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Water and Cattle Raids in Historic Jaisalmer — Part III

Cattle raids led to installation of Sati stones. Besides  cattle, trade both local and long distance specially led by the Jains was an indispensable  part of the vibrant economy of historic Jaisalmer. — Prof. Nandini Sinha Kapur


The recurrent cattle raids in the Bhati dominion of Jaisalmer and its surrounding locality are evident from Goverdhana and Sati Memorial Stone Inscriptions dated between the thirteenth and early fifteenth centuries. Some of these records come from Lodrava, the political seat of the royal family of the Bhatis before they built the new fortress at Jaisalmer in AD 1156.” The Gov. erdhana inscriptions specifically commemorate the death of heroes in defence of cows Gogatalai Inscription dated BS 685 (AD 1309) records the death of Cahuina (Cauhan) Dhuna of Vatsagotra who fell in defence of cows.” Another Gogathala Inscription records the death of a Chauhan hero of the Vatsa of the Vatsagotra who died defending cows and honour of women. Chauhans seem to have been important socio-political components of the Bhati state of Jaisalmer. This record mentions that some horses were also captured by the Thapharas (probably Kharpharas, i.e. Muslims) This raid possibly was one of the raids in the wake of the immigration of the Central Asian Turks who took the Sindh Jaisalmer route to northern India. One more Gogatalai Inscription dated BS 685 (AD 1309) records the death of another (Cauhan) hero Palania Ukadia, in defence of cows. Another inscription from the same site dated BS 685 (AD 1309) records the death of a person of Kaœyapagotra but the details are missing.” 

RV Somani traces these battles to the incursions made by the Khalji army into Jaisalmer in AD 1371. Kharatanagachchha Patna All mentions that the fort of Jalore was suddenly invaded in AD 1371. The Jain samghas had to be rushed from Jalore as they had congregated there for a DikaMahotsava and other ceremonies.” The fort of Jaisalmer evidently fell to the invading Khalji army after Jalore. However, a brief discussion is war ranted, given general perception of the nature of these raids. R.V. Somani lends communal overtones to the above battles by categorizing the sati memorial stones as ‘Inscriptions Pertaining to the Muslim Invasion on Jaisalmer” in the appendix of his work The History of Jaisalmer. But we need to con textualize the nature of these Khalji raids which have been viewed as expansion of Khalji imperialism in Rajasthan in terms of strategic and cconomic importance of certain forts in Rajasthan for Delhi Sultanate.”

In the context of arid environment of Jaisalmer and north western Rajasthan, any raid would have focused on the local resources. Cattle was the primary wealth of Jaisalmer and its surrounding localities. Hence, the neighbouring Rajput clans as well as the Khalji army from Delhi would have taken away the cows and cattle wealth. Cattle raids were an integral part of the desert economy and had nothing to do with the religious affiliations of the invaders. The two types of inscriptional records—Goverdhana Pillars and Sati Memorial Stone Inscriptions—may indicate two separate contexts of death, cattle raids and external invasions but do not differ in the main object of plunder in a desert environment, cattle. 

Moreover, except one Gopatalai Inscription of Bs 685 (AD 1309) that mentions the Thapharas (probably Kharpharas or Muslims) and an Inscription of us 691 (AD 1315) that mention a fight with the mlechchhas, rest of the inscriptions listed above specify the presence of  Thapharas or mlechchhas in all these bandes.” Inscription no. 1 in Somani’s list of Inscriptions Pertaining to the Muslim invasion on Jaisalmer’ dated us 685 (AD 1315) mentions the capture of cattle and women in three records without mentioning the mlechchhas. The Inscription dated Bs 69I (AD 1321) mentions the death of Maharajadhiraja Sit Malaraja and Lohat Cahamana in a battle against Mliksa (mlechchhas). Interest ingly, this record does not mention “Go-grabe-strgrahe Rathaur Jagamal’s Inscription of Bs 649 (AD 1273) is yet another Goverdhana record which does not mention any battle or the mlechchhas.

Similarly, all the sati memorial inscriptions listed above were not installed on the occasions of battles with the mlechchhas. We have noted five inscriptional records that commemorate the death of Maharaja Sui Ghadasimha. Three out of these five are sati memorial inscriptions that commemorate the death and performance of sati by Maharaja Ghadasirhha’s queens following the king’s death. These deaths did not take place in text of invasions of the mlechchhas or the Khaljis. Hence, it is difficult to accept Somani’s generalizations.

If limited agricultural production, water tanks, and cattle raids constituted the essential components of economic life in medieval Jaisalmer, trade was equally important: Local industries were based on pastoral products such as woollen carpets, blankets and lois (quilts) of fine texture. Milk, ghee, wool, hide and precious stones were exported Sindh and Punjab from Jaisalmer.” Caravans going from Punjab and Uttar Pradesh to Sindh passed through Jaisalmer. The trade route from Bahawalpur in Sindh was via Mohangarh, Nachana, Deva and Buli in Jaisalmer and another route ran from Bap to Bahawalpur through Nokha in Bikaner. A large part of the prosperity and revenue of medieval Jaisalmer state came from transit duty Exchange centres, open markets and grain mandis were regular features of the urban economy of Jaisalmer town. Smaller markets were held in bigger villages which had some population of mahajanas. The mahajanas purchased ghee, wool and other  local products” The Ramdevara fair and fairs at centres like Vaisakhi, Ramkunda, Moolsagar and Amarnagar have been historically important as occasions for and centres of commercial transactions.

The Pushkarana Brahmin and Maheshwaris have separate dates for holding fairs throughout the year. Local fairs are held at Miyanjalar, Kala Dungar, Khinya, Khudiyala and other places. The reign of Bhati king Keharideva is specially known to have witnessed prosperity as a large number of merchants who had emigrated during the invasions of AlauddinKhalji now returned. The families of Ranka, Chopara, Sankhwal and many more settled in Jaisalmer” and later constructed several civic works. Several Jain manuscripts mention the sanghyarras performed by the Ranka family during the years AD 1425, 1427, 1436 and 1449 and copying of Jain manuscripts by Jain Sresthis (merchants). Inscriptional records from the Parshvanath. Sambhanath, Rishabhadeva, and Shantinath temples and extracts of inscriptions from TappaPattika dated between AD 1473 and 15839 and referring to the construction of Jain temples, mon asteries and charitable houses, Jain dcanas and Srethis indicate the extent of wealth generated by the local traders. A large proportion of traders were Jains.

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

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