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Bikaner

Amidst the majestic sand dunes of the Thar desert lies the endearing city of Bikaner. It is the third city of the captivating desert triangle, completed by Jaisalmer and Jodhpur. Supporting its description as the “camel country”, the city is distinguished for the best riding camels in the world and hence boasts of having one of the largest Camel Research and Breeding farms in the world.

The landscape around Bikaner is marked by a vast expanse of golden sand dunes. Red sandstone buildings and forts are its chief attractions. It is also called the Camel City, because of the yearly Camel Festival held here. The people dress in bright colours against the sandy backdrop of the barren land making up for an intriguing combination of colour. The plethora of colours is also seen in local art.

Historically, the first ruler of Bikaner was King Bargujar of the Gujar community. In 1472 AD, Rao Bika established the city of Bikaner on this land. Rao Bika was the son of Rao Jodha, the founder of Jodhpur city. In a desire to build his own kingdom Rao Bika developed this land and it was named after him. The Jodha clan controlled the caravan trade routes between coastal Gujarat and central Asia which earned them handsome revenues. Bikaner was a part of  this trade route, due to its water sources. The first fort of Bikaner was built by Rao Bika in 1478 AD. Its ruins can be seen in the city.

About 100 years later Raja Rai Singhji, the sixth ruler of Bikaner befriended the Mughals and held the position of an army general in Akbar's court. He led the Mughal and British armies to Europe and Deccan. He built the fort of Junagarh in 1587 AD. Junagarh Fort is a huge construction with 37 bastions and 2 entrances. There are apartments inside the fort, built by the various royal successors from 1661 AD to 1887 AD.

The most famous Maharaja of Bikaner was Ganga Singh, who built the Durbar Hall inside the fort. The Lalgarh Palace was also built by Ganga Singh. Made of red sandstone, this palace was designed by British architect Sir Swinton Jacob. This palace is still home to the royal family today. The reign of Ganga Singh brought a lot of development to the city, like building a railway and constructing the famous Ganga Canal, now known as Indira Gandhi Canal. It changed the face of this parched desert land forever.

Apart from spectacular architecture, Junagarh Fort also houses a rare collection of manuscripts, jewellery, exquisite carpets and other royal paraphernalia.

Bikaner has an illustrious camel research and breeding farm situated about 8 km from the city. They have some of the best bred camels in the world. Every year in January on the eve of full moon a Camel festival is celebrated with much fanfare.

The city can be explored on foot to get a feel of the place. Old Bikaner city can be entered from Kote Gate. It has many beautiful Havelis like the Rampuriya Havelis, Kothari, Daga and the Bhanvar Niwas Haveli. Dating back up to 400 years, these Havelis were built by the rich merchants to display their wealth. They have beautifully carved Jharokhas with flower and leaf motifs. These Havelis also have paintings of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. The roofs are carved and made of wood. Sampatlal Haveli has a priceless collection of paintings by great painter Raja Ravi Verma. The old city is surrounded by 7 km long towering walls with 5 gateways.

Bikaner is world renowned for its Usta Art - here Manoti and Naqqashi work is done on camel leather, ivory, wood and glassware. Usta artists originated in Afganistan and were bought to Bikaner by Raja Rai Singh in the late 16th century. Usta Art involves painting floral motif miniatures with opaque and translucent oil or water colours. Naqqashi has embossed gold layers, while Manoti is characterised by un-embossed layers of gold. Inside the Junagarh fort, apartments display beautiful Usta Art.  

Prominent pieces of Usta Art are Phool Mahal, Chandra Palace, Anup Palace and Karan Palace. Several Usta family artisans have been given National award. Today there still are a few families who keep this art form alive in Bikaner.

The city is also famous for its intricately carved red sandstone Jharokhas. Women got a glimpse of the atmosphere outside, while remaining hidden from the public view. The red sandstone was brought from the village Dulmera nearby.

Another Bikaner speciality, are  its miniature paintings. Shah Muhhamad Usta of the Lalani clan created the Bikaner School Of Art. Miniatures were painted by Muslim artists who created masterpieces on Hindu mythological epics like the Krishna-Lila, Ramayana, Mahabharata.

Following Aurengzeb's discouragement of the art these artists migrated to the patrons in Rajasthan. In contrast to the brighter colour palette of other Rajasthani arts, the Bikaner School of Art uses pastel hues depicting festivals, village scenes, hunting parties and processions. Paintings on long scroll called Phad are also contemporarily done here.

