Jewel of India

Strategically sited on a Rajasthan hilltop, the fortified city of Jaisalmer is one of India’s greatest architectural treasures. Founded in a . d. 1156 by the Rajput prince, Rawal Jaisal, Jaisalmer is known colloquially as Sonar Kila, or the “Golden Fort,” after the luminous sandstone of which it is built, which glistens at sunset. Jaisalmer’s merchants and townspeople prospered from the city’s propitious location on a caravan route through the Thar Desert, which linked Delhi and Gujurat with Central Asia and the Middle East. With riches derived from trade in spices, silks, stallions, and slaves, the people of Jaisalmer built magnificent houses exquisitely carved from golden-yellow sandstone. Today, these buildings serve as poignant reminders of a bygone age. Collectively, they are a provocative backdrop for the hustle and bustle of an ever-growing Indian city that is strangling the monumental gem that lies at its core. Though the fort had endured for more than eight centuries, it has been brought to the brink of destruction in the span of only a few decades due to heavy tourist traffic and water erosion, resulting from monsoon rains and the introduction of run - ning water into a city without proper drainage. Thus far, of 469 historic properties within the fort, 87 have collapsed and many more are in poor condition.

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