The Anup Mahal is a multi-storey structure, which functioned as the administrative headquarters of the kingdom. It was the Privy Council Room, featurying a throne where the ruler would sit and entertain most of his foreign guests and highly placed officials.
The Karan Mahal, or Public Audience Hall, was built by Maharaja Anup Singhji in about 1680 to commemorate his father Karan Singh's victory over Aurangzeb, the Mughal Emperor.
It has a surrounding gallery, and the second photo shows the courtyard of the palace from behind the screens which would have been damped to provide a cooling breeze.
The interior has inlaid polychrome glass, intricate mirror patterns, and red and gold paint, much of it added by later rulers.
The original main entry to the fort was the east facing Karan Pol, however now visitors usually enter by the gate shown in the first photo, the Suraj Pol (or Prole), the Sun gate. This gate is built in yellow sandstone, rather than the red sandstone of the other buildings. The doors here are strengthened with iron to prevent ramming by elephants, and two painted statues of elephants with mahouts stand guard.
The second photo shows Daulat Pol, to the right of Karan Pol. If you look closely, on the wall to the left of the archway can be seen red hand prints which represent the wives of the Maharajas of Bikaner who committed sati (self immolation) on the funeral pyres of their husbands who died in battle. There are forty-one hands.
Junagarh Fort is situated in the heart of Bikaner, with the modern city built up around it - in fact it's one of the only major forts in Rajasthan not to be built on a hilltop (quite a bonus, no hills to climb in the searing heat - it was around 45 degrees when we visited at the end of April 2009!).
The fort was actually only named Junagarh (old Fort) in the 20th century when the royal family moved out; before that it had been called Chintamani (which is actually the name of a wish-fulfilling jewel within both Hindu and Buddhist traditions, equivalent to the philosopher's stone in Western alchemy).
It was begun on the orders of Raja Rai Singh, the sixth ruler of Bikaner, and constructed between 1589 and 1594AD. Due to the intense building activities of many rulers through four centuries, the present fort is a composite structure, a combination of Rajput design of the 16th century with Mughal and Gujarati influences, 19th century semi-western style, and later Rajput revivalist architecture.
It is known as the Fort of Interiors, and the 5.28 hectares large fort precinct is indeed studded with palaces, temples and pavilions. It is one of the precious gems of Indian architecture in the midst of Thar Desert.
Deshnok is a small village situated 31 km south from Bikaner city along the Jodhpur Road. It is connected by national highway N.H. 89 and Rail. It is a pilgrim centre of Karni Mata. Karni Mata, considered as an incarnation of Goddess Durga lived here in the fourteenth century and performed many miracles. Originally the village was called 'dus- nok' meaning ten corners as it was formed by taking ten corners of ten villages.
Before the temple is a beautiful marble facade, which has solid silver doors built by Maharaja Ganga Singh. Across the doorway are more silver doors with panels depicting the various legends of the Goddess. The image of the Goddess is enshrined in the inner sanctum.
Entrance Free Camera Fee Rs 20 and for Video Camera Fee Rs 50.
A good side trip to make if you are in Bikaner, Rajasthan. About 30kms South of Bikaner, there is a village called Deshnok.....quite unremarkable except for the amazing temple dedicated to Karni Mata. This temple is commonly called the "Rat Temple"
Now I entered this temple with much trepidation.......thousands of rats, running helter skelter everywhere. Across feet, under feet, everywhere. But these are not just rats.....they are considered to be reincarnations of the souls of all dead storytellers.........thanks to the Goddess KarniMata (incarnation of Durga). The rats are fed "prasad" or tiny sugar pebbles, and milk with honey,and pilgrims come in the thousands to worship them (ancestors maybe?) I was awed by the sight of a very old man sitting on his haunches talking gently to them, they seemed to be listening. In amongst the thousands of grey rats, there are a handful of white ones, and it is considered to be auspicious to see a white rat. I was lucky. This place is really worth a visit. Its a good idea to wear socks if the rats frighten you....
The temple itself is quite beautiful-it has a marble facade and solid silver doors.The inner courtyard has mesh overhead to prevent birds from grabbing the rats.
Maharaja Ganga Singh began construction on this multi-storied, red sandstone palace in 1902. It is a combination of Rajasthani, European, and Oriental architecture, designed by Sir Samuel Swinton-Jacob. Ornate sculptures surround the garden. A museum is situated on the ground floor, and photographs of the royal family are on display.
The royal family of Bikaner reside in part of the palace, and the rest has been tastefully converted into a luxury hotel.
