Salam Singh Ki Haveli – A House of Luxury and Decadence

Day 19 (S) ~ #BlogchatterA2Z

All artwork is done by Seema Misra, Copyright Lonely Canopy.

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Once upon a time in Jaisalmer, the walls of Salam Singh’s haveli trembled with occurrences of cruelty. Women feared its shadow, and the curse it could bring upon them. A few miles away in the Thar Desert, Kuldhara village has similar stories of a curse and remains an abandoned place. Legend says that it remains deserted to this day because of the misdeeds of diwan Salam Singh.


Today, Salam Singh ki haveli stands tall outside Jaisalmer fort. The descendants of Salam Singh, no longer wealthy as their forefathers, live in a portion of the house. The rest of the haveli is converted into a shop and museum; a family member guides the visitor.

Like other architecture of Jaisalmer Fort, this haveli is made without any water or cement. It’s all an intricate geometry of interlocking rocks and connecting iron rods. Thirty-eight graceful, carved jharokhas adorn this house – each with elaborate sandstone hangings (kanguras). What magic did the craftsman wield and what did he sacrifice to create these marvels! With an ornate, heavily decorated top floor and narrower base it gives the appearance of a stately ship. Some say it was inspired by a dancing peacock.

Narrow and low doors, for improved security
Uneven staircases that will trip robbers and spies
The haveli has an assortment of locks, keys, lamps with an interesting mechanism. This is a scorpion lock.

Moti Mahal, the most famous room in the haveli, is a tiny dancing hall on the top floor. It was decorated with colored Belgian mirrors on the walls and delicate pearl-laid floral pattern on the roof. The room has a small bathtub, where water would flow in and out through a hand-operated pump to keep the space cool.

The Roof of Moti Mahal
An ancient air conditioning system

Salam Singh’s room is a study in opulence with blue Iranian tile decorations. This room also has a miniature portrait of him near the entrance. At the tender age of 11, Salam Singh witnessed his father being beheaded in the palace due to some political conspiracies. Early exposure to such cruelty is said to have turned him into a sadist. A burning desire to rule the sonar kila compelled him to make his haveli higher than the king’s palace. Some say he succeeded in doing this, but the king ordered him to demolish two floors of his house.

Locals say that his cruelty knew no bounds and he often victimized women. Once, he saw a Paliwal brahman’s daughter and wanted to marry her. However, the family declined his proposal. This angered him and he started mistreating and troubling his subjects at every opportunity.

Paliwal brahmans, who had settled in Jaisalmer and were quite powerful in the locality, were frustrated with his atrocities. Overnight, they left the Kuldhara village. While leaving, they cursed the village, that it would never be inhabited again.

As I walked through the haveli, I heard the guide mention that whoever came into this haveli was enchanted and never wanted to leave. It’s easy to imagine how grand this house would have been in its heyday. Without any historical proof, its difficult to figure out what Salam Singh really was as a person- a lover, a warrior, a statesman, a connoisseur of all the finer things in life or a cruel oppressor…Guess we will never really know.

50 thoughts on “Salam Singh Ki Haveli – A House of Luxury and Decadence

    1. Thanks, Arti. I can understand that – as a book lover I have always preferred the book to the movie adaptation ☺️

      I like travel sketches as it’s a personal interpretation of a place …

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hey Seema. Int story. And art is special as usual. Loved the elephant and staircase paintings.
    When I went to Hampi I was told that the structures there were also built without cement- rocks just strategically placed. And today the Archaeological Society numbers the rocks before and restoration probably because they know they won’t be able to recreate!

    Best of luck for the last leg of this challenge Seema!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Ashwini. Yes, Hampi also has this inter locking locks system. In India, there are so many ancient wonders of architecture. I love the TV series Sanrachna for showcasing these places ☺️

      Glad you liked the artwork 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow the construction system sounds terrific and I marvel at our ancestors for their rich knowledge of every kind of craft. Whereas look at our computer generation; so dependant on technology! Gorgeous illustrations Seema.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks Seema, this is an interesting story! Made more alive by your paintings and sketches. The scorpion lock and steep stairs make my imagination go into full gear. Lovely to see Ganesh at the top. Maybe not Ganesh herself but one of her helpers. Thank you – much enjoyed!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Really happy you enjoyed this article. Yes, that’s probably a royal elephant … all are indeed helpers of Ganesha 🙂

      Given you stories, I guess your imagination will add another layer of story to such places 🙂
      Thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Seema,

    A place such as this as described & illustrated by you intrigues me to explore such places. The staircase and scorpion lock is the most interesting design elements of this place. The cruelty of past kings and leaders make me sad and wonder why a person would choose to be unkind to anyone. Surely, these individuals wouldn’t wish the same fate on his/herself. Thank for visiting on Saturday. Have a good week!

    ~Curious as a Cathy
    A2Z iPad Art Sketch ‘S’ Splash time for baby

    Liked by 1 person

    1. These are just some of the things I was able to capture. Many such curios in those old houses.
      I’m sure there would be a severe lack of empathy in such people. And maybe they delude themselves.

      Really nice of you to see check out my posts.


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