The rain stops and the sun’s rays stroke the pillared corridor of the palatial fortress Suryagarh. A pair of peacocks saunter in and stretch themselves lazily on the lawn.The sun is finally back and it is a cue for me to step out and explore one of the oldest forts in Rajasthan built in Jaisalmer in the 12th century by Bhati Rajput king Rao Jaiswal .
The bastions tower over me as I enter the fort. There is a bit of traffic as locals elbow their way through the narrow lanes, even as they are outnumbered by large numbers of tourists who throng the palaces around. I crane my head and look up at the 99 bastions of this citadel, brimming with life as more than 4000 people have called this fortress as their home for decades. The homes may have now become home stays and hotels, but it is one of the largest living forts in India.
I get away from the crowd and enter a narrow lane with my guide Raju. He takes me into a cul de sac where I see a small eatery. I enter and climb a flight of steps which take me to the terrace. Standing there, I see a beautiful view of the Jain temples built between the 12th-15th centuries inside the fort. The sun peeping out of the dark clouds spread its rays on the temples built in yellow sandstone, as the entire fort basks in a golden haze. I realize why it is called the Sonar Kila or the Golden Fort as the light spreads everywhere. There are seven temples here and they are dedicated to the Teerthankaras
I wait for the crowd to clear and enter the first temple – a beautiful shrine dedicated to Chandraprabhu and adjacent to it, is another temple dedicated to Rikhabdevji. Every wall in the temple is carved in sculptures and Raju tells me that the style is borrowed from the Dilwara group of temples built in Mount Abu. More temples are dedicated to Paraswanath, Shitalnath, Sambhavnath and Shantinath, while there is a statue of Mahavir in emerald .
And that is when I hear about Lodurva, an ancient village in the Thar Desert. Located about 15 kms from Jaisalmer, this was a small village that has moved from the historic map to the tourist map. “ You must see the Jain temple there, “ insists Raju as we head out of the town.
There is a beauty in the barrenness as the green cacti stand out in the ochre sands. The sky is a bit overcast . Raju tells me that Lodurva was the ancient capital of the Bhatti Rajputs before Jaiswal built the fort atop Trikuta Hill and founded Jaisalmer.
Silence greets me at Lodurva. Another couple of tourists join me as I enter the Jain temple here. Built originally in 12th the temple along with the town was ransacked several times by Mahmud of Ghazni and Mohammad Ghori . “People fled and left their homes and Lodurva became completely deserted after the Bhattis changed their capital to Jaisalmer, “ says Raju. The temple was eventually renovated but today, it lies like another obscure village in the desert. I sit there for a while, roaming around the temple, until the dunes beckon me.
This article was published in The Hindu Metro Plus in my column Inside Story