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Water and Cattle Raids in Historic Jaisalmer, Part-II

Control  over  water resources and cattle raids characterized  the socio-economic-political profile of  historic Jaisalmer  in which access to water resources determined  social and political status of  members in a stratified  society. — Prof. Nandini Sinha Kapur

They are two inscriptional records from Jaisalmer which come from two tanks: Maldesar Tank and Kasmiradesar Tank Inscriptions of Sri Jayatasimha dated BS 676 (AD 1299) and BS 677 (AD 1300) respectively. Both these sites are located within 4.8 km from Jaisalmer. Since, Jayatasihha does not bear any royal title. he was possibly a local chief (but his clan-name Is not mentioned) who commemorated his visits to those two tanks which possibly had attained some religious and political significance. Another inscription (date is not clear) comes from Ranisar Tank (Jaisalmer).”

Unfortunately, we do not have details of these tank-inscriptions. Dhandh Tank Inscription of Maharaja Dhiraja Paramevara Umapati Varalabdhapraudha Pratapa Abhinava-Martanda-Jadav Vaikka Codamani-Ripurajyasm Swayamvara-Bal-Narayana Avatara-Srimad-Kelarideva, dilated ns 769 (AD 1392) is an important record for the history of the Bhatis of Jaisalmer. This is the first royal record that proclaims the Jadav or Yadu-Vaiii origin for the Bhatis and a very long and pompous title from the Bhati king, Keharideva or Kosarideva.

The royal genealogy between Vijayaraj Bhati and Dava Vamka-Codamapi-Srimad-Keharideva is not clear. However, the Dhandh Tank must have been a landmark near Jaisalmer Fort with possible religious and political significance. Kelhari Deva declared his political supremacy over the local chiefs by claiming a long, pompous title, and a superior social status by claiming origin from the Jadava-Vamka and hence, descent from the family of God Krsna. The influence of the Vaishnava movement and scars on the royal Bhatis is clearly evident from the declaration of Jadav-Varna origin for the Bhatis and claiming Keharideva as Narayanâvatâra. It is possible that the Dhand Tank had developed some Vaishno association and hence, the political presence of the Bhatis, their affiliation with the cult of Krishna and their superior socio-political status inscribed on the tank. This tank is located 8 miles from Basanpir. The Dhand Tank Inscription of BS 769 (AD 1392) mentions that it was commissioned by the patwari (chief queen),” Although Ram Vallabh Somani is unable to interpret the phrase Malaruja Prasadena that the appearing in the text of this inscription, it is possible phrases is a part of the royal genealogy which might have got fragmented and indicated Keharideva’s grandfather Mülarâja Bhati. 

Royal appropriation of space through construction of tanks and possible growth of these tanks into sites of religious significance ensured water for the royal household, members of the ruling elite, religious establishments patronized by the royalty, and for the pilgrims on days of religious festivities However, appropriation of water and construction of water reservoirs were not monopolies of the royal family Local communities like Jogalias also contributed to the conservation of water by constructing tanks. Hence, every resourceful member of the desert society had an access to the most valuable and scarce resource water. The following two recons dated in the reign of Keharideva indicate de participation of non-Rajput notables in the process of buildings of tanks -
1.    The Inscription dated Bs 739 (AD 1361) records the construction of a tank at Temadrai by a Jogalia.”
2.    The Khatri Tank Inseription dated us 748 (AD 1371) records the excavation of a tank by Jetha’s son Rama.

Affluent members of the trading community like the Maheshwaris too built water reservoirs and wells as sources of drinking water. It is traditionally known that during famines the Mahajanas opened their wells to the local people. There is a possibility that public access to royal tanks was limited to religious occasions and perhaps during famines: However, tanks by Jogalia and Rama were accessible to local people, including travellers, traders and pilgrims. The Gadsisar Tank (Jaisalmer) Inscription of Bs 832 (AD 1454) of the reign of Räula Si and Maldesar Tank Inscription (also dated Bs 832) record the construction of a tank at Maldesar by a wife of Raja Vairisinha in the reign of Clicigadeva and some deeds (possibly further excavations or repair of the tank) at Gadisar Tank Jaisalmer) by Raula Sa Jalta Sinha, son of Maharâjadhirâja Raula Deva karna.

In our period of study. Gadhisar (popularly known as G s Ghadasi or Gadisar) Tank Inscription of BS 882 (AD 1504) of the reign of Rail Si Jaitrasimha, and Jaitsagar Inscription of Bs 894 (AD 1516) of the time of Mahäraula St-lariraja are two mare important records indicating continuing politico-economic religious importance of Gadisar tank and some other tanks (fragmentary inscription does not mention the name of the tank) at Jaitsar. It is significant that sacred ponds played the same ritualistic role in devon as they did at every pilgrimage centre in the subcontinent. Baisakhi Kunda (Jaisalmer) Inscription of us 973 (AD 1595) recording the repair to the temple of  Bhutesvara Mahadeva in the reign of Maharajadhiraja Dhima points towards royal patronage of a popular Shiva together and its source of water, Baisakhi Kunda. It seems that this sacred paul came to be associated with the festival of New Year (Vaisakhi) and hence, acquired the name Volcano Kunda The trading community of Maheswaris is also associated with the excavation of some important tanks like those at Dedansar, Mukhtasar, Khetasar, Sudasar and Govindsar, which supplied water to the town of Jaisalmer during famines.

The legendary water tank which has been considered the lifeline of history Jaisalmer iGadisar (Ghadasi). This tank was originally known as Jaisalmer as it was supposed to have been built by the founder of Jaisalmer Fort, Maharäval Jaisal. Maharaval Gadhasi re-excavated it and since the fifteenth century, it has been known as Ghadast. The BluniVatsaPrasasti mentions that Chati Singh (Maharival Gadhus) excavated this tank to meet the local demands of Water Tradition claims that Mahakal Gandhi was assassinated on this occasion by the Jaisor Bilitis. This tank was renovated in AD 1508 by Maharaval Jaitrasimha as is recorded in the pillar-inscription in the east Hence, Gadhisar was not only an important water source in Jaisalmer but its political importance is also evident from the continuous patronage extended to it by the royal Bhatis and the presence of other Bhati chiefs on occasions of renovation.

Popular traditions point towards the political significance of water and construction of water tanks in the desert. There is the story of Devraj Bhati and his access to political power/authority through the construction of water tanks. 

Author is a Ph D Programme Coordinator, SOITS, Indira Gandhi National Open University, Delhi

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