Not just the eponymous bhujia, Bikaner is synonymous with the grandeur of ancient forts, and boasts of an iconic history and heritage. The palaces and fortress here, built of red sandstone, are a testament to the passage of time. With sand dunes scattered all over the district, Bikaner’s quaint and offbeat charm is hard to resist. The city is also called ‘camel country’. More often than not Bikaner ends up being the sidelined cousin, overshadowed by popular counterparts like Jodhpur, Jaipur and Udaipur. If your layover has you in Bikaner for a day, here’s how to get the most out of it.
Breakfast at Chotu Motu Joshi
View this post on Instagram
The city of Bikaner is extremely proud of its halwai culture. Its long-standing culinary tradition is evident in the streams of tiny hole-in the-wall establishments that start serving its patrons as early as six in the morning. One such shop that boasts of a legacy of more than a hundred years and enjoys an iconic status today is Chotu Motu Joshi, a small kiosk, just off station road. It would be almost criminal to start your day without gorging on a sinful plate of khasta kachori, stuffed with lentils and served with a spicy potato curry. Top it up with a tall glass of lassi. Or go for a classic aloo-poori, jalebi and rasgulla meal. Managed by the fourth-generation of the family, there are only two such outlets across the city.
Do not miss the iconic Karni Mata Temple
The unique Karni Mata temple at Deshnok has managed to capture the attention of curious tourists. Home to nearly 20,000 black rats, the temple has several legends associated with it. According to folklore, Karni Mata, an incarnation of goddess Durga (a revered figure in Hindu mythology), had asked the god of death to reincarnate the son of a grieving storyteller who had suffered a premature death. When her request was turned down, the goddess took an oath that all male storytellers (members of the charan caste) will be born as rats. And when the rats die they will be reincarnated as humans. Today the rats are known as ‘kabbas’ and are fed milk and grains by the pilgrims. The temple is a 40-minute drive from the main city and is a sight to behold during the Karni Mata Fair, organised twice a year (during spring and fall).
Delights of the Junagarh Fort
It is common knowledge that Bikaner was constructed around a massive fort. The city's architectural marvels not only add to its character but are also reflective of the art and culture of the Rajput era, the various wars waged during that time and the rich history of the region. One of the most popular forts and a regular feature in the tourist' must-visit list is the Junagarh fort. Constructed in 1593 by Raja Rai Singh, the fort is built in the Indo-Saracenic architectural style. Having withstood thousands of vicious invasion attempts, the Junagarh fort eventually became a major political centre. From the museum to the armoury section to the display of silver carriages and incredible zari work, the experience here is unparalleled.
A tour of the Rampuria Haveli
View this post on Instagram
The havelis of Bikaner are known for their antiquity and exquisiteness. But the grandest of them all is the Rampuria Haveli. Owned by the influential and affluent merchant family, the Rampurias, the 400-year-old mansion is built with red sandstone, and intricately designed with jharokhas, basements and latticed windows. The inner halls and rooms are adorned with gold work and wooden carvings. A blend of Victorian and Mughal art, the haveli never fails to mesmerise.