Located just 400m to the north of Jaisalmer fort and palace, Patwon Ki Haveli is a complex of five separate havelis owned by five brothers, and was the first haveli to be constructed in Jaisalmer.
This remarkable piece of architecture was commissioned by Guman Chand Patwa in 1806, a very rich trader who wanted to build five havelis for his five sons. It look over 50 years to complete, and so Guman Chand Patwa’s wish was not actually realised within his lifetime.
The Haveli has 60 wonderful jharokhas (balconies) in a mix of Indian and Persian styles of architecture. Havelis like this are a good representation of the affluent living standards of the merchants of Jaisalmer.
As for going inside the Haveli, you actually have two choices out of the five – but confusingly they both seem to have the same name. If you look at TripAdvisor reviews for Patwon Ki Haveli you will get the distinct impression that people are talking about two different places, and that’s because they are !
Government Managed Patwon Ki Haveli
As you stand looking at the frontage of the five havelis, the government run one is on the far left. To enter this one you need to purchase an entry ticket.
A walk around this haveli takes you through a series of rooms that have been reconstructed to give a sense of how this place looked at around 1900 – 1930. This is not just in the decor of the rooms, period furniture and other items have been used to suitably “dress” the rooms.
It’s an interesting place to wander about, more of a museum than anything else, although I found the lack of signs a little frustrating (although guides are available).
Privately Owned Patwon Ki Haveli
As you stand looking at the frontage of the five havelis, this one is to the right. There’s no sign, no entrance fee, just an open door ! If I hadn’t overheard a guide mention it to his customers, I would be completely oblivious to the fact that it’s somewhere the public can go.
And what a treat it is ! A treat for me at least, who prefers to see authentic interiors well maintained and preserved, rather than being overly reconstructed.
You’re free to roam around this haveli undisturbed by anyone. Almost all the rooms are empty aside from a couple of shops, but what has been left in terms of the room decoration is fascinating.
Unlike the first haveli, in this one there’s even a small private temple for the household to use.
The rooms spill off from five floors, again, with nothing to tell you their function or purpose (aside from the temple) – but I’m ok with that here.
It’s quite an eerie experience, you get the feeling the last occupants left decades ago and the rooms have been completely left alone since then.
So quite a contrast in the two havelis and how they’re presented. Built by the same family over 100 years ago, but now offering two different insights into what it was like to live in one of them.
I’d thoroughly recommend seeing both when you visit Jaisalmer, and in many respects I enjoyed the free (privately owned) haveli more than the government run museum.
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