Situated in the north-west part of Rajasthan, Bikaner is a desert town in the middle of the Thar Desert. The town is known for its rich Rajput culture and has some of the most beautiful palaces and richly sculptured temples of red and yellow sand stones. Tourists from all across visit Bikaner to get a feel of the desert and the culture and lifestyle of the people here. October to March is the best time to visit this town.
Like any other desert town, the city experiences extreme weather with very hot summers and chilly winters. During the summer months, the days are extremely hot, although the nights become pleasant. Many of the holiday resorts and luxury hotels in Bikaner organise camel safaris, jeep safaris, night safaris and desert camps which allows tourists to get a taste of life in the desert.
Bikaner is known for its beautiful palaces and forts. The Junagarh Fort, built during the reign of Raja Rai Singh, is the most famous fort in Bikaner and is a tribute to the Rajput style of architecture.
The Laxmi Niwas Palace which is the former residential palace of the king, Lallgarh Palace, Gajner Palace are some of the other palaces in Bikaner which add to the beauty of the town and gives it a feel of the Rajput heritage.
Bikaner is home to some beautiful temples and there are around 27 Jain Temples in the place. One unique temple in Bikaner is the Karni Mata Temple; popularly known as the ‘rat temple’. The temple is home to thousands of rats which seem to be everywhere and are considered holy by the devotees who come to offer their prayers.
The Karni Mata Fair, in honour of Karni Mata, who was an ascetic, is held twice a year – March/April and October/November. It is held at Deshnok, near Nokha which is almost 60 km from Bikaner. The next fair will be held during Navratras, for 10 days, from Chaitra Shukla Ekam to Chaitra Shukla Dashmi of the Hindu lunar calendar.
Though Karni Mata was an ascetic she is worshipped as a deity by her followers who include the Charans and the royal family of Bikaner. Inside the temple there is an image of Karni Mata which is decorated with garlands and tiaras. When Rajput children get their first haircut, it is offered to the deity to seek her blessings. The temple is open from 4:00 am when priests perform ‘aarti’ and give ‘bhog’ as offerings.
Being a popular tourist destination, there are many fairs and festivities that are organised keeping in mind the tourists. One of the popular festivals held here every January is the Camel Festival. During this festival, hordes of camels are brought out and are decorated in the most colourful way possible. Thousands of people throng this place to be a part of the festivities which include camel racing, dances by camels and bumpy camel rides.
To view and purchase Rajasthani handicrafts and artefacts, jewellery and fabrics, a trip to the market area is the best option as there are many stalls selling indigenous products and souvenirs. The cuisine here is essentially vegetarian and the town is known for a wide range of traditional Rajasthani vegetarian dishes and sweets.
Bikaner is well connected to different parts of Rajasthan as well as the country. The nearest airport is at Udaipur. It is also connected by railways to cities like Jodhpur, Mumbai and Delhi, among others. There are also a number of bus services from Bikaner to major cities nearby.