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India >> Rajasthan >> Bikaner >> Bikaner - The Camel Country
Bikaner - The Camel Country Bikaner, Rajasthan
  Overview   Holiday Ideas 
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Bikaner a true ‘Desert Country’ lies in the northwest part of the desert state of Rajasthan. It was founded by Rao Bika in 1486 AD. It is the fourth largest city in the state, housing the administrative headquarters of Bikaner district.

 

Once an barren wilderness this ‘Camel Country’; as it is popularly known, is famous for its exotic camel safaris, the colourful camel festival, the picturesque sun bleached sand dunes, the striking red sandstone forts, imposing palaces and havelis display some of the finest creations of Rajput civilization. The city is renowned for the best riding camels worldwide and has the largest Camel research and breeding farm in the world.

 

History

The history of Bikaner dates back to 1486 AD when the Rajput prince Rao Bika, of the ruling Rathore clan of Jodhpur, established his kingdom on the vast stretch of this barren land. Over the centuries this region flourished being logistically placed on the trade route between Central Asia and the Gujarat coast. The kingdom prospered as it had adequate spring water to keep the trade route alive.

 

During the reign of the sixth ruler, Raja Rai Singh, from 1571 to 1611 the kingdom grew in leaps and bound, and amassed enormous fortunes. Raja Rai Singh acceded to the court of Emperor Akbar and his son Emperor Jahangir and was one of the distinguished general of the Mughal court. He was generously rewarded with bountiful land and immense wealth for his military exploits specially on conquering half of Mewar for the Mughal Empire. In 1588 AD, on the desert plains he built the Junagarh fort and numerous monuments within, the architecture and decor amply reflects his keen aesthetic sensibilities.

 

Ganga Singh was the best-known king among the Rajasthan princes, he ruled from 1887 to 1943. He had friendly ties with the British Empire and represented India at the Imperial -First World War Conferences. In1902 he built a new palace in honour of his father Raja Lall Singh, to the north of Junagarh fort and named it Lallgarh. Sadul Singh succeeded his father Ganga Singh in 1943 but acceded to the Union of India in 1949. The royal family still lives in the Lallgarh palace, a part of which they have converted into a heritage hotel.

 Orientation

The desert country with a terrain so hostile lures an adventurer; robust and gutsy, like the warriors of the past, with the thrill so becoming to face the relentless wrath of nature yet savour every moment. This could be one of the finest finds if you like your destination less trodden.

 

The city is almost lost in the sea of modernity still one gets a glimpse of its erstwhile grandeur; the splendid palaces and havelis. The dusty narrow winding lanes, the colourful bazaars, the vivacious folks, the fabulous camel safaris and the endless camel tracks make this Camel Country, otherwise a scrub land with gorse, thorn, milk-weed, hordes of insects and daring birds, an interesting place to explore.

 

Set aside two days for a tour of the city's heritage sites, at least two more days for Gajner and the places around add another two for some adventure filled days.

 

Junagarh fort

The massive fort of red sandstone built in the plains of Bikaner is impressive with fine interiors. It was built in 1588 by Raja Rai Singh, the sixth ruler of Bikaner and one of the most distinguished generals in the army of Emperor Akbar. He had already sworn allegiance to Mughal Emperor Akbar this in turn enabled him in consolidating his kingdom and building a new stronghold, a full century after Bikaner had been founded at Rati Ghati (now on the outskirts of the city) by Rao Bika.

 

The fort, a formidable structure has a quadrangular layout encircled by a moat, which was 20–25 feet; however, the moat no longer exists. The fort built on the plains is well fortified with 37 bastions (burj) and seven gates and the complex within contains several palaces, pavilions and many Hindu and Jain  temples - the earliest dates back to the 16th century.

 

Junagarh fort is a unique illustration of composite culture. A major feature of the fort is the stone carving done in red and gold coloured sandstones. Each palace complex was built over the centuries by its different ruler. Thus the fort reflects a confluence of Rajput, Mughal and the Gujarati architectural designs. The interiors of the palaces are exquisitely decorated with semi- precious stone inlay work, stucco and beautiful wall paintings. It also boasts of the finest and rarest lacquer work. The palaces with their porches and pillars, gates and doors, galleries and corridors that were added from time to time by the various rulers down the centuries are extensively decorated, reflecting their aesthetic sense and a glorious past.

