Jaisalmer Fort, Jaisalmer
Located amidst the golden sands of the Thar Desert, the Jaisalmer Fort was built by the Bhati Rajput King Rawal Jaisal. It remained an important trade center during the medieval era before the popularity of maritime trade centers such as Bombay and Calcutta. Today, it is one of the important tourist centers in Rajasthan known for its exquisite Rajput Architecture and scenic beauty.
A view of the fortress above the city, in the evening
The fort was built by Rawal Jaisal in 1156 CE. Jaisal conspired with the Sultan of Gaur to dispose his nephew Bhojdev from his territory. The other important event of the fort was during 1276 when King Jetsi strengthened the fort against the invading Sultan of Delhi. The 56 bastions were manned by 3,700 soldiers. After eight years of invasion and siege, the Sultan’s army finally breached and destroyed the castle. Bhatis took control of the fort, but had no means to repair it. In 1306, Dodoo was elected the Rawal for his bravery for ejecting the Rathors. He subsequently took up the work of repairing and strenghening the fort.
During the medieval period, the city’s location along the Silk Road enabled it to serve as a major center of international trade, and as a warehousing facility for such trade. As such, it facilitated trade and commerce between Persia, Arabia, Egypt, Africa and China. The offering of such services for such commerce required a dependable means of security, and thus the fort came into being.
The fort contains 3 layers of walls. The outer or the lower layer is made out of solid stone blocks and it reinforces the loose rubble of Trikuta Hill. The second, or middle, wall snakes around the fort. From the innermost, or third, wall, the Rajput warriors once hurled boiling oil and water as well as massive blocks of rock at their enemies, who would become entrapped between the second and third walls. The defences of the fort include 99 bastions, of which 92 were built between the period of 1633-47.
Ala-ud-din Khilji attacked and captured the fort in the 13th century and managed to hold it for 9 years. During the siege of the fort the Rajput women committed Jauhar. The second battle at the fort began in 1541, when Mughal emperor Humayun first attacked the fort city. The Rawal was eventually overwhelmed by the repeated assaults of the Mughal emperors and finally agreed to parly with Akbar, Humayan’s successor, in 1570, offering his daughter in marriage to the emperor in the process.
The fort remained under the control of Mughals until 1762 when Maharawal Mulraj took control of the fort. Due to its isolated location, the fort escaped the ravages of the Marathas. The treaty between the East India Company and Mulraj on 12 December 1818 allowed the Mulraj to retain control of the fort and provided for protection from invasion. After the death of Mulraj in 1820, his grandson Gaj Singh assumed the reins of the fort.
With the advent of British rule, the emergence of maritime trade and the growth of the port of Bombay led to the gradual economic decline of Jaisalmer. After independence and the Partition of India, the ancient trade route was totally closed, thus sealing the fate of the city. Nonetheless, the continued strategic importance of Jaisalmer was demonstrated during the 1965 and 1971 wars between India and Pakistan Although at one point the entire population of Jaisalmer lived within the fort, it today has a resident population of about 4,000 people who are largely from the Brahmin and Daroga communities. They are mostly descendants of the workforce of the Bhati rulers of Jaisalmer which was permitted to reside within the fort’s premises. With an increase in population, people gradually relocated to the foot of the Trikuta Hill and the town of Jaisalmer spread out from the fort.
The Jaisalmar Fort, recently declared as World Heritage Site is one of the largest desert forts of the world and the second oldest fort in Rajasthan.
Its yellow sandstone walls (see photo) are a tawny lion color during the day and this becomes honey-gold at sunset. This sight is a real feast for the eyes.
The Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray was so impressed by this sight that he honored this sight by his detective film Sonar Kella based on this fort
It has crenellated sandstone walls 30-feet high and has 82 bastions most of which were built between 1633 and 1647 AD. Evidence of subtle fusion of Rajput and Islamic architecture is clearly visible here.
The Raj Mahal or the Royal Palace, ornate Jain Temples, the Laxminath Temple and the four gateways the Akhey Prole, Suraj Prole, Ganesh Pol, and the Hawa Pol are the main attractions inside the fort.
Interestingly, this strategically located city escaped direct Islamic invasion. Its strategic importance was revealed during the 1965 and 1971 wars between India and Pakistan. But this wonder of the nation, a rich heritage now cries for better and immediate attention to maintain its splendor and safety. International heritage foundation’s insist on reduced water usage to preserve this fort. Efforts to restore and preserve this fort are under way, but more involvement by the government and the public is urgently called for.
The fort stands almost >50 meters over the city and houses an entire living area within huge ramparts. Walking through the narrow lanes is an experience worth savouring.
Known as SONAR QUILA, rising from the sand, the mega structure merges with the golden hues of the desert ambience and the setting suns in its most colourful shades gives it a fairy tale look. It’s simply a magic, the bastions envelops a whole townships that consist of palace complex various security sources and the havelis of rich merchants carved with an incredibly light touch, several temples and the residential complexes of the armies and traders placed strategically on the trade route, from where the ancient caravans passed en-route passing all the riches for the prosperity to an otherwise non source full kingdom. These merchants served and acquire a great deal of power and noble status in the royal courts of Bhatti Rajputs who founded the state in the 12th century and proceeded further. But the rich merchant inspired by the classic style of the royals, constructed huge mansions (havelis) adjacent to each other in the nature of medieval culture and profusely decorated walls and ceilings and intricately carved outdoors and interiors. The colourful art forms and somehow side kind the royal heritage and made it appear paler in comparison. The craftsmen were usually muslims who were induced on their journey to exhibit their skills. The results were architectural purity that cannot be seen elsewhere. Deep in the heart of the Thar Desert is Jaisalmer, one of the last princely bastions in the region. Founded on what was the cross – road of lucrative trade routes, this remote settlement came to be celebrated for the valour of its rulers, and for the aesthetic sense represented by their palaces and havelis.