Bikaner is a city that still possesses the charm of the medieval period. Bikaner lies 240 km northeast of Jodhpur, in the center of the hot Thar. The Rajput civilization comes alive with opulent palaces, elaborately sculptured temples. The splendor of the desert, the camels, the entire ambience just arrests the visitor. Camel, the ship of the desert, is an inseparable part of life here. Bikaner is the final destination for a veritable foodie. The lip smacking Bikaneri sweets and namkeens are famous worldwide. Bikaner is also famous all over the globe for it's "Bhujia & Papads", spicy snacks made from fried gram and pulses and also for "Rasgullas" a dessert.
Built in 1593 A.D. the fort is a formidable structure encircled by a moat and has some beautiful palaces within.
These palaces, made in red sandstone (Dulmera) and marble, make a picturesque ensemble of countryards, balconies, kiosks and windows dotted all over the structure.
The imposing fort has 986 long wall with 37 bastions and two entrances. It is approached through the Karan Poal which is the main entrance. Among the palaces of interest are Anop mahal, Ganga niwas and Rang mahal or palace of pleasure. The Anoop Mahal is famous for its gold leaf painting. Har Mandir- a majestic chapel where the royal family worshiped there Gods and Goddesses. Chandra mahal or moon palace has exquisite paintings on the lime plaster walls and Phool mahal or the Flower palace is decorated with inset mirror work. The gigantic columns , arches and graceful screen grace the palaces. Karan Mahal was built to commemorate a notable victory over the Mughal Aurangzeb.The other important parts are Durbar Hall, Gaj mandir, Sheesh Mahal or mirror chamber etc.
Timings : 10 AM to 4.30 PM
Established near the Lalgarh Palace in Bikaner in 1937, this Museum now run by the Government of Rajasthan, was shifted to a new building in the Civil lines in 1954. It is having one of the richest collection of Terracotta ware, weapons, paintings of Bikaner school and coins. The exhibits are splendid master pieces of Harappan civilisation, Gupta and Kushan era and sculptures of the late classical time.Some principal sections of the museum are:
- Maharaja Ganga Singh Memorial
- Local Arts and Crafts
- Sculpture, Terracotta and Bronzes
- Miniature Paintings and Folk-Arts
- Dr. L. P. Tessitori Memorial Section
- Litho prints of the British interpretation of the war of Independence 1857
The 'Furgal' was presented by Crown Prince Salim (Emperor Jehangir ) to Raja Rai Singh of Bikaner, one of his closest officials.
The History of Bikaner contains a colourful record of war adventures. More than half a dozen rulers lost their lives while participating in the imperial campaigns of the Mughals. Various 'Farmans' bearing original Imperial seals, issued by the Emperors - Jahangir, Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb and Shah Alam, are preserved in this museum.
An exquisite collection of Rajasthani miniatures of almost all the sub-schools of Rajasthan such as Bikaner, Bundi, Mewar, Jaipur, Jodhpur etc. are on view here.
The museum has one of the finest collections of early terracotta art, in the country. These belong to the early Gupta period and were discovered in 1017 AD by Dr. L. P. Tessitori from the ancient Theris of Rang Mahal, Badopal, Pir Sultan-Ki-Theri located between Suratgarh and Hanumangarh of the old Bikaner state. The existence of these 'Theris' can be traced back to the Indus Valley Civilization. Some of these sites including Kalibangan are considered the oldest in India. It was in this area that the sacred river Saraswati is believed to have existed.
The sculpture of Jain Saraswati (11th-12th Century) is a unique piece of marble of four feet eight inches in height. Discovered from village Pallu (Ganganagar), it is a peerless example of medieval Indian sculpture. Nartaki (10th-11th Century) is a beautiful one foot high bronze image, discovered from large sand dune of village Amarsar in Tehsil Sujangarh (Churu.)
The museum has a fine collection of superb lacquered works, a craft special to Bikaner entirely done by the artisans, called Ustas (Ustaads), on wood, metal, glass, stone, leather and ostrich egg shells.
Bikaner stands almost unsurpassed in wood and stone carvings. A teak wood table and a wooden casket, a model of the Gajner Palace (Bikaner), a typical 'Ikka' (horse drawn cart) and chariot with minutest details are on view in the museum.
30 Km south from Bikaner on the road of Jodhpur, stands a little town-DESHNOK , is known for the shrine of Karni Mata, who is worshiped as an incarnation of Goddess Durga. She blessed Rao Bika, the founder of Bikaner in establishing his kingdom and since then she was also worshiped as the tutelary deity of the erstwhile Bikaner dynasty.
