The last city of Western India not only has a generous touch of royalty but also holds in its heart numerous tales as old as time. As you unravel the mysteries of a city wrapped wholly with golden sand, feel yourself come closer to the reality and foundation of an entire nation.
Jaisalmer city is home to countless old monuments, buildings etc., it is therefore, considered to be one of the most eminent parts of our heritage. The precarious plight of these constructions proves that they have witnessed an era of undulation and pathos. Today, the craggy edges of the impeccable architectures serve as the pathway to a time unbelievably different from ours.
Not far from the Jaisalmer railway station is a 300 year-old, golden hued building which looks straight out of the pages of Rajputana history. Salim Singh, the then Diwan (Prime Minister) of the princely state, created and established the Salim Singh ki haveli. A trip to Jaisalmer is incomplete without having a flavour of the immaculate craftsmanship of this haveli.
This haveli is not just comprised of ornate elements; vengeance and envy is the core backdrop of its creation. Salim Singh was a cruel Diwan known and dreaded among the subjects for his cold-bloodedness. When he was a child, his father Diwan Swaroop Singh was betrayed and killed by royal officials in front of his naked eyes. This incident had an everlasting impact on him and shaped him as a vicious leader. After receiving the authority of a Diwan, he decided to avenge his father’s death by overthrowing the king. Guided by his envy and ambitions he made a larger than life and more lavish residence than the king’s. He commanded to construct two extra storeys in the haveli in order to make it as high as the fort, but this did not go down well with the king and he ordered demolition of them. Enraged by this, Salim started to despise the king more than ever. It is said that his over-ambitiousness was the cause of his demise. This chapter of Salim Singh is nowhere to be found in history books but stories of his feud with the king and construction of the haveli is an inseparable part of Jaisalmer’s oral history, which makes the construction even more intriguing and captivating.
The salient features of the haveli will surprise you as it should. Who would have thought, a product of jealousy would be a timeless beauty. No water or cement has been used in the construction of this building. Huge chunks of sandstone were attached to each other with iron rods to form the structure. There are 38 balconies here which are uniquely designed. The blue coloured dome atop the haveli, that is an integral part of its rich architecture is designed in the shape of a dancing peacock. It is believed that the meticulous interior designing of the haveli can never be replicated.
The ceilings and floors of the vast bedrooms and corridors are ornamented with thousands of mirror pieces and the gaps packed with authentic pearls which were claimed to be imported from Belgium. Thus, it is also called Moti Mahal. It is hard not to gasp in amazement at the gorgeous wall-paintings those when looked closely, seem to come alive for a fraction of moment. Salim Singh’s bedroom in the haveli is a marvellous piece of architecture. It would not be wrong to submit, that it was made to mesmerize. Its walls are opulently decorated with Iranian marbles with one photo of the Diwan which is also the only way to know how he looked.
Due to its malicious history and distinctive architecture, Salim Singh ki haveli is the most significant haveli of Jaisalmer, better than its more famous counterparts, Patwon ki haveli and Nathmal ki haveli. Known to have had a pivotal role in Rajasthan’s history and heritage Jaisalmer Fort is a must visit. But a haveli at par with the grandeur of the fort and having an inseparable role in its rich history should not go ignored.
So, a visit to Salim Singh ki haveli in Jaisalmer, will not only be an unparalled architectural experience but also a time travel to an unattainable era.