A Royal Weekend Destination

Bikaner city from Bhandasar Temple

Bikaner trip was our first trip of the year 2017. When we landed there, we knew we had started the year on an awesome note. Unlike other touristy cities of Rajasthan such as Jaipur and Udaipur, Bikaner is not so crowded. So, we can explore this historic city at our own pace.
We loved Bikaner in many ways. Here we suggest these 15 things you should consider doing in Bikaner.

1. Junagarh Fort

Junagarh Fort

I was pretty surprised when I first saw this fort. You know why? It is one of those few major forts in Rajasthan which is not built on a hilltop! Junagarh Fort was originally called Chintamani and was renamed Junagarh or “Old Fort” in the early 20th century when the ruling family moved to Lalgarh Palace outside the fort limits. Till then the subsequent leaders kept adding palaces, temples and pavilions to it. Some of them are Phool mahal, Anup mahal, Badal mahal. My personal favourite is Badal mahal. A major feature of the fort is the stone carving done in red and gold coloured sandstones. The interiors of the palaces are decorated and painted in traditional Rajasthani style. The fort is well maintained and is a must visit.

2. Karni Mata temple

Rats drinking milk in Karni Mata temple

I knew about this strange, one of its kind temple since years. This time I could visit also. Karni Mata temple is famous for rats that live, and are revered here. These holy rats are called kabbas. The temple attracts visitors from across the globe for blessings, as well as to satisfy their curiosity. This Temple is in a small town of Deshnok, at a distance of 30 kms south of Bikaner in Rajasthan. The legend about the temple is extended but in short, it is said that when someone dies in the Charan community, he is reborn as a rat and when a rat dies, a human baby is born in a Charan family. Be careful while walking here. If a rat dies under your foot, you must replace it with one made of solid silver! ๐Ÿ˜€

3. Ghee temple or Bhandasar Temple

Bhandasar Temple

This unusually ornate two-storied Jain temple, built by a merchant, is better known as Bhandreshwar (Bhandasar) Temple. It is said that 40,000 KGs of ghee was used, instead of water, in its foundation when during a drought he was asked not to use water. The locals insist that ghee seeps through the walls during summer and the tiled floor shines. What attracted me more was the stunning temple interior with vibrant paintings adorned with gold leaf patterns and the fact that they are very well maintained. Detailed post will come later.

4. Grand Havelis of Bikaner

Grand Havelis. There are so many of them!

To be honest, I did not expect grand havelis in Bikaner. For me they existed in other towns of Rajasthan. Thanks to Narendra Bhawan (our hosts), we could see this side of Bikaner. It was difficult for me to choose the most fascinating one. The havelis belong to different merchant families who flourished and made Bikaner their home.
Of course, most of these havelis are vacant now because the owners chose to live in other parts of the world. I would love to go back and see some from inside. I could picture how children would have played inside, how women would have sang some songs while doing household chores. We absolutely recommend this Haveli tour.

5. Bika ji ki Tekri

Bikaji ki Tekri

The Royal exploration starts from the very beginning. The first stop is Bika ji ki Tekri. Rao Bikaji, son of Rao Jodha Singh, ruler of Jodhpur, was the founder of Bikaner. He left his fatherโ€™s zone in 1465 and carved out his own territory, Bikaner, in the wild regions of the then called Jangladesh. Bikaji ki Tekri is his first humble attempt for a fort in the city. Now only this small fort and a part of the wall that surrounded the city remain. It is also not on the list of most tourists.

6. Laxminath temple

Feeding pigeons outside Laxminath Temple

Laxminath Temple is one of the oldest temples in Bikaner. It is said that Rao Bika, the founder of Bikaner himself offered prayers here. The most exquisite artwork inside the temple besides the shrines is the doorway which is embellished in silver work. Photography is not allowed inside the premises.

7. Prachina Museum

Weapons at Prachina Museum

This museum was established by Siddhi Kumari daughter of Late Maharaja Narendra Singhji of Bikaner in 2000, with a vision to preserve and showcase Bikaner’s rich cultural diversity. Siddhi Kumari’s endeavor is in line with the Bikaner Royal Family’s rich and glorious tradition of establishing institutions for public benefits.
This museum is inside Junagarh Fort and has separate ticket of INR 50 for Indians. This includes camera charges.

8. Laxmi Niwas Palace

Laxmi Niwas Palace, in my opinion, is a photographerโ€™s delight. Every room in this 5 star hotel has hand-painted walls and is adequately furnished. This heritage hotel provides amenities like dressing tables, brass beds, bathtubs and shaving mirrors, each exuding an old-charm. Some of the movies are also shot here.

9. The Royal Cenotaphs

The Royal Cenotaphs or the Chhatris, last resting place for members of the Royal family

A little outside the city at Devikund sagar, the Royal Cenotaphs or the Chhatris were built for the royal family of Bikaner. Starting from the fourth king of Bikaner till the last king Narendra Singh ji โ€ฆ they all took their last journey to this place. Each one is beautiful and you can also see the cenotaphs have lovely stone carvings depicting the Royal art of stone work of Rajasthan.

