Bikaner – Desert Attractions
Bikaner is a district located in the northwestern part of the State of Rajasthan in India and is surrounded by the Thar Desert. The city has immense cultural as well as historical importance and is the fourth largest city in Rajasthan. This city is also called the camel city because it is home to the best riding camels in the world. Since the city is located in the middle of a desert, Islamic invaders found it difficult to conquer it and bring it under the Mughal Empire. However, diplomacy proved fruitful for the Mughals who made an alliance with the Rajput Kings of the region and brought the district under Mughal rule.
The nearest Airport is Jaipur which is 250 kilometers or 138 miles from Bikaner; however another domestic airport is located in the city of Jodhpur which is closer to this city compared to Jaipur. Jaipur is well connected to all the metro cities of India by rail as well as by air and is the best option if you want a comfortable journey. The city of Bikaner is also well connected by railroad to Delhi, Agra, Mumbai, and many other major cities in India. However you may need to reserve a seat well in advance if you want to enjoy traveling in an air-conditioned coach. Traveling by road to reach Bikaner is not advisable since it will take a lot of time from Jaipur to reach the city.
Places of interest
The history of Bikaner has influenced the architecture and culture of the region and many palaces are designed with a mix of Mughal, Victorian, and Indian architecture. Numerous temples are scattered around the city and are famous since they are some of the oldest temples in the state and the city. Pilgrims from all over India throng these temples on festivals and other religious occasions. The temples are also crowded during fairs and festivals that take place very frequently.
This palace flaunts an architecture that is a mix of European, Rajput, and Mughal designs and was designed by a British architect, Sir Swinton Jacob. Made using the red sandstone quarried from the Thar Desert, the palace has pavilions, drawing rooms, smoking rooms, guest suites, several grand halls, lounges, and cupolas. The palace also has a huge dining room that has the capacity to accommodate four hundred diners at a time. The building also has magnificent pillars, highly structured fireplaces, Italian colonnades and elaborate latticework and filigree work.
Laxmi Niwas Palace
The Laxmi Niwas Palace is the epitome of Indo-Saracenic architecture and is a huge palace that was the residence of the king of Bikaner State, Maharaja Ganga Singh. However it has now been converted into a luxury hotel and many tourists visit the palace for a stay or just to be enthralled by the aesthetics of the imposing structure. Even King George V of England who stayed in the palace has appreciated the palace’s comfort and architecture.
The Junagarh fort is an impressive structure built by the sixth ruler of this district Raja Rai Singh who was also the military commander of Akbar. For his services to the Mughal Empire, Raja Rai Singh was granted some other territories by Akbar. This enabled him to construct this massive structure that is imposing, beautiful, and intimidating at the same time. There are thirty seven pavilions in the fort, a courtyard, a Zenena (women’s quarters), and several public court buildings. Tourists can bask their eyes on various ornamental works found inside the fort such as Rajput paintings, mirror work, and lacquer work. The fort also houses a library that has Persian manuscripts and ancient Sanskrit books.
This temple was built in 1486 and was the first Vaishnav temple in Bikaner. This temple holds significant religious importance since the first of the Bhagwat Katha readers gave the Bhagwat Updesh to King Rao Bika. The practice still takes place even after an eon of more than five centuries.
Laxmi Nath Temple
One of the oldest temples in Bikaner, Laxmi Nath Temple is famous since the foundation of the metropolis was laid here in 1488 by Rao Bikaji. The temple was constructed during the reign of Rao Lunkaran and Maharaja Ganga Singh made many additions to the temple.
Shiv Bari Temple
This red sandstone structure was built by Dungar Singh in the late 19th century and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. A black marble statue of Shiva is the idol that is worshipped here. The temple gets crowded in the month of August as it is an auspicious time to visit the temple.
Kolayat temple is located approximately thirty miles from Bikaner and is one of the places that are a major attraction for pilgrims as well as tourists. The temple has around 52 Ghats or holy bathing places that are fed by an artificial lake that never runs dry. This is an interesting fact since this place is a desert where draughts and rainfall scarcity is a perennial problem. The temple is dedicated to a sage called Kapila who shed his body under a Peepul tree. In the months of October and November many pilgrims visit the lake to cleanse their sins by taking a dip in the holy water.
Kalibangan is a town located in Rajasthan which is 200 kilometers or 130 miles from Bikaner. This is also one of the must-visit places in Rajasthan since it is an archeological site that was home to the Indus valley civilization. The place also holds the title of discovering evidence of world’s earliest attested ploughed fields. These historic ruins of an ancient civilization are one of a kind in the world and give evidence of the earliest or maybe even the first civilization that took root in India.
Some of the best hotels in Bikaner are Hotel Laxmi Niwas [Ph: (+91) 151 2521188], Hotel Heritage [Ph: (91) – 151 – 2540201, 2541509], Hotel Raj Vilas Palace [Ph: (+91) 0151 – 2525901-03], Hotel Gajner Palace [Ph: (+91) 1534 255061], Bhanwar Niwas [Ph: (+91) 151 2529323] and Karni Bhavan Palace [Ph: (+91) 22 661819400. All these are luxurious heritage hotels and are on the expensive side; however they are the best option if you are looking for some royal pampering and good hospitality. As far as food is concerned, Rajasthani food is very different from other Indian cuisines and can be tried at least once. The best food is provided by the in-house restaurants in premium hotels and many local hotels are not very clean and can be avoided.