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Jaisalmer Desert Festival 2024: A spectacle of sand, culture, and celebration

Jaisalmer Desert Festival 2024: A spectacle of sand, culture, and celebration
PEOPLE & CULTURE

By Riddhi Chaudhari

08 Dec, 2023

Nestled in the heart of India's majestic state of Rajasthan, lies Jaisalmer - where history, culture, and rich traditions meet to create a beautiful picture that is unlike anywhere. Amidst the arid landscapes of this historic state, lies a jewel of a celebration known as the "Jaisalmer Desert Festival." It's an annual festival that transforms the Golden City into a vibrant mixture of colors and energy.

Hosted in the heart of the Thar Desert, this festival is also known as the "Rajasthan Desert Festival" or the "Maru Mahotsav”, the journey where every sand grain tells a story, and every moment is a celebration of life.

Maru Mahotsav of Jaisalmer

Sand art ahead of Desert Festival aka Maru Mahotsav of Jaisalmer

Read along as we take you through the sands of time and explore the wonders of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival 2024.

History of the Desert Festival Jaisalmer

Traditionally dressed border security people ride camels to attend the Desert festival

Traditionally dressed border security people ride camels to attend the Desert festival

The Jaisalmer Desert Festival has a fascinating story behind its origins, one that has been passed down through generations. According to locals, Lord Krishna once predicted that a future leader from the Yadav community would establish a kingdom on the Trikuta Hill. Centuries later, in 1196, Rawal Jaiswal, thought to be a descendant of the Yadav community, founded the kingdom of Jaisalmer.

To celebrate this remarkable event, the people of Jaisalmer began organizing special events and festivities throughout the kingdom. When word got around that an ancient prediction had come true, these joyful celebrations turned into a cherished tradition. Today, this tradition continues with the Jaisalmer Desert Festival, held every February.

Significance of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival

Colorful camel procession at the Desert Festival of Jaisalmer

Colorful camel procession at the Desert Festival of Jaisalmer

The Jaisalmer Desert Festival is significant not only for its historical roots but also for its cultural importance. It is a time when the people of Jaisalmer and the surrounding regions come together to celebrate their unique way of life. This celebration is a colorful mix of cultural shows, art, music, dance, and food that display the many different aspects of Rajasthan's culture and richness.

Ceremonial procession at the desert festival of Jaisalmer

Men in traditional attire dance in Jaisalmer's Desert Festival

For the locals, the festival is a time to take pride in their cultural heritage and share it with the world. For visitors, it's an opportunity to immerse themselves in a world of color, music, and tradition that is unlike anything they've experienced before. The festival's significance lies in its ability to bring people from different backgrounds together in a shared appreciation of the desert's magic.

When is the Desert Festival in Jaisalmer 2024?

The desert festival of Jaisalmer

The desert festival of Jaisalmer

The Jaisalmer Desert Festival is happening from the 22nd to the 24th of February 2024. During these three days, you can enjoy a special experience that introduces you to the magic of the desert.

Highlights of Jaisalmer Desert Festival 2024 

Women dancing in traditional Rajasthani attire

Women dancing in traditional Rajasthani attire during the Jaisalmer desert festival

The city of Jaisalmer is abuzz with excitement as the 2024 Jaisalmer Desert Festival draws near. Recent discussions involving the District Collector and city officials have paved the way for an innovative and captivating celebration. One of the Jaisalmer Desert festival's major highlights in 2024 is set to take center stage, with the enchanting presence of several Bollywood singers gracing the event with their melodious performances.

Camel polo match during Desert Festival

Camel polo match during Desert Festival

Furthermore, the Desert Festival transcends mere entertainment, fostering a mixture of experiences. From the spirited turban-tying competition to the graceful Ghoomar dance, from the quirky mustache competition to the thrilling camel polo match, the festival offers a diverse range of activities to partake in. For those seeking adventure, a grand celebration awaits with camel and jeep safaris, promising unforgettable journeys into the heart of the desert. 

Indian Air Force performing air warrior drills

The Indian Air Force performs air warrior drills

The Indian Air Force will perform some of their air warrior drills, adding an exhilarating dimension to the already exciting festival. It's an event that promises a blend of Bollywood allure, rich Rajasthani culture, and desert adventures.  

