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BIKANER

The royal fortified city with a timeless appeal lying in the north of the desert state, 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 minarated towers on each of the four corners and can be noticed even from a distance.

Bikaner's history

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. Bikjaji 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 center in those days. 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, in reddish-pink sandstone, bear testimony to its rich historical and architectural legacy. Undulating lanes, colourful bazaars and bright, cheerful and hospitable folk make Bikaner an interesting experience.

Places to visit


Junagarh Fort
Noted for its finest quality of stone carvings this fort and its palaces were built between 1588 and 1593 by Raja Raj Singh, a general in the army of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, the fort has a 96 metre -long wall, with 37 bastions and two entrances. The main entrance of the fort is Suraj Pol, or Sun Gate. The fort encompasses many palaces amongst which the most spectacular ones are the Chandra Mahal or Moon Palace, the Phool Mahal or Flower Palace, both ornated with carved panels and mirrors and the Karan Mahal. Karan Mahal was built in remembrance of the celebration of the grand victory over Aurangzeb. Durga Niwas, a fabulously painted courtyard and Ganga Niwas which housed a finely carved red sandstone front, are the other places of attraction in this fort.

The Suraj Pol or Sun Gate
It is the main entrance to the fort. Among the more notable of these palaces are the exquisitely beautiful Chandra Mahal or the Moon Palace with marvelous 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 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, Rs. 5.00 for students and military officials Rs. 30.00 for camera & Rs. 50.00 for movie camera.

Lal Garh Palace
This architectural masterpiece in red sandstone, was built by Maharaja Ganga Singh in the memory of his father Maharja Lal Singh. The palace was designed by Sir Swinton Jacob and displays exquisite oriental facade and ornate interiors. The palace has beautiful latticework and filigree work. Sprawling lawns with blooming bougainvillea and dancing peacocks make it a no-to-be-missed visual treat. The Royal family of Bikaner still resides in part of the palace. The first floor of the palace is turned into a museum called the Shri Sadul Museum and a part of the palace has been converted into a luxury hotel. The museum displays a collection Maharaja's personal possessions. It also houses a range of Indian animals stuffed and photographed. The palace also holds a billiards room a cards room, a library and a smoking room.

Timings for the museum
:- 10.00 hrs. to 16.30 hrs.Entry fee Rs. 5.00 (closed on Wednesday).

Bhandeshwar Jain Temples
This temples were built during the 16th century, dedicated to 23rd Tirthankar Parshvanathji. The temples have some intricate carvings. Lakshminathji, Ratan Biharji, Shiv Bari and Nagnechiji temple are other shrines located in Bikaner. 40 kms from here is another famous temple of the Bhaironji temple at Kodamesar.

Ganga Golden Jubilee Museum
It is the best Rajasthan museum, having one of the richest collections of terracotta ware, weapons, miniature paintings of Bikaner school and coins. The exhibits are splendid masterpieces of Harappan civilization, Gupta and Kushan era and sculptures of the late classical time.

Timings 10.00 hrs. to 16.30 hrs. Entry fee Rs. 3.00 (Closed on Friday). The museum has a separate section displaying exclusive arts and crafts of the region.

Devi Kund (8 km)

A royal crematorium with several ornamented cenotaphs of ‘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.

Karni Mata Temple, Deshnoke
This temple is dedicated to Karni Mata, who, according to the legends, foretold the victory of Rao Bika. This temple is 600 years old and ornated by huge silver gates and marble carvings. These were donated by Maharaja Ganga Singh. The belief here that, the souls of the devotees of Mata reside in rats and so rats are considered to be holy here.

Excursions

Camel Research Farm (8 km)

Spend a day with the indispensable ship of the desert at their camel research and breeding center – one of its kind in Asia. 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).
Timings 15.00 hrs. to 17.00 hrs. (Closed on Sundays and Government holidays). Photography prohibited.

Gajner Wildlife Sanctuary (32 km)

This place of scenic beauty, with hillocks encompassing it and housing a lovely lake. On the banks of this lake is an old summer palace which is used as a hotel now. In the sanctuary you can even see wild boar, black bucks, the majestic sand grouse, nilgai and chinkara. The Gajner Palace, a summer retreat of the kings, stands on the bank of the lake and has been converted into a hotel. Entry fee into the palace area is Rs. 100/- per head.

Kolayat (50 km)

50 km from Bikaner is a sacred spot, dedicated to Kapil Muni. It is an ideal place for picnic lovers. The fair in the month of Kartik (oct-Nov) draws thousands of pilgrims.

Shiv Bari Temple (6 km)

Surrounded by a high wall, this temple was built in the 19th century by Maharaja Doongar Singhji. It is 6 kms from Bikaner. The temple is ornately covered by fascinating paintings facing the Shiva Lingam.

Kalibanga (205 km)

This place lies 205 km away from Bikaner. In the Hanumangarh district here, remains of pre-Harappan and Harappan civilisations have been found.

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