 

Lallgarh

An imposing red-sand stone marvel - Lallgarh, was built by Raja Ganga Singh in the memory of his father, Raja Lall Singh in 1902 A.D. This magnificent palace was designed by Sir Swinton Jacob it is a fine example reflecting a blend of the Indian, Muslim and European architectural styles.

 

The palace has several grand halls, lounges, cupolas and pavilions with magnificent pillars, finely carved fireplaces, Italian colonnades lattice work and filigree work like the motif of lotus in full bloom, adding an exotic charm to the occidental interiors which contrasts dramatically with the exterior composed of intricately carved stone screens called jaalis. These jaalis were designed to obstruct the harsh rays of the sun and enable good ventilation within palace. Vintage etchings, hunting trophies and old portraits adorn walls of the palace, a reminder of the bygone era.

 

The palace is definitely a treasure trove to captivate any visitor for hours browsing through its museum and large and important collection of Sanskrit manuscripts at the library (the fourth largest in the world), one can avail the facilities of the clay pigeon trap and skeet shooting traps at the adjoining ranges. The neatly landscaped garden in full bloom is a pleasurable sight, the riotous colours of flowering bougainvillea adds a lovely touch, the solitude is pierced by the loud screams of innumerable peacocks who flock and strut around the palace greens.

 

Gajner Palace

A sprawling summer resort for the Maharajas of Bikaner, the Gajner Palace has often been described as a unique jewel in the desert crown. Built in the early decades of the twentieth century by Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner, the palace spreads over an area of 6000 acres. It has been a witness and acted as the backdrop for numerous lavish shoots and grand entertainment for innumerable distinguished guests ranging from royals, British viceroys and other important dignitaries Indian as well as foreign.

 

Set amidst the crystal blue skies, the serene azure waters of the Gajner Lake and abundant greenery, the red sandstone architecture of Gajner palace is breathtaking. A former regal hunting lodge, the palace features generous interiors, miniature paintings, extensively carved colonnades, pillars, jharokhas and screens which are truly amazing. A part of palace has been converted into a heritage hotel; it is an ideal getaway for leisure travellers. A trek or a jeep safari through the beautiful woods surrounding the palace- now a preserved sanctuary, takes you past dense undergrowth where you may spot herds of grazing chinkaras, blackbucks, blue bull (neel gai) and flocks of imperial sand grouse.

 

Museums

For its modest size, Bikaner has quite a few museums. One can trace back its history on a visit to the Sadul Singh Museum at the Junagarh Fort and Golden Jublilee Museum. Anup Sanskrit library at Lallgarh houses one of the largest private collections of manuscripts (in India) several of them are original and in Sanskrit.

 

Deshnoke

The Karni Mata Temple is a popular yet unusual holy shrine, 30 km south of Bikaner in the small town of Deshnoke. Karni Mata is worshiped as an incarnation of Goddess Durga but the temple seems to be totally consecrated to a breed of rats called kaba. It's a mystery how these rodents became an integral part of the temple, presently thousands of them inhabit the place. Thus the temple is known by the sobriquet of ‘Temple of Rats’.

 

The temple dates back to the 15th century, when it was built by Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner. The striking façade of the temple is wholly built in marble. It is believed that Karni Mata had bestowed her blessings on Rao Bika and the royal family has always held the goddess with high reverence. She is said to protect the city even today against all odds, from outbreak of diseases to war.

 Getting there

Location

It lies in the deserts of northern Rajasthan and forms the apex of a triangle with desert cities of Jodhpur and Jaisalmer.

Distances

320 km northwest Jaipur

 Fast Facts
Name Bikaner - The Camel Country Best Time To Visit October to March
Location Bikaner   Rajasthan   West   India  
Open From 0000-00-00  To 0000-00-00 Type Historical City
Temperature Summar   40-45°C      Winter   2-8°C      Rainy   32-38°C
 Map
 
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