Bikaner is situated in the northern region of Rajasthan. One of the earlier established cities, Bikaner still displays its ancient opulence through palaces and forts, built of red sandstone, that have withstood the passage of time. The city boasts of some of the world’s best riding camels and is aptly nicknamed ‘camel country’. It is also home to one of the world’s largest camel research and breeding farms; as well as being known for having its own unique temple dedicated to Karni Mata at Deshnok, called the Rats Temple. Bikaner is also home to one of the only two models of the biplane used by the British during World War I. They were presented by the British to Maharaja Ganga Singh, then ruler of the city. Another unique aspect about Bikaner are the sand dunes that are scattered throughout the district, especially from the north-east down to the southern area.
The origins of Bikaner can be traced back to 1488 when a Rathore prince, Rao Bikaji, founded the kingdom. Legend has it that Bikaji, one of Rao Jodhaji’s five sons, left his father’s Durbar in annoyance after an insensitive remark from his father, the illustrious founder of Jodhpur. Bikaji travelled far and when he came upon the wilderness called Jangladesh, he decided to set up his own kingdom and transformed it into an impressive city.
Today, Bikaner is loved for its multi-coloured bazaars, heritage mansions, narrow streets and vibrant street culture. Make time to see the sandstone Lalgarh Palace with its fine jaalis or latticework screens, its many extraordinary Jain havelis and temples, including the stunning Jain Bhandasar Temple and the Rat Temple (Karni Mata Temple) – this may not be for everyone – whose rodent residents are thought to be the reincarnations of departed souls. The revered Goddess Karni was said to have championed the oppressed and the temple now houses 20,000 rats who are fed, worshipped and treated as sacred.