Jaisalmer is named after Maharawal Jaisal Singh, a Rajput king who founded the city in 1156 AD. "Jaisalmer" means "The Hill Fort of Jaisal" . Jaisalmer is sometimes called the "Golden City of India" because the yellow sand and the yellow sandstone used in every architecture of the city gives a yellowish-golden tinge to the city and its surrounding area.
The majority of the inhabitants of Jaisalmer are Bhati Rajputs, named after Bhati, who was renowned as a warrior. The ruling family of the erstwhile Jaisalmer State belongs to Bhati Clan of Yadu Rajputs of Chandravanshi (Lunar) race who claim descent from Lord Krishna,the deified hero who ruled at Dwarka. In 1156 Rawal Jaisal, the sixth in succession from Deoraj, founded the fort and city of Jaisalmer,atop Trikuta Hill and began to levy taxes on the camel caravans travelling along the nearby route. Laden with exotic spices and precious silks, these trading caravans were en route to cities like Delhi or Sind, but had to pass directly through Jaisalmer. This strategic location continued to serve Jaisalmer well, as it laid right on the two main routes connecting India with Persia, Egypt and farther west. He later made it his capital as he moved from his former capital at Lodhruva (which is situated about 15 km (9.3 mi) to the north-west of Jaisalmer). In 1293, 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. Some Bhati's from the Royal family migrated to Jaisal (Now in Pakistan), a place near to Chiniot Distt and some migrated to Talwandi, now Nankana Sahib in Distt. Nankana Sahib (Punjab, Pakistan) and others settled in Larkana (in Sind, Pakistan)under the name of Bhutto. In Nankana Sahib, the Bhati Clan can be traced from the lineage of Rai Bhoe and Rai Bular Bhati. After this there is nothing to record until 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.
During the Islamic invasion of India, Jaisalmer escaped direct Muslim conquest due to its geographical situation in the desert region. The Rawals of Jaisalmer agreed to pay an annual tribute to the Delhi Sultanate. The first siege of Jaisalmer occurred during the reign of Alauddin Khilji. It was provoked by Bhatis' raid on a caravan filled with treasure. According to local ballads, the Bhatis defended the fort for seven years until the enemy army forces breached the ramparts. Bhatis, facing certain defeat, proclaimed the rite of jauhar. Later, Sultan Ferozshah also besieged Jaisalmer after the rulers of Jaisalmer raided his camp at Anasagar lake near Ajmer. The siege led to another jauhar. Jaitsimha's son Duda perished in the attack. Duda's descendants ruled over Jaisalmer for about two centuries. Duda's descendant Lunakarna had a fight with Humayun when the latter passed through Jaisalmer en route to Ajmer.
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.
While initially Jaisalmer came into conflict with the Mughals, 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). 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.
Due to its isolated location and the protection of the desert, the kingdom was little affected by attacks by the Marathas which affected other kingdoms in the region. However, from this time until the accession of Maharawal Mulraj in 1762, the fortunes of the state rapidly declined, as most of its outlying provinces were lost to Rathor clans of Bikaner and Jodhpur, the treasury became depleted and the population shrunk.
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 and the Cousins at Nachana Haveli.
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.
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. These links allowed Jaisalmer due to the attractions of its old city to develop into one of the major tourist destinations in Rajasthan.
Jaisalmer Fort is one of the largest fortifications in the world. It is situated in the city of Jaisalmer, in the Indian state of Rajasthan. It is a World Heritage Site. It was built in 1156 AD by the Bhati Rajput ruler Rawal Jaisal, from whom it derives it name. The fort stands proudly amidst the golden stretches of the great Thar Desert, on Trikuta Hill, and has been the scene of many battles. Its massive yellow sandstone walls are a tawny lion colour during the day, fading to honey-gold as the sun sets, thereby camouflaging the fort in the yellow desert. For this reason, it is also known as the Sonar Quila or Golden Fort. The fort is located in the very heart the city, and is one of the most notable monuments in the locality.
Jaisalmer has an average elevation of 229 metres (751 ft). It is situated near the border of India and Pakistan in West Rajasthan, and covers an area of 5.1 km2 (2.0 sq mi). The maximum summer temperature is around 41.6 °C (106.9 °F) while the minimum is 25 °C (77 °F). The maximum winter temperature is usually around 23.6 °C (74.5 °F) and the minimum is 7.9 °C (46.2 °F). The average rainfall is 209.5 millimetres (8.25 in). Highest ever recorded temperature was 48.0 °C (118.4 °F) and the lowest ever recorded temperature being −5.9 °C (21.4 °F).
Jaisalmer is almost entirely a sandy waste, forming a part of the Thar desert (great Indian desert). The general aspect of the area is that of an interminable sea of sand hills, of all shapes and sizes, some rising to a height of 150 feet (46 m). 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 feet (76 m). There are no perennial streams, and only one small river, the Kakni, which, after flowing a distance of 48 kilometres (30 mi), spreads over a large surface of flat ground, and forms Lake Orjhil ("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.