Bikaner - Heritage Heaven
Bikaner, situated in the northern part of Rajasthan, was founded in 1488 by a descendant of the founder of Jodhpur named Rao Bhikaji. Like Jaisalmer, this town was an important city on the great caravan trade route during the medieval period. The city is surrounded by high fortifications comprising a seven-kilometre long wall which encircles the old city and has five entrances—all constructed in the 18th century.
The city of Bikaner has seen several ups and downs in its eventful history. Its proximity to Delhi made it bear the brunt of Mughal invasions time and again. Legend has it that before embarking on his campaign, Rao Bhikaji sought the blessings of mystic Goddess Karni at Deshnoke. Since then the Karni Mata temple in Deshnoke continued to be patronized by the ruling family. Today hundreds of pilgrims flock the temple everyday to invoke the blessings of the Goddess, who is revered as an incarnation of Goddess Durga.
Bikaner is also called the camel country, being renowned for the best riding camels in the world. It is also the birthplace of the world famous Bikaneri bhujia and namkeen (a salted snack made of lentils).
Being a desertscape, the summers are very hot in Bikaner. The best time to visit this place is in winters when the weather remains cool and tolerable.
Bikaner offers several attractions to the tourists besides, of course, the exotic camel safaris. You can visit the majestic forts or go to the Mata Karni temple where rats are considered sacred and worshipped. The camel festival held in the month of January is also an event worth witnessing. Some of the major attractions around the city are Junagarh Fort, Lalgarh Palace, Camel Breeding Farm, Gajner Palace, Deshnoke Temple and Ganga Golden Jubilee Museum.
Excursions around Bikaner :-
The excursions around Bikaner, besides giving a glimpse into the region’s culture and history, also provide an insight into the rich flora and fauna. The Gajner Wildlife Sanctuary (32 km from Bikaner) is home to a number of wild species including the nilgai, wild boar, chinkara and flocks of imperial sand grouse that migrate here every winter. Eight kilometres east of Bikaner lies Devi Kund where you can see some ornamented cenotaphs or chhatris.
Junagarh Fort :- The Junagarh Fort, built by Rai Singh between 1588 and 1593, has a 986-metre-long wall with 37 bastions, a moat and two entrances. Situated at a height of above seven hundred feet above sea level, it towers over the city and can be seen from a distance. The fort and its palaces are profusely decorated with magnificent stone carvings. The major buildings within the fort include the Anup Mahal, Diwan-e-Khas, Hawa Mahal, Badal Mahal, Chandra Mahal, Phool Mahal, Rang Mahal, Dungar Mahal, and Ganga Mahal. The Chandra Mahal has remarkable frescoes. Beautiful mirror work adorns the walls of Phool Mahal while golden pen work decorates the Anup Mahal.
Lalgarh Palace :-
Built by Maharaja Ganga Singh in memory of his father, the Lalgarh Palace is situated 3 km north of Bikaner city. Designed by Sir Swinton Jacob, the palace is quite imposing with overhanging balconies and delicate latticework. Peacocks and blooming bougainvillea in the garden welcome the visitor to the palace. To promote tourism, the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation has converted a portion of this palace into a hotel.
Camel Research and Breeding Farm :-
Eight kilometres from Bikaner, the government-managed Camel Research and Breeding Farm is only one of its kinds in Asia. The farm carries out breeding and training of camels.
Gajner Palace :-
The place located on the bank of the lake was the summer resort of the former kings. Today it has been converted into a hotel.
garden and two large tanks at the eastern and western ends. The largest and most impressive structure is Gopal Bhawan inside which, even on a summer’s day, the air is cool and refreshing. Perhaps the most attractive part of the garden complex is the summer pavilion, Keshav Bhawan. On special occasions the 500 fountains around the pavilion used to spout coloured water while fireworks lit up the night sky. Some of these fountains still play during local festivals.
Deshnoke Temple ( Karni Mata Temple or Mouse Temple ) :-
Thirty kilometres south of Bikaner is the village of Deshnoke, where the famous Mata Karni Temple is situated. The 600-year-old temple is dedicated to Karni Mata, an incarnation of Goddess Durga. The temple has huge intricately carved silver gates donated by Maharaja Ganga Singh.
The temple plays host to thousands of rats that form the major attraction here. The rats are considered sacred and worshipped accordingly. You have to be very careful while entering the inner sanctum, because it is believed that if you accidentally step on a rat, a gold replica has to be made to compensate for the lost life.
Devi Kund :-
Eight kilometres east of Bikaner lies Devi Kund, the site of a royal crematorium with several ornamented cenotaphs or chhatris built in the memory of the Bika dynasty rulers. The white marble chhatri of Maharaja Surat Singh is very imposing. Gajner Wildlife Sanctuary
Just 32 kilometres from Bikaner, the Gajner Wildlife Sanctuary is home to a variety of wild animals. The adjoining lake that reflects the charming pink sandstone palace and gardens contrasts so effectively with the surrounding scrubland where black back, chital, sambhar, chinkara, nilgai, wild boar, rabbits, partridges, quail, and Indian bustard abound, that you wonder if it/’s real, or a desert mirage. From the paved terrace, you see jungle animals come down to the water for a drink. This lake attracts millions of migratory birds in winter. The Maharajah of Bikaner held house parties for shooting grouse, duck, and wild boar here.
Fact File :-
· Area 165.75 sq. km
· Altitude 237 metres above sea level
· Languages Rajasthani, Hindi, English
· STD Code 0151
· Best time to visit November–February