A whirlwind tour of Patwon ki Haveli in Jaisalmer

posted in: Asia, Heritage, India, Rajasthan | 22
Patwon ki Haveli Jaisalmer - one of the must-visit places of the golden city

“We don’t have the time. We will get late to our next destination. Besides, it can’t be more elaborate than the Jaisalmer palace….also, the road is narrow, the driver is reluctant…..”

… The tussle continued but my pleading finally won. With a strict deadline of one hour, I set off to explore the “Mansion of Brocade Merchants.” Popularly called Patwon ki Haveli or Patwa ki Haveli, this place made my opposition choke on their own words. The place was definitely at par, if not more elaborate, that the Jaisalmer Palace. It was different and needed more than the borrowed time that I got.

History of Patwon ki Haveli, Jaisalmer

The main Patwon ki Haveli which took 55 years to build

Jaisalmer was a key stop for traveling trade on the famous silk route. The city had its share of merchants and the key among them was Guman Chand Patwa. His primary business was dealing with gold and silver threads that were used in brocade work and dresses for the royalty.

However, that was supposedly his official business. The tradesman was rumored to be a loan shark and an opium dealer. Such was his riches that his business had spread across Rajasthan and some parts of Iran and China. In 1805, he decided to make a grand haveli, which took 55 years to complete.

Soon, he got four more havelis built- ensuring that each one of sons had one for themselves. The cluster of five came to be collectively called Patwon ki haveli.

The Golden Haveli of Jaisalmer is actually a cluster of 5 individual homes

With the silk route slowly changing its course and new ports opening up, the family business of Guman Chand Patwa dwindled. The havelis were abandoned and fell into disrepair. One of the havelis was bought over by another tradesman – Shri Jeevan Lal Kothari but the rest remained in disuse until 1974. This is when they attracted the attention of the then Prime Minister of India – Indira Gandhi. It was she would got the Rajasthan Government to grant the Havelis a national heritage status.

Patwa ki Haveli is now maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India and Rajasthan Arts and Craft. The main haveli has been restored and converted into a museum. The others serve as an office.

Kothari’s Patwon ki Haveli remains privately owned and can also, be visited. But of course, I missed out on that Jaisalmer Haveli! :-(.

The architecture of Patwon ki Haveli

60 ornamental balconies! The sight of these artistic jharokhas on the golden havelis of Jaisalmer was enough to leave my travel adversaries dumbstruck!

Close up of one of the 60 jharokhas of Patwa ki haveli

Patwon ki haveli is a splendid example of typical Rajasthani architecture. The intricately carved walls that end in those delicate chajjas on those yellow sandstone walls and the contrasting windows with the artistic arches promised a treasure trove of experience. The multi-storied buildings could best be described as artistic apartments!

Artistic arches and intricate carvings maybe the overlying theme but each haveli is different in terms of its design

The golden havelis were all made in a courtyard-style with one or two central squares and rooms around it. Each of these courtyards have an artistic piece- a mosaic peacock, a small fountain or a painted mural. It is different in each of the havelis as is their architectural and decor theme. Each one of them appear similar on the outside but are a little different from within.

The artistic eaves and chajjas of the Jaisalmer haveli
The courtyard style Patwon ki Haveli with its little balconies

Patwa ki Haveli is said to be the 2nd haveli built in Rajasthan and the first haveli in Jaisalmer. It set the trend of exotic havelis with rich frescoes and murals across the caravan route destinations like Bikaner and Shekhavati. The palatial buildings often surpassed the Rajasthani palaces with their decor and that my friends, was enough to prove to my travel counterparts that visiting Jaisalmer haveli was one of the topmost things to do in Jaisalmer.

When it comes to Havelis of Rajasthan, you must go on the merchant trail in Bikaner.. Have a glimpse of the seemingly triangular Rampuria haveli, the carved facades of Kothari havelis and the murals that make their appearance on the outside. Read through this post.

Silver ceilings, mirror work & murals in Patwa ki Haveli

Mirror work on one of the walls of Patwon ki Haveli Jaisalmer

The interiors of the Patwa Haveli will leave you dazzled. Every inch of the wall is either covered by silver mirrors or has colorful murals on it. The ceilings too, are a similar story with colored glasswork and painted borders depicting Rajasthani life. Even the arched windows and doors were either carved or painted.

