Bikaner: Deserts have no life... Why ?

Someone rightly said that deserts have no life and hence the only landscape where you tend to look inwards… but then what entices the wanderers towards hostility of the deserts… I feel that the mystery of lifelessness allures the misfits… I hate analyzing human emotions and life… so chuck it… there I was in the midst of arid and desolated land of Thar… Somewhere near the city of Bikaner…
Desert and railway track near Bikaner
                                                        
Desert and railway track near Bikaner
In the month of March, Overnight journey via train in a Non-AC coach was still not that harsh as I expected… This part of Rajasthan is less touristy compare to its popular neighbors Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. As day progressed and sun lifted up from the horizon, deserts start showing its real nature.  After passing through the storm of sand, our train finally arrived at Bikaner and in a hope of escaping from the scorching heat of the desert, we directly headed to Jungarh fort, the most popular monument of Bikaner.
Camel Cart near Bikaner
                                                            
Camel Cart near Bikaner

How to reach Bikaner: Bikaner is well connected with Delhi with at least 2 over night trains. Many direct trains to Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur and few direct trains to Mumbai. There are state transport busses connecting to other cities of Rajasthan. [No need to worry… It’s well connected]

Where to eat: Mouthwatering… delicious…luscious…  I am not exaggerating... It should be food capital of Rajasthan.

Where to stay: Plenty of high end options including few heritage options (Lalgarh Palace).  Most of the budget hotels lie in the street opposite to railway station (200-250 INR per night).

Jungarh Fort Entrance
                                               Jungarh Fort Entrance

Entrance fee and visiting hours at Bikaner fort

 

Jungarh Fort

Prachina Museum

Indian

30

20

Student/Children

20

10

Foreigners

200

100

Still Camera

20

20

Movie Camers

100

100

* Fort is kept open for visitors from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Ticket window will close at 4:30 PM.
* unlike other archeological sites of India, Tourists are only allowed in groups of 10-15 accompanied by a guide. Independent entry without an authorized guide is not allowed.

Comprehensive Article on Junagarh Fort Bikaner
Colorful Corridors Bikaner Fort
                                                                 Colorful Corridors Bikaner Fort

It’s a big complex and will take at least 2-3 hours to walk through every antique that is on display inside the fort. For detailed understanding of art, history and culture, you should better hire a private guide. Bikaner is one of the well maintained fort of Rajasthan and indeed the most colorful fort of the state. It is adorned with beautiful tile work, walled paintings, intricate artwork on the walls and too much of golden work in some of the corridors which surprised me instantly.  A story goes behind the excessive gold work in the fort.
 

Following our guide, we passed through many art galleries and colorful corridors. Finally we reached to the last gallery which displays a vintage plane (DH-9DE Haviland Plane) that catches everyone’s attention.
Wooden Horse Prachina Museum
                                                          Wooden Horse Prachina Museum

Just opposite to Bikaner fort lies Prachina, Cultural centre & Museum (c/o JUNAGARH FORT, BIKANER Tel.-91-151-2525609) which is open from 9 AM TO 6 PM daily. Prachina attracts many visitors interested in art galleries and antiques. It has an exhibition, gallery, souvenir shop and café. Inside Prachina Museum, there are innumerous artifacts on display related to various subjects and theme such as

- Tradition and change western influence on bikaner
- contemporary arts gallery
- ritual crafts gallery
- bikaner period room
- aristocratic textiles and costume gallery
- royal photographs and miniature portraits
- gallery glass and cut glass objects
- decorative wall painting
- gallery of aristocratic transportation
- demonstration by master craftsmen
Lalgarh Palace Bikaner
                                                               
Lalgarh Palace Bikaner

Now a heritage hotel, Lalgarh palace is another fascinating monument of Bikaner. When we reached Lalgarh palace, sun was at its full swing. Except Sri Sadul Museum (Indian: 25 INR, Foreigners: 50 INR), everything else is closed for tourists in Lalgarh Palace so I will not recommend you to include Lalgarh palace just for visiting the museum. A coach from the heritage train is the only attraction inside the museum.
 

Parched and exhausted, we returned back to the city for getting an accommodation, taking bathe and surviving a hot afternoon.  After delicious lunch, siesta was called for rejuvenating ourselves before heading further. In the evening, we decided to visit royal cenotaphs at devi kund sagar, a lesser known attraction around Bikaner. Devikund sagar is some 8 km from the town and can be easily reached by shared auto/busses (10 INR, 20 minutes).  You can catch these autos, busses from Maharaja Hotel.
Cenotaphs at Devikund Sagar Bikaner
                                                          Cenotaphs at Devikund Sagar Bikaner

The royal cenotaphs, Devi kund sagar:
Entrée fee: Foreigners (10 INR), Indian (5 INR)
Visiting hours: 09:00 AM to 05:00 PM

This is the cremation ground of bikaner  royal   family. The three enclosures situated around kalian sagar tank protect the chhattris (cenotaphs) and a number of less prominent memorials for princes, princesses and so on .the oldest among all chhattris here is that of rao kalyan malji (A.D.1539-71) wh0 was the fifth ruler of bikaner.the chhattri (cenotaph) of a male has a vertical memorial slab. Where as that of a female has foot marks engraved on a slab. A memorial erected for a minor is called anada and it is a simple structure without a canopy. Chhattris play an important role in rajput as well as in muslim art here, in the chhattris of raja rai singhji and raja sur singh ji built in local red sand stone, the style is richer and more elegant the chhattri of raja karan singh ji (1675 A.D) and maharaja anup singh ji (1698 A.D) are the finest examples of cenotaphs with architectural exuberance and ornamentation in classic mughal taste.
Cenotaphs and the pond at Devikund Sagar
                                                Cenotaphs and the pond at Devikund Sagar

