If the charm and colours of places like Jaipur, Udaipur or Jaisalmer have inspired you to delve further into lesser-known Rajasthan, Bikaner should be next on your list. With its ancient opulence still at display in beautiful forts and scattered sand dunes, this place amazes with the history, culture and beauty it boasts of. Even the colourful attires of people alongside the roads are enough to bring joy and delight. From the impressive structures in red sandstone, scrumptious food, to the world’s best riding camels; this calm city in the heart of Thar Desert has something for every type of traveller. Here are the top places to visit.
A blend of Rajputana, European and Mughal architecture, Lalgarh is not an old entry in the prestigious list of palaces of Rajasthan. Made as a place fit for a monarch in the early 20th century, the palace’s exteriors mirror Indian craftsmanship while the interiors complete with drawing rooms, smoking rooms, grand halls, lounges, pavilions and cards rooms lend it a British touch. The hallways with sepia-toned photographs and halls adorned with hunting trophies are like a walk through glory lanes. While two of the palace’s wings have been converted into luxury heritage hotels, one still houses the Bikaner royal family.
The most famous cluster of havelis in Bikaner, Rampuria havelis is a must-visit sight. Built in red stone, standing next to each other, these old aristocratic homes are exotic, right from their latticed windows and intricate jharokhas to abundant Victorian influence in design. The massive structures are decorated with golden work and exquisite woodcarvings and boast of drawing rooms that can take you back to Mughal or Rajput era.
It stands tall and mighty as the only bastion that was never captured by the enemy. Built in 1594, this red sandstone and marble fort showcases the magnificence of all its owners and Rajput way of life. You will be awed by its rich details, architecture and carvings, besides the courtyards, balconies and windows. The fort’s sheer size and spread inspires admiration and its interiors, artwork, royal weapons and clothes make you marvel at the luxury of that bygone era.
Karni Mata Temple
No other place could be a better paradox of faith and fear. About 30 km from the city, at Deshnoke is a 600-year-old temple where devotees worship the divine and the animal together. The temple is a beautiful structure made of stone and marble and houses an idol of Karni Mata, an incarnation of Goddess Durga. The temple is known the world over for the presence of kabas (rats) that roam freely within the temple precincts and enjoy a sacred status. It is also believed that sighting a white rat is very lucky. Karni Mata is believed to be the protector of blackbuck in Rajasthan.
Gajner Palace and Wildlife Sanctuary
Around 30 km from Bikaner, this blissful quiet getaway is nothing less than a gem of the desert. The palace was founded by Maharaja Gaj Singh of Bikaner in 1784 on the banks of the Gajner Lake, and then completed by Maharaja Ganga Singh. Sitting pretty in a dense forest, it is now converted into a hotel. The property also houses Gajner Wildlife Sanctuary that was once a famous hunting ground of the royals. The lush green forest is a haven to nilgai, chinkara, black buck, wild boar, imperial sand grouse and many other migratory birds.