Jan 162015

There are many last roads in India, leading towards the International Borders, through the mountain passes, through the forests, through the plains and also through the deserts. This road was leading to the International Border of India and Pakistan, through a desert, The Great Desert of Thar. From the beginning of this motorcycle journey, I was waiting for that ride from Jaisalmer to Tanot and further to the international border. Tanot is not a typical tourist destination, not even known by many tourists. It is a true offbeat destination to cherish a lifetime memory.

On The Way to Longewala

On The Way to Longewala

Jaisalmer to Ramgarh, 65 kms.: Tanot is about 120 kms from the Golden City of Jaisalmer. I started from Jaisalmer around 0800 hours in the morning and hit the road going to Ramgarh, the last big town on the way to Tanot. Due to the monsoon season, there was no sign of desert’s heat, rather the weather is very pleasant. There was a heavy rain in the previous night, so lot of water rapids were flowing across the road. The road passes through the windmill farms with huge windmills are installed on both side of the roads covering miles of area. The whole area is dotted with those windmills.

A Windwill near Jaisalmer

A Windwill near Jaisalmer

Except the series of windmills, nothing exciting is there till the journey to Ramgarh, that is about 65 kms away from Jaisalmer. Ramgarh is the last major town on this route, spotted from the miles away because of its 300-meters ultra high TV Tower. It was about 0915 hours, so I enquired with the locals about the BSF Battalion Office, from where I could arrange a permit to visit the border post BP 609. BSF office is about 1 km away from the main market of Ramgarh. The BSF personnel at the entry gate told me that the permit is issued at Tanot only. So, there was no point to get it approved from Ramgarh.

I returned back towards the main market. A gentleman appeared from the market and waved his hands to stop. I stopped and he started asking questions about me, my background, my residence, my travel plan for the day etc. He wanted to see a photo identification document. I asked about him and he told that he works for Intelligence Bureau. Since, its a sensitive border area, he randomly keep eyes on the outsiders. He took the photo copy of my driving license and allowed me to move further. I asked him about the permit for BP 609, and he confirmed that I would get that in Tanot without any hassle.

Ramgarh to Tanot, 53 kms: The road after Ramgarh is a pure delight. I was actually cruising though the Great Desert of Thar. But, it was not like what I thought about the deserts. In my imagination, I always thought that there would be vast barren stretches covered with sand and sand dunes, but in reality, that road is passing through the landscape filled with thorny shrubs and occasionally with tiny isolated hamlets. In the monsoon season, there were lot of green bushes peeking out from the vast yellow land of sand. There are no turns, no meandering on the roads like hilly terrains. The BRO team made a straight road with lots of up and down on the sand dunes. So, I was continuously moving upwards and then downwards on the road. It was like a roller-coaster ride.

A Remote Hamlet En-route to Longewala

A Remote Hamlet En-route to Longewala

Soon, the drizzle started. I was fully prepared for the rain in that monsoon ride, so there was no need to stop. At one place, I moved upwards on the sand dunes and when I reached to the top, there was a very beautiful view downwards on the other side. A small hamlet was situated in the middle of nowhere. It was an awesome view. I wanted to click, but couldn’t reach to my camera because of the rain. That small hamlet is known as Ranau. There is a military camp and some buildings along the road near Ranau. It was raining heavily by then, so I stopped there in a building for about an hour. After the rain, I moved further, and again after riding through a beautiful desert, green bushes and occasionally appeared humans, reached Tanot at 1130 hours.

Raining Heavily

Raining Heavily

Tanot Village: Tanot is a small village with a population of about 300 people. It is the last point on that road where an Indian citizen can go without any permit. International Border Pillar, BP 609,is about 15 kms from Tanot and a permit is required from BSF to visit that post. I parked the bike outside the temple complex, and approached to a sentinel, who was maintaining a register of all vehicular movement beyond Tanot towards the border. He also maintained a register for the outsider, who arrived there to visit the temple. I asked him about the permit for BP 609. He informed that nobody was allowed to go there due to some recent issues. It was a big disappointment. But, first I wanted to visit the Tanot Temple, so I went inside the temple premises after making an entry in the visitor’s register.