The mirror artwork on one of the ceilings in Patwa ki haveli
Painted borders around the ceiling of Patwon ki Haveli Jaisalmer

None of these works of art is similar. Each room, each ceiling, pillar, and door is different in terms of its theme. It is hard not to be bewitched by the work within the Jaisalmer haveli. You need to be able to take those slow breaths as you explore the place. Sadly, it was rush hour for me – but that did not stop me from throwing that dirty look at my sheepish travelers.

The Museum at the Golden Haveli

The painted walls of Patwon ki Haveli that host a museum

The rejuvenated interiors of Patwon ki Haveli now hosts a museum curated by Rajasthan Arts ad Craft. Walking through the maze of corridors and rooms will allow you to witness the little nuances of the Rajasthani life in the 1900s. From ancient locks, astronomy instruments to traditional musical instruments, the curators have attempted to explain the trends of that era with small sign boards.

Inside Patwon ki Haveli Jaisalmer
Carved model of a tower
A typical Rajasthani Dining Room showcased at the Patwa ki Haveli

Certain sections of the Rajasthani Havelis like the kitchen and dining room have been re-created to showcase the traditional living. It was quite interesting to read these little stories of how the men sat on cushions with a little table to hold their plates on which they were served hot food by the women. Among the vessels, the households favored brass utensils for serving.

Traditional dressing room that you can see on your tour of Patwon Ki Haveli
A living room with aristocratic sofas
The traditional seating in one of the living spaces

The large trunk, a chest of drawers and jewelry hangers by the mirror pretty much made up the little dressing area of the women. The living area seemed to be of two types – one with traditional low seating and the other with the colonial sofas. Given that Guman Chand and his sons were money lenders even for the royalty and the British, they might have used each of these rooms to receive the appropriate guests.

View from the terrace of Jaisalmer Haveli

The Terrace of Patwon Ki Haveli Jaisalmer

The panoramic view of the Jaisalmer town is something that you must take in from the terraces of this haveli. Standing there, I could catch a glimpse of the other havelis of this Patwa cluster.

In my mind’s eye, I saw little boys and girls playing hide and seek in the open space. Curtains closed and opened again to reveal another scene – this time during the Makar Sankranti or Kite flying festival where the youngsters stood on this terrace and squealed in delight as they cut their competitors’ kites.

Hidden safes at the haveli of Jaisalmer

Trringgg!!! Time to exit.

This time it wasn’t just me being reluctant but my fellow travelers too. We made our way out but not before stopping by to see the hidden safes of Patwon ki Haveli. What seemed like an exquisite painting was actually a door to a safe. The little holes were used to store money, gems and jewelry from the prying eyes of the servants and possible thieves.

The painting that hides the secret safe
The safe behind the painting

Each haveli has more than one such safe and at numerous places. You might have even passed a few without knowing that they were actually safes.

Frankly, this was not the best way to leave Patwon ki Haveli. The secret unraveled left me with this feeling that there was a lot more that I had missed.

“We should have planned better! This was much better than expected and worth every minute we have stolen” – those were the comforting (or an attempt to comfort) words of the same companions. The only consolation I had is that they had bitten back on their own words. Ah well, maybe I shall return again!

Other Jaisalmer Havelis of Rajasthan

Patwon ki Haveli is the only haveli in Jaisalmer that has detailed interiors for you to enjoy. This is including the Kothari Patwa Haveli next door. Frankly speaking, I did not know about this access to the neighboring haveli until a little later. Even if I had known, I might have not made it. I am given to understand that this place has even more amazing murals and artwork within it. It might not be as well restored as the government one but is beautiful in a very raw and authentic manner.

Besides these Jaisalmer Havelis, you must stop by at two other merchant homes.

