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Tourist Places To Visit In Bikaner
Many centuries ago, Rao Bika of Jodhpur set out to establish a city for himself and he converted what was a wasteland to what is now the famous city of Bikaner in the state of Rajasthan. The monuments from centuries since have stood the test of time and are now major tourist attractions. From the forts and palaces to ancient temples, there are quite a few tourist places to visit in Bikaner. Here is a list of some of the top tourist sites, some of the most fascinating ones being Junagrah Fort, Lalgarh Palace, Old City, Bhandasar Jain Temple and Lakshminath Temple.
The massive fort is a testimony of Bikaner’s prosperity under its sixth ruler, Raja Rai Singh. The original architect was well versed in architecture and art, and designed the fort and its palaces to represent a mixture of cultures but heavily influenced by the Mughals. His successors added their own palaces, temples and art to the fort, creating a beautiful architectural collage out of the original fort. Today the fort is a museum and the tour is efficiently designed so that the history and its influences on the architecture and art of the palaces within the fort can be understood. Some of the outstanding features of the palace include the red sandstone walls that are typical of the region, the intricately designed windows, the Rajasthani art work that cover the walls and the extensive gardens within the complex.
Though all the palaces were constructed within the fort, Raja Ganga Singh designed a new palace outside the ancient fort. In the early 1900’s the royal family moved here and has been living here since. The fort was designed by the British architect Sir Swinton Jacob and was built using the same red sandstone as its predecessor. The architecture highlights British influences along with traditional Mughal styles. Some parts of the palace are now converted into a heritage hotel, bringing a whole new dimension to the experience.
A walled locality in Bikaner, this is the place to be in if you want to see some old havelis or if you want to roam around the local markets and buy some colourful Rajasthani articles. The narrow streets and the old buildings give the impression of a very ancient town and the roads can go on for a while. The best way to tour this gorgeous city would be to rent a bike and zip through the enchanting streets. If you don’t mind the heat too much then enter through one of the gates and start exploring. The Kothe Gate entrance is the main entrance to the old city and the markets are close by.
Bhandasar Jain temple
The 15th century Jain temple is one of the two Jain temples in Bikaner. The temple is made of red sandstone and is engraved with carvings of yellow stone. The contrast makes a delightful visual. Many of the temple's elaborate paintings also have the same effect as its energetic colours stand out against the red backdrop. The temple has some fascinating legends regarding its origin, some of which say that ghee was used instead of water during the initial construction.
Karni Matha Temple
Bikaner is a place filled with surprises but nothing can be as strangely surprising as the Karni Matha Temple. Home to over 20,000 rats, believe it or not, this temple is a very popular tourist attraction. Devotees often offer food to the inhabitants and they can be seen feeding in great numbers. The temple remains open to everyone from early in the morning till late at night, so if you plan a visit to Bikaner do give this unusual place a try.
The white marble complex of Sri Lakshminath temple stands out brilliantly against the arid backdrop, and the colourful deities watch serenely as devotees enter the beautifully sculpted gateway decorated with silver artwork. This ancient Hindu temple dates all the way back to the early 16th century and has been worked upon since then. The paintings and the sculptures within the temple are a sight to behold. If you plan a trip during festive seasons like Diwali or Ramnavami then do visit the temple. It would be a wonderful opportunity to experience the religious customs and traditions of the place.
This relatively new establishment was set up by the current royal family of Bikaner to highlight the influences of globalization even on a place as remote as Bikaner. The objects on display include fancy china, crockeries, western interior decorations, accessories and many more such items. The museum is an interesting place for those who want to catch a glimpse of the lives of the Royal Family of Bikaner.
Ganga Government Museum
Set up in the 18th century, this museum is home to a vast collection of ancient artefacts that date back to prehistoric times. The museum developed greatly under Maharaja Ganga Singh who also donated quite a few artefacts to the museum. There are galleries entirely dedicated to ancient sculptures, historic paintings, old coins, textiles, armours, other weaponry and much more.
Laxmi Niwas Palace
One of the grandest, most noteworthy palaces of India is the Laxmi Niwas Palace. And why not? It was the home of the Maharajas of Bikaner, with the last resident Maharaja Ganga Singh. Designed by a British, the opulent structure was around a hundred years old and made in the then-famous Indo-Saracenic architecture style. You can visit the palace for a tour, museum visit and some pampering at the luxury hotel that most of this palace is now converted to.