Tanot Mata Temple: Locals always had a great respect for Tanot Mata, who is considered as the incarnation of Goddess Hinglaj. Original Shaktipeeth of Goddess Hinglaj is situated in the Baluchistan province of Pakistan.This small temple was not famous outside the local community until 1965. During the India-Pakistan War of 1965, army personnel observed the miracles of Mata Tanot and then, this temple became a centre of special reverence for armed forces.

Tanot Mata Temple Complex

Tanot Mata Temple Complex

In 1965, during the war, Pakistani army captured Kishangarh and Sadewala and attacked Tanot from three sides. Tanot was a strategic point to move towards Jaisalmer. They fired at least three thousands bomb shells, at least 450 shells were fired on the temple. All of 450 shells neither hit their targets nor exploded. In the middle of that war zone, the temple stood tall without any damage. Assuming that Mata Tanot is with them, Indian soldiers fought bravely and forced the enemies to flee from their territory.

Unexploded Shells at Tanot

Unexploded Shells at Tanot

After that 1965 war, BSF established a security post at Tanot and decided to rebuild a grand temple. The present day temple is thus erected by the BSF and became a sacred hotspot of the entire region.

Again in the war of 1971, a small company of Indian Army fought a fierce battle with the extra large troop of Pakistan in the battlefield of Longewala. The battlefield of Longewala became a graveyard of Pakistani Tanks and other vehicles. It was one of the greatest strategic defeat of Pakistani Army in that war. Again, the blessings of Mata Tanot was there with the Indian soldiers and it increases the importance of her temple.

The temple is administered by a BSF trust. BSF jawans also performed all the rituals including the morning and evening aartis at the temple. Some of unexploded Pakistani shells and bombs are there on display inside the temple. A Pir Baba’s Majar is also there in the same premises, making it a great symbol of unity and peace.

Pir Baba's Majar (Shrine) in Tanot Mata Temple Complex

Pir Baba’s Majar (Shrine) in Tanot Mata Temple Complex

A victory pillar, known as Tanot Vijay Stambha was erected at the main entrance of the temple in the memory of the great soldiers of the battle of Longewala. Every year, Vijay Diwas (Victory Day) is being celebrated here on Dec.16. During the Chaitra and Ashwin month of Navratri, a large number of devotees flock to this temple to seek the blessings of Mata Tanot.

Tanot Victory Pillar

Tanot Victory Pillar

After the prayers at Tanot Temple, I again returned to the same sentinel, to arrange the permit for BP 609. He advised me to consult with the sahib (higher official), who were authorised to issue such permit. I went to a nearby building, marked as Tanot Mata Trust. There is a big hall on the ground floor of the building, that serves as a dharamshala for the visitors. Anybody can stay there in the night. Blankets/Quilts are also provided by the BSF in the night. There were some single rooms in the building, many of them are in used by BSF.

I met the BSF officer and asked about the permit, but he also refused politely due to some media presence in the temple complex. The BSF people talked nicely, but were very firmed in their decisions. He also said that if I could arrange a phone call from higher authorities ( from any armed forces) in Jodhpur, then only they could allowed me. He also told that there is nothing great to see there. Landscape is just similar as was in Tanot, with a fence and a border pillar. He also said that there is nobody across the border in Pakistan side, only indian side is manned. He said when you reached there, our people had to keep an eye on you, it would be an extra burden for them also. When I asked, why there was nobody on Pakistani side, he told that the thieves don’t required any security.

I thanked him and went to the nearby canteen to eat some lunch. The canteen is beautifully managed and a great relief in that desert. After lunch, I decided to move towards Longewala, the famous battlefield of 1971 India-Pakistan War. No permit is required to visit Longewala.

Public Transoport to reach Tanot: Apart from private vehicles and hired cabs, you can also reach Tanot by a public bus. A government bus of Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation operates daily between Jodhpur and Tanot via Pokhran, Jaisalmer. It starts daily from Jodhpur at 1000 hours and reach Tanot in the evening at 1830 hours. Similarly, from Tanot it starts at 0700 hours in the morning. Many public buses, private and government-owned, operate between Ramgah and Jaisalmer on hourly bass in the daytime, but after Ramgarh, only hitch-hiking or hired vehicles vehicles are available. If you wish to hire a vehicle, its always better to hire from Jaisalmer only.