Nathmal ki Haveli in Jaisalmer

Nathmal ki Haveli in Jaisalmer

This Jaisalmer Haveli is supposedly the best of all havelis in Jaisalmer. It used to belong to the Prime Minister of the Jaisalmer Maharaja – Diwan Mohata Nathmal. What makes it intriguing is the tale of its construction. Two muslim architects – Lulu and Hathi started constructing this from opposite ends of the building. This resulted in similar looking but not identical parts of the haveli. However, the stunning blend of Rajasthani and Islamic architecture more than made up for these little differences.

Nathmal ki Haveli is a place where you can shop in Jaisalmer. The families who currently stay in the Haveli sell some delightful art and crafts of Rajasthan. While you are there, you can witness the two life-sized elephants at the entrance and the intricately carved pillars within the haveli.

Salim Singh ki Haveli in Jaisalmer

Salim Singh used to be the diwan in the court of Jaisalmer. His notorious and cruel ways are what make him a villain in the history of Jaisalmer. In fact the ghost village of Kuldhara near Jaisalmer was supposedly abandoned because of him. Read this post on Kuldhara to know the story.

While he might be detested for his ways, there is no denying that his abode is an architectural marvel. Narrow at the base, the haveli rises to the 2nd floor and expand to include 38 ornate balconies. Owing to this unique structure, the Haveli was called as Jahaz Mahal (Ship Palace). The real inspiration for this structure is said to be a dancing peacock.

Legend has it that Salim Singh attempted to constructed three more floors to make his haveli taller than the Jaisalmer Palace. His Majesty did not take kindly to that and had the same demolished.

You can visit Salim Singh ki Haveli and even venture inside but there isn’t much left of it to see. It has its trademark elephant at the entrance – a sign of nobility and some bit of mirror work and carvings within the rooms. Personally, I would have loved to see it but as you know how this whirlwind tour of Nathmal ki Haveli has been! Either way, I have armed you with the knowledge of how to complete it for me. So go on and pin this to your board!

How to reach Patwon ki Haveli Jaisalmer?

  • Jaisalmer has a defense airport with limited flights. It is one way to reach the golden city of Rajasthan.
  • If flights are not an option, then consider a long road trip to Jaisalmer. It can be quite a distance but a stop at Bikaner or Jodhpur would make it interesting too. There are quite a few transfers that you can book online. I have shared them in the Booking Resources section below.
  • Railways is another comfortable option to get to Jaisalmer.
  • Once in Jaisalmer, you can head to Patwon ki Haveli by hiring an auto. I recommend this over a cab as the roads to the area are very narrow. In fact, it is just 1.5 km from the Jaisalmer bus stand and one can slowly walk to the place.

Best time to visit Patwon ki Haveli?

The best time to visit Patwon ki Haveli is between 9 am to 5 pm

Needless to say that summers are avoidable when heading to the desert city of Jaisalmer. The most pleasant weather would be from October to February.

Patwon ki Haveli is open from 9 am to 5 pm every day.

Where to eat in Jaisalmer?

There are tons of restaurants in Jaisalmer that you can visit. Over the few days that we were in Jaisalmer, we hopped to various restaurants near the bus stand and Jaisalmer fort. One place- Jodhana stood out for me for its simple vegetarian affair. It is a small local outlet with yummy Rajasthani foodbajre ki roti, dahi ka saag and sev-tamatar sabji.

Where to stay in Jaisalmer?

My stay at Nirmal Haveli in Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer has hotels of every possible budget for you to choose from. There are very affordable heritage havelis that have been converted to hotels as well as luxury palaces like Suryagarh.

In terms of areas, consider staying around Jaisalmer palace. I stayed at Nirmal Haveli – a restored heritage stay, right opposite to the Jaisalmer palace. Though I had booked my desert safari and stay separately, most of the hotels you stay in will be happy to do it for you. Check out the Booking resources below to help you with these.

Travel Tips

  • The entrance fees to Patwon ki Haveli is INR 100 for Indians and INR 250 for foreigners. Cameras are charged extra.
  • Right outside Patwon ki Haveli are lots of shops that sell Rajasthani handicrafts. These are quite good in quality and very affordable. It is a good idea to shop and buy some of these handicrafts.
  • Restrooms are available in Patwon ki Haveli.
  • The staircase in the Havelis is very steep and narrow. It might be a little difficult for the physically challenged or elderly people to scale the same.

Booking resources

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