The City of Camels
Bikaner is home to one of the only two models of the biplane used by the British during World War I. They were presented by the British to Maharaja Ganga Singh, then ruler of the city. Another unique aspect about Bikaner are the sand dunes that are scattered throughout the district, especially from the north-east down to the southern area. Bikaner is situated in the northern region of Rajasthan. One of the earlier established cities, Bikaner still displays its ancient opulence through palaces and forts, built of red sandstone, that have withstood the passage of time. The city boasts of some of the world’s best riding camels and is aptly nicknamed ‘camel country’. It is also home to one of the world’s largest camel research and breeding farms; as well as being known for having its own unique temple dedicated to Karni Mata at Deshnok, called the Rats Temple.
The origins of Bikaner can be traced back to 1488 when a Rathore prince, Rao Bikaji, founded the kingdom. Legend has it that Bikaji, one of Rao Jodhaji’s five sons, left his father’s Durbar in annoyance after an insensitive remark from his father, the illustrious founder of Jodhpur. Bikaji travelled far and when he came upon the wilderness called Jangladesh, he decided to set up his own kingdom and transformed it into an impressive city.
Junagarh is an impregnable bastion that holds the distinction of having never been captured. It was constructed in 1588 AD by Raja Rai Singh, one of Emperor Akbar’s most distinguished generals. The fort complex houses some magnificent palaces constructed in red sandstone and marble and visitors can feast their eyes on an attractive assortment of courtyards, balconies, kiosks and windows.
LALGARH PALACE & MUSEUM
Maharaja Ganga Singh commissioned the construction of this majestic palace. This architectural marvel is made entirely of red sandstone and was built in 1902 to commemorate his father, Maharaja Lal Singh. The design was conceptualised by Sir Swinton Jacob, who created this oriental fantasy by blending Rajputana, Islamic and European architecture.
LAXMI NIWAS PALACE
Laxmi Niwas Palace was the residence of the king of Bikaner, Maharaja Ganga Singh. Built between 1898 and 1902 by British architect Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob, this structure displays an Indo-Saracenic architectural style. It is now a luxury hotel.
DESHNOK TEMPLE / KARNI MATA TEMPLE
The Karni Mata Temple at Deshnok is a beautiful structure made of stone and marble, inside which resides an image of Karni Mata. The image is decorated with a ‘mukut’ (tiara) and garlands. The images of her sisters and the sisters of Avad Mata give her company on either side. The temple is known the world over for the presence of kabas (rats) that roam freely within the temple precincts.
NATIONAL RESEARCH CENTRE ON CAMEL / CAMEL BREEDING FARM
The National Research Centre on Camel is 8 kilometres from the city. This camel research and breeding centre is the only one of its kind in Asia. The centre is spread out over 2000 acres of semi-arid land and is managed by the Government of India.
GAJNER PALACE AND LAKE
Gajner is an incomparable jewel of the Thar. The Gajner Palace was founded by Maharaja Gaj Singh ji of Bikaner in the year 1784, and then completed by the great Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner on the banks of the lake. It was meant to serve as a hunting and relaxing lodge for the royal family as well as for visiting guests. It has now been converted into a hotel.