Bada Bagh: Jaisalmer’s Marvelous Garden of Cenotaphs | Queen of Thar

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The first impression when seeing Bada Bagh Jaisalmer Rajasthan for the first time is one of awe and wonder. The vast expanse of the desert landscape stretching out before you, with the imposing cenotaphs rising from the rocky terrain, creates a sense of grandeur and mystery. The intricate carvings and architectural details of the huge structure leave a lasting impact, as do the stories and history behind each monument. The sheer scale and beauty of Bada Bagh (also known as Bara Bagh) leave visitors feeling humbled by the ancient craftsmanship and the enduring legacy of those who came before.

There is contradictory information about the history of Bada Bagh Jaisalmer Rajasthan. Some say there was a mango grove, some say a dam and water tank were built by the first Maharaja. Some say that Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur began greening the local region in the 18th century, irrigated by the water from a dam to create a beautiful garden, and Maharaja Jai Singh II’s son Lunkaran built a garden by the lake. None of this can be verified, however.

It is understood that, in the early 16th century, Maharawal Jait Singh built Bada Bagh atop a hillock not far from the golden city of Jaisalmer in memory of his father and those who ruled the kingdom before him.

Although there is no greenery in the way of a grand garden, a visit to the site and its visionary name spawns imaginings of a vast garden complex levitating the imperial chhatri cenotaphs atop a hill, befitting of the ancestors’ royal station.

Over the centuries, each successive ruler of Jaisalmer built a new cenotaph to honour their former rulers and subsequent authorities were to create a water tank named Jait Sar and the Jait Bandh dam. The last cenotaph intended for Maharawal Jawahir Singh remained unfinished since India’s independence in the 20th century, as his son passed away during its construction. Nevertheless, the golden stone cenotaphs continue to tower gloriously proud as an abandoned island in the vast arid ocean.

The English term “big garden” comes from the literal translation of the name “Bada Bagh” in Hindi. “Bada” means big or large and “Bagh” means garden. While it does not have a direct Sanskrit origin, the term is commonly used in India to refer to large gardens or parks. Therefore, known as a historical garden located near Jaisalmer, Bada Bagh is often referred to as the big garden due to its expansive and neatly-ordered layout.

The history of Bada Bagh Jaisalmer begins in the 16th century with Maharawal Jait Singh who built the first cenotaph during his reign as a memorial site on a hill for his ancestors. He chose this little rocky terrain, just 6 KM from Jaisalmer, as a beautiful and serene location for the nobility to relax and enjoy the natural surroundings with a view of the magnificent landscape.

The royal cenotaphs reflect the traditional Rajput styles of Rajasthan in India. The structures at Bada Bagh Jaisalmer are made of yellow sandstone from the desert adorned with beautiful carvings and intricate designs that reflect the Rajput aesthetic sensibilities.

These carvings often feature floral motifs, geometric patterns, and depictions of animals and deities. Chhatris, dome-shaped pavilions marked by grand pylons and arches, sit atop solid blocks of stone and are adorned with intricate carvings and frescoes.

As you explore Bada Bagh, you will see each royal cenotaph contains inscribed tablets with names, descriptions or images of the Maharaja or Maharani.

Some of the cenotaphs have equestrian statues representing the king with his queen standing nearby. The size of the Chhatris varies according to the person’s position within the royal family. Monumental sizes were for the kings and lesser sizes were constructed for the women.

A cenotaph is an empty tomb or a monument erected in honour of a person or group of people whose remains are elsewhere. The word “cenotaph” comes from the Greek words “kenos” (empty) and “taphos” (tomb). The golden cenotaphs of Jaisalmer, also known as Bada Bagh, were built to memorialise the Maharajas and their queens, princes and other royal family members. Situated about 6 KM from Jaisalmer city in Rajasthan, India, Bada Bagh is a complex of royal cenotaphs or chhatris constructed over several centuries.

Image: Shree Girdhar Singh Ji of Jaisalmer by Rohit Sonkiya, History of India

Maharawal Jait Singh (1497 – 1530) was a successor of Rawal Jaisal Singh who founded Jaisalmer in the 12th century. They belonged to the ancestry of the Bhatti dynasty whose colourful history traces long into the time-worn Thar Desert, principally Jaisalmer Rajasthan and parts of Bikaner and Jodhpur, a region once known as Bhatiana. 

The Bhattis (or Bhaatti) later became the Rajputs of India, who claim to be descendants of Lord Krishna. The Rajput Bhatti dynasty continued to rule, even under the British Raj where it retained its status as a princely state.

After his father Maharawal Jawahar Singh passed away, the last Maharawal (king) of the Rajputana kingdom, Girdhar Singh, ruled in Jaisalmer for just one year following India’s independence from Britain in 1947.

Scenic beauty: Bada Bagh is an historical tourist attraction offering stunning views of the surrounding desert landscape, making it a perfect place for relaxation and rejuvenation.

Historical significance: Bada Bagh is home to several historical cenotaphs or royal tombs memorialising Rajput rulers that date back to the 1500s. These intricately carved structures are a testament to the rich architectural and cultural heritage of Rajasthan.

Cultural experience: Visiting Bada Bagh allows you to immerse yourself in the local Rajasthani culture. You can explore the traditional architecture, artwork and craftsmanship that are showcased in the garden complex.

Photography opportunities: Bada Bagh is a photographer’s paradise, offering plenty of opportunities to capture the charm and beauty of the Rajasthani desert and intricate stonework. The stunning cenotaphs and panoramic desert views make for great photography subjects.

