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Bikaner

Bikaner exists in magnificent isolation in the northern Rajasthan desert, a fortified town founded by Bika, son of the Rathore king Rao Jodha (who built Jodhpur), in the late 15th century as a stop on the trading route between the Punjab and the plains. It may not have the golden perfection of Jaisalmer, but it is full of energy and industry and its handsome fort has interiors alive with mirror-work, gold leaf and stained glass. Junagarh Fort was built in 1593 A.D by Raja Rai Singh, the sixth ruler of Bikaner, who had money to spend and an eye for Rajput architecture and arts. The imposing walls of the fort are circled by a moat and contained within are a beautiful mosque, temples and palaces including Anup Mahal, Sujan Mahal, Gaj Mandir Mahal, Badal Mahal and Karan Mahal.

Bikaner is loved for its multi-coloured bazaars, heritage mansions, narrow streets and vibrant street culture. Make time to see the sandstone Lalgarh Palace with its fine jaalis or latticework screens, its many extraordinary Jain havelis and temples, including the stunning Jain Bhandasar Temple and the Rat Temple (Karni Mata Temple) - this may not be for everyone - whose rodent residents are thought to be the reincarnations of departed souls. The revered Goddess Karni was said to have championed the oppressed and the temple now houses 20,000 rats who are fed, worshipped and treated as sacred.

Bikaner occupied an important position on the ancient caravan routes and served as a prime trading centre to the merchants coming from West and Central Asia. Today it is less touristy than some of Rajasthan’s other famous cities, but it is one of the main gateways for Rajasthan’s renowned desert safaris. Bikaner is famous for its superior camels - dark caramel colour, with luxuriant eyelashes - and hosts a famous camel fair, which is celebrated for three days during the full moon in January or very late December. Outside of town, there is also a camel farm which tourists can visit.

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