History of Jaisalmer

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Hindi: जैसलमेर


Location western Rajasthan
19th-century flag Jaisalmer Flag.svg
State established: 1156 AD
Language Rajasthani, Hindi, Sanskrit
Dynasties Bhati
Historical capitals Lahore, Lodhruva, Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer state (Hindi: जैसलमेर राज्य) (also called Jaisalmer Region) is a region of southwestern Rajasthan state in western India. It lies in the southern part of Thar Desert.

Region includes the present-day Jaisalmer District. It is bounded on the north by Jangladesh region, on the east by Marwar region.

Ancient Jaisalmer[edit]

The Maharajas of Jaisalmer trace their lineage back to Jaitsimha, a ruler of a yadav clan, though Deoraj, a famous prince of the Bhati clan during the 9th century. With him the title of "Rawal" commenced. "Rawal" means "of the Royal house". According to legend, Deoraj was to marry the daughter of a neighbouring chief. Deoraj's father and 800 of his family and followers were surprised and massacred at the wedding. Deoraj escaped with the aid of a Brahmin yogi who disguised the prince as a fellow Brahmin. When confronted by the rival chief's followers hunting for Deoraj, the Brahmin convinced them that the man with him was another Brahmin by eating from the same dish, something no Brahmin holy man would do with someone of another caste. Deoraj and his remaining clan members were able to recover from the loss of so many such that later he built the stronghold of Derawar.[1] Deoraj later captured Laudrava (located about 15 km to the south-east of Jaisalmer) from another yadav clan and made it his capital.[1]

The major opponents of the Bhati were the Rathor clans of Jodhpur and Bikaner. They used to fight battles for the possession of forts and waterholes as from early times the Jaisalmer region had been criss-crossed by camel caravan trade routes which connected northern India and central Asia with the ports of Gujarat on the Arabian Sea coast of India and hence on to Persia and Arabia and Egypt. Jaisalmer's location made it ideally located as a staging post and for imposing taxes on this trade.

Founding of the city[edit]

Bada Bagh panorama

In the 12th century, Rawal Jaisal the eldest son of the Rawal of Deoraj was passed over in favour of a younger half-brother for the throne of Laudrava.[2]

While checking out Trikuta a massive triangular rock rising more than 75 metres out of the surrounding sands as a more secure location for a new capital, Rawal Jaisal meet a sage called Eesul, who was staying on the rock. Upon learning that Jaisal was of Yaduvanshi descent, Eesul told him that according to ancient mythology Krishna and Bhima had come to this location for a ceremony, where Krishna had prophesied that a descendant of his Yaduvanshi clan would one day establish a kingdom here Eesul showed him a spring which Krishna had created and his prophecy craved into a rock. Encouraged by this meeting Rawal decided to move his capital to this location despite Eesul predicting that it would be sacked two and a half times.[3]

In 1156, Rawal Jaisal established his new capital in the form of a mud fort and named it Jaisalmer after himself. According to some historians the Sikh rulers of Kapurthala state in Punjab trace their link to Jaisalmer royal family.

Medieval period[edit]

The first jauhar of Jaisalmer occurred in 1294, during the reign of Turkic ruler of Delhi, Alauddin Khalji. It was provoked by Bhatis' raid on a massive treasure caravan being transported on 3000 horses and mules.[3][4] Alauddin Khalji was so outraged that his army marched upon Jaisalmer. Rawal Jethsi sent the children, elderly and sick, together with some troops to refuge in the desert and applied a scorched earth policy to the countryside surrounding Jaisalmer while building up a massive store of food within the fort. According to local ballads, the Bhatis defended the fort for 8 years during which the forces left outside of the walls occupied themselves attacking the supply lines of the besiegers. During the siege Rawal Jethsi died and was succeeded by his son Mulraj II. By 1294 the besiegers had received sufficient reinforcements that they were able to impose a complete blockage of the fort which soon exhausted the Bhati's ammunition and food. The Bhatis, facing certain defeat, decided there was no alternative but to perform the rite of jauhar. 24,000 women committed suicide, most on a funeral pyre though some were killed by the swords of their male relations when the pyre proved too small. The men 3,800, in number then threw open the gates of the fort and advanced to their death.[5] For some years afterwards Jaisalmer remained abandoned before the surviving Bhatis reoccupied it.

