Our first afternoon in Jaisalmer was spent walking through some of the lanes of the town. Many delightful vignettes presented themselves, although one had to step carefully to avoid the many deposits made by cows.
When it became clear that some of the group was interested in shopping for the silver for which Jaisalmer is known, we went to the home and shop of one of the town’s silver smithing families. The head of the family sat outside the door and allowed us to enter where we took off our shoes (just like at a temple) and then went into the basement where the goodies were kept.
After we sat down on low chairs that surrounded a large, covered mattress sort of thing, the young men of the family began dumping heaps of things on the mattress: Anklets, bracelets, pendants, earrings, whatever you could imagine they had made in every possible variation. Most of what we looked at was silver but they could also offer gold. They also had pieces set with precious and semi-precious stones.
We spent quite a bit of time there and, in all probability, quite a bit of cash.
One of the intersting traditions unique to Jaisalmer is the way that weddings are announced. When someone is to be married, a Ganesha is painted on the outside of the house with the date of the wedding and the names of the bride and groom. If it is the bride’s house, her name appears first; if it is the groom’s, his name will have top billing. These signs remain until the next marriage in the house or until they fade away. In days gone by, these notices served as invitations to the wedding. But as the town grew and more and more people began to live there, the paintings became announcements instead of open ended invitations to anyone who might happen to see them.