Since 3 decades, Jaisalmer, a town situated in the indian Thar desert, has seen a huge development due to its strategic importance near the Pakistani border and its medieval style. Be they soldiers, tourists or locals, people mingle freely in a place that has become a must for every foreigner visiting India.
Despite its isolation, the town has a long history. It was founded in the 12° century by the king Jaisal Bhatti, a self-proclaimed descendant of the hindu god Krishna. Like anyone belonging to the Rajput class, Bhatti were warlike princes but despite other Rajput they didn’t mind following a strict code of honour. They became rich because Jaisalmer was located on one of the commercial roads that constituted the silk road. Indeed, they charged tolls on the merchant caravans which were crossing the desert on their way to the Middle-East or India and China. They even robbed them. At the end of the 13° century, three sons of the king Jethsi, dressed like merchants and accompanied by horsemen and camel-drivers, ransacked a huge caravan bringing treasures and 3 000 horses to the sultan of Delhi, Ala-ud-din Khalji. Furious, he sent an army to plunder the town. Besieged, the inhabitants of Jaisalmer withstood for 8 years before giving in. Because Bhatti princes were too proud to accept a total surrender, they committed a grand sacrifice, a “jauhar” : 24 000 women and children died by burning themselves alive while the men, anesthetized with opium, fought till death their last battle.
Later, the descendants of the king that had been kept safe in the desert, took up Jaisalmer… and their old habits. Again, in the late 14° century, they stole stallions belonging to the sultan Firoz Shah Tughluk. New siege. And again 16 000 women died and 1 700 warriors.
In the 15° century, as the great merchants were not willing to settle in a town where the princes behaved in such a way, the king Chachakdeo kidnaped the heads of jaïn merchants great families to induce them to settle there. So, 360 families came to Jaisalmer and its surroundings. They built temples, mansions and shops; the town thrived and over the years the Bhatti kings have lost their disresputable manners.