Gadi Sagar Lake, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
A short walk from the Jaisalmer fort will land you on the banks of Gadi Sagar, a popular local hangout. Tourists come by default as part of their preplanned itineraries, and Do-it-Yourself travelers make an appearance following the advice of guide books. Built-in 1367, this rainwater reservoir was once the only source of water for the desert city in the northern state of Rajasthan. These days it’s the sight of the well known Gangaur festival. In March or April, depending on the calendar year, single women throw flowers into the lake while praying for a good husband.
Ironically, it was a prostitute that left her mark on Gadi Sagar (Sagar = lake/sea). In 1909, Tilon, a local prostitute known for her wealthy clientele, commissioned the gateway over the ghat leading to the lake. Translated simply as Tilon Gate, a group of local townspeople was not happy with the thought of entering through a gate built by such a person. The local ruler ordered the gate to be torn down after the successful urging of the townspeople. But Tilon, famed for her beauty, also had smarts on her side. She quickly had a statue of Krishna installed on top. The dismantling would now be unheard of due to religious reasons. Lion’s Gate still stands to this day welcoming those that come to see the lake.
Upon arrival, visitors are met with solicitations for guides and/or camel rides to the lake. Given the walk is a direct paved route from the parking lot to Tilon-Ki-Pol there is no need to entertain either offer. A folklore museum is located midway between the parking lot and the lake. Open daily, exhibits include folk art and textiles relevant to this area. It’s more interesting to move directly to the lake.
Steps upward flank both sides of the gate. Take the right side where you’ll find comfort under shade from several old-growth trees as well as loaves of bread for sale and a few small merchant stalls. The bread may seem baffling at first until you peer over the edge above to find locals feeding swarms of giant catfish below. Once through the gate tourists can rent a boat for a relaxing ride around this man-made body of water. Interspersed with ghats and small temples made of sandstone, most of the city’s noise disappears here.
Guides will prompt travelers to the left of the gate where a local Shiva temple exists. Never wanting to miss a chance to fleece tourists, local “artisans” and touts have made this area their office. Easily brushed off, the next disturbance is the younger local population. Jovial heckles and whistles, all meant to gather attention to themselves, come from small groups of men who linger around the lake’s edges. Combined with other tourists, touts, and visiting locals, move beyond this cluster to the opposite side of the lake. A small pathway leads past stadium-like seats hugging the left side of the lake. Eventually, the path narrows to a single dirt trail where cows and dogs lie in the cool mud from the partially dried lake bed. A 180º curve loops toward a small peninsula accessed by a causeway. It may feel like trespassing given there are NO tourists or locals to be seen. Under the restful rustling of leaves, one can quietly move about in peace. Panoramic views of the lake as well as the discovery of the fort behind are well worth the extra 10 minutes of walking.
There is no entry fee to the lake. Visitors should plan a minimum of 30 minutes if you stick to the tourist schedule, 1 hour, or longer if walking to the opposite temple. Bottled water is sold near the entrance as well as other cold beverages. And there is a small cafe located adjacent to the Shiva temple with lakefront views. Tuk’s are plentiful for a quick ride back to the fort area.