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Gadi Sagar Lake, Jaisalmer

During my stay in Jaisalmer, I visited Gadi Sagar Lake. It is a man-made reservoir built by Maharaja Garsi Singh in 1367 AD to preserve the lake water. With the majestic Jaisalmer fort in the background, I walked through the muddy lanes leading to the lake. There were numerous wedding invitations painted on the walls. I was told that locals always put up an open wedding invitation on the village walls or their doors and seek the blessings from the whole village. An innovative mass communication idea !

During earlier times, water was scarce and the construction of Gadi Sagar by the king came as a blessing to the villagers. Gadi Sagar literally means Lake as Sea. The lake is surrounded by numerous small religious shrines and chattris (umbrella shaped domes).

In the olden days, the lake also had Caravan Serai for the traders and merchants.   As part of the silk route trade, the merchants paid taxes to the king for safe passage and trade. During the night as the palace doors were closed, these Caravan Serais were built for the traders to park their camels and rest.

There is a Shiva temple beside which a cenotaph is placed. In olden days, the hard desert life , few to non existent medical facilities and regular opium consumption ensured that most people did not survive beyond the age of 80. As per the local custom, when someone over the age of 80 dies, their grandchildren used to build these cenotaphs – as a commemoration – with a statue in the center facing the east and the rising sun. As per Hindu religion, it is considered ill luck to watch the sunset as it is symbolically depicting the end of life.

A huge imposing gate called “Tilon-ki-Pol” marks the entrance to Gadisagar Lake. There is interesting folklore about this gate. Tilon was the king’s favorite royal concubine. She wanted to build something in her name so that people would remember her. Hence she started building a huge gate – with the intention of naming it after herself. Unaware of her intentions, the king thought the gate was meant to be a surprise gift for him !  On completion, Tilon put her name on the gate – making the king furious. His ministers hinted that passing through the gate was akin to passing through the legs of  the eponymous concubine !! An impossible insult – cried the ministers and advised the king to demolish the gate. Tilon foresaw this contingency and installed a small statue of Lord Vishnu on top of the gate. This brilliant move ensured that the king would never destroy the gate – now the residence of a god ! Even today, the royal families do not pass through Tilon-ki-pol but go around it !

Today, the lake is full of catfish. Earlier, there were several incidents of drowning every year in the lake. Despite the government warnings, the young kids continued to visit and swim in the lake. To discourage this, the government bred and populated the lake with catfish. Though harmless to humans, catfish are large fish with whiskers. They scared the kids away and the drowning incidents declined sharply !

At one point in time, the lake was the major source of water supply to the entire Jaisalmer town. Today, the lake is a tourist attraction, in addition to being a water body for the local population. It is said that the lake is illuminated during the annual Gangaur Festival – a celebration of  spring, harvest and marital fidelity. I came away from Gadi Sagar lake with clever and interesting stories !

Copyright ©2017, Lakshmi Nair. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.

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