BIKANER: CITADEL OF CULTURE AND CAMELS
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 splendour 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.
The wells of Bikaner- an important source of water are other attractions of the city. These are built on high plinths with slender minareted towers on each of the four corners and can be noticed even from a distance.
Bikaner's history dates back to 1488 A.D., when a Rathore Prince, Rao Bikaji - a descendant of the founder of Jodhpur (1459 A.D.), Rao Jodhaji, established his kingdom here. Rao Jodhaji had five sons but Rao Bikaji was the most enterprising of them. Bikaji chose a barren
wilderness called `Jangladesh' and transformed it to an impressive city, called Bikaner after the founder's name.
The strategic location of Bikaner on the ancient caravan routes that came from West/Central Asia, made it a prime trade centre in the times of the yore.
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. Undulating lanes, colourful bazaars and bright and cheerful folks make Bikaner an interersting experience.
Junagarh: Built in 1593 A.D. by Raja Rai 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, kisks and windows dotted all over the structure.
The suraj Pol or Sun Gate: It is the main entrace to the fort. Among the notable of these palaces are the exquisitely beautiful Chandra Mahal or the Moon Palace with marvellous paintings, 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: It is the majestic chapel for the royal family for worshipping their gods and goddesses. Timings : 10.00 hrs. to 16.30 hrs. Entry fee Rs.50.00 for complete museum with guide, Rs.10.00 for part of museum with guide, Rs.5.00 for students and military officials, Rs.30.00 for camera and Rs.50.00 for movie camera.
Lal Garh Palace: The architectural masterpiece in red sandstone, the palace was built by Maharaja Ganga Singh in teh memory of his father Maharaja Lal Singh. The palace has beautiful latticework and filigree work. Sprawling lawns with blooming bougainvillea and dancing peacocks make it a not-to-be missed visual treat.
Part of the palace has been convered 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 prserved old photographs and trophies of wildlife. Timings 10.00 hrs. to 16.30 hrs.(closed on Wednesday).
Ganga Golden Jubilee Museum: It is the best Rajasthan museum, having one of the richest collections of terracotta ware, weapons, maniature paintings of Bikaner school and coins. The exhibits are splendid masterpieces of Harappan civilisation, Gupta and Kushan era and sculptures of the late sclassical time. Timings 10.00 hrs to 16.30 hrs.(closed on Friday).
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 and Tessitory Park are some fo the lovely parks in the city. Surely worth a viisit.
Bhandasar Jain Temple (5 km): Beautiful 16th century A.D. Jain temple dedicated to the 23rd Tirthankara, Parsavanathji.
Camel Research Farm (8 km.): Spend a day with the indispensable ship of the desert at their camel research and breeding centre - one of its kind in Asia. Timings 15.00 hrs. to 17.00 hrs. (Closed on Sundays and Government holidays). Photography prohibited.
The farm extends over 2000 acres of semi arid land and is managed by the Central Government.
The Camel Corps 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).
Devi Kund (8 Km): A royal crematorium with several ornamented cenotaphs or `chhatris' built in the memory of the Bika dynasty rulers.
Maharaja Suraj Singh's chhatri is the most impressive of all, created entirely in white marble with spectacular Rajput paintings on the ceiling.
Gajner Wildlife Sanctuary (32 km): The lush foliage of woods on the Jaisalmer road are a haven to nilgai, chinkara, black buck, wild boar and flocks of imperial sand grouse.
The Gajner Palace, a summer retreat of the kings, sands on the bank of the lake and has been converted into a hotel, Entry fee into the palace area Rs.100/- per head.
Shiv Bari Temple (6 km): Built by Doongar Singhji in the late 19th century. The temple is surrounded by an embattlement wall. It has beautiful paintings and a bronze Nandi facing the Shiva Lingam.
Deshnok's Karni Mata Temple (30 km): The famous 600 year old temple on the Jodhpur road dedicated to Karni Mata an incarnation fo 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.
Kolayatji (50 km): A famous pilgrimage sport with a temple dedicated to Kapil Muni (saint).
The temple is the venue for an annual fair held in the month of Kartik (October-November) when thousands of devotees gather in large number to take a sacred dip in the holy water of the Kolayat lake on the full moon day. A cattle fair, especially for the trading of camels is a part of festivities.
The small oasis town is now an idyllic picnic spot.
Kalibangan (205 km): The extensive remains of the pre-Harappan and Harappan civilisations, found at this place in the Hanumangarh district, are of immense interest to archaeology enthusiasts.