Things to experience at the Jaisalmer Desert Festival

1. Immerse in the vibrancy of cultural events

Man with turban participating in the moustache competition

Man in traditional clothing with an impressively long mustache

Experience an array of traditional events, from lively puppet shows to awe-inspiring folk music like Manganiar and Langas, Kamaycha and dance performances like Kalbelia and Ghoomar, and witness thrilling camel races and polo matches. Engage in spirited contests like tug of war and juggling events, and even spectate unique competitions, including turban tying and the prestigious "longest moustache" contest. A special highlight, the 'Maru Shri' or Mr. Desert Pageant, exclusively for men, draws a diverse crowd of both locals and tourists. 

Mens performing Gair Dance

Men performing the Gair dance at the Jaisalmer desert festival

But the cultural extravaganza doesn't stop there. Gair dance forms and folk fire dances add to the festival's charm, with all participants adorned in colorful Rajasthani attire, embodying the very essence of folk culture and traditions.  

2. Astro tourism

Astro Tourism at Jaisalmer Desert Festival

Astro tourism in Jaisalmer (Source - Travel and Leisure)

When you visit the Jaisalmer Desert Festival 2024, one standout activity to experience is "Astro Tourism." This unique offering, also known as "The Skies of Jaisalmer," includes stargazing sessions and astronomy workshops, perfect for the astro enthusiasts.

Milky way galaxy at Thar desert

Milky way galaxy at Thar desert, Jaisalmer

With clear skies, you'll have the opportunity to spot constellations and planets, making it an unforgettable planetary journey. And the best part? This fantastic event is scheduled to run on all days of the Rajasthan Desert Festival, ensuring that every night offers a chance to be mesmerized by the desert's enchanting skies. 

3. Explore the beauty of the Jaisalmer border

Tanot Mata Temple near Indo-Pak border

Tanot Mata Temple near Indo-Pak border, Jaisalmer

A journey to the heart of the golden desert is incomplete without a visit to the Jaisalmer border. The Jaisalmer Desert Festival encourages tourism in the region by offering tours to the Jaisalmer border, the iconic Longewala Post, showcasing Pakistani tanks and guns captured during the 1971 Indo-Pak war.

Longewala War Memorial, Jaisalmer

Longewala War Memorial: 1971 Indo-Pak War site

Inspirational quotes adorn the area, and a gripping documentary narrates the courageous battle our soldiers fought against an army 30 times larger, evoking a deep sense of patriotism. You can also visit the Tanot Mata Mandir, managed by the BSF, and witness the border fence with Pakistan just across, making it a unique and moving experience. 

4. Discover unique souvenirs at the handicrafts bazaar

Puppets (kathputli) for sale at Jaisalmer Desert Festival

Puppets (kathputli) for sale at Jaisalmer Desert Festival

No festival is truly complete without indulging in the delights of local handicrafts. The Jaisalmer Desert Festival presents an extraordinary exhibition showcasing a selection of meticulously crafted handicrafts, including Lac bangles, camel leather jootis, bandhani sarees, pichwai and miniature paintings, Jaisalmer stone carvings, gota patti work dupattas, kundan jewelry, mojari shoes, puppets (kathputli), cotton and silk durries, antique silver jewelry, Rajasthani turbans (safas), and Rajasthani tea blends.

Colorful umbrellas, bags, and Rajasthani turbans for sale at the desert festival

Colorful umbrellas, bags, and turbans for sale at the desert festival

These items are handcrafted by a dedicated self-help group (both men and women artisans) from Jaisalmer. The festival is dedicated to nurturing and promoting local art and craft, making it the perfect chance to acquire beautiful souvenirs from your visit. 

5. Savor authentic Rajasthani cuisine

Traditional Rajasthani food dal baati churma

Traditional Rajasthani food dal baati churma

The Festival of Desert is not only enchanting with its cultural splendor but also winds up your taste buds with authentic Rajasthani cuisine. Amidst the festivities, you can enjoy the iconic flavors of dal baati churma (lentil dumplings with roasted wheat balls and sweet crumbly mix), gatte ki sabzi (gram flour dumplings in a spicy gravy), and delicious sweets like Ghewar (honeycomb pastry). It's an opportunity to connect with locals, discover the stories behind the dishes, and leave with a taste of Rajasthan's rich heritage.

