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Posted 13/05/2022 in India by Deanne Scanlan

BIKANER THE RUBY OF RAJASTHAN


BIKANER THE RUBY OF RAJASTHAN

Too many travel companies only list places that people hear about continually. Places like the Taj Mahal, Palace of the Winds, Amber Fort and Qutub Minar in Delhi. I want to introduce you to an amazingly diverse city situated to the northwest of Jaipur. 

Bikaner is renowned for their local Camel festival and when we look closely it is easy to see why the festival, held in January each year, is a must-see event. It is as if you are looking through a Kaleidoscope as the colours swirl simultaneously with the ships of the desert as they strut around putting on what can only be described as a show of adoration. The collection of buyers and sellers compete with the camels for the best dressed on the day - well maybe not - but it is easy to think along these lines as you watch the parade. The camel races are quite spectacular but it is the dances that are intriguing. How do you train a camel to dance, sit yes, but dance? The neck shaking is one that you need to stand well back from as the white foam hanging from their jowls flies a considerable distance during this routine. 

Camels are a big industry in Bikaner and on the journey to or from you are certainly going to get your fill of camel photographs. On the outskirts of the city we locate the research centre for camel breeding. The industry focuses on the importance that these quirky animals play in the desert so their wellbeing and preservation are paramount to the herders. As Bikaner is on the edge of the Thar Desert there is no shortage of study material.

But the camel fair is just one of the spectacular wonders of this ancient city. The imposing Junagarh Fort dating back to the early 16th century is full of artifacts depicting a long and illustrious history. As if that is not enough, the Prachina Museum within the walls of the Fort features well-preserved textiles and portraits of past rulers which in themselves tell a story of the opulence and intrigue of the courts of the day. To say they are magnificent is an understatement.

Bikaner Junagarh Palace Maharajas Room, Touring Bikaner RajasthanBikaner, Junagarh Palace. Rajasthan, India Tour.


Let's talk about rats, yes the common household rat. If rats are your thing or they don’t bother you too much, you must visit the Karni Mata Temple. These jolly little rodents are a strong part of the Hindu faith. Incredibly they are quite aloof when it comes to visitors and unless food appears, you may have to wait a few moments for them to 'stage' an appearance.

An absolute highlight on any of my journeys through this region is the HAVELIS - local homestays. They vary from area to area but one thing is constant, incredible history and beautifully carved doors and facades.  The old city of Bikaner is home to the Rampuria Haveli. Constructed in the 15th century of Dulmera red sandstone, you cannot find a more genuine and historical building than this. The combination of Victorian, Mughal and Rajputana architecture has created an inspiring combination of luxury and local craft. 

Bikaner Havelis, Rajasthan, India Holidays

Eight kilometres from the city centre is Devi Kund Sagar – a series of cenotaphs in the royal crematorium where one was erected for each member of the Bikanji Dynasty. The chattris belong to Rao Bikaji, his great-grandson Jet Singh, Rao Kalyan Singh (1542-1571), Maharaja Anup Singh (1669-1698), Maharaja Gaj Singh (1745-1787), Maharaja Surat Singh and Maharaja Karni Singh (1950-1988), the last ruler of Bikaner. There are 22 cenotaphs dedicated to the wives of the royal rulers. In the late afternoon, the view across the lake is quite breathtaking. 

The Jain religion is prominent throughout India and Bikaners Bhandasar Temple is a fine example of marble carving and historical art. It may not look overtly opulent from the outside but step across the threshold and the gold decorative pillars engulf your senses. 

Bikaner, Rajasthan in India. Travel Agent Guide.One hotel resort in Bikaner is a standout - that of the Narendra Bhawan. The minute you enter you are greeted by a trumpeter heralding your arrival. As this fades you hear Billy Holiday singing soulful melodies as a jeep from the time of British rule sits amongst colourful petunias. This is just the beginning of your journey to a bygone era of pomp and ceremony - of history when the English way prevailed for some 190 years. As you lower yourself into one of the many comfortable sofas you have to be careful you are not sitting on a crocheted teddy bear in pink or blue. Exquisite sets of fine bone china displayed in cabinets adorning the walls are certainly far from passé’. With the usual spa offerings, it is remarkable enough but it is the rooftop pool that is the clincher after a warm day exploring the Thar Desert and the ancient old town. The views stretch languidly across the sand dusted hills and at that magical moment you cannot picture yourself being anywhere else.
 

Play it again Sam comes to mind as the pillar box red grand piano perches proudly on a podium just waiting for someone to tickle the ivories. I know, wrong country, but it was a moment I could indulge in. As with many hotels throughout India, the walls are highly decorated with portraits of illustrious figures. Narendra Bhawan on the other hand while displaying their culture tastefully, have illuminated corners displaying only the best combinations of decor and art. One such painting is displayed in the reception office, that of a young Mughal Emperor Akbar who reigned between 1556 and 1605.  On another, we see the face of Shah Jahan who inherited a stable empire on his succession to the throne. You may remember him known as the builder of the Taj Mahal. There were six truly famous Emperors and I am sure that there were more portraits that we simply did not have time to see. 

Aside from history, the hotel had some of the finest food and delightful hosts. It is without a doubt the pinnacle of stays that you will be talking about long after your journey has ended. Add to this the owner's love of Golden Retrievers who either playfully greet you or calmly welcome you to what will be one of your most memorable stays in Rajasthan.  

To learn more about Rajasthan, see more holiday inspiration here. Or get in touch if I can help you with your holiday to Rajasthan and India.

Bikaner, Rajasthan Travel. Junagarh Palace Maharajahs Podium



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