Bikaner: Rajasthan through districts
Bikaner is the fifth largest city of Rajasthan, situated in its northwest region, in the middle of Thar Desert. There are beautiful palaces and richly sculpted temples in red sandstone. The city was founded in 1486 AD by Rao Bikaji the Rathore Prince. Ganges Canal and Indira Gandhi Canal have been instrumental in its development. According to 2011 census, the population of Bikaner is 23, 63,937 with 66.14 percent being and 33.86 being urban.
The present district of Bikaner lies just south of the river Ghaghar, located between 27011′ and 29003′ North latitude and 71054′ and 74012′ East longitudes. Bikaner is surrounded by Sriganganagar in north, Hanumangarh in north-east, Churu in east, Nagaur in south-east, Jodhpur in South, Jaisalmer in south-west and Pakistan in west.
Since Mahabharat times, the area of present Bikaner was a barren wilderness and called “Jangaldesh“. Subsequently, the territory was under occupation of Jat clans who ruled by their own chiefs and governed by their own customary law. During 15th century when Rao Bika, son of Rao Jodha arrived at Bikaner, the region was possessed by seven Jat cantons namely Sihag, Dhaka, Punia, Godara, Saran, Beniwal, Johiya and Kaswan. Rao Bika used the mutual rivalry existing between Jat clans to carve out space for his own kingdom. According to James Tod, the spot which Bika selected for his capital was the birthright of a Nehra Jat, who would only concede it for this purpose on the condition that his name should be linked in perpetuity with its surrender. Naira, or Nera, was the name of the proprietor, which Bika added to his own, thus composing that of the future capital, Bikaner.
The major parts of the district cover desolate and dreary regions which form part of the Great Indian desert of Thar. The district can be classified into two natural divisions:
(i) North and western desert and
(ii) South & eastern semi desert. In greater part of the district the plain is undulating or interspersed with shifting sand hills, the slopes of which are slightly furrowed by the action of wind. There are no hills and no rivulets or streams of any significance. The district has a -dry climate with large variations of temperature and scanty rainfall.
Many geologists believe that during the Jurassic, Cretaceous and Eocene periods the western part of Rajasthan including Bikaner district was under the sea. Later in upper Tertiary period area got up lifted in to dry land.
Historical/Geographical Places of Bikaner
1. Junagarh Fort
Junagarh Fort was constructed in the year 1588 A.D by Raja Rai Singh, one of Emperor Akbar’s most distinguished generals. It is believed that crocodiles were bred in the water moat surrounding the formidable fort.
The construction is a fine blend of Mughal, Gujarati and Rajput style of architecture. The picturesque courtyards beautify the fort. The fort complex houses some magnificent palaces constructed in red sandstone and marble like Anup Mahal, Chandra Mahal, Hawa Mahal, Dungar Mahal, Diwan-e-khas and Ganga Mahal.
The fort also houses a Prachina Museum which contains royal costumes, textiles and accessories of Rajasthani royalty.
2. Lalgarh Palace
Lalgarh Palace was built by Maharaja Ganga Singh in the year 1902 in memory of his father Maharaja Lal Singh Ji. The red sandstone construction is a fine blend of Mughal, Rajput and European architectures styles. The design was conceptualised by Sir Swinton Jacob.
The first floor of the Palace houses Sadul Singh Museum. The lives and the passions of the three successive kings of Bikaner are reflected in the art museum. The rare artifacts, Georgian paintings, and the photographs seen here stand proof of the interests and the heroics of the three kings namely Maharaja Ganga Singh, Sadul Singh and Karni Singh.
3. Gajner Palace
The Gajner Palace was founded by Maharaja Gaj Singh ji of Bikaner in the year 1784, and then completed by the great Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner on the banks of the lake. The palace served as retreat after hunting for the royal family. The red sandstone construction is a glowing example of stunning architecture. The palace is situated in the thick of forest and you could view migratory birds flock in great numbers.
4. Rampuria Group of Havelis
Bikaner has several havelis (aristocratic homes), the most famous cluster being the Rampuria Group of Havelis. The havelis are built of dulmera (red) stone, include – jharokhas (casements), entrances, latticed windows, divankhanas, gumaharias or basements. These massive havelis are decorated with golden work of the highest quality and Jharokhas are decorated with designs of flowers & leaves. There is Victorian influence in the design and also include exquisite wood carvings.
5. Ganga Singh Museum
Ganga Singh Museum was founded by Maharaja Ganga Singh in the year 1937. The museum contains a rich display of archaeological artefacts from Harappa and the early Gupta periods. There are separate sections for paintings, arts and craft, woven carpets, clay pottery, ancient coins and Rajput weaponry. The paintings on golf leaves are excellent.
6. Karni Mata Fair
Karni Mata Fair is held at Deshnok, a small town near Nokha, twice in a year. The first and larger fair is held in March-April during the Navratras from Chaitra Shukla Ekam to Chaitra Shukla Dashmi the second fair is held in September – October, also during the Navratras, from Ashvin Shukla Ekam to Ashwin Shukla Dashmi.
Karni Mata has been worshipped as a goddess by her principal followers, ‘Charans’, as well as the rulers of Bikaner (Rathores), who regarded her as the patron deity. The temple of Karni Mata at Deshnok is a stone and marble structure and is also known as Madh. Inside the shrine, a 75 cms. Image of Karni Mata adorned with a ‘Mukut’ (tiara) and garlands are installed. Her image is accompanied by the images of her sisters and the sisters of Avad Mata.
7. National Research Centre on Camel
The first Asian Nation Camel Breeding Centre is situated at Jodbeer near Bikaner. The centre is spread out over 2000 acres of semi-arid land and is managed by the Government of India. It is also great tourist place in Bikaner district.