Other activities to enjoy in the city during the Jaisalmer Desert Festival

1. Camel Safari in Jaisalmer

Camel Safari

Camel safari in dunes of Jaisalmer

Imagine riding a camel through the windswept desert during dusk, stopping under the starry night sky – it's an experience you won't forget. As you journey through remote villages, you'll witness the rustic charm of the Great Indian Desert. Cultural performances on the sand dunes, traditional Rajasthani meals, and picturesque villages with friendly locals make the safari truly special.

Timings to visit: Suggested to take between 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM or early morning at 5:00 AM. To 8.00 AM

Entry Fee: Depends on the type of Safari

Location: Sam Sand Dune or Khuri Sand Dune 

2. Jeep Safari in Jaisalmer

Jeep Safari

Jeep safari in the Thar desert of Jaisalmer

Jeeps provide a swift and exciting ride through the ever-shifting landscapes of the Thar Desert. The jeeps used for these safaris are robust 4x4 vehicles, sporting open tops to let you bask in the glorious desert sun. The journey starts with a visit to the Fossil Park or the Desert National Park, then to the Sam Sand Dunes, and leads to the serene Padholi Sanctuary.

But what truly sets this experience apart is the chance to spend a night with the hospitable households of Padholi village, a rare opportunity to connect with the untouched culture and traditions of the desert.

Fee Charge: Rs 400 Person

Timings to visit: 3:00 PM to 10:00 PM

Location: Starts from Fossil Park or the Desert National Park 

3. Dune & Quad biking bashing at Sam Sand Dune

Quad Biking in Sam Sand Dunes

Quad biking in Sam Sand Dunes, Jaisalmer

Sam Sand Dunes, a must-visit on your desert safari adventure, lie on the outskirts of the Jaisalmer Desert National Park. Quad Biking and dune bashing are the stars of the show here, attracting adventure enthusiasts in droves. The vast desert expanse around Jaisalmer provides an ideal playground for off-roading and dune bashing, making every moment of Jaisalmer journey unforgettable.

Location: Kanoi, Rajasthan

Distance from Jaisalmer: 42-45 km from the Jaisalmer City

Timings: Throughout the Day 

4. Parasailing

Parasailing in the desert of Jaisalmer

Jeep towing a parachute for adventure parasailing in the Thar desert

The feeling of flying high above the desert, gazing at the vast golden sands below, and witnessing the boundless beauty of the arid landscape is just so amazing. The experience is both exciting and secure, making it a favorite among tourists of all ages. What sets parasailing in Jaisalmer apart is the skilled team of instructors who ensure safety from the ground. The activity lasts around 15 minutes, but those starting 3-5 minutes of parasailing will gift you with a treasure trove of memories.

Location: Kanoi, Rajasthan

Timings to visit: 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM every day

Entry fee: Starts at 850/- per person

Parasailing last for: 15 minutes 

5. Gadisar Lake

Gadisar lake of Jaisalme

Gadisar lake of Jaisalmer

Gadisar Lake is a precious gem that not only quenches the city's thirst but also nurtures its spirit. Around the lake are temples, shrines, and ghats, a witness to the deep-rooted traditions of Jaisalmer. One can also be greeted with an awe-inspiring view of the majestic Jaisalmer Fort, a sight that captures the city's grandness.

In the winter months, Gadisar Lake becomes a haven for migratory birds, offering a delight for bird enthusiasts, as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary lies in close proximity.

Things to do at Gadisar Lake:

  • Explore the lake on rowboats, paddle boats, or shikaras, spotting aquatic life along the way.
  • Witness exotic migratory birds, including pelicans, flamingos, and cranes. You can also visit Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary nearby for more birdwatching opportunities.
  • Capture breathtaking moments of sunrise, sunset, and the reflections of temples on the lake's surface, making it a paradise for photographers.

Timings to visit Gadisar Lake: 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM every day

Entry fee for visiting Gadisar Lake: Free but have to pay for boating which may varies. Row boats cost INR 10 per person, paddle boats cost INR 50 per person and shikara rides cost INR 100 per person. 

