Jaisalmer (Hindi: जैसालमेर), nicknamed "The Golden City", is a town in the Indian state of Rajasthan. The town stands on a ridge of yellowish sandstone, crowned by a fort, which contains the palace and several ornate Jain temples. Many of the houses and temples are finely sculptured. It lies in the heart of the Thar Desert and has a population of about 78,000. It is the administrative headquarters of Jaisalmer District.
The majority of any inhabitants of Jaisalmer are Bhati Rajputs, who take their name from an ancestor named Bhatti, renowned as a warrior when the tribe were located in the Punjab. Shortly after this the clan was driven southwards, and found a refuge in the Indian desert, which was henceforth its home. Deoraj, a famous prince of the Bhati family, is esteemed the real founder of the Jaisalmer dynasty, and with him the title of rawal commenced. In 1156 Rawal Jaisal, the sixth in succession from Deoraj, founded the fort and city of Jaisalmer, and made it his capital as he moved from his former capital at Lodhruva (which is situated about 15 km to the south-east of Jaisalmer). In 1294, the Bhatis so enraged the emperor Ala-ud-din Khilji that his army captured and sacked the fort and city of Jaisalmer, so that for some time it was quite deserted. After this there is nothing to record till the time of Rawal Sahal Singh, whose reign marks an epoch in Bhati history in that he acknowledged the supremacy of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. The Jaisalmer princes had now arrived at the height of their power, but from this time till the accession of Rawal Mulraj in 1762 the fortunes of the state rapidly declined, and most of its outlying provinces were lost. In 1818 Mulraj entered into political relations with the British. Maharawal Salivahan, born in 1887, succeeded to the chiefship in 1891.
The Maharajas of Jaisalmer trace their lineage back to Jaitsimha, a ruler of the Bhati Rajput clan. The major opponents of the Bhati Rajputs were the powerful Rathor clans of Jodhpur and Bikaner. They used to fight battles for the possession of forts, waterholes or cattle. Jaisalmer was positioned strategically and was a halting point along a traditional trade route traversed by the camel caravans of Indian and Asian merchants. The route linked India to Central Asia, Egypt, Arabia, Persia, Africa and the West.
Jaisalmer was one of the last states to sign a treaty with the British. During the British Raj, Jaisalmer was the seat of a princely state of the same name, ruled by the Bhati clan of rajputs. The present descendant is Brijraj Singh. Though the city is under the governance of the Government of India, a lot of welfare work is carried out by him and his family. The Royal Family still commands a lot of respect from the people.
Traditionally, the main source of income was the levies on the caravans. However, the glory of Jaisalmer faded when Bombay emerged as a port and the sea trade replaced the traditional land routes. The partition of India in 1947 lead to closing of all the trade routes on the Indo-Pak border and rendered Jaisalmer a drought-prone desert backwater on the international border. Ironically, skirmishes between India and Pakistan gave Jaisalmer a strategic importance and made it serviceable as an army supply depot. Later, the Rajasthan Canal served to revive the surrounding desert areas. Roads and railroads were then built, knitting the hitherto remote town with the rest of Rajasthan.
Later, the Government of Rajasthan decided to promote Jaisalmer as a tourist destination.
Jaisalmer is situated on the border of India and Pakistan in West Rajasthan. The area of Jaisalmer is 5.1 km². The maximum summer temperature is around 41.6 °C while the minimum is 25 °C. The maximum winter temperature is 23.6 °C while the minimum is 7.9 °C. The average rainfall is 150 mm.
Jaisalmer is almost entirely a sandy waste, forming a part of the great Indian desert. The general aspect of the area is that of an interminable sea of sandhills, of all shapes and sizes, some rising to a height of 150 ft. Those in the west are covered with log bushes, those in the east with tufts of long grass. Water is scarce, and generally brackish; the average depth of the wells is said to be about 250 ft. There are no perennial streams, and only one small river, the Kakni, which, after flowing a distance of 28 m., spreads over a large surface of flat ground, and forms a lake orjhil called the Bhuj-Jhil. The climate is dry and healthy. Throughout Jaisalmer only raincrops, such as bajra, jawar, motif, til, etc., are grown; spring crops of wheat, barley, etc., are very rare. Owing to the scant rainfall, irrigation is almost unknown.
Distances: New Delhi (864 km), Jaipur (558 km), Mumbai (1177 km), Ahmedabad (626 km).
Also known for their fine leather messenger bags made from wild camels native to the area.
Musicians and dancers are also a major cultural export of Jaisalmer to the rest of the world, Manganyar musicians played the world over since decades, and Queen Harish, the dancing whirling desert drag queen, certainly the most talented dancer from Rajasthan, is touring the world extensively and features in international movies.
As of 2001 India census, Jaisalmer had a population of 58,286. Males constitute 57% of the population and females 43%. Jaisalmer has an average literacy rate of 64%, higher than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 73%, and female literacy is 50%. In Jaisalmer, 16% of the population is under 6 years of age.
The main part of the population lead a wandering life, grazing their flocks and herds. Large herds of camels, horned cattle, sheep and goats are kept. The principal trade is in wool, ghee, camels, cattle and sheep. The chief imports are grain, sugar, foreign cloth, piece-goods. It suffered from famine in 1897, 1900 and other years, to such an extent that it has had to incur a heavy debt for extraordinary expenditure.
Tourist accommodation is available inside the fort itself. However, eco-conscious tourists might consider staying outside the fort to avoid putting additional pressure on the fort's archaic sewage system (three of the 99 bastions have already crumbled because of water seeping into the foundations). In the past year, there have been hotels and residents inside the fort taking initiatives to help with restoration and avoid displacement. Visitors may want to check with the local hotels inside the fort and ask what they are doing to contribute. This action could lead to tourists inside the fort supporting expedited conservation efforts through awareness and action.
Excavated in 1367 by Rawal Gadsi Singh, it is a scenic rainwater lake surrounded by small temples and shrines.
This is held over three days in Jan/Feb every year. This is the best time to visit Jaisalmer to witness many performing arts like Kalbelia dances and folk songs and music.