In the late 14th century, Firuz Shah Tughluq, a Turkic ruler of Delhi, also besieged Jaisalmer after a prince of Jaisalmer raided his camp at Anasagar Lake near Ajmer and carried away his prize steed. The siege led to the second jauhar of the prophecy, the suicide of 16,000 women and the death of Rawal Dudu and his son Tilaski together with 1,700 warriors.[5]

During the 15th century the Bhatis once again reoccupied the site and continued to rule with some independence.

The "half jauhar" of the prophecy occurred in the 16th century when Amir Ali, an Afghan chieftain obtained Rawal Lunakaran's permission to let his wives visit the queens of Jaisalmer. Instead of a retinue of palanquins containing women they were full of armed warriors, which took the guards of the fort by surprise. When it seemed to the Rawal that he was fighting a losing battle he slaughtered his womenfolk with his own hands as there was insufficient time to arrange a funeral pyre.[3] Tragically immediately after the deed was done, reinforcements arrived, sparing the men from the Jauhar and Amir Ali was defeated and blown up by a cannonball. Hence, it is called a half jauhar or Sako.

Maratha era[edit]

Following the collapse of the Mughal Empire in the 18th century, Jaisalmer, like the rest of Rajputana, became subservient to the Marathas,[6] until it came under the protection of the British East India Company in 1818, following the British victory in the Third Anglo-Maratha War. In 1818, the Rawals of Jaisalmer signed a treaty with the British, which protected Jaisalmer from invasion provided it was not the aggressor and guaranteed the royal succession. Jaisalmer was one of the last yadav states to sign a treaty with the British. Jaisalmer was forced to invoke the provisions of the treaty and call on the services of the British in 1829 to avert a war with Bikaner and 10 years later in 1839 for the First Anglo-Afghan War.[7]

British Raj[edit]

Flag of the princely state of Jaisalmer

During the British Raj, Jaisalmer was the seat of a princely state of the same name, and was entitled to a 15 gun salute.

As traditionally, the main source of income for the kingdom was levies on caravans . The economy was heavily affected when Bombay emerged as a major port and sea trade replaced the traditional land routes. Maharawals Ranjit Singh and Bairi Sal Singh attempted to turn around the decline but the dramatic reduction in trade impoverished the kingdom. A severe drought and resulting famine from 1895 to 1900 during the reign of Maharawal Shalivahan Singh only made matters worse by causing widespread loss of the livestock that the increasingly agriculturally based kingdom relied upon.

Maharawal Jawahir Singh's (1914–49) attempts at modernization also failed to turn the kingdom's economy around and it remained isolated and backwards compared with other areas of Rajasthan.

Rulers of Jaisalmer (1530-1971)[edit]

