Camel Research Farm/Camel Breeding Farm
Camel Research Farm (10 km) South of Bikaner Spend a day with the indispensable ship of the desert at their camel research and breeding centres which is only one of its kinds in Asia. The farm extends over 2000 acres of semi arid land and is managed by the Central Government. These camels are sold in the cattle fairs of Bikaner and Jaisalmer where they are decorated in all their fineries which are colorful and attractive, complementing the brown terrains of the desert.
This impressive fort was built between 1588 and 1593 under orders of Rai Singh (a general in Akbars army). It has a 986m- long wall with 37 bastions, a massive gate , two entrances and a moat. Equally impressive are the many palaces contained within the walls of the fort. The interiors of the palaces are lavish, and beautifully decorated with jalis, painted walls, mosaics and gold leaf.
A compound still stands that used to be the staging ground of Elephant fights, which were popular as an entertainment at the time. It is now overgrown with grasses and shrub bushes.
The entrance gate, the Suraj Pol (Sun Gate) has two massive elephant statues guarding it, and iron stakes implanted in the door.
Although this fort was constructed on flat ground, as opposed to other Rajput forts which were built on high ground-it has never been conquered. This may be the reason that it is so well preserved.
Near the second gate, Daulat Pol, are twenty-four handprints of women who performed sati (self-sacrifice) when their husbands died while defending the fort.
Entrance fee (R100) includes a guide- (9am-6pm)
Bikaner- Desert Caravanserai
Bikaner, along with Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, is one of the desert cities in Rajasthan that was on the overland caravan route to Central Asia and China. In 1486 Rao Bika, who had had a disagreement with his father Rao Jodha (ruler of Jodhpur), went north in search of a new settlement. Trade was flourishing on the desert route- and he founded Bikaner.
The camels that still flourish in the desert around Bikaner are probably direct descendents of the camels that plied the trade route, and the many temples and palaces that were constructed are still there. The Junagarh Fort was built between 1587 and 1593 by the third ruler, Rai Singh,who was a general in Akbars army. The fort has never been conquered.
The old walled town has colourful stalls that are now, unfortunately, selling more modern clothing and nick-nacks. We did, however also see a few with typical Rajasthani handcrafts.
Bikaner does not have the majesty and splendour of Jaisalmer or Jodhpur- but the fort is fantastically interesting, and very well preserved. The overall feeling of the city is quite calm, and the locals very welcoming. There were no western tourists around when we visited in 2006.
A good time to visit is during the annual Camel Festival, which has music, food, and some camel events, races, parades, and safaris. Prices for rooms are greatly increased at that time. The camel festival is usually held mid-January.
Bikaner is often overlooked by tourists because it is not quite near the "golden triangle" (Delhi,Jaipur, Agra) that is so popular.It is also somewhat overshadowed by its neighbours, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. Which is a great pity-because I feel that it deserves a visit. It certainly has the ability to attract visitors. The camel safaris that are available are far less commercial and "tout free" than Jaisalmer. The beauty of the surrounding Thar desert is breathtaking.
We came to Bikaner specifically to visit the Karni Mata Temple (Rat Temple) which is 30km south of the city. I am pleased, however, that we stayed and saw the interesting places that Bikaner has to offer visitors. The people are very welcoming, and we were befriended by a young fellow of about 15, Toffi, who became our unofficial"guide" to the city. He was a delight to be with, and knew the history of Bikaner. He showed us things and places we would never have found in any guide book
Bikaner - The puppeteer festival
if you ever have the chance - visit this private festival - in the middle of the desert.
You will ride on a camel to participate at this puppeteer and dance festival.
Around midnight they even offer you some fireworks.
"Bikaner - the festival"
It seems that in the year 1997 - some tourists found the last Marahadja of Bikaner.
He was well dressed - a little bit "incognito" - and he joined - after a few local drinks - a group to the puppeteer festival in the desert.
Nobody knows his name - he was seen lately in Gent/Belgium.
Bikaner - how to get to the festival?
Well by local transport - a camel will bring you - as a ship through the desert - more or less safe - to the festival.
Late evening till midnight - a great spectacular show will impress you.
"Bikaner - the puppeteer festival"
A little part of the local puppeteer performers in Bikaner.
PS ! Use a 300mm lens and a 800iso film ) it is rather dark in the desert - no industrial lights.
"Bikaner - one night"
It is really worthed to join the festival !
In Gent - my hometown and especially during the gentsche fieste there are also famous performers.
In fact belgian puppeteering is welknown and often performing abroad - like China and Vietnam !
"Bikaner - the puppets - the nightgirl"
I took this picture - with a special film (1200 asa).The girl was a little bit surprised !!
But her smile was gorgious!