|Bikaner is a beautiful desert city enclosed by reddish-pink sandstone wall. It is famous for three things: gorgeous forts and palaces, exotic camel safaris and the Karni Mata Temple where thousands of holy rats are worshipped. Bikaner namkeens (sweets and snacks) is relished throughout the country. Rao Bika, one of the fourteen sons of Rao Jodha, Jodhpur’s founder, established the city in 1488. It was a major post on the great caravan trade routes. It is located 316 kms from Jaipur, 240 kms from Jodhpur and 330 kms from Jaisalmer, in the northern part of the state.
The city is a maze of narrow, dark and uneven streets, colorful bazaars with scatters of dark-red sandstone havelis, exquisitely painted Jain temples and sand dunes. It is con-sidered the best destination for camel safari worldwide. For this reason, it is popularly called the Camel Country. There is a large Camel Research and Breeding Farm here, fig-uring among the world’s best.
To get a true colour of the place, plenty of fairs and festivals are held here. The Camel Festival in January is the biggest and worth witnessing. Here competitions such as camel races, milking, dancing, etc. are held. Another big festival is Kolayat held in November during which pilgrims come to take a holy dip in the sacred Kolayat Lake.
Places to See
Junagarh Fort: Raised in 1593 by Raja Rai Singh, the general of Mughal emperor Ak-bar, it is enclosed by a moat having 37 palaces and pavilions within its enclosure. Today, there is a museum where priceless miniature paintings and extraordinary antiques are on display.
Lalgarh Palace: A fusion of Rajput, Mughal and European architecture this is a striking structure in red sandstone. The adorations of latticework and filigree reveal the superb craftsmanship of the yesteryears. It was built by Maharaja Ganga Singh Ji in 1902.
Jain Haveli: Bikaner is littered with these ancient luxurious mansions. These are the former residences of the affluent mostly the Kotharis, Rampurias, Vaids and Dagas. They are found in plenty at the regions of Gogagate and Daddhon Ka Chowk.
Bhandeswari Jain Temple: This is the oldest shrine of the city dating back to 15th cen-tury. It is heavily adorned with mirror work, frescos and gold leaf paintings.
Other major tourist attractions are the Gajner Palace, Deshnoke Temple, Ganga Golden Jubilee Museum, Shri Sadul Museum, and Gajner Wildlife Sanctuary.