Peace and tranquillity: Whether you’re looking for a quiet place to meditate, relax or simply unwind from the hustle and bustle of city life, Bada Bagh provides a peaceful and tranquil retreat where you can connect with nature and soak in the beauty of Rajasthan.

Easy distance: Visit Bada Bagh within an hour, as it is only 6 KM from Jaisalmer, an easy tourist trek beyond the city for those with minimal time.

  1. Explore Bada Bagh’s cenotaphs (or chhatris), the royal memorials of the Maharajas of Jaisalmer.
  2. Visit Bada Bagh small temple, dedicated to Shiva to bless the monarchal ancestors.
  3. Enjoy the glorious setting sun: Bada Bagh offers stunning sunset views making it a great spot for photography, relaxation and romance.
  4. Pack your tiffin and enjoy a leisurely picnic overlooking the mesmerising golden complex and its surroundings as you envision the ghosts of bygone nobility.
  5. Keep an eye out for cultural events or performances showcasing local art and traditions that may be organised at Bada Bagh.
  6. Explore nearby attractions: Make sure you explore the enchantments of the golden city, listed below. Or travel further to visit Lodurva Jain temple and Kuldhara abandoned village.

Jaisalmer Fort is a massive fort located in the heart of Jaisalmer, built-in 1156 by Rajput ruler Rawal Jaisal. The fort stands on a hilltop overlooking the golden sands of Thar Desert. Jaisalmer Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Patwon Ki Haveli is a complex of five ornately decorated havelis (traditional Indian mansions built in the 19th century by wealthy merchants) located in the historic city of Jaisalmer. The Havelis are renowned for their architecture, featuring intricately carved sandstone facades and jali work (lattice screens), balconies and ornate doorways. 

Salim Singh Ki Haveli is a historic mansion located in the city of Jaisalmer built in the 17th century by Salim Singh, the prime minister of the kingdom of Jaisalmer at that time. The most notable of the features is the peacock-shaped roof that adorns the top of the building. 

Gadisar Lake is a man-made reservoir located in Jaisalmer city built in the 14th century by Maharaja Gadsi Singh to supply water to the city’s residents. It is surrounded by temples, shrines and ghats and is known for its beautiful, serene ambiance, making it a perfect spot for a leisurely boat ride or a peaceful stroll along the water’s edge. 

Amar Sagar is an artificial lake in Jaisalmer that served as a water reservoir from the 17th century. Mostly dry now, the lake is surrounded by an intricately carved pavilion and several small temples, giving it a serene and picturesque ambiance.

Desert Cultural Centre and Museum in Jaisalmer showcases the rich cultural heritage of the region, with exhibits on local arts, crafts, music, dance and traditions. Visitors can learn about the history and culture of the region through interactive displays, dioramas, artefacts and audio-visual presentations. 

Kuldhara Village in the Jaisalmer district is believed to have been established in the 13th century by the Paliwal Brahmins. Legend has it that the village, once thriving and prosperous, was abandoned overnight in the early 19th century under mysterious circumstances and has remained eerily deserted ever since.

Lodurva Jain temple is a famous temple located in the town of Lodurva in the Jaisalmer district of Rajasthan, India. The temple is believed to have been built in the 12th century in dedication to Lord Parsvanath, the 23rd Tirthankara of Jainism.

Akal Wood Fossil Park located in the Jaisalmer district of Rajasthan, India, offers a peek into the Earth’s prehistoric past. The park holds an extensive collection of fossilised wood belonging to a forest that existed during the Jurassic period when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

Sam Sand Dunes is a popular tourist destination located in Thar Desert around 43 KM from the city of Jaisalmer. The undulating dunes stretch as far as the eyes can see. Visitors can enjoy thrilling activities such as camel rides, jeep safaris and paragliding, and more serene activities like watching the sunset and stargazing. Many tourists also choose to experience a cultural program of traditional Rajasthani folk music and dance usually performed at desert camps, like Queen of Thar.

You can read more about the local relics of the region here.

Bada Bagh is just 6 KM northwest of Jaisalmer, located on Ramgarh Road, halfway between Jaisalmer and Lodurva Jain temple in Rajasthan.

You can easily reach Bada Bagh by taxi or auto-rickshaw. Taxis and rickshaws are ready and available at Jaisalmer Railway Station or can be organised by your hotel.

You can also rent a car or motorcycle and drive to Bada Bagh on your own. There are signs along the way that will guide you to the site.

A worthwhile and cost-saving alternative is to organise a visit to Bada Bagh as part of a Desert Tour that incorporates Bada Bagh, Kuldhara Village and other fascinating sites listed above. The Half Day Desert Tour offered by Queen of Thar Desert Camp takes you westerly along the highway toward Sam Sand Dunes.

Bada Bagh is a popular tourist attraction in Jaisalmer, offering visitors a glimpse into the rich history and architectural heritage of the region. The site is also known for its peaceful and serene atmosphere, making it a popular spot for locals and tourists alike to relax and enjoy the scenic surroundings. Today, Bada Bagh stands as a testament to the legacy of the rulers of Jaisalmer and the architectural prowess of the region.

If you are fascinated by the stunning Rajput architecture of Jaisalmer, its historical allure and the serenity and majesty of the desert, ask Queen of Thar Desert Camp to put together an itinerary. Queen of Thar can organise your taxi tour of the exquisite relics of the region, making your visit to Jaisalmer a truly remarkable and enchanted experience.