History of Jaisalmer

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Jaisalmer
Hindi: जैसलमेर

Jaisalmer-1.jpg

Location western Rajastan
19th-century flag Jaisalmer Flag.svg
State established: 1156 AD
Language Rajasthani, Hindi, Sanskrit
Dynasties Bhati
Historical capitals 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 Rajput 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 Rajput clan and made it his capital.[1]

The major opponents of the Bhati Rajputs 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 Alauddin Khilji of Delhi. It was provoked by Bhatis' raid on a massive treasure caravan being transported on 3000 horses and mules.[3][4] Alauddin Khilji 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, Sultan Ferozshah 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.

Mughal era[edit]

While initially Jaisalmer came into conflict with the Mughal invadders, Rawal Lunakarn had a fight with Humayun. Sabal Singh rebuilt Jaisalmer fort in stone and extend the kingdom northwards to the Surej River and westward to the Indus River. Attempts to expand to the east bought Jaisalmer into conflict with Bikaner, which led to Anup Singh of Bikaner invading the kingdom. He was repulsed by Maharawal Amar Singh (1661–1702) though peace was only finally concluded by Maharawal Akhai Singh (1722–62).[6] Despite these disruptions, the period was a time of growth and prosperity with the ruling family and the resident merchants building many beautiful palaces and havelis.

Post Mughal Era[edit]

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 Rajput 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]

Main article: Jaisalmer State
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.

1947 Onwards[edit]

Facade of a mansion in Jaisalmer

Following the independence of India in 1947, Jaisalmer acceded unto the dominion of India. On May 15, 1949, it was united with certain other princely states to form the present-day Indian state of Rajasthan.

The partition of India in 1947 lead to the closing of all the trade routes on the Indo-Pak border and reduced Jaisalmer a drought-prone desert backwater on the international border. Ironically, skirmishes between India and Pakistan gave Jaisalmer a strategic importance and resulted in it being built up into a major army base. Later, the Rajasthan Canal served to revive the surrounding desert areas. The opening of a paved road in 1958 and the completion of a railroad in 1968, connected the hitherto remote town with the rest of Rajasthan.[8] These links allowed Jaisalmer due to the attractions of its old city to develop into one of the major tourist destinations in Rajasthan.

Rulers of Jaisalmer (1530-1971)[edit]

Name Reign began CE Reign ended CE
1 Rawal Lon-Karan 1530 1551
2 Rawal Maldev 1551 1562
3 Rawal Harraj 1562 1578
4 Rawal Bhim Singh 1578 1624
5 Rawal Kalyan-Das 1624 1634
6 Rawal Manohar-Das 1634 1648
7 Rawal Ram-Chandra 1648 1651
8 Rawal Sabal Singh - Recognized the sovereignty of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. 1651 1661
9 Maharawal Amar Singh - Received the title Maharawal from Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. 1661 1702
10 Maharawal Jaswant Singh 1702 1708
11 Maharawal Budh Singh 1708 1722
12 Maharawal Akhay Singh 1722 1762
13 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
14 Maharawal Gaj Singh 1820 1846
15 Maharawal Ranjit Singh 1846 1864
16 Maharawal Bairi Sal 1864 1891
17 Maharajadhiraj Maharawal Salivahan Singh III 1891 1914
18 Maharajadhiraj Maharawal Sir Jawahir Singh 1914 1949
19 Maharajadhiraj Maharawal Girdhar Singh 1949 1950
20 Maharajadhiraj Maharawal Raghunath Singh - Last ruler of Jaisalmer; functions and titles abolished by Indian Constitution in 1971. 1950 1971

House of Bhati at Jaisalmer 1971-Present[edit]

Name Reign began CE Reign ended CE
1 MahaRawal Raghunath Singh 1950 1971
2 MahaRawal Brijraj Singh 1982 Present

Notes[edit]

  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. ^ Martinelli and Michell, p. 238.
  7. ^ Martinelli and Michell, p. 239.
  8. ^ 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

Notes[edit]