Bikaner, Rajasthan

Bijoy Venugopal

No travel itinerary to India is complete without a visit to the forts and palaces of Rajasthan. While Udaipur, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer are among the most sought-after destinations, discerning travellers don’t go back without visiting Bikaner in the state’s northwest, 330 km from the headquarters at Jaipur.

Much of its desert charm has been altered thanks to two sources of water -- the Ganges Canal and the Indira Gandhi Canal – which have greened the landscape and enabled farmers to cultivate crops otherwise impossible to grow in an arid landscape.

As with other cities in Rajasthan, Bikaner is studded with palaces, forts and temples. Notable among these are the Junagarh Fort, the Laxmi Niwas and Lalgarh Palaces, and a large number of temples. Bikaner also holds an annual camel festival.

Most notable are the splendorous havelis – the ancient aristocratic manors -- of the walled city, which are gradually falling prey to real-estate sharks.  However, with assistance from the World Monuments Watch List, a plan to preserve them may keep the bulldozers and wrecking balls away for a little longer.

And, yes, while in Bikaner, don’t leave without trying the savoury bhujiya!

View a photo gallery on Bikaner.