Bikaner is a city in the north Indian state of Rajasthan, east of the border with Pakistan. It’s surrounded by the Thar Desert. The city is known for the 16th-century Junagarh Fort, a huge complex of ornate buildings and halls. Within the fort, the Prachina Museum displays traditional textiles and royal portraits. Nearby, the Karni Mata Temple is home to many rats considered sacred by Hindu devotees.
Places of interest
The Junagarh Fort was built around 1594 AD by Raja Rai Singh. The fort was originally called Chintamani. It is one of the few major forts in Rajasthan which was not built on hilly terrain. The modern city of Bikaner has developed around the fort. The fort is studded with temples, grand palaces and huge pavilions and walls. In 1961, a museum was set up by Maharaja Karni Singh. Its temples and palaces are preserved as museums and provide insight into the grandiose living style of the past Maharanas of Rajasthan.
Laxmi Niwas Palace
The Laxmi Niwas Palace is a former residential palace built by Maharajah Ganga Singh, the ruler of the former state of Bikaner. It was designed by the British architect, Samuel Swinton Jacob in the year 1902. The style of architecture is Indo-Saracenic. It is now a luxury Heritage hotel owned by the royal family of Bikaner.
Rao Bikaji’s Fort
Rao Bikaji’s first fort, ‘Bikaji Ki Tekri’ built in 1478 is now in ruins. A hundred years later a new fort was built about 1.5 km from the city centre, named Junagarh Fort.
Karni Mata Temple
The Karni Mata (करणी माता) Temple or the Rat Temple of Rajasthan is situated around 30 km away from the Bikaner city and is dedicated to Karni Mata, a famous mystic of her times, believed to be an incarnation of goddess Durga. The locals will be quick to point out that the creatures running around in the temple are not rats, they are kaabe (plural, kaaba singular). Kaabe are believed to be reincarnations of humans who had been devotees of Karni Mata, and the brevity of human life did not sufficiently satisfy their devotion.
The shrine of Karni Mata can be found in the town of Deshnoke 30 km south from Bikaner on the road to Jodhpur. Karni Mata is worshiped as an incarnation of Goddess Durga.
Mukam Bishnoi Temple
The Mukam Temple can be found in nearby Nokha. The Mukam is a holy place of 29 rules of followers of Bishnois. Bishnoi sect was founded by Guru Jambeshwar. Bishnois are quite protective of nature. Mukam Temple is the place where the soul of guru Jambeshwar lies.
Built by Maharaja Rao Lunkaran, Shri Laxminath Temple is one of the oldest temples in Bikaner and just 4 kilometres away from the famous Junagarh Fort. Lord Vishnu and Goddess Laxmi, grace the sacred sanctum of the temple. The most exquisite artwork inside the temple apart from the shrines is the doorway which is embellished in silver work. Festivals like Janmashtmi, Nirjala Ekadashi, Rama Navami, Diwali and Gita Jayanti are majorly celebrated at the temple.
Bhandasar Jain Temple
Bhandasar Jain Temple is known for its beautiful leaf paintings, frescoes and ornamented mirror work. This temple was constructed by Bhandasa Oswal in the 15th century. This temple is constructed using red sandstone with beautiful paintings on walls and pillars of the sanctum and mandapa. The temple is dedicated to the 5th Tirthankara sumatinatha. The temple consist of garbhagriha, antarala, mahamandapa.
National Research Centre on Camels, Bikaner
National Research Centre on Camels was established in 1984 in Bikaner by the Central Government under Indian Council of Agricultural Research at the outskirts of Bikaner city to promote research & development related to camels such as effective breeding, utilisation of camel milk. Scientists engage with all stakeholders like Camel herders, traders via collaborative programmes & significant growth had been made. A camel museum is available to apprise them of the developmental and research aspects of the camel in the desert ecosystem. Maharaja Ganga Singh of the Indian State of Bikaner founded Bikaner Camel Corps around 1890. It participated in World Wars & now falls under BSF India.
The Rajasthan government has decided to set up its first cow sanctuary in Bikaner. It has a dedicated Ministry of Cow Husbandry. The sanctuary is likely to be set up near Amarpura village, about 70 km from Bikaner.
Fairs and festivals
Foundation day Festival
The city celebrates its foundation day on Akshaya Tritiya by flying kites and eating special Rajasthani food that includes Bajre Ka Khichda and Imli ka Paani (Tamarind Water) among other snacks. The celebration lasts for two days, known as Chhoti Akha Teej and Badi Akha Teej. People can be seen flying kites during these two days right from the early morning at 5-6 am till late sunset.
International Camel Festival
International Camel Festival is held every year in January. Organised by the Department of Tourism, Art and Culture, the city celebrates the festival in honour of the “Ship of the Desert – The Camel”. Beautifully adorned camels and performances by artists from different regions are the key attraction for both domestic and foreign tourists. The event includes spectacular camel performances like Camel dances, Camel races, Neck shaking Camel rides.
Competitions like Mr Bikana and Miss Marwan are also held during the festival.