Bikaner is located in the extreme north of Rajasthan deep in the desert on the ancient caravan route. Bikaner was founded by Rao Bhika in 1488. He was the son of Jodha Singh who had founded Jodhpur.
This fortified city stands at a slight elevation and is enclosed by a stone wall with five massive gates. Several palaces, shrines can be seen here. The most important fort is the Junagarh Fort. The fort was built during the reign of Rao Rai Singh, one of Akbar's generals. The fort is graced by 37 pavillions, balconies and windows. The arched Suraj Pol serves as the entrance. Several palaces were constructed at later dates, the most exquisite being the Anup Mahal, Badal Mahal, Lallgarh.
The Junagarh palace within the fort is an elegant structure which was later modified and added to by successive rulers. It was built with red sandstone and marble. In the mid 18th century Gaj Singh contributed the Chandra Mahal (Palace of the Moon) with its mirrors, carved panels and paintings and Phool Mahal ( Palace of Flowers) with its flower motifs inlaid with mirrors. Less affected by war and destruction, they could concentrate more on the arts and the famous Bikaner school of painting flourished. Several artefacts and the decorations in the rajah's bedrooms are still intact, revealing their love for art and beauty. An arched doorway leads to the Joramal temple. Tar Mandir is the royal chapel where royal weddings and births were solemnised.
The Anup Mahal built by Surat Singh is an even more beautiful and graceful palace with wonderful carvings in red sandstone on the walls and ceilings. Anup mahal, Rang Mahal and Bijay Mahal have slender massive columns, cusped arches and delicate screens.
Lalgarh was built by Maharaja Ganga Singh in the late 19th century, carved out of red sandstone & now houses a museum known as Shri Sadul Museum and also part of it functions as a hotel. The Ganga Golden Jubilee Museum houses artefacts from various periods - pre Harappan civilizations, the Gupta & Kushan eras, terra-cotta ware, weapons, miniature paintings of Bikaner school and coins.
There is a camel breeding farm 10 kms away, where tourists can enjoy a camel ride as well as get a taste of camel milk. Devi Kund 8 kms away is the royal crematorium, memorials to the Rathores of Bikaner. The Gajner Wildlife Sancturay lies 32 kms away on the Jaisalmer road.
Laxmi Narain Temple has been built near the ruins of Rao Bika's old fort.
Karni Devi Temple lies 26 kms south east of Bikaner is considered an incarnation of Goddess Durga. According to legend, she is considered to have performed several miracles. Her devotees had lost their son & prayed to the Devi to revive him.
The goddess reached the kingdom of Yama and asked for the boy's soul. When Yama replied that the boy' soul had already been reincarnated, Karni Devi vowed that souls of the members of the Charan clan (a caste of bards) would remain within the body of rats until they can be reborn within the clan & thus the temple provides sanctuary to rats. The rats scamper freely round the temple & devotees feed them. The temple is finely sculpted and has massive intricately carved silver gates which were donated by Maharaja Ganga Singh.
Kapil Muni Temple which lies 47 kms south west of Bikaner, is in honour of the saint Kapil. The Kolayat lake is considered sacred and pilgrims gather during Karthika Pournami (Oct / Nov) to take a holy dip in the lake. A camel, cattle auction also takes place similar to the Pushkar fair.