Bikaner: Site of gorgeous forts & exotic camel safaris
This desert city of Rajasthan (India’s north-western province) is an eye-catching site of well-fed camels and citadels. Being near to Delhi, it had to withstand the worst of Mughal invasions during earlier times. The exotic camel safaris, its gorgeous forts and the worship of thousands of holy rats at Mata Kali temple are some of the most interesting aspects of Bikaner. The camel festival held in the month of January is also an event worth witnessing if one wants to get the actual color of the place.
Bikaner is situated in the north of Rajasthan. The city, just like Jodhpur, is surrounded by great walls. It has Ganganagar and Hanumangarh in its north and Churu on its east. Nagaur, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer are in its south while in the western part it has the neighboring country Pakistan. It is situated on a slightly higher place (altitude 237 meters) and has an arid climate most of the year. Due to the geographic location of the city, it was one of the most important trade centers for traders of west-central Asia.
History: Just like the history of the entire state, Bikaner also has its own glorious past. It has examples of courage, motivation and happiness. It was in 1488 that a Rathore Prince, Rao Bikaji (a descendant of the founder of Jodhpur, Rao Jodhaji), established his kingdom here. It has faced many foreign intrusions and fought a number of wars with the Mughals and the British.
Tourist attractions: Junagarh fort was built by a Mughal army general, Raja Rai Singh, in 1593. The courtyard of the fort along with the balcony, kiosks and windows are perfect examples of the artisanship of that time.
The beautiful cutworks and dots on the red stones and the marbles are fascinating. The various parts of the palace – the Dewan-i-khas, the Phool Mahal, Hawa Mahal, Badal Mahal and Anup Mahal – reflect the glorious architecture of Bikaner.
Lalgarh Palace, built by Maharaja Ganaga Singh in memory of his father, is situated 3 km north of Bikaner city. The Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation as part of their tourism promotion program has converted some portions of the palace into tourist hotels. Other parts of the palace have been converted into a museum named as the Sadul Museum to preserve the glory of the yesteryears of Rajasthan in general and Bikaner in particular.
Ganga Golden Jubilee Museum is one of the best museums of Rajasthan with some fabulous collections of antiques and artilleries.
The Bhandasar Jain Temple, dedicated to the 23rd Jain Tirthankara, is also a place worth visiting. The Camel Research Farm carries out breeding and training of camels – the only fighting force and medium of transportation in the past.
The temple of Mata Karni and Goddess Durga is a must-visit place to experience the rare sight of rats being worshiped in thousands.
The Gajanir Palace and the wildlife sanctuary, 32 km from the main city, is also a place worth visiting. A large number of wild species are available like the nilgai, wild boar, chinkara, etc. This place was the summer resort of the former kings.
Shiv Bari Temple, just 6 km away from the main city, is a well-curved and neatly worked out temple. It has a bronze Nandi statue and a Shiva lingam.
Kalibangan is an archeological site containing remains of the pre-Harappan and Harappan civilizations. This is a much-recommended site for historians and others who want to gain an insight into India’s rich heritage.
Besides these, there are several places of pilgrimage like Kolayatji, Devikund, etc., which are famous among the religious.
Fairs & festivals: To know the local hues and colors of Bikaner, one has to witness the local fairs and festivals.
The Camel Festival, held in the month of January, is the most exciting festival. Competitions related to camels like camel races, milking, dancing, etc., make this festival even more interesting.
Kolayat is the holy festival when people take a dip in holy water of the Kolayat Lake. It normally takes place on the full-moon night of the Hindu month Kartik (November).
Gangaur Festival, dedicated to Goddess Parvati, is an 18-day spring festival celebrated during the month of April.
How to reach
Air – Bikaner is well connected with the nearby towns and cities of importance. Jodhpur is the nearest airport.
Rail – Bikaner has a number of train links to connect it with the major cities of India.
Road – It is also linked with the big and small cities of India by the national highways and other roadways.