PLACES TO VISIT AND OFFBEAT EXPERIENCES IN BIKANER – THE CITY OF HAVELIS

Rajasthan on every turn proved more enchanting. After exploring the blue city we proceeded further. On our way to Bikaner, we took a halt in Nagaur and came across the fort that has witnessed most of the battles in ancient time, Nagaur Fort, also known as Ahhichatragarh Fort. One of the caretakers saw us coming and accompanied us in touring the fort with all the historic anecdotes. He started with; the fort was built by Mughal King Shahjahan and Akbar, under the reign of Kshatriya rulers. The fort was originally found by, Nagvanshi Kshatriya.   

The fort had high walls and a big campus. The monument offered the ancient palaces, the colourful play of fountains, lush green gardens, and famous temples with a picturesque atmosphere. Akbari Mahal, Deepak Mahal, Hadi Rani Mahal, and Amar Singh Mahal are the other insights where I soaked myself in the rich heritage and courageous legends of Rajasthan. 

Nagaur Fort

Nagaur Fort from inside

Darbar hall of Nagaur Fort

Nagaur Fort from inside

Experience of bizarre rat temple en route Bikaner

The famous Karni Mata Temple or Temples of Rats is said to have around 25000 rats. Few of us from the group decided to go inside the temple while others were too scared. Right at the entrance, we spotted a group of rats around a container full of milk. Inside the temple was the idol was Karni Mata, and rats were moving freely everywhere. The priest says, “These rats are holy, and there are few white rats as well who, we believe are the manifestations of Karni Mata herself and her four sons.” 

I was amazed to see the conviction among localities when a newly married couple right after the marriage came to the temple to seek the blessings.

Karni Mata Temple. Picture source: Internet

Rats at Karni Mata Temple. Picture source: Internet

MAJOR ATTRACTIONS OF BIKANER CITY

According to Aldous Huxley, who is a prominent writer and philosopher, Rampuria Haveli is, “the pride of Bikaner”. The grandeur and exquisiteness made me fall in love with the Havelis and, to my astonishment, the Havelis still belonged to the landlord families and are not converted into museums or tourist places. The beautiful specimen was built in the 15th-century using Dulmera red sandstone. The fusion of not only the Mughal and Victorian architecture but also of the Rajputana architecture is truly magnificent.

Early morning before life in the city started, we walked through those narrow lanes and Jayesh being a foodie could not overlook the jalebi shop and bought some hot jalebis for everyone to taste. 

Rampuria Haveli
Front view of Rampuria Haveli
Rampuria Haveli

Let us take a tour of the Junagarh Fort of Bikaner

Inside Junagarh Fort

Our guide Mr Raja eloquently started, Rao Bikaji, son of Rao Jodha left the Jodhpur and formed the city Bikaner in 1465. The 6th king Raja Rai Singh started the construction of the fort which got complete during the reign of Ganga Singh. It took 350 years for the grand fort to construct. Since Ganga Singh developed the city, his time was declared as the golden time. 

Darbar hall for Ganga Singh
Sandalwood Throne of the Rathore Emperors

From the gate, we reached to Har Mandir courtyard. The priest of the temple religiously told us that 33 million gods are residing in it, and tourists are not allowed to enter. With the dilemma to believe it or not, we walked further through a narrow corridor and reached Holi chowk, the place where royal people celebrated Holi. Next to the chowk was a room where a model of a train was kept. It is said that in 1891, Bika Singh brought trains in the city. 

Har Mandir courtyard in the fort

A room was dedicated to the 9th ruler of Bikaner, Karan Singh. Built-in 1631, the room holds his silver throne, a hanging fan, the arch inspired by the Mughal architecture, and the ceiling covered with paintings made by natural colours. This room was a Deewan – e – Aam during the rule of Karan Singh. Our guide proudly mentioned that the paintings are made by a Muslim community called Usta, throughout the fort. 

Paintings throughout the fort done by Usta community . 

The fort also reserves the utensils brought by Rao Bika from Jodhpur, two swords belonging to Rao Jodha, and Ganga Singh, and a royal stamp inside a ring. 

Swords of Rao Jodha, and Ganga Singh, and a royal stamp inside a ring. 

