National Geographic : 1965 Jan
Wanderer in desolation, a sacred cow walks empty Jaisalmer streets lined with crumbling mansions, known as havelis. Stone latticework of the balconies offers privacy while allowing breezes to blow through rooms beyond. Moslem masons carved some of the balconies from single blocks of locally quarried yellow stone. Rich merchants built the houses in the 19th century when Jaisalmer was a way station of 35,000 inhabitants on the cara van trail. Bypassed by the construction of a railroad 90 miles away and sidelined by the partition of the Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan, Jaisalmer today shelters only 8,000. Some deposed maharajas turn their palaces into hotels, some enter govern ment service, some retire to Europe. The Maharawal of Jaisalmer, who served after partition in the Indian Parliament, works to preserve the havelis for their historic and architectural value. Family jewels embellish the bride's 15 year-old brother, Maharaj Chandravir Singh. Emeralds and pearls form peacock designs on his turban. Royal sword once worshiped as a protector-recalls the powerful Rajput oath, "By this weal) on." Tilak or red streak on his forehead in dicates participation in a Hindu ceremony. "Remover of Obstacles," the elephant-headed God of Success, Lord Ganesa, arrives. A young girl carries the clay image, here flanked by figures of a horse and elephant. Pious Hindus invoke this deity's name at the beginning of business and religious functions. Orange-turbaned priest will install the god at the bride's first worship ceremony. To provide additional insurance for marital success, astrol ogers months earlier chose the most favorable moment for each event in the nuptials.