Devikund Sagar finds very few visitors hence it’s a perfect place to find your own space and contemplate in the midst of lifeless desert. There is also a beautiful pond besides the site.  In the evening, we receded back to Bikaner to sit back and to wander the circuit of colorful streets of Bikaner. Unlike days, nights are calmer, colder and much vibrant in the deserts. Streets of Bikaner are full of food joints, Kite shops, spice stores, Ghee stores etc…..it was lively, serene, colorful and bright….. We thought of visiting temples but postponed the idea for following day.
Distant view of Bhandasar temple Bikaner
                                                   Distant view of Bhandasar temple Bikaner

Next morning, we decided to visit all the temples and havelis as early as possible to escape from the heat. There are innumerous temples in the town but Bhandasar Jain temple and laxminath temple are popular among the travelers. Both of these temples are situated very close to each other.
Sculptures at Bhanda Shaha Jain Temple Bikaner
                                                Sculptures at Bhanda Shaha Jain Temple Bikaner
Bhanda Shaha Jain Temple Bikaner:
 

Situated at the south-west end of the walled city, is the oldest jain temple in Bikaner. It was built by a rich jain merchant, Bhandasa oswal in 1468 A.D before bikaner was founded and was completed by his daughter in 1514 A.D after his death. It is said that GHEE (Liquid Butter) was used as a substitute of water while foundation of this temple was being laid and the stone for construction has to be transported all the way from Jaisalmer. The spire of this temple with its 'Springas' and 'Upasringas' of decorative shikaras and its gilded flagstaff, towers high above the rest of the city and can be seen from far. The temple is dedicated to sumtinath ji, the fifth Tirthankar of the jains. The paintings from jain scriptures on the interior walls and ceiling of this temple are of much later times.
An Old Haveli
                                                                     An Old Haveli

After temples, we started our quest for a glimpse of old havelis of Bikaner. Most of these havelis are now heritage hotel so all you can enjoy the intricate architecture from outside. These havelis lie in a narrow street and really very impressive. I wish one day these havelis to be controlled by ASI so that travelers like us will also get a chance to enter inside these gorgeous buildings. Later in the day, we headed to the one of the distinctive attractions of the region, Karni Mata temple at Deshnok. Deshnok is 30 km away from Bikaner and there are frequent busses on this route.
Karni Mata Temple Deshnok
                                                               Karni Mata Temple Deshnok

While driving towards Deshnok, you can actually see small sand dunes on both side of the road and infinite desert. Karni mata temple is highly revered and lures a large number of devotes every day.   Holy rodents in the premises are the most fascinating side of this temple.  Surprisingly it attracts so many foreigners who just come here to see thousand of rodents inside a temple. It is believed to be auspicious if a rodent passes over your feet and chances are always bright. As day became hotter, we had to spend our entire afternoon in and around the temple gasping bottles of water.
 

Visiting a desert city and not appreciating a sunset in the midst of sand dunes can be a disappointment for any traveler and so I enquired locals at Deshnok/Bikaner about the sand dunes (Tibbe) and here goes my findings which is not available in any guide book.
Holy rodents at Karni Mata Temple Deshnok
                                            Holy rodents at Karni Mata Temple Deshnok

Where are Sand dunes around Bikaner: Like us, there are many travelers who arrive at Bikaner with this false notion of sighting sand dunes (like they see in lawrence of Arabia). Sand dunes are also called Tibbe in local language and there are not many left around Bikaner.  During my time in Bikaner, I chatted with so many locals about the sand dunes and all of them redirected me to Sam Sand dunes of Jaisalmer however there are some villages around Bikaner where you can find sand dunes and even do camel safari. Here is the result of my extensive research about sand dunes around Bikaner.
 

Udayaramsar (18 km): Udayaramsar is a small village on the way to Deshnok from Bikaner. You can either catch a bus or get auto to reach this village. There are not many sand dunes left and you will have to first find a camel to reach these dunes.
 

Deshnok/Karni mata temple (30 km): There are some sand dunes around this village but now some part of the desert is converted into fertile land and is used for agriculture.
 

Raisar (20 km): Quite popular among the Safari organizer. Some tour agencies organizes one day desert safari from Raisar.

Katariyasar, Ladde (48 km): Hosting site of International Camel fair, Katariyasar lies in the midst of sand dunes and certainly your best pick around Bikaner. Katariyasar can be reached by private busses from M.N hospital Bikaner. As there are not many busses to the village so I will recommend you to start early in the morning and spend the whole day around the sand dunes and then catch the last bus back to Bikaner. Except festival season, Katariyasar is not blessed with tourist facilities so overnight stay options are very limited.

City of Bikaner
                                                                         City of Bikaner

 

Travel Tips:
* You can find shared autos almost on all the routes of Bikaner city. Generally shared auto charges 5-10 INR per person. Private auto for 2 km should charge 15 INR.
* Bikaner is popular for its food specially Bujiya, paper, sweet dishes and cold beverages. You must dedicate couple of hours of your time enjoying delicious food of Bikaner.
* Another city of kite lovers.

Other attractions around Bikaner:
Camel research institute (8 Km):  Best time to visit is in the evening around 4:30-5:30…. Nothing special….
Gajner Wild life sanctuary (32 km): used to be hunting resort of Maharaja which is now a heritage hotel
Kolayat (54 km): Pond, Holy temples and Sadhus… I was inquisitive about this destination but could not make it..  will certainly include it in my next trip.

Thanks for answering about

Thanks for answering about the fort being open on Dassera day. I will have 2nts in Bikaner end this month and your articles have given me a good idea of how to spend the time there. Thanks again.

I am glad that you liked the

I am glad that you liked the article... There is too much to do around Bikaner.. In fact you can actually visit Sand dunes if you have time...

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