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Bikaner

  • (worth a detour)
  • 3-5 km
  • Easy
  • Average
  • 2-3 days
  • 2 2

An alternative to Jaisalmer's camel-safari hype, Bikaner is less crowded and equally rewarding

Bikaner, Rajasthan India
Bikaner is most famous for its Bikaneri Bhujiyas (snacks) which are readily available all around the city and in other parts of the state of Rajasthan. Apart from this, the city is also a part of the grand Rajasthani cuisine parade and necessarily highlights most local dishes. Try the Rajasthani special breakfast of puri and danamethi at Chhotu Motu Joshi.
Bikaner provides excellent camel safari opportunities to those interested and the hassle is surprisingly lower than in Jaisalmer. There are lesser tourists which implies that it is less crowded at the safari and more personal. The camel safaris typically cost around INR1200-1800 per person per day which ideally includes overnight camping at the desert with tents, mattresses, meals and a guide in addition to the camel men. One of the most notable tour operators is Vijay Singh Rathore a.k.a. the Camel Man (www.camelman.com).You can contact him via the website.
Bikaner is most suitable for travelers on budget as they get to spend half compared to the main cities and yet enjoy all the aspects of holidaying in any of the main cities of Rajasthan. The sleeping options is Bikaner range from INR80 (Shanti House) to INR4500 (Bhanwar Niwas). Most of the guest houses and hotel provide home cooked meals and some even have their own restaurant and bar. There are many budget restaurants and diners as well. A regular meal at a decent restaurant can cost anywhere between INR50-INR100.A plate of two kachori samosa at Chhotu Motu Joshi (snacks and sweets) costs INR20. A beer at Bhairon Vilas costs approx. INR175.

Bikaner is a city located in the northwest of the state of Rajasthan. The city was founded by Rao Bika, the son of Rao Jodha (founder of Jodhpur, in 1486 and is now the fifth largest city in Rajasthan. Prior to its formation in the 15th century, it was an abandoned land known as Jangladesh. It is believed that the area which Rao Bika chose as his capital belonged to a Nehra Jat named Naira or Nera who agreed to surrender his property in one condition that his name be associated with it, thus the name ‘Bikaner’. Rao Bika also built a fort in 1478 in the then princely state of Bikaner which eventually demolished and is non-existent today. The city of Bikaner is situated amidst the Thar Desert and thus sees a hot desert climate in summers (up to 47 degree Celsius) and really cold weather in winters (up to -2.7 degree Celsius).

 

Let’s take a look at some of the interesting sights in Bikaner:

  1. Junagarh Fort – Originally known as Chintamani Durg, Junagarh Fort is a 16th century fort located 1.5 km from the city center. It is one of the few forts in the state of Rajasthan which is not constructed atop a hill. The fort was constructed under the reign of Raja Rai Singh (sixth ruler of Bikaner) who ruled the city from 1571 to 1611 A.D. The chief supervisor on the project was his Prime Minister Karan Chand. The construction of the fort began in 1589 and the fort walls and moats were completed by 1594. Surprisingly, in spite of several attacks and attempts made to capture the fort, it was never occupied by an enemy ever, except for a one-day capture by the second son of the Mughal Emperor Babur, Kamran Mirza. He raged war against the then Rathore ruler of Bikaner, Rao Jait Singh, in 1543, however, was defeated and returned to Lahore. The fort expenses over an area of 5.28 hectares with many gates and several palaces. Initially, the main entrance gate was Karan Pol; however, the entry is through Suraj Pol now. There are two giant red elephant statues with their mahouts at the entrance. There are seven gates in total. There also used to be a moat surrounding the fort, but it’s not there anymore. The fort comprises 37 bastions, seven gates, many havelis and temples, the fort museum, and the Maharaja Rai Singhji Trust. Some of the havelis inside the fort include Karan Mahal a.k.a. Public Audience Hall built by Maharaja Karan Singh and considered one of the most elegant palaces because of its beautiful gardens and magnificent Rajasthani architecture, Phool Mahal a.k.a. Flower Palace built by Raja Rai Singh himself, Anup Mahal built by  Anup Singh Ji and is known as one of the ‘grandest constructions’, Chandra Mahal refurbished by Maharaja Gaj Singh, Ganga Mahal built by General Maharaja Ganga Singh and also houses the museum, and Badal Mahal a.k.a the weather palace built by Dungar Singh and named so in accordance to a painting of clouds and rain which is an uncommon event in Bikaner. The Fort museum displays an exquisite collection of miniature paintings, royal costumes, palanquins, Sanskrit and Persian manuscripts, and a range of post-medieval armories.
  2. Karni Mata Temple – Karni Mata Temple, or popularly known as ‘Temple of rats’ is a temple in Deshnok, 30 km south of Bikaner, devoted to a Hindu female sage who is believed to have had magical powers. There is no recorded proof of her birth or death but it is believed that she was born on 2nd October, 1387 and was 151 years old when on 23rd March 1538 she magically disappeared while on her way back to Deshnok with her stepson when she stopped the caravan for some water. There are other temples built around Rajasthan in her respect, but this is the most famous one. What makes it truly stand out is the presence of several rats in the vicinity and the story behind it. It is believed that when Karni Mata’s youngest son, Lakhan, drowned, she pleaded the god of death, Yama, to bring back her son. However, Yama refused and instead told her that she was powerful enough to bring back her son. She not only brought her son back but made sure that none of her family members will ever be dead totally but be reincarnated as rats. Whether the story holds any truth, it is firmly believed by the residents and the temple is of high religious importance to the native of the state. It is definitely a must-visit experience and one-of-its-kind in the world. The temple is open from 04:00A.M to 10:00 P.M. There is no entry fee but if you want to use your camera or make a video there is a charge of INR20 and INR50, respectively.
  3. National Research Centre on Camels – The entire state of Rajasthan highlight several activities involving camels as one of the major tourist lures, however, this research center located 8 km SE of central Bikaner is dedicated towards a completely different experience that you can have with camels. You can spend time visiting baby camels, look around the area which has about 400 camels of three different breeds, taste camel milk for INR5 a bag. The best time to visit the center though is between 03:00 P.M. to 06:00 P.M which is the camel feeding time. There are optional guides available for INR50 onwards, but it’s not all that necessary. The center is open from 02:00 P.M till 06:00 P.M. The entry fee is INR20 for Indians and INR50 for others. You can take your camera for an additional fee of INR30. You can also take a camel ride for INR30. You can take a roundtrip taxi or auto-rickshaw which will cost around INR300 but a better option will be to rent a bicycle or moped and travel here by yourself.

 

The city of Bikaner celebrates a grand Camel Festival every year around in late December or January. It is a three day event of which one day takes place at the Karni Singh Stadium and the remaining two days take place at Ladera. The festival provides an in-depth insight in the cultural aspect of the city of Bikaner and also makes for a nice photography opportunity.

 



How to get there

Bikaner is connected with the nearby cities via trains and buses. Daily buses operate between Delhi, Deshnok, Fatehpur, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Pushkar and the city. Likewise, Bikaner is connected to Jaisalmer, Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Delhi via trains.

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