In the heart of Western Rajasthan, the city of Bikaner shimmers like a glittering jewel in the hot summer sun. Dotted with scores of sand dunes, Bikaner famous for its indispensable ship of the desert still retains the medieval grandeur that permeates the city's lifestyle. Strategically located on the once thriving trade routes of West and Central Asia, the city of Bikaner stands on a slightly raised ground circumscribed by a seven km long embattled wall with five gates. While its magnificent forts and palaces, created with delicacy in reddish-pink sandstone, bear testimony to its rich historical and architectural legacy, the city's surging lanes, colorful bazaars with bright and cheerful folks make it an interesting place to explore.
Originally a cluster of 22 princely states, the history of Bikaner dates back to 1488 when a Rathore prince, Rao Bikaji, the son of Rao Jodha of Jodhpur converted a vast tract of barren land called "Jungladesh" into an impressive city. Named Bikaner after the founding figure, the city was found on the very area where an earlier civilization flourished. Various archeological surveys and excavations have established beyond doubt that the pre Harappan city of Kalibangan flourished here. Bangles, statues, coins and carvings of stones and clay excavated from the site stand as testimony to this fact.
The camel city of Bikaner boasts of some unique architectural marvels of India. The Junagarh fort remains unparallel in its splendor while the Victorian styled Lallgarh Palace show a fine amalgamation of Mughal and Rajput art in its stone and wood carvings. The Jain temples like Bhandasar temple, Neminath temple, Adeshwar temple are simply adorable. But it is largely for its havelis that Bikaner is more renowned. A marvel of Indian architecture, the old havelis of Bikaner are simply outstanding in terms of their carvings and paintings.
History of Bikaner :
The foundation of the camel city of Bikaner was laid in 1488 A.D by Rao Bika when an insensitive remark by his father Rao Jodha of Jodhpur led him to forge out an independent principality of his own. With the help of a small contingent of Rathore warriors (500 soldier and 100 cavalrymen), he started out on an ambitious military adventure, subdued all the contemporary chiefs and ended the rivalry between the Rathores & Bhatis by marrying the daughter of Rao Shekha- the powerful Bhati chief of Pugal. This matrimonial alliance consolidated his power and he later on went to convert a vast tract of barren land called "Jungladesh" into an impressive city which he named Bikaner after himself.
Bikaner continued to play an important role in the history of Rajasthan. Very often they found themselves fighting with the other Rajput states especially Jodhpur in their quest for increasing their boundaries. Relations with the Mughals were very cordial and many rulers from the state held high ranks as Mansabdars of special order in the court of the imperial Mughals. As imperial military commander of various campaigns of the Mughals, they were also posted all over the Indian sub-continent as governors. Raja Rai Singhji, the sixth ruler of Bikaner was among the first Rajput Chiefs to join the Mughal alliance and was one of Akbar's most distinguished generals. The reign of Raja Anup Singh was the golden age of Bikaner. A great scholar and warrior, he collected a large number of rare manuscripts in Sanskrit and other languages whilst he was in Deccan and established a library in Bikaner. The library known as Anup Sanskrit Library is famous all over the world as a repository of ancient and medieval knowledge.
The next important ruler to sit on the throne of Bikaner was Maharaja Sri Ganga Singh, whose reign is marked for great Socio-Political and economic development in every sphere of life viz. - Education, Health, Sanitation, Electricity, Irrigation, Post & Telegraph, Roads & Railways, Trade & Commerce and so on. His reformative zeal put Bikaner on the path of modernity and led to its transformation from a principality to a premier princely state. A strong and foresighted ruler, he renovated the traditional administration, modernized the army, separated the judiciary from the executive, established a number factories and girls schools, constructed the famous "Gang Canal" (now the Indira Gandhi Canal) and provided a number of welfare schemes and hospitals.
The reign of Maharaja Sadul Singh saw India throw off the yoke of British rule. Among the heads of princely state of India, he was the first to sign the instrument of Accession by which this state merged into Indian union. His son and successor, Maharaja Dr. Karni Singh was an outstanding shooter who won laurels for the country by winning gold and silver medals in many Olympic and Asian Games in clay pigeon shooting. A great scholar, his book on the 'Relationship of Bikaner Royal Family with the central Authority' is a master piece in itself. Dedicated to the cause of Rajasthan, he later represented the Bikaner Parliamentary Constituency in the Lok Sabha for five consecutive terms lasting over a quarter of a century and incessantly pleaded for the inclusion of the Rajasthani language in the 14th Schedule of the Indian Constitution.
The current ruler Maharaja Narendra Singh continues to carry forward the rich traditions of the Bikaner Royal family and works tirelessly towards the further development of the state and the people at large.
How to Reach Bikaner
Situated in North-West of Rajasthan, Bikaner is about 321 km from Jaipur and 243 km from Jodhpur. The roads are very good, and it takes around 8-9 hrs from Jaipur. The city is conveniently connected via rail and road network with all major cities of the country.
By Road: A wide network of bus services link Bikaner with several destinations. Various Deluxe, Super deluxe and AC buses of both the state government and private players ply between Bikaner and all major cities and towns of the country.
By Air: Nal Airport is 17 Km from the city center. At present there are no commercial flights. Nearby airports are Jodhpur (254 kms) and Sanganer airport Jaipur (325 kms).
By Rail: Bikaner is directly linked by rail with major cities. Some important travel connections are from Delhi Sarai Rohilla, Jaipur, Mumbai, Calcutta, Jammu, Kalka, Ambala, Ahemadabad, Baroda, Surat, Agra, Allahabad, Kanpur, Chandigarh, Bhatinda, Jodhpur etc.