Founded in 1156, Jaisalmer’s strategic position on the camel-train routes between India and Central Asia brought it great wealth. The merchants and townspeople built magnificent houses and mansions, exquisitely carved from wood and sandstone.
Jaisalmer experienced its share of sieges and sackings, with an inevitable Rajput jauhar in the 13th century after a siege that lasted eight years. However, it escaped too much harm from the Mughals. On good terms with Delhi, the 17th-century city saw another golden age, with more grand palaces and havelis.
The rise in the importance of shipping and the port of Mumbai (Bombay) resulted in Jaisalmer’s decline. Partition and the cutting of the trade routes through to Pakistan seemingly sealed the city’s fate, and water shortages could have pronounced its death sentence. However, the India–Pakistan Wars of 1965 and 1971 revealed Jaisalmer’s great strategic importance.
Today it’s an important stop on another lucrative trade route – tourism rivals the military base as the city’s economic mainstay.