The Patwa Havelis of Jaisalmer also known as Patwon Ji Ki Havelis are a cluster of five Havelis in Patwa Complex in the city of Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. Dating back to the Eighteenth century, the Havelis are famous for their unique architecture and lavish lifestyle of the Patwas.
The city of Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, India is no stranger to tourist attention. Alongside its other ‘touristy sisters’ in the state, Jaipur, Udaipur and Jodhpur – Jaisalmer is famous for its own set of attractions – the Jaisalmer Fort, Gadhisar Lake, Kuldhara Village and Sam Sand Dunes. During my first trip to Jaisalmer this winter, I discovered the city has one more hidden gem – The Patwa Havelis.
The Patwa Havelis of Jaisalmer, also known as Patwon Ji Ki Haveli have an interesting history. Dating back to the Eighteenth century, Patwon Ji Ki Haveli is not one single Haveli but a cluster of five Havelis commissioned and constructed in the year 1805 by Guman Chand Patwa, a rich Jain trader and renowned man of his time. It is said that Guman Chand Patwa ordered separate stories for each of his 5 sons and hence the 5 separate Havelis.
Also known as the ‘Mansion of Brocade Merchants’, the Patwon Ji Ki Havelis got their name from the family as it dealt in threads of gold and silver used in embroidered dresses. As the folklore goes, the Patwas were advised by a Jain temple priest that they would not be successful in their trade if they continued to run it from the city of Jaisalmer. True enough and despite repeated attempts the rich and powerful Patwas did not see much success whenever they tried to run their trade from the city. Finally, the Patwas left the city leaving behind the stunning Havelis in the hands of their caretaker.
The five Havelis stand in their splendour even today, albeit with minor encroachments and abuses. Looked after by the state Government, the Havelis are open to tourists and can be visited between 10 am to 5pm. The largest Haveli is run by the Government and houses the offices of Archaeological Survey of India and State Art & Crafts departments. The second Haveli has been turned into a Museum and charges a fee of Rs 100/- per person. The other three Havelis house shops & mini-emporiums and are frequently visited by international visitors.
Curious about the lifestyle of the Patwas, I decided to take a tour of the Haveli which has now been turned into a Museum. Built over three stories, this Haveli was nothing short of awe-inspiring glass work and architecture carved out of the famous yellow sandstone, a speciality of the state of Rajasthan. The entry to the Haveli itself is grand – intricate multi-coloured glasswork sets the perfect contrast to the yellow sandstone architecture, an indicator of the luxurious style of the Patwa family.
An exterior view of the Patwa Havelis – looking resplendent with its intricate architecture carved in yellow sandstone.
Stunning multi-coloured glasswork in the first room of the house which also houses the Temple
The very opulent drawing room looks quite western in its approach with a large table, chair, mirror table and a telephone.
Life like statues depict the luxurious Patwa family lifestyle.
Dressing room used by women of the Patwa family, complete and intact with its jewellery and clothing including sarees and bangles…
Interestingly, the kitchen was decorated as lively as other rooms in the house with colourful paintings on the walls…
Children’s room with a crib, an attire worn by the children in the Patwa family and a toy cycle which caught my fancy because of its likeness to modern day tricycle…..
In addition to restoring the rooms, the Government has also preserved items used by the Patwas in their trade which are a must-see simply because of the quality of restoration and how good they still look.
A section of Museum with collection of coins and stamps used by the Patwa family in their trade.
A picture of the Patwa family
An old picture of the Havelis
How to reach Patwa Havelis:
The city of Jaisalmer does not have an airport. Best option to reach Jaisalmer is to take an express train from Delhi. There are many trains that connect Delhi and Jaisalmer but the ideal train to take is the Delhi-Jaisalmer Express which leaves from Old Delhi Railway station (DLI code) at 5pm and reaches Jaisalmer at 11.30 a.m. next day. Tickets can be booked via agents or Indian Railways website easily (www.irctc.co.in). The Jaisalmer station is a small station and there are autos and cabs easily available outside the station. The train journey takes approximately 18 hours and AC reservation (2AC or 3AC) is strongly recommended.
The Patwa Havelis are located in walking distance of the Jaisalmer Fort. After (or before visiting the Fort), you can ask a local person to guide you to the Patwa Havelis and walk approximately 10-15 minutes to reach the Haveli. You can also hire a local guide who will charge Rs 250 to take you through the Jaisalmer Fort and the Patwa Haveli.
Entry charges: Rs 100/- per person
Weather: Jaisalmer becomes very hot in the middle of the year and a sunscreen plus sun cap is strongly recommended as you walk through the city.
Refreshments: Water, tea and coffee are available easily as you walk through the market and not a concern.
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