Next, we walked into Anup Mahal built-in 1669, by Anup Singh after he won the Golconda fort. The paintings on the wall were made using real gold, and the mirrors used, were imported from Belgium. 

Anup Mahal

The extension of Anup Mahal was the incredible Badal Mahal. The mahal was not very spacious but a small room that was coloured in blue and white clouds all over. In 1851 Sardar Singh built this mahal, and he was a musician, I could spot his instruments kept. The mahal had a brilliant mechanism that illustrated rainfall. First, the tank built below was filled with water. A button in the corner of a wall when pressed would shower the water through the blades on the wall and ceiling. Since the city received less rain, this mechanism helped Sardar Singh to visualize the rain and practice peacefully.  

Badal Mahal built for Sardar Singh. Photo credit: Jayesh Paranjape

Walking through the fort was nothing less than walking down the antiquity lane. Another mahal was named Gaj Mandir since Janmashtami was celebrated here. The jhula (cradle) garbed all my attention. It was a beautiful jhula made of gold and lots of puppets hanging around it, and if one string was pulled, all the puppets would start moving.

The beautiful jhula (cradle)

Moving through the corridors, I noticed a few letters framed on the walls. Some of them were handwritten, while others printed. Our guide told us that these were the letters written by local people for the kings congratulating them for their awards received by the government or wishing them on their special days. It was a way of showing love towards their king. Other than this the fort also holds the DH-9 DE Havilland plane used in World War I, presented by the British Government, in recognition of the services rendered by the Bikaner state forces led by Maharaja Ganga Singhji of Bikaner.

Letters written by locals to the kings
Letters written by locals to the kings
DH-9 DE Havilland plane used in World War I. Picture source: Internet

Just before the exit, there is a room filled with stuff belonging to Ganga Singh. We all were tickled to see the special spoon made for Ganga Singh. The tale goes, Maharaja Ganga Singh while dining with British officers could not enjoy the soup with a normal spoon. It disturbed his carefully cultivated moustache, so he ordered a special spoon to be made. This special silver spoon was made that had, its upper portion covered by two thirds. With this spoon, he could have soup without disturbing the moustache. The fort also exhibits the ancient clothes used by the royal family, various palanquins for the queen, kings, and kids, few portraits of the royal family, traditional jewellery, and a variety of rifles. 

Special spoon and other belongings of Ganga Singh

Read about places to visit in the blue city – Jodhpur.

OFFBEAT EXPERIENCE IN BIKANER

It is said that the art of miniature paintings is the preserved treasure of Bikaner. The walls of various monuments in Bikaner and Jodhpur are decorated with miniature paintings

Miniature painting
Details of the painting seen using magnifying glass

We were lucky enough to find a miniature painting workshop. We reached the workshop place and met Mr Shiv Swami, who is famous for his talent in miniature paintings. He guided us about the painting and told us about his interest in the art. Then he gave a few paintings to us and asked us to paint them guiding us through the details for the next two hours.

One of the group members trying the miniature painting

I was holding paintbrush after ages but engrossed in it, I enjoyed every moment without thinking how the painting might turn out. Shiv Ji also told us that for two consecutive years (2002, 2003), he has held the Guinness world record for the world’s smallest paintings.

Guinness world record held by Shiv Swami for the world’s smallest paintings

Famous Street food in Bikaner (Name of the shop and item famous there)

  1. Bhikharam Chandmal Bhujiawala is famous for the Ghevar. It is the famous sweet of Rajasthan which looks like a sweet cake with a honeycomb soft texture, soaked in sugar syrup.
  2. Chole Bhature on the street of the city.
  3. Chhotu Motu Joshi Sweet Shop, where we tried chota samosa with pudina (mint) chutney.
  4. Another famous snack, Raj Kachori at Chappan Bhog. The kachori is crispy which has spicy- sweet- tangy flavor and is stuffed with potato, curd, sprout, sev, and chutney fillings.
  5. The city is full of sweet dishes. Kesar Fini is top attraction at Kishan Sweets. A yellow coloured sweet made from Maida and Pure Desi Ghee, and then soaked in Sugar syrup and coated with cardamom and saffron.

Tell me about your Bikaner diary, if you have visited the city in the comments below.

3 thoughts on “PLACES TO VISIT AND OFFBEAT EXPERIENCES IN BIKANER – THE CITY OF HAVELIS

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