Prior to the mid 15th century, the region that is now Bikaner was a barren wilderness called jagldehsh.in 1488 Rao Bika established the city of Bikaner. According to James Tod, the spot which Bika selected for his capital, was the birthright of a Nehra Jat, who would only concede it for this purpose on the condition that his name should be linked in perpetuity with its surrender. Naira, or Nera, was the name of the proprietor, which Bika added to his own, thus composing that of the future capital, Bikaner. Rao Bika was the first son of Maharaj rao jodha.Rao Jodhaof the Rathor clan, the founder of Jodhpur  and conquered the largely arid country in the north of Rajasthan. As the first son of Jodha he wanted to have his own kindom not inheriting Jodhpur from his father or the title of Maharaja. He therefore decided to build his own kingdom in what is now the state of Bikaner in the area of Jungladesh. Though it was in theThar Desert, Bikaner was considered an oasis on the trade route between Central Asia and the Gujrat coast as it had adequate spring water. Bika’s name was attached to the city he built and to the state of Bikaner (“the settlement of Bika”) that he established. Bika built a fort in 1478, which is now in ruins, and a hundred years later a new fort was built about 1.5 km from the city centre, known as the Junagarh Fort.

Around a century after Rao Bika founded Bikaner, the state’s fortunes flourished under the sixth Raja, Rai Singhji, who ruled from 1571 to 1611. During the Mughal Empire’s rule in the country, Raja Rai Singh accepted the suzerainty of the Mughals and held a high rank as an army general at the court of the Emperor Akbar  and his son the Emperor Jahangir. Rai Singh’s successful military exploits, which involved winning half of Mewar Kingdom for the Empire, won him accolades and rewards from the Mughal emperors. He was given the jagirs (lands) of Gujarat and Burhanpur. With the large revenue earned from these jagirs, he built the Chintamani durg (Junagarh fort) on a plain which has an average elevation of 760 feet (230 m). He was an expert in arts and architecture, and the knowledge he acquired during his visits abroad is amply reflected in the numerous monuments he built at the Junagarh fort. Maharaja Karan Singh, who ruled from 1631 to 1639, under the suzerainty of the Mughals, built the Karan Mahal palace. Later rulers added more floors and decorations to this Mahal. Anup Singh ji, who ruled from 1669 to 1698, made substantial additions to the fort complex, with new palaces and the Zenana quarter, a royal dwelling for wommen and children. He refurbished the Karan Mahal with a Diwan-i-Am (public audience hall) and called it the Anup Mahal.Maharaja Gaj Singh, who ruled from 1746 to 1787 refurbished the Chandra Mahal (the Moon palace).

During the 18th century, there was internecine war between the rulers of Bikaner and Jodhpur and also amongst other thakurs, which was put down by British troops.

Following Maharaja Gaj Singh, Maharaja Surat Singh ruled from 1787 to 1828 and lavishly decorated the audience hall (see illustration) with glass and lively paintwork. Under a treaty of  paramouncty, signed in 1818, during Maharaja Surat Singh’s reign, Bikaner came under the suzerainty  of the British, after which the Maharajas of Bikaner invested heavily in refurbishing Junagarh fort.

Dungar Singh who reigned from 1872 to 1887, built the Badal Mahal, the ‘weather palace’, so named in view of a painting of clouds and falling rain, a rare event in arid Bikaner.

General Maharaja Ganga Singh who ruled from 1887 to 1943, was the best-known of the Rajasthan princes and was a favourite of the British viceroys of India. He was appointed a knight Commande of the Order of the Star of India.He served as a member of the Imperial War Cabinet represented India at the Imperial Conferences during the first World War and the British Empire at the versailles Peace conference. His contribution to the building activity in Junagarh involved separate halls for public and private audiences in the Ganga Mahal and a durbar hall for formal functions. He also built the Ganga Niwas Palace, which has towers at the entrance patio. This palace was designed by Sir Samuel Jacob, the third of the new palaces built in Bikaner. He named the building Lalgarh Palace in honour of his father and moved his main residence there from, Junagarh fort in 1902. The hall where he held his Golden Jubilee (in 1938) as Bikaner’s ruler is now a museum

Places to Visit

Junagarh Fort

Junagarh Fort was constructed in the year 1593 by Raja Rai Singh. It is believed that crocodiles were bred in the water moat surrounding the formidable fort. The construction is a fine blend of Mughal, Gujarati and Rajput style of architecture. The picturesque courtyards beautify the fort. The amazing architecture inside the fort inspires you. Some of the attractions inside the fort are Anup Mahal, Chandra Mahal, Hawa Mahal, Dungar Mahal, Diwan-e-khas and Ganga Mahal.