Note: Ghantiyali Mata Temple is another famous temple in the region, approx. 6 kms before Tanot.There are some partially broken idols of the goddess, those were broken by the Pakistani Soldiers in the war of 1965. I was not aware about the temple, so I did not go there.

The Great Desert of Thar

The Great Desert of Thar

Tanot to Longewala, 38 kms: I enjoyed Tanot-Longewala road more than the roads between Ramgarh-Tanot and later, Longewala-Ramgarh. There was no sign of rain on that stretch. The road passes through a pure desert, with beautiful sand dunes, desert animals and occasionally appeared small sleepy hamlets. The entire road runs parallel to the border, approximately at the distance of 20 kms. At one place in the wilderness of that desert I spotted a group of deer, but don’t know whether they were Chinkara or Chetal.

May be Chinkara ?

May be Chinkara ?

Sand Dunes on the road to Longewala

Sand Dunes on the road to Longewala

The Official Transport of The Desert

The Official Transport of The Desert

Longewala: In one hour, I was at Longewala. The BSF bunkers are the only human settlements there. It was the famous battleground of 1971 war, that became a graveyard of Pakistani Tanks, other vehicles and supported machineries. At least 37 Pakistani tanks and 138 vehicles/machinery were destroyed or abandoned in the battle. A T-59 tank, hit by an Indian RCL gun at the same spot, is still there on display with some other vehicles lying around in the sand.

Pakistani Tank on Display

Destroyed Pakistani Tank on Display

There is also a border pillar displayed in a small park on the main road roundabout. When I asked to a BSF soldier on duty, he informed that while marching in to the Indian territory, Pakistani Army also brought the original Border Pillar BP 638 with them. That pillar is on display now, but I think it is not the original pillar, but a memorial built in the honour of 13 Kumaon Regiment, 168 field Regiment and 23 Punjab Regiment after the Battle of Longewala.

Border Pillar brought by Pakistani Army

Memorial of 13 Kumaon and 23 Punjab Regiment

There is also a newly built memorial in the honour of soldiers martyred in the Operation Cactus Lily of December, 1971 and Operation Parakram of Year 2001-2002.

Public Transport to Reach Longewala: No public transport is available for Longewala after Ramgarh.

Longewala to Ramgarh and then to Bada Bagh, 118 kms: After making an entry in the visitor’s register at the BSF checkpost (that is mandatory for every vehicle plying in this road), I moved towards Ramgarh. The road was under construction for few kilometres on that stretch. It was again raining heavily about 15 kms prior to Ramgarh, but I kept moving as I was fully covered with rain suits and the bag were safe with poly cover. Moving further from Ramgarh, I reached Bada Bagh in Jaisalmer around 1600 hours in the evening.

Bada Bagh: It is famous for the royal cenotaphs or chattris belonging to the rulers of Jaisalmer state. The royal cenotaphs were built in Rajput and Mughal style with intricate carvings. Each cenotaph contains a small stone slab, that contains the image of that particular king on a horse. Some cenotaphs also have a statue of the queen with the king to indicate that the queen also became a sati (immolated herself on the husband’s funeral pyre) after the death of her husband.

Bada Bagh: The Royal Cenotaphs near Jaisalmer

Bada Bagh: The Royal Cenotaphs near Jaisalmer

About 7 kms from Jaisalmer city, in the middle of a wide open un-inhabited land near a man-made water pond, it is a very peaceful place to spend some time. To enjoy the most of its beauty, visit Bada Bagh in the evening. Hundreds of surrounding windmills make a perfect picture during the sunset.

Public Transport for Bada Bagh: Bada Bagh is about 7 kms from Jaisalmer at Ramgarh Road. Many public buses, private and government-owned, operate between Jaisalmer and Ramgarh on hourly bass in the daytime. Board any bus from the bus stand in Jaisalmer and leave that on the intersection of the road leading to Bada Bagh. Bada Bagh is about one kilometre from the main road. Apart from the buses, hiring an auto-rickshaw (tuk-tuk) is also an option from Jaisalmer.

Bada Bagh Timings: Daily from 0800 hours in the morning to 1800 hours in the evening

Bada Bagh Ticket Prices: INR 50 per person for Indian citizens. A separate ticket of INR 25 is required for Digital Still Camera.

