In the heart of the scorching Thar Desert, lies Bikaner of Rajasthan. The captivating desert scenery with all the majesty of its sand dunes, hard, rocky soil and thorny shrubs growing here and there, makes Bikaner endearing to nature lovers. Bikaner was a one of the significant staging post of the silk route in the days when businessmen used to travel mostly on camel caravans. The forts and red sandstone construction are the chief attractions of the city. It is a royal city surrounded by a mammoth fortification wall, more than 5 km in circumference and about 5 to 9m high.
The Camel Breeding Farm in Bikaner is only one of its kinds in whole Asia and so is the illustrious Camel Festival. Bikaner is bright and alive and colorful with its traditional costumes, vivacious fairs and festivals, paintings and murals and electrifying wares and hoards of artistic skills that have been there for centuries.
Resplendent with history and excellent architecture, tourist attractions of Bikaner arrest the attention of every visitor. On your Bikaner tour, visit the impressive Junagarh Fort. Built by Raja Rai Singh, this fort has an appealing architecture. Lalgarh Palace was built in the early 20th century. See the immaculate work of art and savor it’s old-worldly charm. Also visit Laxmi Nath Temple, Shiv Bari Temple and Havelis. On your tour to Bikaner, you can catch a glimpse of the brilliant architecture.
FAIRS AND FESTIVALS
Camel Festival – Bikaner Camel Festival is much like Elephant Festival of Jaipur. Dedicated to the ship of the desert or the main mode of the transport for the desert people, it is held on the full moon night, every year in January. A lot of events featuring camel races and camel dances are held. You can enjoy camel rides and experience the buoyancy and colorful environment typical to Rajasthan.
Gangaur Fair - Gangaur Fair is held in March/ April every year in the honor of Goddess Gauri. Maidens and married women enact processions throughout the city. They wear their best dresses and jewellery, sing folk songs and perform rituals to please the goddess and get her blessings for conjugal and marital bliss.
Kite Festival or the Teej Festival - is generally held April/ May annually and as the name suggests the major event on this occasion is to fly kites. This cultural tradition bears special significance in Bikaner as it serves to venerate the historical fact that on this day the foundations of the city were laid. The hot climate and the sandstorms are unable to hinder the enthusiasm and fervor with which people of all ages celebrate it.
Karni Mata Fair - is held twice a year on the ninth day of the Navratra (the nine-day festival) in March/ April and September/ October, in the honor of Goddess Karni Mata, worshipped by the royal family of Bikaner. All the devotees gather in the little desert citadel of Deshnok and offer their prayers and chant hymns and prayers.
Kapil Muni Fair - is held in November on the sacred lake of Kolayat, which is about 55 Km from Bikaner, during the full moon of 'Kartik' (according to the Hindu calendar), in the honor of Kapil Muni who founded 'Sankhya' (statistics, which was one of the six major philosophical schools of ancient India). Not only the devotees who come here to take a holy dip in the lake, several other people and tourists visit the place only to see the renowned cattle fair held here during this occasion.
Forts & Palaces
Junagarh Fort - BikanerBuilt by Raja Rai Singh (who was a contemporary of Akbar), the fort remains unconquered till date except once, when Kamran supposedly captured it but could not retain it over 24 hours. It has 37 palaces, temples and pavilions that are built in red sandstone and marble. Richly decorated with mirror work, paintings and outstanding stone carvings, the architectural brilliance of the fort is worth seeing.
Suraj Pol (the Sun Gate) is the main doorway of the fort. The palaces are on the southern side of the fort and their courtyards, kiosks, towers and windows make a scenic view. The notable tourist attractions are Chandra Mahal (The Moon palace), Phool Mahal (The Flower Palace), Karan Mahal (Karn Palace), Anup Mahal, Diwan-e-Khas (Public Audience Hall), Hawa Mahal (the Wind Palace), Badal Mahal (the Cloud Palace), Rang Mahal (the Color Palace), Dungar Mahal, and Ganga Mahal. The fort is open from10 am to 4.30 pm daily and is closed on Fridays. The entry fee includes the fee of the guide.
Maharaja Ganga Singh (1881-1942) built Lalgarh Mahal, Sir Swinton Jacob being the chief architect. An imposing building, it has a captivation combination of Oriental style with its delicate latticework and European luxury with its overhanging balconies and terraced lawns. Peacocks and bougainvillea bushes provide the final strokes to the loveliness of its scenic beauty. The Lal Ghar Palace Library has a massive collection of rare, original Sanskrit manuscripts on parchments, copper and gold or silver plaques. The Lalgarh palace is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm and is closed on Wednesdays.
Ganga Golden Jubilee Museum
The museum has a plentiful collection of pre-Harappan, Gupta, and Kushan pottery, carpets, paintings, Bikaneri miniatures, armory and coins and also has a special section, which displays local arts of the area.
Fort Junagarh Museum
As the name suggests, it is located in the fort of Junagaarh and has an wide-ranging collection of manuscripts, carpets, jars, jewellery, armory, decorative items, treaties, and several other artifacts on its display.
Palace Museum or Shri Sadul Museum
The first floor of the Lal Ghar Mahal houses this museum, which displays royal exhibitories including well-preserved hunting trophies, personal possessions of former Bikaner rulers such as royal wardrobe, camera, golf tees, camera, books, electric toothbrush of the former 'maharaja', his earplugs and old photos depicting royal hunts.
Gajner is 32 km from Bikaner and is famous for its wildlife sanctuary where you can see wild fowls, deers, and antelopes, blue bull, chinkara, black buck or flocks of regal sand grouse that migrate here in winter and wild boar. It's a pleasure to see the green forests and lakes amidst desert-wooded hills here. Gajner wildlife sanctuary also features Gajner Palace, known as "Jewel in the Thar Desert", which was built Maharaja Ganga Singhji of Bikaner on the lakeside.
Gajner - RanthamboreCamel Breeding Farm
Just 8 km from Bikaner, this camel research and breeding center had its roots in the Camel Corp of the British army. Today, it is only one of its kinds in Asia with more than 250 camels and baby-camels that are quite a spectacle and is a great tourist attraction. It also features camel rides. The farm is open from Monday to Friday and on every second Saturday from 3 to 5 pm. There is no entry fee.
About 30km south of Bikaner, it is known for its 600-year old Karni Mata Temple, which is dedicated to the Karni Mata, the tutulary deity of the royal family of Bikaner and a form of the Goddess Durga. You will find thousands of rats in the temple. The devotees feed them and believe that these rodents will be reincarnated as holy men. They also consider spotting a white rat as a good omen. The temple is open from 4 am to 10 pm and there's an additional fee for cameras and videos.