The gardens are large, beautifully manicured and colourful. I counted 24 gardeners working while we were visiting.
In front of the palace stands a carriage from the maharaja's royal train.
The museum has an excellent collection of miniature sandalwood items, the maharaja’s personal items, coins, statues, and photographs. Also in the palace is the Anup Sanskrit Library, which contains original manuscripts and engravings
There is a luxurious tea-room, which serves tea on a terrace in the garden, and we had a royal feast of English scones, cream and strawberry jam here.The tea was, of course, of the finest quality.
Only the museum, tearoom and gardens are open to visitors. (closed Wednesdays)
The most fascinating sight, to me, was the First World War plane that stands proudly inside the museum. It was piloted by the ruler of Bikaner during this war, and gfted to him by the British.
Also on view are an awsome collection of Rajput weaponry (daggers, axes and swords), inlaid hand-guns and camel-hide shields, and a 56kg suit of armour.
Photographs,paintings and personal items belonging to the royal family are also on display.
Another important object displayed is a pair of drums that belonged to the Saint Jamblioji, who predicted the dynasty of Rao Bika 450 years ago.
Inside the main gate is Abhivyakti, a handicraft shop selling goods made in the local villages around Bikaner. They sell bags, good rugs, bed covers, and cloth
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)
The multi-storeyed Anup Mahal was the chamber (called Hall of Private Audience) wherein the ruler would recieve his guests.. These beautifully maintained rooms now display the treasures of the Royal family. The inner walls are covered with exquisite lacquer work of red and gold as well as inlay work in glass. Gold leaf has been used to decorate the pillars made of white plaster. Anup Mahal Palace of Rajasthan is very ornate. It was built in 1690 by Maharaja Anup Singh
It has mosaic ceiling tiles, superb mirrors, beautiful latticework, and a large, grand carpet made by prisoners in the Bikaner jail. Coronation ceremonies were held here.
The Phool Mahal (Flower Palace) shows the small, low bed that Rao Bika slept on-the bed was designed so that Rao could sleep with his feet touching the ground, enabling him to rise quickly at any sign of danger. Pholl Mahal has magnificent wall paintings depicting flowers, birds and royal emblems.The flower paintings are a beautiful example of Rajput art. The red colours are still vibrant-although I suspect that these are updated and maintained to keep their brilliance. The wall artwork at the entrance doors is quite exquisite, highlighted with gold-leaf. Also inside are carved marble panels.
This government run camel farm is a project of great importance. Three different types of camel are reared here.They are cared for mostly by Rabaris, who are desert nomads, and have been camel experts forever. There are about 300 camels at the farm, and research plays an important role too.. The British army used camels from Bikaner during the World War I. The camels used in the Indian Army are bred at this farm.
.There is not a great deal to see here unless you are interested in camels, as we are. You can , however, take a camel ride, visit baby camels and look around the small museum.
Camel milk tasting is available-and quite an experience.
Camels are also of utmost importance for transport in India- particuarly in Rajasthan. They can carry heavy loads for over 100kms at 15kms per hour. They are called "Ships of the Desert" and with very good reason. The best time to visit is late afternoon. The camels return from grazing, and seem quite good natured after their feed!
I am rather fond of them- and loved my camel ride.
Vikram was the sanskrit name of Rao Bika Ji, it was the part of old palace.But in 1937 remodelled by Maharaja Ganga Singh as Diwan-I-Khas (hall of private audience) was use to receive kings, dignitaries.The most attractive, Sandal-wood throne.North to the throne up's there, the pavilion are jali (Net) screens to enable the women of the court to watch durbar hall without being seen anybody.This beautiful palace built by local red sand-stone from Bikaner, the dexterous fingers of the stone carvers have best created masterpieces of art.
Now a museum of arms, daggers, knives, chhuris, bow and arrows swords, shoulder plate guizis of royal past.
This is oldest part of the palaces and was built by Raja RAi Singhji.Later on it was remodelled by Gaj Singh Ji for Queen Phul Kanwar.Its decoration with motifs of trays, flower vases and rose water sprinkles reminds of the decoration popular in Jehangirian period. Inside the rooms the interior walls are decorated with stucco work and glass inlay work.
This mahal consisting of small rooms behind the Phul Mahal, it is named after Maharani Chand Kanwar, one of the queens of Maharaja Gaj Singhji. The most interesting here is the dadoed paintings that resemble the precious stone inlay work of Agra. One of the rooms here displays the idols of some of the Hindu divinities placed in the niches under the ceiling.