Bikaner the royal fortified city with a timeless appeal. Lying in the north of the Desert State, the city is dotted with many sand dunes. Bikaner retains the medieval splendor that pervades the city’s lifestyle More popularly called the camel country, the city is renowned for the best riding camels in the world. The ship of the desert is an inseparable part of life here. Be it pulling heavy carts, transporting grains or working on wells. Camels are the prime helpers.
Lying in the north of the desert state, the city is dotted with scores of sand dunes. Bikaner retains the medieval grandeur that permeates the city’s lifestyle. More readily called the camel country, the city is distinguished for the best riding camels in the world and hence boasts of having one of the largest Camel research and breeading farm in the world.
The ship of the desert is an inseparable part of life here. A camel besides doing transportation duties, also works on wells. These are built on high plinths with slender minarets on each of the four corners and can be noticed even from a distance.
The history of Bikaner dates back to 1488 when a Rathore prince, Rao Bikaji founded his kingdom. Bikaji was one the five sons of Rao Jodhaji the illustrious founder of Jodhpur. But Rao Bikaji was the most adventurous of them.
It is said that an insensitive remark from his father about his whispering in the Durbar provoked Bikaji to set up his own kingdom towards the north of Jodhpur. The barren wilderness called Jangladesh became his focus point and he transformed it to an impressive city.
He accomplished his task with 100 cavalry horses and 500 soldiers, and established his kingdom on 84 villages abandoned by the ‘Shankhlas’. When Bikaji died in 1504 his rule had extended to over 3000 villages. Modern Bikaner is the result of the foresight of its most eminent ruler Maharaja Ganga Singh (1887 1943) whose reformative zeal set the pace for Bikaner transformation from a principality to a premier princely state.
The strategic location of Bikaner on the ancient caravan routes that came from West/Central Asia made it a prime trade centre in those times. Bikaner stands on a slightly raised ground and is circumscribed by a seven km long embattled wall with five gates.
The magnificent forts and palaces, created with delicacy in reddish-pink sandstone, bear testimony to its rich historical and architectural legacy. Surging lanes, colourful bazaars with bright and cheerful folks make Bikaner an interesting experience to explore.
Places of Interest in Bikaner
Ayoyal crematorium with several ornamented cenotaphs or “chhatris’ built in the memory of the Bika dynasty rulers. Maharaja Suraj Singh chhatri is the most impressive of all creative entirely in white marble with spectacular Rajput painting on the ceiling.
Deshnok’s Karni Mata Temple
The famous 600 year old temple on the Jodhpur road dedicated to Karni Mata, an incarnation of Goddess Durga. The temple has huge intricately carved silver gates, which were donated by Maharaja Ganga Singh The most interesting thing about the temple are the rats who scamper freely within the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. They are regarded as sacred and are fed by priests and devotees owing to the belief that they will be reincarnated as holy men.
Gajner Wildlife Sanctuary
The lush foliage of woods on the Jaisalmer road are a heaven to nilgai chinkara, black buck, wild coar and folk of imperial sand grouse. The Gajner palace a summer retreat of the king stands on the bank of the lake and has been converted into a hotel.
Bhandasar Jain Temple
Beautiful 16th century A.D. Jain temple dedicated to the 13rd Trirthankra.
Camel Research Farm
Spend a day with indispensable ship of the desert at their camel research and breeding centre-one of its kind in Asia. The farm extends over 2000 acres of semiarid land is managed by the central Government. The camel crops of Bikaner were a famous fighting force during the Raj and are still an important part of the desert warfare and defence through the border security Force (BSF)
Shiv Bari Temple
Built by Doongar Singhji in the late 10th century. The temple in surrounding by an embattlement wall. It has beautiful painting and a bronze Nandi facing the Shiva Lingam.
A famous pilgrimage spot with a temple dedicated to Kapil Muni (saint) The temple is the venue for an annual fair held in the month of Kartik (oct-nov)when thousands of devotees gather in large number to take a sacred dip in the holy waters of the Kolayat lake on the full moon day. A cattle fair, especially for the trading of camels is a part of the festivals. The small oasis town is now an idyllic picnic spot.
The extensive remains of the pre-Harappan and harroan civilization found at this are of immense interest to archeology enthusiasts.
Lal Garh Palace
The architectural masterpiece in red sand stone, the palace was built by Maharaj Ganga Singh in the palace memory of his father Maharaj Lal Singh. The palace has beautiful latticework and blooming bougainvillea and dancing peacock make it a not-to-be missed visual treat.
Part of the palace has been converted into a luxury hotel and a museum known as Shri Sadul Museum. The museum covers the entire first floor of the palace and houses well preserved old photographs and trophies of wildlife.
Built in 1593 A.D. by Raja Singh, a general in the army of Emperor Akbar, the fort is a formidable structure encircled by a moat and has some beautiful palaces within. These palaces, made in red sandstone and marble, make a picturesque ensemble of courtyards, balconies, Kiosks and windows dotted all over the structure.
The Suraj Pol or Sun Gate
It is the main entrance to the fort. Among the notable of these palaces are the exquisitely beautiful Chandra Mahal or the Moon Palaces with marvelous painting mirrors and carved marble panels, and the Phool Mahal or flower palace ornate with glass and mirror work.
Other palaces worth visiting are the Anup Mahal, Karan Mahal, Dungar Niwas, Ganga Niwas, Gaj Mandir and Rang Mahal. Gigantic columns, arches and graceful screens adorn the palaces from within. The Har Mandir is the majestic chapel for the royal family for worshipping their gods and goddess.
Ganga Golden Jubilee Museum
It is the best Rajasthan museum, having on eof the richest collections of terracotta ware, weapons miniature paintings of Bikaner school and coins. The exhibits are splendid masterpiece of Harappan civilisation, Gupta and Kushan era and scuiptures if the late classical time. The museum has a separate section displaying exclusive arts and crafts of the region.
Gardens and Parks
Ganga public Park with a zoo, Ratan Bihari Temple Park Tessitory Park or some of the lovely parks in the city. Surely worth a visit.