6. Jaisalmer Fort

Outside view of Jaisalmer Fort

Outside view of Jaisalmer Fort

On your Jaisalmer tour, don't miss the chance to explore the architectural marvel known as Jaisalmer Fort, also called "Sonar Quila'' or "Golden Fort." This historic fort, founded in 1156 AD by Rawal Jaisal, is a testament to the rich heritage of Rajasthan.

Within its walls, you'll find significant monuments like the Raj Mahal, Laxminath Shrine, Merchant Havelis, and ornate Jain temples, each showcasing the region's opulence, religious diversity, and intricate architecture.

Things to do and see near Jaisalmer Fort:

  • Visit Laxminath and Jain temples for their beauty and serenity.
  • Witness the changing hues of Jaisalmer Fort throughout the day.
  • Hike to the hilltop for beautiful panoramic views of the surrounding area.

Timings to visit Jaisalmer Fort: 9 AM - 5 PM

Entry fee for visiting Jaisalmer Fort: 50 INR (approx.) for Indians and 250 INR (approx.) for the foreigners. 

7. Patwon Ki Haveli

Patwon Ki Haveli, Jaisalmer

Rich ornated facade of Patwon Ki Haveli, Jaisalmer

Patwon ki Haveli, as its name suggests, is not just one but a cluster of five different havelis within a single, awe-inspiring premise. A must-visit photogenic heritage spot in Jaisalmer, it enchants with its intricate architectural work, a testament to the craftsmanship of a bygone era.

Here, you'll encounter an array of ancient items like ornate furniture, utensils, textiles, exquisite jewelry, and various household items once used by kings and families of 19th and early 20th centuries, offering a glimpse into the opulent past.

Things to do at Patwon Ki Haveli:

  • Explore historical relics and artifacts and enjoy panoramic views from haveli balconies.
  • Explore a museum showcasing Rajasthan's lifestyle and past artwork.
  • Admire ancient artwork, carvings, and paintings.

Timings to visit Patwon Ki Haveli: 9 AM to 5 PM

Entry fee for visiting Jaisalmer Fort: 20 INR (approx.) for Indians and 100 INR (approx.) for foreigners. 

8. Kuldhara Village

Kuldhara Village, Jaisalmer

Kuldhara houses an abandoned village of Jaisalmer

Nestled in the arid landscapes of Rajasthan, Kuldhara Village stands as a haunting enigma, left untouched for over three centuries. This abandoned settlement was once home to the Paliwal Brahmins, a clan inhabiting numerous towns in the region.

Stepping into the eerie silence of Kuldhara, you embark on a journey to uncover the mysterious history that shrouds its deserted streets. Guided tours offer insights into why hundreds of families mysteriously vanished overnight, leaving behind an unsettling void.

Distance from Jaisalmer: 26.9 km from the Jaisalmer City

Timings: 10 AM – 5 PM 

9. Khuri Village

Khuri Village, Jaisalmer

Khuri village with traditional-style huts made with clay and dung walls and thatched roofs

This quaint yet enchanting village, situated on the outskirts of Jaisalmer, stands as one of the hidden gems among the many tourist places near the city. The desert surrounding Khuri boasts rare flora and fauna, making it an ecological wonder.

Khuri is seamlessly connected to Jaisalmer, and its appeal lies not just in its natural beauty but also in the preservation of a traditional lifestyle and Rajasthani folklore that resonates with all who visit.

Distance from Jaisalmer: 49.7 km from the Jaisalmer City

Timings: 10 AM – 5 PM

How to Reach Jaisalmer for the Desert Festival Jaisalmer?

By Air

Jaisalmer doesn't have its own airport. The nearest one is in Jodhpur, which is about 300 kilometers away. You can catch flights from major Indian cities to Jodhpur. When you get to Jodhpur, you can either hire a private cab or take a local or express train to reach Jaisalmer.

By Rail

It's easy to find direct trains to Jaisalmer, and the good thing is, the train station is right in the city center. So, when you get there, you can easily find an auto-rickshaw or taxi.

By Road

Jaisalmer is well-connected by road to all major Indian cities. You can either take a state-owned bus, a luxury coach, a sleeper AC bus or hire a private taxi to get to the city.

Now that you've delved into the enchanting world of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival and discovered the wonders that await in the heart of Rajasthan, we invite you to consider making Jaisalmer your next travel destination and experience the Desert Festival.

What to do now?

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