The fifth largest city of Rajasthan, Bikaner dates back to the 15th Century in the Royal History of Rajasthan. The beautiful desert city with all its old world charm and royal heritage has, in recent times, curved a niche as one of Rajasthan’s favorite tourist destinations. Being located right in the middle of the Thar Desert, Bikaner has been bestowed with a huge expanse of rich golden sand. Over the years, the forces of nature have painted pleasantly rolling contours over the sandy expanse. The mere sight of the resultant sand dunes stretching far into the horizon, featuring a spattering of camel caravans give us an instant feeling of freedom. The city is resplendent with the rich and unique Rajasthani culture where art, handicrafts and outdoor desert activities take the center-stage.
While spending some relaxing time in the sublime environment of Bikaner, there are also several activities to indulge in:
1. Desert Safari
The camel caravans of Bikaner are quite famous for their colorful appearance and the friendliness of their owners. A visit to Bikaner remains incomplete without a Desert Safari in one of these beautiful camel caravans.
There are several travel and outdoor activity agents who can help book a camel safari. Besides that, the caravans can be individually hired by negotiating the price with the caravan owner. The Desert Safari can be best experienced during the Camel Festival in January every year. During this time, the area near the Junagarh Fort comes alive with a kaleidoscope of colors and all the caravans congregate in this area. Stalls are set-up in carnival style with a plethora of activities like tug-of-war competition, acrobatics, camel dance and other Rajasthani dance and music performances.
2. Art & Culture
The uniqueness of Rajasthani art and handicrafts is famous not only in India but throughout the world. Known widely for the use of multi-colored materials and delicate mirror-work, be it in their clothes, jewellery or other handicrafts, Rajasthani art is a treat for the eyes. A huge part of this art and craft come from the local people of Bikaner who are very skilled in their handiwork. The city has a string of art galleries that showcase the traditional artworks like Meenakari and Kundan jewellery, Pattu embroidery, Kota cloth and miniature paintings. Some of the galleries to check out for a closer look of Bikaner’s art and culture are:
|Imperial Art Gallery||Marble Art, Miniature paintings, Usta Art|
|Ishwar Das Art Gallery||Gangor & Jhrokha art, wood curvings, Lamps|
|Kundan Art Gallery||Kundan jewellery and trinkets|
|Prachina Museum||Contemporary Art, Costume Jewellery, Warfare items, Royal photographs and Portraits|
3. Site Seeing
Like the rest of Rajasthan, Bikaner also has its fair share of heritage monuments that reflect the magnificence of Rajput and Mughal architecture. A day out in the city makes for a pleasing experience, taking you through the corridors of true Rajput grandeur.
The 16th Century fort is an architectural masterpiece and houses the popular Prachina Museum, a treasure trove of articles dating back to the ancient times. The red sandstone building infused with intricate marble carvings, the ornate pillars and spacious corridors are a treat for your camera lenses.
- Timings – 10:00am to 4:30pm everyday
- Entry Fees – INR 50/300 for Indians/Foreigners (General)
INR 30/150 for Indians/Foreigners (Students)
Initially the residence of Sir Ganga Singh, the Maharaja of Bikaner, the Lalgarh Palace built in 1902 is now a sprawling luxury hotel. The palace has a beautiful façade that corresponds to Indo-Saracenic architecture decorated with intricate lattice and filigree work that is worth a watch while you are out site-seeing.
Apart from these, the magnificent Shri Laxminath Temple and the serene ambience of Gajner Lake are also worth a visit.
The very essence of a vacation lies in taking away a few items as memorabilia that would keep reminding you of the wonderful times spent. Rajasthan has several unique items like its Kundan jewellery, camel leather goods, slippers called ‘Mojris’ and other handicrafts to fill in your shopping list. It is said that the Bikaner Rulers did not believe in using their skills for commercial purposes, which explains the scarcity of shops in the city. However, there are three main shopping centers that offer a wide range of products to appease the tourist’s shopping craze. The shop ‘Abhivyakti’ near the Junagarh Fort entrance is a haven of Rajasthani local products starting with wooden furniture to woolen handlooms, light cotton clothes, carpets and shawls and small mementoes. The ‘Khadi Emporium’ in MG Road offers a wide range of blankets, rugs and shawls. Camel leather products like bags, belts and shoes made from camel hide are available in shops in the Kote Gate area. There are also several souvenir shops in this area offering Rajasthan’s famous Usta miniature paintings, kundan and meenakari jewellery and Nokha quilts.
5. Eating Out
Rajasthan is known for its spicy cuisine that tickles your taste-buds until you ask for more. Eating out is definitely one activity to indulge in while on a vacation here. Bikaner has plenty of restaurants and eateries offering mouth-watering Rajasthani fare at reasonable prices. The Daal Bati Churma, one of the staple foods of the Rajasthanis is a fabulous dish to try out. Lentils form an important part of the Rakasthani people’s diet and likewise the dishes like Besan Gatte curry, Daal Chawal Kutt and Kadhi Chawal are extremely tasty and enticingly aromatic. The Bikaneri Bhujia that goes fabulously well with a cup of tea or coffee, is a unique Bikaner product and a must buy while you are there.
The most popular eating joint in Bikaner is Gallops, locally called ‘Glops’ that is thronged by tourists and locals alike throughout the day. The multi-cuisine eatery situated near the Junagarh Fort entrance serves delicious pakoras, Rajasthani Thalis apart from Chinese and North Indian cuisine and also has a well-stocked bar.
The colorful multi-cultural environment of Bikaner, glamorous on its carpet of golden sand and alive with its unique skills in artwork has all the ingredients of an exhilarating vacation.