Saturday, March 7, 2009


Bikaner-snacks & sands medley

Bikaner on the edge of Thar desert, in the Northern Rajasthan is braided with curiously old, yet fresh looking colorful havelis, serene temples, especially the one where thousand rats are fed everyday, and some brilliant Indo-Mughal architectural specimens. But if you ask an Indian, other than a localite there, then way before the said attractions, what will come to his mind is the famous Bikaner bhujia (a gram-flour snack). Be it the foodies or the archaeologist, or the shopaholics with a taste for ethnic stuff, Bikaner, is a must-go once there in Rajasthan. The annual Camel Festival every January and the Camel Research Farm, makes it the camel's favorite joint, other than the tourists with a fixation for riding this otherwise ugly desert beast.

Tale of the City

Bikaner was named after its founder Rao Bika Ji - the son of Rao Jodha - a descendant of the founder of Jodhpur. Bika Ji found this place on the camel trade route most befitting to lay his capital and build it into an impressive city. Take a look at its attractions.


Junagarh Fort (Timings: 10am-4:30pm): This 16th century Raja Rai Singh (a general in Akbar's army) fort has 37 bastions and a 986 m long wall to protect within quiet a legion of palaces - the Chandra Mahal, Phool Mahal, Sheesh Mahal, Karn Mahal (to commemorate victory over Auranzeb), Rang Mahal, Bijai Mahal, Durga Niwas, Ganga Niwas, Anup Mahal - to name a few of its 37 palaces, each unique with elaborate carvings and a splash of sandstone magic. The formidable fort is encircled by a moat and it houses a museum (Prachina Museum), library of Persian and Sanskrit manuscripts and armory.

Lalgarh Palace: The Bikaner royalty still lives in a part of this beautiful red sandstone building embellished with some amazing lattice work. This oriental architectural orchestra with Rajput, Islam and European elements, termed Indo-Seresanic style, was designed by Col. Sir Swinton Jacob. The hunting trophies of some hundreds of Indian wildlife, a library branded fourth largest in the world, clay pigeon trap, an inhouse 22-rooms museum (Shri Sadul museum) with a collection of old photographs and many more items - make the red palace an exotic wonderland. A part of it is now a luxury hotel.

Ganga Golden Jubilee Museum (Open: 10.30am-4.30pm/Friday closed): If you have an eye for archaeological remains then the pre-Harappan, Gupta and Kushan dynasties, terracotta, pottery, miniature paintings of the Bikaner school, coins, armory - surely will set your nerves pulsating. This museum, established in 1937 on the eve of the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Maharaja Ganga Singh is one precious chunk of the bygone age preserved covetously.

Camel Research Center: Head for Jorbeer to have a sneak peek at the making of the Ship of the Desert! The camel breeding farm here (only one in Asia), a remnant of the camel Corp of the british army, boasts of more than 250 head-counts and whether you find the regular ones boisterous, the young camels are simply pretty.

Rajasthan State Archives (Timing: 10.30am-4.30pm/Sunday closed): A researcher-favorite, here is an indispensable collection of the administrative record of Mughal period like Persian Farmans, Vakil Report and various records created during administration of the Princely states of Rajasthan. It is furthermore bettered, with facilities like microfilming, reference library and research rooms available to researchers.

Bhandasa Jain Temple: This 15th century shrine of fifth tirthankara has Italian marbled floor, English tiled interior, bright frescoes, gold-leaf paintings - a beauty apart from its counterpart temples.

Havelis: Bikaner too has her share of the majestic havelis (mansions) where the noble and the wealthy dwell. What makes these havelis of tourist interest is their intricate craftsmanship and sprawling courtyards. The Gogagate, Daddhon Ka Chowk, Rangari Chowk, Assanion Ka Chowk, Mohta Chowk, Binnanion Ka Chowk Daga Chowk, BK School and Jassuar Gate, are areas where you see them in peppered prominently.

Heritage on Wheels: What can be a better and more interesting journey to discover the heritage and culture of an incredibly diverse nation than in a Luxury Train. The laid-back and relaxed journey takes you through the popular and off-the-beaten track destinations in Rajasthan like Jaipur, Bikaner, Haat, Gajner, Tal Chhapar, Ramgarh, Nawalgarh and Mandawa and finally takes you to the see the Taj Mahal in Agra.


Who would mind some extra baggage when you have landed in one of India's most ethnic markets. Look out for Mojari (Bikaneri style footwear), Kundan work jewelery (stones hemmed with gold foil), rangi dupatta, wooden antiques, Lacquer Bangles, carpets, camel-hide products and bandhni (tie-and-dye) sarees. Some exquisite traditional buys will be Rajasthani puppets, mirror-work cushion covers, handloom shawls and so on. Bikaner is not exactly a place that can turn a shopaholic paranoid with its exciting options, but you are sure to come back to your lodge with bags full of souvenirs.

The very mention of Bikaner rings a different bell in an Indian gourmet's mind. Well, it is the famous Bikaner bhujia (a popular Indian snack made of gram flour) and this is another thing you can load your bags with for those quiet winter evenings, with a cup of tea. Since, this desertland has been an erstwhile warring nation, scarcity of water, greens, required the food to be preserved for a long time. Hence, Bikaneri food has less water, more of buttermilk, dried beans, gram flour and so on. The popular delicacies are dal-bati-churma, Raj Bhog, Gaund Pak, Ghevar, Fini, and Rabri.
Try Chhotu Motu Joshi Sweet Shop for sweets and snacks. For South Indian and Chinese cuisine go to Deluxe Restaurant.


The National Research Center on Camel: Ever tasted camel milk products? Try Kulfi, soft cheese, flavored milk all made of camel milk developed, evaluated and sold at camel milk products parlor at NRCC.

The Camel Festival: The annual Camel Festival held every January is organized by the Tourism Department, and is a raging favorite for tourists all over. The festival starts with an elegant Camel Parade wherein the camels are decorated in all their finery. There are a variety of contests like the best-dressed camel, the camel with the best haircut to name a few. One can also experience the fine art of camel milking and gorge at the authentic desert sweets made out of the purest of camel milk. The evenings are a riot of colors folk performances.


Gajner (34 km): On the Bikaner-Jaisalmer road, an architectural fantasy studs the arid desertland by a beatific lake - Maharaja Ganga Singhji's summer palace where he once used to stretch his legs after a tiring hunting escapade. Other than the pure oriental carvings, what makes the place all the more enchanting is the reserve forest flanking it with migratory avian visitors like the imperial sand goose and animals such as antelopes, black bucks, Nilgais, wild boar, chinkaras, deers and so on.

Deshnoke (34 km): Here lies a temple both revered and feared by believers. The temple is called Karni Mata Temple and legend has it that the souls of the dead, which were transmigrated in the body of rats, on their death would revert back into a human body. The floors swarm with the furry rodents of every thinkable size and the temple priests feed them every day.

Kolayat (50 km): Also termed mini-Pushkar, it is a Hindu pilgrimage joint with the Kapil Muni temple laced by a pristine lake. Take a dip in this river during Kartik Poornima (November) to wash away the sins of previous birth.

Katariasar Village (45 km): A tribal village with rolling sands and giggling women-folk with colorful dresses and who team their dances with acrobatic steps. Perfect for photographers to shoot wildlife in Bikaner.

Location :
NW of Rajasthan

Go there for :
Forts, Palaces, Temples, Heritage on Wheels Luxury Train

Climate :
28°-41°C (Sum); 5°-23°C (Win)

When to Go:

Local Tongue:
Hindi, Rajasthani

Literacy :

STD Code :
+91 - 151

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