Bikaner is a city in the north Indian state of Rajasthan, east of the border with Pakistan. It’s surrounded by the Thar Desert. The city is known for the 16th-century Junagarh Fort, a huge complex of ornate buildings and halls. Within the fort, the Prachina Museum displays traditional textiles and royal portraits. Nearby, the Karni Mata Temple is home to many rats considered sacred by Hindu devotees.
The origins of Bikaner can be traced back to 1488 when a Rathore prince, Rao Bikaji, founded the kingdom. Legend has it that Bikaji, one of Rao Jodhaji’s five sons, left his father’s Durbar in annoyance after an insensitive remark from his father, the illustrious founder of Jodhpur. Bikaji travelled far and when he came upon the wilderness called Jangladesh, he decided to set up his own kingdom and transformed it into an impressive city.
Places of Attraction
JUNAGARH FORT – Junagarh is an impregnable bastion that holds the distinction of having never been captured. It was constructed in 1588 AD by Raja Rai Singh, one of Emperor Akbar’s most distinguished generals. The fort complex houses some
magnificent palaces constructed in red sandstone and marble and visitors can feast their eyes on an attractive assortment of courtyards, balconies, kiosks and windows.
LALGARH PALACE AND MUSEUM – Maharaja Ganga Singh commissioned the construction of this majestic palace. This architectural marvel is made entirely of red sandstone and was built in 1902 to commemorate his father, Maharaja Lal Singh. The design was conceptualised by Sir Swinton Jacob, who created this oriental fantasy by blending Rajputana, Islamic and European architecture.
GANGA GOVERNMENT MUSEUM – Described as the best museum in the State, the museum contains a rich display of archaeological artefacts from Harappa and the early Gupta periods. There are separate sections for paintings, arts and craft, woven carpets, clay pottery, ancient coins and Rajput weaponry.
LAXMI NIWAS PALACE – Laxmi Niwas Palace was the residence of the king of Bikaner, Maharaja Ganga Singh. Built between 1898 and 1902 by British architect Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob, this structure displays an Indo-Saracenic architectural style. It is now a luxury hotel.
DESHNOK KARNI MATA TEMPLE – The Karni Mata Temple at Deshnok is a beautiful structure made of stone and marble, inside which resides an image of Karni Mata. The image is decorated with a ‘mukut’ (tiara) and garlands. The images of her sisters and the sisters of Avad Mata give her company on either side. The temple is known the world over for the presence of kabas (rats) that roam freely within the temple precincts.
GAJNER PALACE AND LAKE – Gajner is an incomparable jewel of the Thar. The Gajner Palace was founded by Maharaja Gaj Singh ji of Bikaner in the year 1784, and then completed by the great Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner on the banks of the lake. It was meant to serve as a hunting and relaxing lodge for the royal family as well as for visiting guests. It has now been converted into a hotel.
KOLAYAT – Kolayat is an important pilgrimage place for Hindus. Locals as well as devotees from distant places visit this temple complex every year. History tells the story of Kapil Muni, the advocate of Sankhya yoga, who was so mesmerised by the serenity of this place that he interrupted his journey to the northwest and stopped here to carry
out a ‘tapasya’ (penance) for the redemption of the world. The main attractions of the town are its several temples, ghats, the sacred lake and the town market. Kolayat is about 50 kilometres from Bikaner.