Lakshmi Sharath discovers this little village near Jaisalmer that was ransacked by Mahmud of Ghazni
The rain stops and the sun’s rays stroke the pillared corridor of the palatial fortress Suryagarh in Jaisalmer. A pair of peacocks saunters in and stretches lazily on the lawn. The sun is finally back and it is cue for me to step out and explore one of the oldest forts in Rajasthan built in the 12th Century by Bhati Rajput king Rawal Jaisal.
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 the 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 4,000 people have called this fortress 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 that take me to the terrace. Standing there, I see a beautiful view of the Jain temples built between the 12th and 15th Centuries inside the fort. The sun, peeping out of the dark clouds, spreads its rays on the temples built in yellow sandstone, as the entire fort basks in a golden haze. I realise why it is called the Sonar Kila or the Golden Fort. 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 has carved sculptures, and Raju tells me that the style is borrowed from the Dilwara group of temples built in Mt. 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 km from Jaisalmer, this is 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 beauty in the barrenness as the green cacti stand out on ochre sands. The sky is a bit overcast. Raju tells me Lodurva was the ancient capital of the Bhati Rajputs before Jaisal built the fort atop Trikuta Hill and founded Jaisalmer.
Silence greets me at Lodurva. Another couple of tourists joins me as I enter the Jain temple here. Built in 12th Century, the temple along with the town, was ransacked several times by Mahmud of Ghazni and Muhammad Ghori. “People left their homes and Lodurva became deserted after the Bhatis 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.