The temple is unique as the rats called Kabas, are venerated here and the shrine is a sanctuary for them. It is believed that these Kabas carry souls of future Charans/bards (children of the goddess) who inhabit the town of Deshnok. These Kabas are held sacred and they move freely in the temple precincts. It is considered highly auspicious. It is considered highly auspicious to sight a white Kaba. The temple has fascinating huge silver gates and marble carvings. The most attractive feature of temple are the rodents who scamper freely within the premises and if one touches your feet its considered auspicious. They are regarded sacred and devotees buy prasad (feeding) to offer to them.
While it breeds the best Camels in the city, research on them is also conducted here. You would be surprised by the information found, which also tells you that a camel can cover more than 100 kilometers in a day. The center’s strength lies in its employees, the local camel breeders, who’ve been in this profession since ancient times. The moments are joyful when you watch young camels play around mischievously around its lazy parents. Those wishing to try something new could try a glass of some nutritiously thick camel milk.
The 15 century Temple,is the oldest and distinct monument of bikaner dedicated to Sumati Nath Ji, the 5th Tirthankar of the Jain Religion. The temple is decorated with rich mirror work, frescoes and gold leaf paintings. The beautiful temple was erected near Laxminath temple in 1540 A.D. Pure ghee (butter oil) and coconuts were reported to have been used in laying the foundation. Carved in red sand stone and white marble - its famous for carvings ,wall paintings , structural beauty and artistically designed statues.
Lakshmi Nath Temple is one of the oldest temples of Bikaner. The foundation of Bikaner was laidhere in the year 1488 A.D. by Rao Bikaji. It being a historical monument has special identity. This temple was erected during the reign of Rao Lunkaran and boasts of the superb archeological skills of artists and artisans . Statues of deities- Vishnu and Laxmi - have all along received the unwavering devotion of countless people through the last four and half centuries.
A splendid temple building made of white marble. It is a fine example of Indo-Mugal architecture, situated on K.E.M Road, near Junagarh Fort. The temple was built by the 18th rular of Bikaner state, in 1846 A.D. It is dedicated to Lord Krishna. The temple has floor made of marble.
Gajner Palace has often been described as 'an incomparable jewel in theThar desert'. Palace stands on the embankment of a lake . The architecture of Gajner palace is truly outstanding. Built in red sandstone with intricately carved pillars, jharokhas and screens , the craftsmanship here is amazing. A part of palace has been transformed into hotel.
The wildlife sanctuary provides shelter to chinkaras , blackbucks, blue bull (neel gai),Wild Boar and flocks of imperial sand grouse and many other birds and waterfowls which flock here in large numbers.
The Royal crematorium has several exquisite cenotaphs which were built in memory of the deceased members of the ruling family of Bikaner. The Chhatries (Cenotaphs) of the early rulers were made of red sandstone, ornamentation on which resembles very much with carving work on some of the buildings of Fatehpur Sikri. Maharaja Suraj Singh's Chhatri is the most impressive of all, created entirely with white marble with spectacular Rajput paintings on the ceiling The later Cenotaphs were made from marble and very beautifully sculpted and ornamented. Rajput painting adorn the ceiling of some of the Cenotaphs.
From Gajner its an easy drive to Kolayat - an old pilgrimage centre where Kapil Muni of the vedic fame is believed to have shed his body under a peepul tree. Kolayat has a series of charming marble temple, sandstone pavilions and 32 ghats (bathing places) built around a huge artificial lake which never goes dry.
Here one can see sadhus and pilgrms taking a holy dip, surrounded by the vast emptiness of a timeless atmosphere and the golden desert. On Karthik Purnima day a grand fair is held in which devotees from all over the country come to take a holy bath in the lake.
A famous pilgrimage spot with a temple dedicated to Kapil Muni (saint) Kapil Muni sat in meditation near lake. Muni was propounder of Sankhya Philosophy The temple is the venue for an annual fair held in the month of Kartik (Oct-Nov) when the thousands of devotees gather in a large number to take a sacred dip in the holy waters of the Kolayat lake( Kapil Sarovar) on the full moon day. Lake is considered to have the effect of washing off the sins of devotees. A cattle fair ,especially for the trading of camels is a part of he festivities. The town is connected to Bikaner by road as well as rail.