In Bikaner, it wasn’t only the kings and their ministers that lived opulently. Even the rich traders and merchants, the baniya clan that earned a bomb (sometimes more than the king himself) lived a life of insane luxury. One of the prime examples of that life is the Rampuria Haveli. Its beauty is unmatched, as is its magnificent utility that makes it aesthetically sound too. The Rampuria clan of merchants commissioned this haveli and it is a must-visit for all coming to this city.
Another palace of Bikaner, Gajner Palace is really a castle by a lake that was made to indulge in as a vacation home. The then Maharaha, Maharaja Ganga Singh Ji, escaped to this castle-lodge to hunt, host the British officers and other dignitaries. The red sandstone, the jharokha widows, the pillars inlaid with sculptures — all make this castle more than just a hunting lodge. A visit to Gajner is also an escape from the city heat and noise, as green thick jungles surround it and nilgais and antelopes and black bucks come to drink water at the lake.
Gajner Wildlife Sanctuary
The Gajner Palace is situated near the Gajner Wildlife Sanctuary, where a number of indigenous wildlife species are protected. From wild boars to chinkaras, nilgais to deer, tourists can encounter them all. The sanctuary is about 30 km from the city of Bikaner, and makes for a good day escape into the wild. Along with a plethora of animals, you will also get to watch birds flock out, sandgrouse being a special protected specie. Safaris are available to book around here.
National Research Centre on Camel
Bikaner and camels are almost synonymous. So how can you miss the National Research Centre on Camel?
This is like a little nursery of camels, where they are bred, brought up and conserved for special breeds. At a time, there are 200+ camels in the centre and their milk is one of the most nutritious drinks around. Locals make a thick lassi out of it and you can get a glass at the centre. There is a museum on camels and the history of how they were domesticated in the region. And at the end of the day, you can also ride camels if you so wish!
Shiv Bari Temple
A red sandstone temple, as the name suggests, Shiv Bari is dedicated to Lord Shiva and his universe. There is also a humungous Nandi painting on one of its walls. Nandi is a bull, the vehicle of choice of Shiva, and is considered a demigod in Hinduism. A Shiv ling makes the centre of the temple along with a small enclosure that houses Lord Shri Krishna and his gopijan.
Commissioned by Maharaja Sur Singh, Sursagar Lake feels like a breath of relief in the arid desert of Bikaner. In Rajasthan, any lake or spring or pond was considered a gift from god. That is how rare water was. Today the lake serves as a picnic spot, where people come to stroll the bank, paddle boat and open a basket of food with friends and family. Locals and tourists alike are found mingling here.
The royal cenotaphs near Devikund Sagar lake make for a gorgeous place to indulge in some photography. A cenotaph is a memorial, built for someone who died a valiant death. The Cenotaphs here are 22 in number, each built for a royal member of the house of Bikaner. There are 22 cenotaphs of the satis of the royal family here, while some males like Jet Singh are also immortalised here. Marble sculptures, pillars, paintings… they all come together to create a beautiful picture of the place.
Prachina Museum is ensconced within the grand Jungarh Fort. It can be visited by itself, but most people obviously club the visit with a tour of the fort. The museum is a treasure chest of royal household — from costumes to arms, jewels to accessories, colour palettes to textiles and styles. The royals of the yore were as close to celebrities as you could get. Hence their poshaks were the most stylish and when they strutted out in procession, it was nothing short of a fashion show. The museum showcases those clothes and styles in great detail.
Skybird Water Park
To get a little taste of local amusement, visit Skybird Water Park in Bikaner. It is a place of fulfilled rides in the middle of green gardens and waterparks. There are a number of canteens, restaurants and party plots in the premises for huge groups and events. If you wish to witness an oasis in the desert, where rides and slides and squealing kids prevail — then this is it.
M. G. Road
Abbreviated for Mahatma Gandhi Road, this is the your go-to place in Bikaner for shopping. From street shopping to small local boutiques and family owned stores, you get it all here. The price range is also huge, so all kinds of people are found milling in the market. From sarees (a variety of leheriya, bandhni, chiffons, georgettes etc) to kurtis and imitation jewellery and leather wear, you get to fill a whole new ethnic wardrobe here. And of course, where there are shops, there is also food. So don’t worry about refreshments, there are plenty of snack stalls along the way.