is built on the Thrikoot hills that rises above a height of 250 ft from the plains. The mud paved above the ceilings controls the temperature when the surrounding heat of the desert rises to its peak. The 1,500 ft long fort, has houses built inside with mud which naturally controls the temperature and keeps the place cool. These houses have their distinctive and attractive hanging balconies called jharokha.
The fort pulsates with life with its many eateries, houses, temples and places that sell native craft.