After visiting Bada Bagh, I returned back to Jaisalmer. It was a wonderful ride for the day. The journey, the ride, the desert view, scenic beauty, isolated hamlets, BSF camps in remote areas..everything was just breathtaking. It was also the end of my originally planned trip, but I still had 3 days of leaves left. Therefore, instead of returning back to Delhi, I decided to keep moving towards Jodhpur and further to Ajmer, Pushkar and Bhangarh.

  40 Responses to “Western Rajasthan Motorcycle Journey 2: Tanot Mata Temple and Longewala”

  1. a great trip u had buddy I can only imagine though I am goin to ride ther soon. am an Indian Army lover and tannot is my next wish , hope to make it with lots reference from yor write up . thanks buddy for your great write up.

  2. Hey. Very nice post. Is there any local transport like bus is available from Jaisalmer to Tanot Mata Temple?


  3. My very close friend serves in The Indian Army in the infantry department and keeps going back to Loungeywala time and again. I just knew the name of the place and this post has told me a whole lot of new information. I could connect to every word written here as I get pretty much the same information from my friend. You have earned a reader today. A great post indeed.

  4. Hello and thank you for this nice report. The road looks very good on these photos. Is it mostly the case ? If so, I may consider a cycling trip there with my road bicyle (made of carbon, hard saddle and thin tyres, thus my question on the road quality !).Is the road until Tanot opened to foreigners ? Thanks.

    • Hi, the road is really good upto Tanot. No problem at all. Cycling on that road is a wonderful idea. No permission is required to go upto Tanot for foreigners also. But, you may stop by security personnel for random questioning, since it is very close to the border area. Beyond Tanot, you can’t go without a permit from BSF officials.

    • Hi, I was checking the Protected Area Permit (PAP) requirement for the foreigners and it seems that you need a protected area permit to move beyond Jaisalmer towards Tanot as per the existing requirements.

      • Thanks for your reply ! I’ll check out this, but I will eventually go in October since it is soon going to be very hot for cyling !

  5. Hii.. We are going to Jaisalmer next week and we were thinking to hire a cab for our one day trip to Tanot from Jaisalmer but after reading your blog, I am more interested in doing it a bike ride.. Can we hire a bike in Jaisalmer , the way its available in Goa for one day trip ??

  6. Hello. Really nicely described.

    Is there a petrol pump on the entire route ? Since the total distance is almost 400 kms, what are the options to refill petrol ?

  7. Very informative article. Thanks for sharing your trip & photographs.
    Is it safe to travel after evening Aarti at Tanot Mata Mandir to return to Jaisalmer?
    Planning a trip in 1st week of March’16.

    Do you also have any such information about Leh/Ladakh?

    • Yes, it’s perfectly safe to travel on that road. Indian army has a prominent presence in the entire region, so there is nothing to worry about. Road traffic is also less. Do you need any specific information about Leh/Ladakh? I am trying to share my experiences form the Leh trip on this blog.

  8. Thanks for your details.. it really helps.


  10. Good Write-up mixed with superb photography.
    Thanks for sharing this info.
    Planning to visit Tanot and Longewala in coming week based on your description only.
    Hope I am going to enjoy it like all others.

  11. Thank You so much for the very well written article & beautiful Photographs…… Love it.
    I will definitely visit Tanot Mata Temple.
    Thanks once again.
    Jai Tanot Ma 🙂

  12. hai
    first of all hats off for selecting such a name..solobackpacker.
    i recently visited rajasthan and went to Tanot,i also didnt get the opportunity to visit border still it was a memorable experience..when i read ur blog i felt to be there once again. your writing is so graphic …go on ..all the best..one more thing i went to Gantyali temple where the goddess is considered to be the younger sister of Tanot Mata

  13. Hi, just the information i needed for my trip to Tanot and Longewala next month. Could you still suggest any way to travel from Tanot to Longewala (don’t have a personal vehicle).

  14. Awsome information. I am planning a bike ride (Mumbai to Longewala via Pali, Jodhpur, Bikaner & Jaisalmer) in Nov/ Dec. This information really helps. Thanks again. Ride long…..ride safe

  15. Love the desert! Interesting trip!

  16. superb coverage

  17. Bhai Sahib Namaskar! Sirf do words aapke article ke Liye “BAHUT KHUB”

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