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Rajasthan The Heritage State- Jaisalmer

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About Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer History

Rawal Jaisal, a Bhatti Rajput, laid the foundation of this city in 1156 AD, as a shift from his former capital at Lodhruva. Some historians trace the roots of the city further back to a ruler of the same clan, Jaitsimha. As legend has it, a Brahmin hermit told Jaisal that Krishna and Arjuna had come here and they prophesied that a ruler would one day build a fort along the ridge known as Trikuta or triple peaked hill. That hill is where the Jaisalmer fort now stands.

In the 13th century, Alaudin Khilji, the emperor of Delhi attacked Jaisalmer to retrieve a caravan filled with treasure seized by the Bhattis. Jaisalmer was under siege for nine years and when they couldn't hold out anymore, the women committed johar and the men fought their last battle. Jaitsimha's son Duda perished in the attack.

Duda's descendents ruled over the place for a couple of hundred years. In 1541, the city rose to arms against the Moghul emperor Humayun who was on his way to Ajmer. But despite this, the relationship between the Moghuls and Jaisalmer was not always hostile marital alliances saw peace for a time. Akbar was married to one of the Jaisalmer princesses.

Then came the noble Sabala Simha, who won the patronage of the Emperor Shah Jahan for services rendered in the Peshawar campaign. Although he did not have a legitimate claim to the throne, he was allowed to rule Jaisalmer.

Jaisalmer grew in strength (with territories annexed from the bordering districts of Bikaner and Jodhpur) and riches (by levying taxes on caravans passing through Jaisalmer to Delhi). Its location on the main trade route linking India to Egypt, Arabia, Persia, Africa and the West helped. Though the glory of Jaisalmer faded when sea trade replaced the old land routes, for a while there was peace and prosperity and the arts and religion flourished. Within the fort you will see both Hindu and particularly beautiful Jain temples, while the rulers were Hindu they were tolerant toward Jainism.

The prosperity of Jaisalmer is reflected in the magnificent havelis the townspeople built. Wood and sandstone mansions with intricate carvings can be seen elsewhere in Rajasthan, but no where are they quite as breathtaking.

For long Jaisalmer remained untouched by outside influences and during the British rule, it was the last to sign a treaty with the British. The rise of Bombay as a port city and in 1947, Partition and the staunching of trade routes between Indian and Pakistan, sealed the fate of the city and it lost its preeminent position as a trading route. Indifferent rains also meant constant water shortages. Jaisalmer would have dried up and faded away especially with the attention its cousins, Jaipur and Jodhpur got, but for the Indo-Pak wars. They revealed Jaisalmer' strategic position and the Indira Gandhi canal was built to restore life to the thirsty city.

Today Jaisalmer is a major tourist destination. In 1997, the Jaisalmer Conservation initiative (JCI) was formed to encourage sustainable tourism restoration, urban planning and raising local awareness towards the problems facing the fort.

Jaisalmer Geography

Jaisalmer is to the west of Rajasthan, 100kms from the border with Pakistan. The city is 285 kms from Jodhpur. The old city was surrounded by a wall, but most of it has been torn down for building material. The city gates at the wall remain and within the gate is the fort, which looms above the city. The fort is criss-crossed by a narrow streets. Bhatia market, Jaisalmer's main market is directly below the hill. Hanuman circle (has a jet fighter a relic from one of the Indo-Pak wars) is outside Amar Sagar Pol, the main entrance to the old city. Sam Road is to the east of the circle. Inside Amar Sagar pol is Gandhi chowk, which is the principal market area. The entrance to the old royal palace is to the right inside the gate area. The same road continues to the north of the fort to Gopa Chowk market before it winds its way up to Gadi Sagar Pol, which is the eastern gate of the city. The road from here is called the Gadi Sagar road and ends at Lake Gadisan or Gadi Sagar. If you take a left from the Gadi sagar pol you reach the bus stand and the railway station.