10. Lalgarh Palace & Museum

A Royal dress on display in Lalgarh Museum

Lalgarh Museum is in the Lalgarh complex. This is a private property in use by present Maharaja of Bikaner. A part of the palace is now a heritage hotel. Inside the museum one railway coach (meter gauge) used by Maharaja and their family members is kept at the entrance. Inside the museum there are displays of photos of events, paintings, garments used by Maharajas, gifts and several art and craft items. I loved the silk garments very much.

11. Usta Art

The Usta Art Work

This is one art that surprised me a lot! I had seen a few paintings in Narendra Bhawan and when we visited Mr Ajmal Hussain Usta in his Workshop, I could join the dots. Usta art is a generic term used for the media of Naqqashi and Manoti art practiced by Usta artisans from the Bikaner. It is said to have originated in Persia and later came to India.
Usta art is the art of embossing with gold and meenakari (an art famous for gold jewelry in Rajasthan). I have written a detailed post on Usta Art. We suggest, even if you do not wish to buy anything, do drop in to see his work.

12. Miniature art & paintings

top 15 things to do bikaner
Miniature painting by Mahaveer Swami

Paintings and Rajasthan go hand in hand. Since childhood I always used to admire handmade paper greeting cards with miniature paintings on them. Little did I know, one day I would have a privilege to meet Mahaveer Swami, an award winning miniature painting artist, at his workshop. About him, the less said the better. Humble to the core, he is famous world over. As I write this, he is in Hong Kong for an exhibition. Do visit his workshop to learn more about it.

13. Sundowner


If you want to watch the sun go down in the desert with a glass of wine, and lilting folk music to arouse your rustic music sense, this is an experience made just for you. Our hosts took us in the middle of desert and pampered us with all the good things in the world.

14. Local Food

Mouth Watering !

This is one thing that we always try our hands โ€ฆ. errr mouths on! The local delicacies. The epic Kachauris, Gulkand milkshake (Vardhman is the best place), Ghewar, Rasgullas, and the ever famous Bikaneri bhujiya! You cannot complete your trip without feasting on these.

15. Shopping

The city has all the colors of shopping opportunities. Bikaner is a place where the countryโ€™s best Kundan Jewelry is made. Bada bazar, Kote market, MG Road are a few markets where you can do your shopping. Camel leather shoes & wallets, Nokha Razai, Ghewar, Bikaneri Bhujia, miniature paintings are a few things you may want to take home.

Note: Narendra Bhawan curates two beautiful trails known as Merchant trail and the Royal trail. Merchant trail consists of all the grand Havelis which were built by various merchant families. The Royal trail takes us first to Bika ji ki Tekri where it all started. Then to all those places where the royal family used to pray, live and finally where the members were put to rest. Iโ€™ll write a dedicated post on these two trails. We highly recommend taking these trails with them.

How to reach Bikaner

Bikaner can be thought of a weekend getaway from Delhi and other parts of Rajasthan.
By air – There are two airports nearby, Jodhpur and Jaipur, and a cab ride will take 4-6 hours to reach Bikaner.

By train – Bikaner is well connected to major cities like Delhi, Jaipur, Allahabad by train.

By road – The city is well connected by buses to all major cities of Rajasthan and Delhi.

Best time to visit Bikaner

Rajasthan is at its best during winters. Plan your visit between October and March. December and January are the best months in my opinion.

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PS: We were invited to Bikaner as travel bloggers by Narendra Bhawan, Bikaner.

If you want to travel places with us, I suggest you to join us on my Facebook travel page.
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65 thoughts on “A Royal Weekend Destination

  1. Wow!
    I have gone to Bikaner in 2007. Did not know there are so many things to do. Thanks for sharing.

    I will go there again. The trails look nice.

    1. Thank you. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Well, Narendra Bhawan people fed us so well all the time that we couldn’t go to try any street food. ๐Ÿ˜€

      Next time only street food.

  2. These photos are wonderful! There’s something so rewarding about visiting a place that’s a little off the tourist trail, isn’t there? So, but, the big question…. Was this milk *FOR* the rats? Yikes…. haha!

  3. I’ve read about a few of them earlier too.

    The fact that if a rat dies under your feet and you have to replace it with silver is fascinating.

    I would love to go in those Havelis too…there must be some unique feeling to it.

    The hotel is stunning from the outside. The interiors with unique works in each room must be amazing!

    There is just so much to see and appreciate in Bikaner…

  4. I had visited Bikaner with my Gang of College Mates in 2009 and remember the Karni Mata Temple all thanks to those Rats ! Reading this post , I feel I have missed on some places for sure ๐Ÿ™‚ this post is a City Guide total !

