Memorable BikanerThree day road trip to Bikaner from DelhiTotal No of days - 3Dated - Oct 2010
Behind the wheel & ContributorVinod Kumar...know more about me
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Bikaner the city in the desert always had a colorful image in our minds. The long weekend combining a weekend and Gandhi Jayanti was an ideal time for a short trip to this land famous for delicacies like Rasgullas, Bhujias and Papads. Mouth watering!
What we saw in Bikaner Junagarh fort, Karni Mata Temple, Markets
A beauty nestled in the arid, rocky scrubland of rippling sands. Well the most fascinating part of Rajasthan journeys is the road travel giving you unending views of remote deserts and the straight lonely roads. One has to be careful as cattle and goats do pop in on highways and their turns and gestures are highly unexpected. The Shekhawati regions have harsh deserts with no dhabas along the way hence top up food before touching this route. The road drive is fantastic with highly low densities of traffic intersecting you, occasional spotting of spotted deers and black bucks.
Just sit back and relax yourself as the car sheers its way through the lonely desert alone while kids were having a game of monopoly. The final 100 kms of barren stretch of the NH11 (no restaurants, shops - so carry food and water) the small city of Bikaner turns visible, Bikaner came into focus primarily due to Jaisalmer which became a major tourist attraction.
Bikaner has a historic importance of being the old caravan route linking Persia and North India in Thar Desert. Rao Bika established Bikaner in 1486. The old part of Bikaner city is surrounded by a stone wall that is 15–30 feet (5–9 m) high and has five gates. Well this some information I gathered from this new place. Ofcourse this place offers the best Rajasthani food - Dal Baati, Dal Fry, Besan Gatta, Churma and Missi rotis.
The local bazaars are colourful and Bikaner is famous for Haldiram, but apart from Haldiram there are lots of local shops too specialising in bhujias and the local delicacies. Try out the station road where you have endless options to choose. To try out one is the Bikaner Bhujia Bandar at the station road. Gandhi market is good for shopping. One can also take home meetha pan and other mouth fresheners from here. The first day we took complete rest as kids were too tired to move out.
Our first visit was to Deshnok - Karni Mata Temple. Kids were excited about their visit to the rats temple. Since Dusshera was just over we were told that the temple was crowded and stinking but still we took up the 32 km drive to visit the world famous 17th century Karni Mata temple on a positive note.
Karni mata is supposed to be the goddess of the Bikaner Royal family and an incarnation of Goddess Durga. It has the look of the temple from outside, but the moment you step in you literally get to see brown rats running around without any fear.
More than 20,000 rats are staying here and they are fed and worshipped by the pilgrims who believe they are the incarnations of the tribe of the Goddess. Rats and rats everywhere (called the kabas ie the children of the goddess), some drinking milk, some lazing around, some sleeping, some relishing laddoos. One has to really take care on each step as not to hurt one.
It looked quite unbelievable that it was a temple. People were making offerings, some touching the rats with a sense of respect and placing the hand on their head. Spotting a white rat is auspicious but very rare. Anyways we didn't!A bow to the Goddess, but I couldn't help myself watching my path for rats as they right under our feet, over and heads, side walls and everywhere. A few photos and we came out of the temple to see a long queue waiting outside to make it in.
For lunch we headed to Basant Vihar Hotel Palace in Sri Ganganagar Road, for an ethnic Rajasthani lunch. The food, ambience was vibrant and colourful. They have rooms for stay too. I just happened to trip on their website, putting up the link - www.basantviharpalace.com. After lunch we visited Junagarh fort - one of the most impressing and beautiful, well maintained forts built in red sandstone. Built in 1593 by Raja Rai Singh this fort is located in the city and not on a hill like the other forts.
The imposing fort has 986 long wall with 37 bastions and two entrances. It is approached through the Karan Pol which is the main entrance. Among the palaces of interest are Anop mahal, Ganga niwas and Rang mahal or palace of pleasure. The Anoop Mahal is famous for its gold leaf painting. Har Mandir- a majestic chapel where the royal family worshiped there Gods and Goddesses. Chandra mahal or moon palace has exquisite paintings on the lime plaster walls and Phool mahal or the Flower palace is decorated with inset mirror work. The museum just within the fort complex has the royal costumes of the kings and queens, their furniture's, cutlery and so on. World War I fighter aircraft, narrow passages, high narrow staircases, highest point of the fort are some places where one can take a few memorable clicks.
We had a chance to meet the present princess of Bikaner Princess Siddhi Kumari, and were awestruck at her simplicity and friendliness. After a tiring trip we took dinner at Gallops. The food was good but a long wait for food is required, one can take a blow of the hookah in various flavors to kill time. Ice cream at Nature's completed our memorable day. The next day we returned back to Delhi.
Our drive down back to Delhi.