Name Reign began CE Reign ended CE Relationship 29 Rawal Lunkaran Singh 1530 1551 Brother of Rawal Karan Singh II
30 Rawal Maldev Singh 1551 1562 Son
31 Rawal Harraj Singh 1562 1578 Son
32 Rawal Bhim Singh 1578 1624 Son
33 Rawal Kalyan-Das 1624 1634 Brother
34 Rawal Manohar-Das 1634 1648 Son
35 Rawal Ram-Chandra Singh 1648 1651 Great Grandson of Maharawal Maldev Singh
36 Rawal Sabal Singh - Recognized the sovereignty of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. 1651 1661 Grandfather's Brother's Grandson
37 Maharawal Amar Singh - Received the title Maharawal from Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. 1661 1702 Son
38 Maharawal Jaswant Singh 1702 1708 Son
39 Maharawal Budh Singh 1708 1722 Grandfather's Brother's Grandson
40 Maharawal Akhay Singh 1722 1762 Brother
41 Maharawal Mulraj Singh II - Became a British protectorate in 1818 as a result of poor administration of ministers Swarup Singh and his son Salim Singh. 1762 1819 Son
42 Maharawal Gaj Singh 1820 1846 Great Grandson
43 Maharawal Ranjit Singh 1846 1864 Brother's Son
44 Maharawal Bairi Sal 1864 1891 Brother
45 Maharajadhiraj Maharawal Salivahan Singh III 1891 1914 Elder Uncle's Great Grandson
46 Maharajadhiraj Maharawal Sir Jawahir Singh 1914 1949 Great Grandfather's Brother's Grandson
47 Maharajadhiraj Maharawal Girdhar Singh 1949 1950 Son
48 Maharajadhiraj Maharawal Raghunath Singh - Last ruler of Jaisalmer; functions and titles abolished by Indian Constitution in 1971. 1950 1971 Son

House of Bhati (Titular) at Jaisalmer 1971 – present[edit]

Name Reign began CE Reign ended CE Relationship
48 MahaRawal Raghunath Singh 1971 1982 -
49 MahaRawal Brijraj Singh 1982 Present Son
50 Yuvaraj (Crown Prince) Chaitanyaraj Singh yuvaraj Yuvaraj Son


Dewans (chief ministers)

1. c.1885 - 1891 Mohata Nathmal

2. c.1890 - 1903 Mehta Jagjiwan

3.189. - 1900 Thakur Kushal Singh (acting)

4. 1900 Rawatmal Purohit Khetrapalia (acting)

5. c.1909 Lakshmi Das Sapat

6. 1911 - Jun 1912 Mohammed Niyaz Ali Kazi (b. 1866 - d. 19..)

7. 1912 - 21 Mar 1930 Murarji Rooji (Moraji Rao) Sapat

8. c.1892 - 1902 Shri Panna Lal Ji Soni Nathani

9. c.1930 - 1935 Shri Umedmal Ji Soni Nathani

10.19.. - 19.. M.L. Khosala

11. 19.. - 19.. Pandit Jamana Lal

12. 19.. - 19.. Munshi Nand Kishore

13. 19.. - 19.. Lala Rakhpat Raj

14. 19.. - 19.. P.K. Shurugula

15. 19.. - 19.. Brij Mohan Nath Zutshi

16. 19.. - 19.. Anand Swaroop

17. 19.. - 19.. Onkar Singh

18. c.1940 - c.1942 Lakhpat Rai Sikund


  1. ^ a b Beny & Matheson, p. 51.
  2. ^ Balfour, Edward (1885). The Cyclopædia of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia:. Original from Oxford University: B. Quaritch. p. 406.
  3. ^ a b c Crump and Toh, p. 208.
  4. ^ Beny & Matheson, p. 147.
  5. ^ a b Beny & Matheson, p. 149.
  6. ^ R.S. Chaurasia, History of the Marathas, New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 2004.
  7. ^ Martinelli and Michell, p. 239.

Further reading[edit]

  • Crump, Vivien; Toh, Irene (1996). Rajasthan. London: Everyman Guides. p. 400. ISBN 1-85715-887-3.
  • Martinelli, Antonio; Michell, George (2005). The Palaces of Rajasthan. London: Frances Lincoln. p. 271. ISBN 978-0-7112-2505-3.
  • Tod, James. Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan (With a Preface by Douglas Sladen). 54, Jhansi Road, New Delhi-1100055: Oriental Books Reprint Corporation.
  • Beny, Roland; Matheson, Sylvia A. (1984). Rajasthan - Land of Kings. London: Frederick Muller. p. 200. ISBN 0-584-95061-6.

Bikaner Indian Princely States http://www.uq.net.au/~zzhsoszy/ips/b/bikaner.html