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Bikaner (Gateway to Thar Desert)

Established by Rathore Rajput prince Rao Bikaji, Bikaner abounds with exquisite palaces, forts and temples, which are an echo of its rich history and culture. The culture and cuisines of Bikaner are also the source of attraction for the guests visiting India from far flung regions. The top attractions in Bikaner include the Junagarh Fort, Laxmi Niwas Palace, Lalgarh Palace, and Bhandasar Jain Temple among others. The art and architecture also reflect the ethnicity and intricate detailing that prevailed during the time of royals of India. The snacks, sweets, handicrafts and artifacts are also some of the distinguished attributes of Bikaner.

Deshnok Temple

The Deshnok Temple (Karni Mata Temple) is located at a distance of 30 km from Bikaner (India). The temple was constructed in the early 20th century by Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner following the Mughal style of architecture.

Later in the year 1999, various improvements were made to the architecture of the temple. During this time, the silver gate and beautiful marble carvings were incorporated in the temple. Though, devotees visit the temple all round the year, but during the Navratri season, the temple bustles with devotees from various regions in huge numbers.

According to the legendary story, Karni Mata's stepson, Laxman drowned in a pond while attempting to drink water from it. Karni Mata prayed to the God of Death “Yama”, to spare him. With denials, Yama finally permitted reincarnation as rats to Laxman and other male children of Mata Karni.

The Deshnok Temple is popular as the abode of more than 20,000 black rats. Killing of rats is considered offensive here and one has to replace the killed rat with one made of pure gold. Consuming of rat nibbled food is considered sacred. There, one could also find few white rats. These white rats are regarded as very sacred as these are considered to be manifestations of Karni Mata and her 4 sons. As sighting them is considered as a special blessing, visitors put in extensive efforts like offering ‘Prashad’ to bring them forth.

Lalgarh Palace

The popular palace of Bikaner, Lalgarh Palace, was built during 1902 to 1926 by Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob, for H.H. Sir Ganga Singh (Maharaja of Bikaner). This palace is built in accordance to the Indo-Saracenic style or architecture majorly covering styles like Mughal, European, and Rajput. The construction started in the year 1896, after the blessing ceremony. In 1902, the most impreseive and first wing of the palace, Laxmi Niwas was accomplished. Later, in stages, the remaining 3 wings of the palace were also completed by 1926.

This Indo-Saracenic style palace is coated with red sandstone, which was quarried from the Thar Desert. Moreover, the three-storey complex contains all the features that were regarded as essentials by the late 19th century like drawing rooms, guest suites, lounges, pavilions, cupolas, several grand halls, smoking rooms, etc. Grand dining room to seat almost 400 diners is again another attraction of the palace. You may also find magnificent pillars, Italian colonnades, filigree work, intricate latticework and, elaborate fireplaces. An art deco indoor swimming pool and darbar hall in the Karni Niwas wing are also must visiting features of the Lalgarh Palace.

Junagarh Fort

Junagarh Fort, built by Raja Rai Singh, sprawled over 5.28 hectares featuring with numerous palaces, pavilions and temples. The structures reflect a perfect belnd of various architectural styles namely, Rajput style of the 16th century, and Gujarati & Mughal designs. The wall paintings, stone inlay works and stucco clearly reflect the Mughal decorations. There are also lattice works and mosaic stone carving also showcase the Gujarati impact. During that period, works like ceiling of wood, lacquer and glass very very popular and thus were used in the fort.

Built between 1588 and 1593, the Junagarh Fort is fortified with 986m-long wall with 37 citadels, two entrances and a moat. The main entrance to the fort is from the Surajpol (Sun Gate). From the southern side, you may take pleasuring in picturesque view of balconies, courtyards, kiosks, windows and towers of the fort.

There are two gates which lead to the Junagarh fort. These gates are Surajpol and Daulatpol, Suraj Pol which means the sun gate is the main gate to the fort and is east facing. Some other gates which lead to the Junagarh Fort interiors are the Karan Pol, Chand Pol and the Fateh Pol.

Gajner Palace

Gajner Palace was built by HH Maharaja Sir Ganga Singh of Bikaner. on the edge of a lake. The property was converted into a heritage hotel in 1976. Initially, the palace was a hunting resort of the British Raj. The palace was later converted into a heritage hotel in 1976. The palace adjoins the Gajner Wildlife Sanctuary which is another attraction. Here, people can enjoy sanctuary dinners and desert safaris.

Gajner Palace is one of the oldest heritage hotels in Rajasthan. It has 13 Historic Suites and 13 Deluxe Rooms which are elegantly designed and they feature a traditional look. All the historic suites have original palace furniture and décor. The hotel also offers recreational activities such as lawn tennis, cycling, boating, bird and wildlife watching.

Gajner Wildlife Sanctuary

Located at a distance of 32 km from Bikaner, Gajner Wildlife Sanctuary was initially a hunting ground for the Maharaja of Bikaner. The grounds of the sanctuary were formerly used by the Rajputs for hunting. Now, the land is all used for housing wildlife animals.

The major wildlife attractions of the sanctuary are wild creatures such as the foxes, wild fowls, boars, hares, antelopes and deer including the blackbucks, Chinkara and Nilgai. At dawn or dusk, the Imperial Sand grouse can be seen here. There are some migratory birds which nest here during the winter months. There is a lake near the sanctuary which further enhances the beauty of this place. Tourists can enjoy camel safari, jeep safari, sightseeing tour and nature walk at the sanctuary.

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