  5. Its an awesome post covering the interesting places of Bikaner, photography is very nice, specially attracted me the replacement of rat with a silver one, different places have different rules and rituals.
    Enjoyed reading.

  6. I would love to explore the Havelis of Bikaner. I would definitely give Karni Mata a miss though. While the Kabbas might be revered by them I could not be surrounded by rats. lol

  7. Very Nice!!! It’s a very helpful guide of Bikaner, because it is fully loaded with all type of Information. No matter what type of Interest you have!

  8. Wow, there are so many temples and museums! It is nice that the local region culture is preserved and displayed in the museums. This looks like a great road trip while in India.

  9. I’m loving all the photos in this post. The one that really caught my attention was the one with the rats drinking milk in Karni Mata temple. I know most people would be terrified to see rats, but I thought it was so cute how they get milk from the temple ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Wow this place is beautiful. I had never heard of the city before and had to Google it. All the architecture is magnificent and I especially love the colors of Bhandasar Temple.

  11. Oh wow, I never realised there was so much to see and do in Bikaner. Those homes seem to be wasted with no one living there. We have the same in the UK but I do wonder whether towns should impose limits on non local buyers as you end up with a ghost town for much of the year which is not good for business.

  12. Oh my goodness. I knew there had to be a good story behind that rat picture. Ugh. It reminds me of my morning commute, but no story there. I will be sure to mind the rats as to not harm them!!!!

  13. You really did a lot during your time in Bikaner! Was everything close together or were you there for a long time? How long do you think it would take to explore?

  14. What an incredibly quaint town! How interesting about the locals believing ghee comes out of the tiles in the summer. I actually just bought some ghee earlier today, so I laughed a bit to myself as it was a bit more expensive here in New Zealand. Those rats drinking made me think of the movie Ratatouille!

  15. I can’t believe I have yet to hear of Bikaner. Such a uniquely diverse destination. I love the ornateness of the Bhandasar Temple!

  16. It’s incredible how much there is to see and do in Bikaner. I’ve never been, but now I feel like I must go! I’m an architecture fan, so just seeing the detailing and construction of places like Junagarh Fort, the Ghee Temple or any (if not all) of the Laxmi Niwas Palace would be fascinating. And, of course, I’d love to spend some time in the museums and exploring the Royal Cenotaphs. The whole place looks fascinating!

  17. Bikaner seems like a wonderful place to visit! I am glad it is not so touristic! If I had to choose, I would most want to see the rats drinking milk! I’ve never seen anything like that before and I’m not scared of rats so it would be cool.

  18. Wow you have some great photos. I’ve always heard of the rat temple but I never knew what it was called. I don’t know how I would go visiting it haha

  19. Bikaner is a great example of the royal legacy of Rajasthan. Though it is underplayed as compared to its more ‘illustrious’ co-cities like Jaipur, Jodhpur. It is indeed a treasure trove of sights and experiences that are so unique to Rajasthan.

  20. I had heard about the rat temple but didn’t realise it was in Bikaner. I much prefer cities and towns with less tourism, so this sounds like a great place for me to visit, with plenty to do too! I’m not usually a fan of cemeteries and such, but the cenotaphs look impressive to say the least.

  21. I like post like these that take me to areas of the world I have never visited in person. Not sure what to think about the rats drinking milk but everything else is incredibly enticing to me. The Laxami Palace is my favorite out of all the ones you featured. I could probably spend a half day photographing it.

  22. The Karni Mata temple with the rats is incredible – something we have certainly never heard of before, but something we would truly like to experience. Love the idea of replacing them with rats of solid silver. Your photo of them drinking the milk is amazing.

  23. Ghee for foundation? That must be such a yummy smelling temple in the summer. ๐Ÿ™‚
    The Rat temple sounds very interesting.

    And the Havelis look beautiful. ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. I think I visited Bikaner by train. I remember I visited the Rat temple, you’re photo captured this place very well, it brought back so many memories. I think I visited at the wrong time as it was super hot!

  25. I lived in Jaipur for quite a few months and never heard of Bikaner but I’m quite sad I didn’t as there looks to be quite a lot to see! The Royal cenotophs look unreal, I would love to explore that. The Karni Mata temple sounds quite creepy but also very interesting so I would have liked to have visited that also. Thanks for sharing!

  26. Bikaner must be a gorgeous place to visit! Laxmi Niwas Palace looks beautiful, but my favourite is probably the Royal Cenotaphs. Also, I didn’t know about the sacred rats but I love it – I’d love to visit sometime!

  27. Due to time constraints I didn’t visit Bikaner when I was passing through Rajasthan (opted instead for Udaipur, Jaipur and quite randomly Ajmer) but your post makes me really wish I had shuffled my schedule around a bit more to make time! Bhandasar Temple looks beautiful, as does Laxmi Niwas Palace. The Cenotaphs remind me a lot of the ones I saw just outside of Jaipur – I suppose the structural side of it is typical of this part of India hence the similarities.

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