Bikaner in Rajasthan is a vibrant city. A very colorful place, it has its own history, which is reflected in its various historical monuments and museums. Though a small city, it has its own culture and takes pride in its Rajasthani traditions. This is the story of my journey to this beautiful and lively city.
I had been planning to travel for some time but wasn’t really able to think of any particular destination. I am more into mountains, so I always rush to hills at the first given opportunity. However, this time, owing to severe winter and continuous snowfall in the hills, I decided to travel to some amazing place in the plains. Now the big question again was – where? After a lot of research and brainstorming, I zeroed in on Bikaner.
I had never been to Bikaner earlier but had heard a lot about the place. And Rajasthan has always fascinated me due to its colorful culture. I wanted to explore the unknown. So I booked my ticket and boarded an overnight train from Delhi Sarai Rohilla station to Bikaner.
The arrival time of the train at Bikaner Junction station was 7.10 am. Early morning most of the passengers, including myself, were still in deep slumber and did not realize that the train had reached its destination. It was only when a few fellow passengers announced that the train had reached Bikaner, did we get up quickly. I picked up my belongings (which was just a backpack) and moved out of the train compartment. I looked at the watch and found it was only 6.45 am. So it was a pleasant surprise to see the train reaching its destination before the scheduled time.
Bikaner railway station itself is built very artistically depicting Rajasthani architecture and designs. It has been maintained very well and is very neat and clean.
On coming out of the train compartment, the first thing that greeted me was the chilly wind. It was extremely cold. The temperature at that point in time mustn’t have been more than 4-5 degrees Celsius. I had not expected Bikaner to be that cold. Thankfully, I had my cap and jacket on, so could bear the chill. It was still a little dark, new dawn trying to break out. I went directly to my place of stay and relaxed for a while in the cozy quilt.
After a while it was time to explore the city. So I got up and got ready. Bikaner is not a very big city but it has retained its old world charm and has some of the most amazing historical landmarks. Slowly, it’s trying to catch up with modern times too.
I headed straight to Junagarh Fort, which is just 3 km from the railway station. It is a sprawling fort housing many palaces. Maharaja Rai Singhji, the then ruler of Bikaner had named it Chintamani Durg when it was built in the year 1589. But his successors decided to beautify the fort and built various palaces inside it. Originally, the fort was built of red sandstone but later, materials from around the world were used to build structures inside the fort and subsequently, it was renamed, Junagarh Fort. From outside it looks like an imposing structure and is quite overwhelming, but there was not much inside.
The door of the fort itself is a huge structure. It seems very heavy and I wondered how many people would be required to open and close it.
Inside the Fort
Once inside, I could not help admiring the architecture. The boundary wall itself is made from red sandstone and consists of galleries and places to watch over.
Moving further, I found myself in a big courtyard. This was Vikram Mahal, first of many palaces in Junagarh Fort. A beautiful jharokha, made of blue and white imported marble (window) could be seen from the courtyard. Next palace was named Phool Mahal. Again, it had beautiful carvings on its doors and designer floors.
Next was Rai Niwas. And it was followed by Anoop Mahal. This Anoop Mahal displayed the throne of erstwhile rulers of Bikaner. The amazing carvings on golden pillars, walls and ceilings were a treat for the eyes.
From there, I moved upstairs and found myself in a large courtyard. As I moved towards the end of the courtyard I reached the ramparts of the fort. And there were beautifully maintained parks on the backyard, which I could see from there. The view was majestic. And I could see the city landscape also.
From the ramparts of the fort, I was led back to the ground floor to the fort museum. This museum has an incredible collection of many articles of bygone eras. You can see clothes, arms, furniture, paintings, miscellaneous articles presented to royals and many more.
After having a good view of the museum, I came out and went to the Prachina museum in the vicinity. You need to purchase a ticket to enter Junagarh fort. The ticket is valued at INR50 for Indians and INR200 for foreigners. It is located in the Junagarh fort complex only and displays many articles used by royals. Established in the year 2000 Prachina museum traces the culture of Bikaner. There are numerous items on display which were either gifted to or imported by the royals.
Ticket for Prachina museum is priced at INR30 and the visiting time is 10am to 6pm.
Bhandasar Jain Temple
This is a Jain temple in the old city of Bikaner. It is known for fabulous paintings on its walls and pillars. It is a small but really marvelous structure; and I could not help admire the artistry. It is situated just 4 km from the railway station. The work on the ceiling is just amazing.
Next to Bhandasar Jain Temple is Laxminath Temple which holds special religious significance for the locals. The evening Arti is a not to be missed ritual. Performed with loud beating of drums, it fills the whole atmosphere with positive energy. This temple again consists of many small temples, dedicated to different deities like Ganesha, Shiva, Raam Sita etc. Since photography is not allowed inside the temple, I could only take a picture of the entrance of the temple.
Next on the agenda were Rampuria Havelis. I had heard a lot about them. The architecture, the design and the construction of these Havelis are very fascinating.
When constructed, there were seven Havelis but five of them are still prominently visible. These Havelis have traditional architecture and have elements like Jharokha, Chajja and Jaali. And added to them are some elements of English architecture too, like those of doors and Ox eyes.
The original owners of these Havelis do not live in them anymore, but even then these Havelis are still very well maintained and there is very less wear and tear.
Now was the time to explore the markets of Bikaner. Just about one kilometer from the railway station is the main market at Kot Gate. I strolled up to Kot Gate to enjoy and explore the shops in the area. There are quite a few eateries and hotels and many shops selling general stuff. But was particularly attracted to a very clean and organized sweet shop named Chotu Motu Joshi. I was told by the locals that the shop was famous for its Kachoris and Rasgullas. On their advice, I tried some and it was amazing. I would surely recommend it to you.
Although Kot Gate is a congested place but if you are looking to get some Bikaneri Bhujia, this is the place. You can find all kinds of Bhujias and Bikaneri papads from here. And yes, there is a small original Haldiram shop, near Lalji restaurant, on the way from station to Kot Gate.
Just opposite Junagadh palace is Junagadh Chowpatti, the food lovers’ paradise. This place comes to life in the evening and you can enjoy all kinds of delicious dishes here. If you are looking to gorge on some local delicacies, there is Rajasthani Dhaba here, which serves choicest Rajasthani dishes. So you can satisfy your taste buds here.
Bikaner is a small city so there are no major distances to be covered. For intercity travel, people mostly depend on auto rickshaws, which are very cheap. They charge INR10 for a distance of 3-4 km.
All in all, Bikaner is a city with a glorious past stored in its historical monuments and trying to come to grips with modernity. A small place with big attractions.
I spent my most memorable 48 hours in Bikaner.
Want to know how I managed my Bikaner trip in less than INR2500? Please CLICK HERE to read more about managing the overall cost of a trip to Bikaner. It is a place that I highly recommend visiting to anyone who has even the slightest of interest in either traveling or photography. When do you plan to visit Bikaner?