Lying in the north of the desert State, the city is dotted with scores of sand dunes. Bikaner retains the medieval grandeur that permeates the city's lifestyle. More readily called the camel country, the city is distinguished for the best riding camels in the world and hence boasts of having one of the largest Camel Research and Breeding farms in the world. The ship of the desert is an inseparable part of life here. A camel besides being a mode of transport, also works on wells. These are built on high plinths with slender minarets on each of the four corners and can be noticed even from a distance.
The history of Bikaner dates back to 1486 when a Rathore prince, Rao Bikaji founded his kingdom. Bikaji was one the five sons of Rao Jodhaji the illustrious founder of Jodhpur. But Rao Bikaji was the most adventurous of them. It is said that an insensitive remark from his father about his whispering in the Durbar provoked Bikaji to set up his own kingdom towards the north of Jodhpur. The barren wilderness called Jangladesh became his focul point and he transformed it into an impressive city. He accomplished this task with 100 cavalry horses and 500 soldiers, and established his kingdom on 84 villages abandoned by the 'Shankhlas'. When Bikaji died in 1504 his rule had extended to over 3000 villages.
The strategic location of Bikaner on the ancient caravan routes that came from West/Central Asia made it a prime trade centre in those times. Bikaner stands on a slightly raised ground and is circumscribed by a seven km long embattledwall with five gates. The magnificent forts and palaces, created with delicacy in reddish-pink sandstone, bear testimony to its rich historical and architectural legacy. Surging lanes, colourful bazaars with bright and cheerful folks make Bikaner an interesting experience..
Modern Bikaner is the result of the foresight of its most eminent ruler Maharaja Ganga Singh (1887-1943) whose reformative zeal set the pace for Bikaner transformation from a principality to a premier princely state.
Places of Tourist Interest Near Bikaner
It is an unassailable fortress, which had never been conquered. Built in 1593 A.D. by Raja Rai Singh, one of the most distinguished generals in the army of Emperor Akbar, the fort is a formidable structure encircled by a moat.
The main entrance to the fort is Karan Pol [gate] that is facing east. Next to it is the Suraj Pol meaning the sun gate. In the fort complex are some magnificent palaces like Anup Mahal, Ganga Niwas and Rang Mahal or palace of pleasure. The Har Mandir is the majestic chapel for the royal family for worshipping their gods and goddesses. These palaces, constructed in red sandstone and marble, make a picturesque ensemble of courtyards, balconies, kiosks and windows dotted all over the structure. The premises also house a museum, which has an array of rich collection.
This grand palace is an architectural masterpiece in red sandstone, and was built by Maharaja Ganga Singh in the memory of his father Maharaja Lall Singh in 1902. Sir Swinton Jacob designed this oriental fantasy. This architecture is a fusion of Rajput, Mughal and European architecture. The exterior contrasts dramatically with the oriental interiors and amenities. The palace has beautiful latticework and filigree work, which are the hallmarks of great craftsmanship.The Palace has an amazing collection of well maintained paintings and hunting trophies. Sprawling lawns with blooming bougainvillaea and dancing peacocks make for a visual extravaganza.
Bhandeswar Jain Temple
Bhandeswar Jain Temple is a fifteenth century temple and is the oldest monument of Bikaner. The temple is decorated with rich mirror work, frescoes and gold leaf paintings.
Havelis are ancient mansions of the noble and wealthy. They are known for their opulent lifestyle and intricate carvings and craftsmanship along with sprawling courtyards. Bikaner is full of such havelis and the notable amongst them belong to Kotharis, Rampurias, Vaids and Dagas. To view these havelis, the suggested route is Gogagate, Daddhon Ka Chowk, Rangari Chowk, Assanion Ka Chowk, Mohta Chowk, Binnanion Ka Chowk, Daga Chowk, BK School and Jassuar Gate.
Ganga Government Museum:
Popularly described as the best museum in the State, it displays a rich array of archaeological discoveries from prehistoric Harrapan and early Gupta period. Separate sections put on view paintings, arts and craft, terracotta, pottery, carpets, coins and ancient Rajput weaponry.
Part of the Lallgarh Palace has been converted into a luxury hotel and a museum known as Shri Sadul Museum. The museum covers the entire first floor of the palace and houses well preserved old photographs and trophies of wildlife.
Shiv Bari Temple(6 kms from Bikaner)
Fortified by a high wall the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Maharaja Doongar Singh constructed it in the nineteenth century in the memory of his father Maharaj Lall Singh The temple has a beautiful wall painting of Nandi Bull facing the Shiva Lingam. This is located on the way to the camel town.
Devi Kund (8 kms from Bikaner)
The royal crematorium has several exquisite cenotaphs (Chhatris). Each Chhatri is dedicated to the memory of a ruler of Bikaji dynasty and is situated on the exact place where each of them was cremated. The Chhatri of Maharaj Surat Singh is a fine example of architecture. The ceilings of the Chhatris display some delicate Rajput paintings.
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