Lalgarh Palace

Lalgarh Palace was built by Maharaja Ganga Singh in the year 1902 in memory of his father Maharaja Lal Singh Ji. The red sandstone construction is a stupendous example of the architectural brilliance of the past. Mughal, Rajput and European architectures blend excellently well. The massive lawns houses peacocks, which are a sight to watch when they dance. You could find library, cards room and billiards room among various other rooms. Lalgarh Palace is a feast to your eyes and architects’ delight.

Gajner Palace

Gajner Palace is located on the banks of a lake. Maharaja Ganga Singh Ji constructed the palace. The royal family used the palace to retreat after hunting. The red sandstone construction is a glowing example of stunning architecture. The palace is situated in the thick of forest and you could view migratory birds flock in great numbers. It is a perfect place to spend a quiet evening as you could stretch to watch the night sky and the lake silent and stunning.

Bikaner Camel Safari

To feel the essence of desert and enjoy ride on camel back, you need to go for Bikaner Camel Safari Day tours. Camel safari takes you to a different world where the landscape is not green but stunning and it is an adventure of a different kind altogether. On your safari ride, you will find enchanting moments that you would love to capture on your camera. The sunset is scenic and you are sure to be at a loss for words to describe the picturesque setting.

Gajner Wildlife Sanctuar

You cannot help but admire the scenic landscape in which Gajner Wildlife Sanctuary is situated. The sanctuary houses some of the unique plants and animals. Some of the wildlife creatures found here include blue bulls, Indian hares, antelopes, deer, wild boars and many more. Gajner Palace and Gajner Lake are located in the sanctuary. You could have a great time strolling along. Jeep safaris and camel safaris take you to view wildlife and you could watch migratory birds.

Ganga Singh Museum

Ganga Singh Museum was founded by Maharaja Ganga Singh in the year 1937. It houses articles of historical importance that go to show that the society was civilized even before the emergence of Harappan civilization. Some of the stunning collections include paintings, pottery, weapons used by Rajputs and a lot more. The paintings on golf leaves are excellent.

Sadul Singh Museum

Sadul Singh Museum is on the first floor of Lalgarh palace. The lives and the passions of the three successive kings of Bikaner are reflected in the art museum. The rare artifacts, Georgian paintings, and the photographs seen here stand proof of the interests and the heroics of the three kings namely Maharaja Ganga Singh, Sadul Singh and Karni Singh.

Jain Temple

Jain Temple was commissioned by Bhandasa Oswal in the year 1468 and completed in the year 1514. Rajputana architecture in its excellence is evident in the construction of this temple. The unique and intricately designed temple, sculpted pillars, frescos and the gold leaf work inspire the visitor. With a blend of red sandstone and white marble used in the construction, the three-storied Jain Temple stands unique and commands admiration. The mirror work in the temple is unique as well.

Deshnok Temple

    Deshnok is a small village situated 32 km south of Bikaner city along the Jodhpur Road. It is connected by national highway and rail. It is a pilgrim centre of Karni Mata –said to be an incarnation of Goddess Durga-who lived here in the fourteenth century and performed many miracles. Originally, the village was called ‘dus-nok’ meaning ten corners as it was formed by taking ten corners of ten villages.

In front of the temple is a beautiful marble facade, which has solid silver doors built by Maharaja Ganga Singh. Across the doorway are more silver doors with panels depicting the various legends of the Goddess. The image of the Goddess is enshrined in the inner sanctum.

Kolyatji

Is located 50 kilometres from Bikaner. It is a temple complex of Kolyat and a holy place of pilgrimage for Hindus. The legend has it that Kapil Muni, the advocate of Shankya yoga of the Hindu philosophy, while journeying towards northwest was struck by the tranquility and peace of this place and chose to perform tapasya (penance) here for the redemption of the world. This place has since acquired great sanctity. The complex has several temples, pavilions and bathing ghats.  A dip in the holy waters of the lake especially on Kartik Poornima (November) is considered very auspicious.

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