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Bikaner

Bikaner, situated in the northern part of Rajasthan, was founded in 1488 by a descendant of the founder of Jodhpur named Rao Bhikaji. Like Jaisalmer, this town was an important city on the great caravan trade route during the medieval period. The city is surrounded by high fortifications comprising a seven-kilometre long wall which encircles the old city and has five entrances - all constructed in the 18th century.

The city of Bikaner has seen several ups and downs in its eventful history. Its proximity to Delhi made it bear the brunt of Mughal invasions time and again. Legend has it that before embarking on his campaign, Rao Bhikaji sought the blessings of mystic Goddess Karni at Deshnoke. Since then the Karni Mata temple in Deshnoke continued to be patronized by the ruling family. Today hundreds of pilgrims flock the temple everyday to invoke the blessings of the Goddess, who is revered as an incarnation of Goddess Durga.Bikaner is also called the camel country, being renowned for the best riding camels in the world. It is also the birthplace of the world famous Bikaneri bhujia and namkeen (a salted snack made of lentils).

Being a desertscape, the summers are very hot in Bikaner. The best time to visit this place is in winters when the weather remains cool and tolerable.

Sightseeing:

Junagarh Fort:

The Junagarh Fort, built by Rai Singh between 1588 and 1593, has a 986-metre-long wall with 37 bastions, a moat and two entrances. Situated at a height of above seven hundred feet above sea level, it towers over the city and can be seen from a distance. The fort and its palaces are profusely decorated with magnificent stone carvings. The major buildings within the fort include the Anup Mahal, Diwan-e-Khas, Hawa Mahal, Badal Mahal, Chandra Mahal, Phool Mahal, Rang Mahal, Dungar Mahal, and Ganga Mahal. The Chandra Mahal has remarkable frescoes. Beautiful mirror work adorns the walls of Phool Mahal while golden pen work decorates the Anup Mahal.

Lalgarh Palace:

Built by Maharaja Ganga Singh in memory of his father, the Lalgarh Palace is situated 3 km north of Bikaner city. Designed by Sir Swinton Jacob, the palace is quite imposing with overhanging balconies and delicate latticework. Peacocks and blooming bougainvillea in the garden welcome the visitor to the palace. To promote tourism, the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation has converted a portion of this palace into a hotel.

Camel Research And Breeding Farm:

Eight kilometres from Bikaner, the government-managed Camel Research and Breeding Farm is only one of its kinds in Asia. The farm carries out breeding and training of camels.

Gajner Palace:

The place located on the bank of the lake was the summer resort of the former kings. Today it has been converted into a hotel.

Deshnoke Temple:

Thirty kilometres south of Bikaner is the village of Deshnoke, where the famous Mata Karni Temple is situated. The 600-year-old temple is dedicated to Karni Mata, an incarnation of Goddess Durga. The temple has huge intricately carved silver gates donated by Maharaja Ganga Singh. The temple plays host to thousands of rats that form the major attraction here. The rats are considered sacred and worshipped accordingly. You have to be very careful while entering the inner sanctum, because it is believed that if you accidentally step on a rat, a gold replica has to be made to compensate.

Ganga Golden Jubilee Museum:

One of the best museums in Rajasthan, the Ganga Golden Jubilee Museum has one of the richest collections of terracotta ware, weapons, miniature paintings of Bikaner school and coins dating back to Harappan civilization and Gupta and Kushan era.

Shri Sadul Museum:

To preserve the glory of the yesteryears of Rajasthan in general and Bikaner in particular, a part of the Lalgarh Palace has been converted into a museum. Known as the Sadul Museum, it covers the entire first floor of the palace. Some of the well-preserved old photographs and trophies of wildlife collected by the royalty have been housed here.

Fort Museum:

The Ganga Mahal was Maharaja Ganga Singh/’s contribution to Junagarh Fort in the early 20th century. This pink sandstone hall, having walls carved with delicate tracery and scrollwork, today houses part of the fort museum. From jade-handled daggers to ivory-inlaid muskets, an exotic array of antique Rajput weaponry is on display here.

Excursions From Bikaner:

Devi Kund:
Eight kilometres east of Bikaner lies Devi Kund, the site of a royal crematorium with several ornamented cenotaphs or chhatris built in the memory of the Bika dynasty rulers. The white marble chhatri of Maharaja Surat Singh is very imposing.

Gajner Wildlife Sanctuary:
Just 32 kilometres from Bikaner, the Gajner Wildlife Sanctuary is home to a variety of wild animals. The adjoining lake that reflects the charming pink sandstone palace and gardens contrasts so effectively with the surrounding scrubland where black back, chital, sambhar, chinkara, nilgai, wild boar, rabbits, partridges, quail, and Indian bustard abound, that you wonder if it/’s real, or a desert mirage. From the paved terrace, you see jungle animals come down to the water for a drink. This lake attracts millions of migratory birds in winter. The Maharajah of Bikaner held house parties for shooting grouse, duck, and wild boar here.

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