Bikaner: The Desert Gateway
This is a beautiful arid town in Rajasthan founded by Rao Bika in 1488 CE after whom the city got its name. It is now the fourth largest city in Rajasthan with two large canals, the Ganges canal & the Indira Gandhi canal contributing to its development. As with other Royal families of Rajasthan, In Bikaner too, the royal family lives in a suite in Lalgarh Palace, which has now been converted into a hotel. Bikaner is situated in middle of Thar Desert and during peak summers, it can become scorching.
Bikaner is famous for its savories like Bikaneri Bhujia which originated here which has a GI tag to it. Other delicacies include Bajre ki Roti, Ghevar, Halwas, Papads, Rasgulla, Gulab Jamun, Kachori & Samosa,
Some of the important places of visits are:
Deshnok Karni Mata Temple
This is the temple famous for rats all over the place and dedicated to the mystic of her time, Karni Mata who is believed to be an incarnation of Goddess Kali. Locals also believe that the rats in the temple are not rats but reincarnation of human who had been devotees of Karni Mata. It is also believed that one's wish would come true if spotted a white rat.
Built in 1594 by Raja Rai Singh. This is one of the few forts in Rajasthan which has not been built on a hill top. The fort has temples, pavilions and beautiful mini-palaces within which very clearly depicts the lavish lifestyle led by the past Maharajas of Rajasthan. In 1961, a museum was set up by Maharaja Karni Singh which has a lot of lovely artefacts collected by the Maharajas over the years.
National Research Centre on Camels
This research centre was established in 1984 at the outskirts of Bikaner by ICAR. The main objective was to promote research and development related to camels like breeding and utilisation of camel milk which is believed to be nutritious. Here you can take a small camel ride, get yourself clicked with the camel, taste the slightly salty camel milk and yes, taste the Kulfi made of camel milk! The centre has souvenir shop from where you can purchase goods made of camel leather and bones.
Situated on the bank of a lake, this was built by Maharaja Ganga Singh as a hunting and a vacation lodge. Constructed in red sandstone, this palace boasts of beautiful pillars, jharokhas and sit-outs. In the vicinity, one can also spot wandering birds and antelopes.
Shri Laxminath Temple - This is one of the oldest temples in Bikaner and sanctum-sanctorum houses idols of Lord Vishnu and Goddess Laxmi. Temple is known for its festivals and beautiful idols adorned with delicate silver artwork. Temple is open from 5AM to 1PM and 5PM to 11PM in the evenings.
Jorbeer - One of the fantastic places for the birding enthusiasts to spot the famous Indian vulture along with other raptors like the Griffons, Steppe Eagles & Egyptian Vultures. If one is lucky, one might spot the rare Yellow Eyed Pigeon as well. This place is situated some 12 km away from the city & is truly a paradise for birders wanting to see raptors in action.
Raisar Dunes - This is a village situated around 18 km from the city very famous for camping and desert safari. This place is also known for sand dunes. One can see the glimmering sand as far as the vision goes. Desert wildlife such as Fox, Jackal, Blue-bull, Mongoose & Hedgehog can be spotted at night.
Station Road Market - This market is home to a variety of items such as clothes, furniture, Rajasthani bangles made of lacquer, savouries, sandals. You can order a customized pair of sandals & get them made in just 24 hours. It is here, one can actually see the whole Bikaner city come alive & people bargaining for various things. If one is tired of shopping, there is always savouries and sweets to try including tea made of camel milk.
So next time, you plan a trip to Rajasthan, a visit to Bikaner should be there in your itinerary as it is literally a gateway to the Thar desert and gives an ample perspective on the rich heritage of Rajasthan royal era.