Founded in 1488, Bikaner is an enchanting royal fortified city,  which just cannot help but mesmerize you!  One that is known for its majestic forts, palaces, temples, scrumptious cuisines, camel safaris, interesting legends and more, Bikaner makes for a wonderful getaway.
Enclosed by high ramparts that are 7 km long, this city was earlier just a barren wilderness called Jangladesh that was transformed by Rao Bhikaji,the heir of Maharaja Rao Jodha, the founder of Jodhpur. (The name Bikaner means the “settlement of Bika”)
A city known for its many marvels, here are some of its attractions that set this city apart from others here.
Think Bikaner and the first thing that comes to mind is the Junagarh Fort dating back to 1593  built on the ruins of the original fort built by Rao Bhikaji a hundred years earlier. A colossal fort, that has never been conquered, this formidable structure surrounded by a moat is known for its brilliant architecture and stone carvings. Built to protect 37palaces, temples and pavilions, this fort has only two gates to allow access to the fort.
Built of red sandstone, the palaces are known for their elaborate carvings, towers, paintings, murals, exquisite furniture & more, the most impressive of them being the Hawa Mahal, Anup Mahal, Diwan-e-Khas, Ganga Mahal, Rang Mahal, Badal Mahal, and Dungar Mahal.
Of the many Mahals here the Chandra Mahal is the most luxurious room in the palace, housing gold plated deities and paintings, while the Anup Mahal was said to be the grandest construction here. The Badal Mahal is known for its walls painted with images of Hindu god Krishna and Radha amidst the rain clouds. At the Ganga Mahal, one can find a museum exhibiting an aeroplane (biplane), from even World War I amidst other weapons.
Another architectural masterpiece also built in red sandstone is the Lalgarh Palace, known for its intricate lattice and filigree work. Designed by Sir Swinton Jacob, this palace was built by Maharaja Ganga Sing (1881 AD-1942 AD) in his father’s memory (Maharaja Lall Singh) and showcases the love Rajputs have for martial architecture. Here one can visit the museum and library (it is said that  the library here is world’s fourth largest library), and the many decorated halls and pavilions. Commanding everyone’s attention here are the magnificent pillars and the vast amazing collection of paintings and trophies. Adding to the beauty and welcoming all who visit it are the well maintained gardens  known for the many peacocks spotted here.
Standing on the banks of the Gajner Lake, earning the nickname the ‘Incomparable jewel in the Thar Desert’ is the Gajner Palace, It  was the summer and hunting resort of  the former Maharajas,  and also used to host various dignitaries. Today it is one of the largest and grandest heritage hotels in Rajasthan and the world. Also built in red sandstone it is known for its elaborate jharokhas and intricately carved pillars, and is enclosed by a woody area that is home to chinkaras, blackbucks, Neelgai etc.
Around 8 km from Bikaner is Devi Kund, the crematorium ground of the Maharajas that houses many exquisite cenotaphs called Chhatris. Works of art, they stand at the exact spot the kings were cremated and are known for fine Rajput paintings that adorn them.
Of the many temples here the three storeyed  Bhandasar Jain Temple is the most beautiful temple of Bikaner known for its wall paintings, gold leaf paintings and mirror work, Standing on the third floor of the temple one can see the skyline of Bikaner.
The Shiv Bari Temple dates back to the 9th century and is known for its beautiful painting of Nandi, while the Laxmi Nath Temple is one of the oldest temples dating back to 1488  – one known for its superb architecture, though a little further away at 32 km from Bikaner, the Deshnok Temple is one without which any trip to Bikaner is incomplete! Dedicated to Karni Mata, believed to be an incarnation of Goddess Durga, the most interesting aspect of this temple is the worship of thousands of rats called “Kabas”. Roaming freely around the temple, one can hear the most fascinating legend behind this temple, and how and why rats are worshipped here.
What never ceases to amaze one and all visiting the temple is the fact that despite the large number of rats here, there has never been any case of ratrelated disease here till date! Or the fact that that they never step out of the boundary walls and despite passage of time never even once has a baby rat been spotted here!
 The Ganga Singh Musuem here is a famous archaeological museum, considered as one of the best in Rajasthan with a wide array of treasures some dating back to the Harrappan and Gupta periods. From weapons to paintings, pottery and other arts and crafts, one can find them all here.
Other museums here include the Prachina Museum for its wide range of historical items that include royal costumes, intricate designed furniture, portraits, rugs etc. The Rajasthan State Archives is where one can find a huge compilation of documents relating to administration during the days of Mughal rule.
Last but not the least is the Gajner Wildlife Sanctuary of Bikaner, one of Bikaner’s most prominent tourist attractions.  Situated about 32 kms away, once the hunting site of the Maharajas, today this ground has been converted into a sanctuary preserving a number of wild animals. Wildlife found here includes deer, antelopes, black bucks, chinkaras, nilgai, wild boars and desert foxes.
No mention of Bikaner is complete without a mention of its local fairs and festivals; the most exciting being the Camel Festival, held in January, other festivals include the Kolayat Festival and the Gangaur Festival, dedicated to Goddess Parvati held in April.
And finally can anyone return home without a bit of shopping? From antique pieces of jewellery to ethnic garments, shoes, bags, belts and chairs made out of the leather of camel, Phad painting, a special school of painting closely associated with Bikaner, and beaded gorbandhs and Nokha Quilts… all must feature in your shopping list! Don’t forget to look out for the delicious snacks available here too.
Well connected to the rest of the country by road & rail, the nearest airport here is located in Jodhpur.
While visiting the city during the festive time is a different experience altogether, when it comes to a beautiful city like Bikaner, one needn’t wait till then!

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