Sand Dunes in Khuri- Jaisalmer, Rajasthan


 (sanjay austa austa)

Sunset at Khuri , Jaisalmer, Rajasthan

(click on photos to go to gallery)

In 2007 I went on an assignment to Jodhpur, I however travelled further to Jaisalmer to see my first desert. My two day stay in Khuri village was unplanned but something that I cherish. (Published in Deccan Herald 2010)

When I reach Jaisalmer the first thing I do is crane my neck looking for the sand
dunes in the horizons. I think that’s the first instinct we have whenever we reach a
place known for something. I guess it would be the first thing one would do in Agra
too – scour the skyline for the Taj Mahal or in Khajuraho- look for the temples. But
I see nothing. Not even when I crisscross the entire Jaisalmer town in a cab looking
for a hotel. All I see are pale golden colored houses, monuments, havelis and more
houses. Where are the dunes?

There are of course not in Jaisalmer town contrary to my visions of dunes and
camels in each backyard here. The dunes are 45 kilometers from Jaisalmer towards
the Pakistan border. Jaisalmer itself is exotic enough and the smell and feel of the
desert emanates from every street. If you have made the traditional touristy circuit
like I did- arriving first in the capital Jaipur then Jodhpur and now Jaisalmer, you
will see the colour palate of cities shifting dramatically from pink to blue to golden.

In Jaisalmer the golden comes from the yellow sandstone found here and used in
the construction. The twelfth century Jaisalmer Fort that sits overlooking the city is
made entirely of this stone and because of the golden hues it emits , it is popularly
called the Golden Fort. It is a perhaps the only major fort in the world with a living
population. 25percent of Jaisalmer’s population reside within this fort built in 1156
by the Rajput ruler Jaisala. The human pressures on the fort are evident and the
fort continues to crumble in small portions each year. The drains are clogged or
uncovered, there are hotels and restaurants inside the fort, there are temples and
priests, not to mention a sizable population of cows and dogs.

I try and be a conscientious traveler and follow my Lonely Planet which implores
tourists to refrain from staying in hotels built in the fort . Those who choose to stay
here cant be blamed. One gets great views of the Jaisalmer from up here including
the shimmering dunes in the far distance.

 (sanjay austa austa)

A potter in Khuri village with his earthen pots.

It takes less than an hour to reach the dunes from Jaisalmer. But I am headed to
Khuri Village –an outpost to the dunes where I intend to stay for a few days and
wallow in the glow of the desert before I rush back to the cities. Sam is another
village where one can stay and enjoy excursions to the beautiful sand dunes but its
heavily commercialized. I choose Khuri village and am rewarded with tranquility,
authentic Rajasthani culture and way of life.

But what makes this possible is Mr Badal and his Badal House in Khuri. Badal
House is a homestay –a cluster of five hutments that serve as rooms- and is a must
visit for anyone who wants a real sampling of desert life. And it comes unbelievably cheap.

You get a room here for 250 rupees including meals. The rooms are basic

with a cot, a fan and an attached toilet. But the meals are elaborate by village

standards and if you are not ready- very spicy. Badal’s wife covered demurely in
ghunghat like all the Rajput women, makes the meals . You wont see her on the
streets or fetching water from the village well like the other women, she being a
Rajput and all. “The women you see at the well fetching watcher are not Rajput
women. In Rajput households women don’t do any outside work’’. Mr Badal informs

He is himself however reasonably liberal and hates to wear the Rajasthani turban
as he says it makes his head go hot. Mr Badal has steered away from commercialism
and works with no tourist company or tout. His nephew Badal, a camel man is his
only assistant and tourist guide. Mr Badal arranges desert safaris in the dunes on
his camel for the tourists.

The camel safari to the dunes is great not so much because of where we are headed
but what one passes along the way. Sitting high on the camel back I am witness
to the medieval theatre of ancient desert rituals. Women in colorful ghagharas
and cholis, arms covers in bangles, walking back from the well balancing pots of
water on their head. Further beyond there are shepherd with their folk and still
further the camel pond where all the camel men gather to exchange gossip while
their camels tank up. Somewhere in the shrubs one can see fleeting glimpse of the

I am finally glad to dismount the camel and sink my feet into the desert sand. I think
camel rides are highly uncomfortable for journeys upwards of one kilometers. But
before I can savour the wavering expanse of the dunes I am accosted by a Kalbalia
dancer- who insists I watch her dance instead and pay her. Ignoring doesn’t help
much as one is followed around till you give up.

I can see lots of tourists riding on the camels but I choose to walk . Camel rides take
you further deep into the desert but you can do it on foot though you wont of course
be as sure footed as the camels. The sun is setting and this is the time when all
tourists take out their camera and shoot each other. But as soon the sun goes down
a storm whips up as if on cue. The camel men and the camels remain dignified in the
storm. The rest of us run, scream, scamper and fall down the dunes making a mess
of ourselves. But the storm begins to ebb the closer we got to the highway.

Traveling on the train back to Delhi a few days later, I can still feel the grains of
Khuri sand dunes grind inside my ears as I yawn and try to sleep.

How to get there:

If you are traveling from New Delhi one can fly in to Jaisalmer but the preferred
mode of transport is the train. The train goes via Jaipur and Jodhpur and one can

make stopovers in these two towns as well. Khuri Village is 45 kilometers from
Jaisalmer town and can be reached by a taxi in less than an hour.

 (sanjay austa austa)

A camel man in Khuri village , Rajasthan

5 Responses to “Sand Dunes in Khuri- Jaisalmer, Rajasthan”

  1. Abhijeet Kumar says:

    Can you share contact details of Mr Badal,
    I am planning to go there Sept end.


    • sanjay austa says:

      Abhijeet . Here is Mr Badals no- 03014-274120. However I went there almost 4 years ago. So you would have to check if the no is still the same. Good Luck and enjoy your trip.

  2. Dinesh jakhar says:

    Sir very good photoes

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