Bikaner, nicknamed as the Camel Country is a district located in the northern region of Rajasthan having several tourist attractions. It has got sand dunes scattered from north-east to southern portions that add beauty to the spot, especially in the evenings.
It has got several forts, palaces, temples that are built of red sandstone. From world’s largest camel research and breeding farms to a unique temple dedicated to rats; Bikaner has it all!
The foundation of Bikaner traces back to 1488 when Rao Bikaji left the durbar of Rao Jodhaji (his father and founder of Jodhpur) after receiving an insensitive remark. When he reached Jangaldesh, he set up his own kingdom by transforming the place into a magnificent city.
If you wish to explore the culture and historical beauty of the district, here is a list of places to visit:
•Timings: 10 am to 4:30 pm
•Time required: 2-3 hours
•Ticket Cost: INR 50 (INR 100 for Phool Mahal and Chander Mahal)
Having one of the most spectacular fort complexes in the country, this one is not built on a hilltop. The premises consist of several palaces, balconies, courtyards, and pavilions. An interesting detail is that all these palaces were constructed by different empires.
The walls of these palaces are studded with stones, marbles and artistic paintings from the ancient times. Overall, there are 37 palaces, temples, and pavilions inside the complex, all marveled in red sandstone. Some of the palaces are- Badal Mahal, Anup Mahal, and Phool Mahal.
This is the main entrance gate of Bikaner that offers a glimpse of magnificent architecture. It’s a testimony to the fine artistry by workers of ancient times. Standing in the middle, it separates the old portion of Bikaner with the new portion of the city. At one side of the gate, there is modern infrastructure while on the other side; there are old Havelis with stunning architecture.
It’s an ideal spot for shopaholics who prefer wandering in the local bazaar. Some prominent items to buy in the markets include camel hide articles, khadi clothes, miniature paintings, wood carvings, etc. And when you are tired of shopping, there are numerous eating joints as well.
•Timings: 4 am to 10:00 pm
•Time required: 1-2 hours
•Ticket Cost: No entry fee
Dedicated to the sacred Karni Mata, an incarnation of Goddess Durga, this is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Bikaner. However, the temple is not famous for its architecture or anything; it’s because of the fact that there are 25,000 rats within the premises of the temple that are worshipped by the devotees.
In fact, the food eaten by these rats is considered to be sacred and is later offered as prasad. The history of the temple is not known but it’s believed that it’s 600 years old. The architecture is inspired by the Mughal style and flaunts use of marble façade and carvings.
The palace was originally built for Maharaja Ganga Singh by renowned architect Sir Swinton Jacob. The construction started in 1896 and by 1902, the first quadrant of the palace- the Laxmi Niwas was completed. In the memory of the Maharaja’s father Lall Singh, the palace was named as Lalgarh.
However, now it’s been transformed into a heritage hotel marketed by Maharaja Heritage Resorts Limited. The architecture is quite majestic reflecting a blend of Rajputana, European, and Islamic design. The open corridors of the hotel are lined up with a collection of prints and vintage copies of etchings. The walls are mounted with hunting trophies. Lord Curzon was the first notable guest at the palace.
Situated 34kms away from Bikaner, the Gajner Palace on the banks of Gajner Lake once served as the hunting lodge for Bikaner rulers. It’s a heritage property spread across 6000 acres of land. Built with red sandstone and magnificent craftsmanship, the palace is known for its distinctive balconies and terraces.
Earlier an abode to several dignitaries like Lord Mountbatten and Lord Erwin, it has now been transformed into a heritage hotel. It has four wings namely Dungar Niwas, Mandir Chowk, Champa Niwas, and Gulab Niwas. Nearby the palace, tourists can go for boating in the Gajner Lake while capturing sights of migratory birds like Imperial Sand Goose.
Gajner Wildlife sanctuary is a beautiful heaven on the shore of Gajner Lake and is one of the most prominent places to visit in Bikaner. Located on the top of a small hill, the sanctuary is enriched with flora and fauna in the dense green forest.
It’s also one of the proposed forests for Cheetah reintroduction. The sanctuary is home to animals like blackbuck, chinkara, wild fowls, desert foxes, wild boars, antelope, and nilgai.
Devi Kund is a cremation ground of Bikaner’s royal family containing several royal cenotaphs of the brave Rulers of Bika dynasty. There are chhatris flanked on each side reflecting Rajputana style of architecture. The cenotaphs of earlier rulers are constructed in red sandstone while the later ones are made of marble.
The cenotaph of Maharaja Anup Singh stands on 16 pillars and is etched with carvings of Lord Krishna and floral patterns. The cenotaph of Maharaja Surat Singh is built with beautiful Rajput paintings on its ceilings. There are also cenotaphs of 22 female members who committed Sati.
There are numerous havellis in Bikaner among which Rampuria Group of Havellis is the most famous cluster. It’s built of red sandstone and is known to be 400 years old. The construction of the haveli started in the 15th century and hence flaunts exquisite handwork prevalent around that time period. It has jharokhas, latticed windows, divankhanas, and gumaharias.
The inner halls are decorated with aesthetic art comprises first-class paintings and wooden artifacts. The drawing room boasts of the abundant use of Victorian design along with Mughal and Rajput looks. There are patches of flowers, birds, and animals carved on the red sandstone which makes the place look alive.