Junagarh Fort
Guarded by 37 bastions and 2 main entrances, this fort has 37 red-stone structures inside it. The main attractions are Ganga Mahal, Chandra Mahal, Phool Mahal, Anup Mahal, Badal Mahal and Karan Mahal. These palaces house beautiful Shekhawati and Bikaner miniature paintings, stained glass and lattice windows along with inlaid mirror work ceilings. The Durbar Hall in Ganga Mahal has a museum where a World War 2 plane, war weapons and royal dresses are on display.
Lalgarh Palace
Built by Maharaja Ganga Singh Ji, this palace is made up of red sand-stone. It has a collection of paintings and hunting trophies. The architecture is an interesting blend of European, Mughal and Rajput craftsmanship. Intricate filigree and lattice work lends this palace a unique charm.
Moolnayakji Temple
This temple was the principle seat of Vaishnav Sect. Constructed in 1486, the temple's principle deity has Lord Krishna.
Bhandasar Jain Temple
Bikaner has 27 Jain Temples, of which Bhandasar is the most attractive with its Usta art and wall paintings.
Camel Research farm
Located 8 km from Bikaner, this farm has a variety of camel breeds. These camels participate in the yearly camel festival.
Karni Mata Temple
The world famous shrine of Karni Mata can be found in the town of Deshnok 30 km south of Bikaner, on the road to Jodhpur. This Hindu temple is most famous for the fact, that humans live in perfect harmony with thousands of rats. Adorned with a solid silver carved doors depicting goddess Karni Mata and lord Ganesh, the temple's inner sanctum has a silver image of goddess Karni Mata accompanied by the images of her sister Avad Mata. According to legend the presence of the rats is explained as follows: during the times of Karni Mata a terrible plague had spread all over the country killing thousands of children. The plight of the parents moved Karni Mata to strike a deal with Yama that no more children would die of the plague again. Instead they would temporarily be turned into rats, before being reborn into the tribe.
Gajner Wildlife Sanctuary
The Gajner Wildlife Sanctuary, lies about 32 km from Bikaner en-route to Jaisalmer; the sanctuary is Home to a plethora of wild life, such as foxes, wild fowl, boars, hares, antelopes and deer including blackbucks, chinkaras and blue bulls. Furthermore Gajner attracts avian visitors including the elusive Imperial Sand Grouse. Migratory birds nest here during the winter months.
Camel leather products like chairs, shoes, wallets and miniature paintings on camel hide are specialities of Bikaner arts and crafts. Bikaneri fabric, Mojris (traditional footwear) and  miniature paintings are an interesting buy.

Bikaner is famous for its savoury Bikaneri Bhujia. It is said that a Bikaner Tour would be incomplete if you do not taste Bikanari Bhujia.

Bikaner's most famous export and a national passion in India today is considered as the parts of Bikaner's old culture.

Camel Festival:

The Camel Festival is an event organized in Bikaner by the Department of Tourism, Art and Culture, and the Government of Rajasthan every year in the month of January.  Starting with a procession of beautifully dressed camels, this festival has camel races and other competitions, as well as folk performances by artists like Kalbelias, fire dancers and a display of fireworks that dazzles the sandy desert.

On the first day a pageant is held where camel owners show off their Camels' decorations.

On the second day, the camel races are held  where the strongest and fastest vie for the honours and are cheered by thousands of onlookers. 

Hundreds of camels jostling for  attention with their Colourful bridles, ornamented anklets and accompanied by their riders and trainers in their ethnic dress create a magical atmosphere that provide a glimpse of the heart of Rajasthan.

In the evening renowned folk artists entertain the visitors with their songs and dances of the desert, clad in their flamboyant colourful attire . This is a unique experience not to be missed.

Nearby places Train stations Airports
SANGANER AIRPORT 344 Km 05H 22m
Bikaner Junction 1 Km 00H 01m
Nearby major cities
Name Distance Duration
299 Km 04H 09m
329 Km 04H 15m
330 Km 05H 05m
299 Km 04H 09m
Strewn with forts and palaces that date back to the 15th century, Jodhpur was the capital of the princely state of Marwar where the Rathor clan ruled. On top of a hill, at the edge of the town, looms the Mehrangarh Fort, giving it a touch of medieval majesty. Jodhpur is also home to the Bishnoi Tribals, the fierce custodians of nature.
329 Km 04H 15m
The sun seems like the holy red dot on the forehead of the sky, as it descends beyond the sand dunes turning the whole sky into a riot of colours and the city of Jaisalmer turns in for the day. There is a magical aura and serenity fused with traditions, culture, music, food and wilderness. A majestic fort, a multitude of temples, Havelis, a national park and very hospitable local people make it a dream destination for any traveller.
330 Km 05H 05m
Holding the grand legacy of a royal past, Jaipur is an integral part of the world famous Golden Triangle alongside Delhi and Agra. The famous Pink City of Rajasthan is a vibrant collage of grand palaces, desert culture and a rich history of Rajputana.
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Season Min. Temp. Max. Temp.
Summer 25 °C 45 °C
Winter 6 °C 22 °C
Very hot in Summer with the mercury shooting up to 42°C at times. Starting from pre Winter months till the Summer arrives (October - March ) is the best time to visit.
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