An important place in the southwestern region of Rajasthan, Jaisalmer has a fascinating history to relate. Much of the history of the place revolves around the deeds and feats of the powerful Rajput clan. The Maharawals of this city trace back their lineage to the Bhatti tribe of Punjab who were evicted from their land and had to take refuge in the southern part of Rajasthan. However, things continued to be difficult for them as they were constantly at loggerheads with the influential Rathore. With their constant tussle with Rathore clan, the Maharawals of Jaisalmer realized that defeat was inevitable and gained the help of the British by signing a peace treaty in 1818 to settle the matter. During British India, Jaisalmer experienced severe drought and famine and remained underdeveloped as compared to other parts of the state. During India's freedom struggle, the barren lands of Jaisalmer surprisingly proved to be a strategic army location. To know more about the interesting details of the history of Jaisalmer, scroll down.
Ancient Descendents Of The Maharawals
In the 9th century, a prince named Deoraj of the Bhatti community and the future founder of the city, was honored with the title of 'rawal' meaning 'of the royal house'. He was said to be engaged to the adjoining chief's daughter. However, the ceremony failed to take place as his family and followers were slaughtered. Deoraj escaped with a few of his followers and recovered from his tragic loss by constructing the Derawar, and later went on to capture Laudrava, situated a few kilometers away from Jaisalmer. This in turn became the capital of the Bhatti Rajput clan. During this period, the desert land served as the economic hub for the tradesman from Central Asia, Persia, Egypt and Africa who survived on the income earned from camel caravan trade route. As the place was rightly located, it was considered an important economic post. Once the Rathor clan of Jodhpur and Bikaner understood its significance, they raided the place several times to capture the land.
Early Findings Of The City
In the beginning of the 12th century, Jaisal, the eldest son of Rawal of Deoraj, lost the throne of Laudrava to his younger half brother. Jaisal was furious and decided to recapture the capital from his brother. He took the assistance of a Muslim ruler and regained the throne. However, in this process, much of the city was destroyed. Legend has it that Jaisal, while touring around his capital, chanced upon a sage named Eesul who told him about the predictions of Lord Krishna and how a descendent of the Yaduvanshi clan would build his kingdom over here. He also went on to show the spring water created and the divine predictions engraved on the rock by Lord Krishna. After Jaisal's interaction with the wise man, he decided to move his capital to this area by building the famous Jaisalmer Fort that was named after him.
In the medieval period, prophesies of the sage came true. The first 'Sako' took place in 1294, when the Rawals agreed to pay an annual homage to Delhi Sultan, Alauddin Khilji. However, instead of paying the tribute, the Bhattis irked the Sultan by running a treasure caravan on 3000 horsebacks. The fuming Delhi Sultan sent his forces to capture the Jaisalmer Fort. Rawal Jethsi, the then leader of Jaisalmer, died during the blockade, leaving children, aged people and the sick along with a few armed men to defend the outside walls of the fort. After the death of the Rawal Jethsi, his son Mulraj II succeeded him. By the end of 1294, Mulraj II had exhausted his ammunition and food grains, which left him with little choice but to perform 'jauhar'. In the first' jauhar', more than 24,000 women were killed while the men were slaughtered by the enemy's sword. The second jauhar took place in the 14th century when one of the prince of Jaisalmer attacked a camp of Sultan Ferozshah near Ajmer. The prince was believed to have stolen Sultan's most valuable steed. An outraged Sultan raided Jaisalmer, which in turn led to the death of 16000 women along with the Rawal and his son. The half Sako took place again in the 16th century when Amir Ali, an Afghan leader, requested Rawal Lunakaran to arrange for a meeting between his wives and the queens. The palanquins did not have the Afghans ruler's wives but armed soldiers. The astounded guards of the fort were unprepared for the attack, while Rawal Lunakaran massacred the entire womenfolk. Most of the men were saved as the Rawal received help in defeating Amir Ali.
Jaisalmer Under The Muslim Rule
During the invasion of the Mughal Empire, Jaisalmer did not see much of political unrest in this region except for the battle that took place between Rawal Lunakaran and Humayan. The close relationship that existed between the Maharajas of Jaisalmer and the Mughal leaders began with Rawal Bhim Singh who formed a peace treaty when he gave his daughters in marriage to Prince Salim. The relationship between the Bhatti Rajput and the Muslim rulers only improved when Rawal Sahal Singh supported Shah Jahan in his Peshawar campaigns, which in turn lead to the growth of the caravan trade in this region. Sahal Singh was also able to build his fort and extend his territory, bringing in overall prosperity in this region, despite variance with the Rathors.
During the English rule in the continent, Maharawal Mulraj, who was the chieftain then, signed a treaty with the British in the year 1818 to protect them from invasion and also permit royal succession. In the year 1829, the Maharawal's of Jaisalmer had to seek out the aid of the British forces in order to end the decade long battle with the Rathors of Bikaner. A few years later, the Maharawal's heirs also witnessed a personal quarrel with Swarup Singh Mehta, who was the prime minster of the kingdom. He was later beheaded by the king. Meanwhile, his son Salim Singh swore to seek revenge from the members of the royal family. The matter resolved with the death of Salim Singh and fortunately did not require the intervention of the British. During the peak of the foreign rule in India, Bombay emerged as an important seaport in India affecting the trade routes in this district. This in turn led to famine, drought and poverty among the inhabitants of the desert land. Despite of Maharawal Jawahir Singh constant attempts to modernize the place, Jaisalmer failed to improve its economic condition.
After 1947, the city became a part of Rajasthan. During partition, all trade paths leading to India and Pakistan were closed as the region was considered to be highly sensitive. In turn, Jaisalmer became a strategic location for setting up a military base camp. The construction of paved roads in 1958 and the establishment of the railways in 1968 not only connected this isolated city to the rest of India, but also saw a growth and development in the tourism industry. Jaisalmer is still administered under the Government of India that has provided several welfare activities in the district to revive its economy and the livelihood of the people.