"Golden Desert City of Jaisalmer" Top 5 Page for this destination Jaisalmer by atufft

Jaisalmer Travel Guide: 430 reviews and 1,573 photos

"The Hill Fort of Jaisal"

Rawal Jaisal, the sixth in succession from Deoraj, founded the fort and city of Jaisalmer in 1156 AD, moving from Lodhruva, which is situated about 15 km to the southeast of Jaisalmer. Making it his new capital, he established for his Bhatti clan a formidable hilltop fortress at a desert oasis that was relatively safe from the more powerful opposing Rathor clans in Jodhpur and Bikaner. Deoraj was a prince and first "rawal" of the Bhatti family, and founder of the Jaisalmer dynasty, however, prior to Jaisal, the clan had held a tenuous position at Lodhruva. Although isolated in the desert, the clan wealth developed early via trade between India and Persia; thus, Jaisalmer was strategically positioned as a watering hole for the camel caravans that journeyed through this harsh desert region. However, 1294, Emperor Alauddin Khilji captured and plundered the fort and city of Jaisalmer, but for several centuries the Bhatti clan continued to have the reputation of raiders who attacked wealthy caravans or harassed the armies of Mughal rulers who layed claim to the region.

Arrival in Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer is actually a walled city, one of the few left in the world, and certainly the largest desert one that I have ever seen, but what tourists will immediately associate with the idea of fortress is the citadel that sits atop a remarkable yellow sandstone butte that can be seen for many miles in the distance. Crossing through the flat depth of the desert, we first saw the citadel as what appeared to be a mirage--a faint line of the angular fortress walls--that signaled pending end to what had been a gruelingly five hour ride through a mostly barren wilderness in our Indian Ambassador, which had no A/C. The citadel is surrounded by a town of substantial size, but with a population of 80,000, Jaisalmer was considerably smaller than any of the cities we had visited thus far. Our hotel was on a rise outside the wall city with a view of the great citadel, and so we dined and waited until the next day to examine this part of the city more closely. In the morning, after visiting the real source of Jaisalmer's wealth, it's water supply found at Gadsisar Lake, we walked through the labyrinth entrance for the citadel to see where about a quarter of the city's population still lives.

Ruins of Merchant Wealth

Apparently, when a Jaisalmer princess married Mughal emperor Akbar and joined his harem, Jaisalmer's fortunes began to change. Later, Jaisalmer was ruled by a noble called Sabala Simha, who won the patronage of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for services rendered in his Peshawar campaign. Jaisalmer was one of the last Indian states to sign a treaty with the British, and for awhile emerged again as a stop over for British forces and camel caravan, but as the port of Mumbai (Bombay) developed, the trade route through Jaisalmer became unimportant. It was during this period that the Bhatti clan merchants built the Havelis that show such great former wealth. For awhile after the independence of India, Jaisalmer gaines some fame for its strategic location near the Pakistani border. Today, the city's wealth is mostly in tourism, which must certainly include from time to time the military personnel associated with the nuclear bomb testing site that the Indian have in this desert region.

  • Intro Updated May 12, 2007
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