To glimpse and experience the dynamism of Jaisalmer, the land of Bhattis (the Rajput ruling dynasty), and to capture the essence of the medieval city’s charm and magnificence, a visit to the golden, arched roofs of Bada Bagh is a sure must. These Cenotaphs here at Bada Bagh emulate Jaisalmer’s prosperous and powerful heritage.
Isolated on a hilltop, Bada Bagh showcases the sweeping landscape that it surrounds itself in: mango trees that dot the parched scrubland offer welcome shade to pious pilgrims and locals both coming to offer Puja (a form of worship), whilst their canopy houses doves, Indian robins, desert wheatear and even a long-legged buzzard.
Within Bada Bagh itself, you will find a network of Chattris dedicated to Maharajas whose rules range from the 16th to the 20th Century. On each of these chatris, built with the unique rock that Jaisalmer sits upon, are carved Bhattik inscriptions that highlights the façade. As each Chattris is entirely unique from the previous and are placed in a seemingly disordered manner, you are able to meander through these memorials, easily engrossed by its rich culture.
It’s disorder is only superficial as Bada Bagh is split up into two rows. In each of the memorials residing in the first row is a marble carving of the dedicated ruler as he rides a horse. And as you pass through to the second row, the architecture is has strong Mughal inspiration. Within each cenotaph, Stambhs (stone tablets) are placed on which an image of himself and his wives were cut. The importance of the wives’ presence on these Stambhs were because these wives had performed Sati (a ritual were the wives self-immolated themselves at the husbands funeral rites out of love and duty).
Bada Bagh literally means “big garden” and after the monsoon you are especially able to see the verdant nature that its first creator had imagined. Bada Bagh was commission by Maharawal Jait Singh but was unable to see its completion due to his death. As a result his son, Lunakaran, had resumed the baton of buidinghis fathers legacy and therefore the first cenotaph built was to his father.
The garden itself, is nurtured and watered because of Lunakaran. He had built a dam, named “Jait Bandh” again after his father, which held the memorials life giving water. You can still see today how the garden is still a resource for the local desert residents.
This sight is a spectacle in itself. Although only a short distance from the Fort itself, it is surprisingly under-visited. As the sun covers the golden rocks of these formidable Chattris, it is one of the most wonderful locations to watch the sunset as the sun throws its rays across the Thar Desert and onto the roofs of the Chattris. To miss this a secret gem Indian and more especially Rajasthani culture would be a sad regret.
Edited by: William Asquith