1. Junagarh Fort
Junagarh Fort is a fort in the city of Bikaner, Rajasthan, India. The 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. It is one of the few major forts in Rajasthan which is not built on a hilltop. The modern city of Bikaner has developed around the fort.
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Har Mandir temple was the royal chapel – private temple of the royal family. The royal family celebrated the Hindu festival of Dussehra and Gangaur here, apart from celebrating other family functions such as birthdays and marriages. In the Dussera celebrations, weapons and horses were worshiped here.
The Ratan Behari temple located near the Junagarh Fort was built in 1846 by the 18th ruler of Bikaner. It was built in Indo-Mughal architectural style using white marble. The Hindu god Krishna is deified in this temple.
Karan Mahal (Public Audience Hall) was built by Karan Singh in c.1680 to mark his victory over the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. It is considered as one of the most exquisite palaces built with gardens, which displays the aesthetic sensibilities of the royalty of Rajasthan.
Phool Mahal (“Flower Palace”) is the oldest part of the palace and was built by King Raja Rai Singh of Bikaner, who ruled between 1571-1668.
Anup Mahal is a multi-storey structure, which functioned as the administrative headquarters of the kingdom. It has ornate wooden ceilings with inlaid mirrors, Italian tiles, and fine lattice windows and balconies. It has some gold leaf paintings. It is considered as one of the “grandest construction”.
Chandra Mahal has the most luxurious room in the palace, which houses gold plated deities and paintings inlaid with precious stones. In the royal bedroom, mirrors have been strategically placed so that the Maharaja could see from his bed, any intruder entering his room.
Ganga Mahal was built in the 20th century by Ganga Singh who reigned for 56 years from 1887 to 1943, has a large durbar hall known as the Ganga Singh Hall that houses the Museum. The museum has exhibits of war weaponry and also a World War I airplane (biplane), which is stated to be well maintained.
Badal Mahal (The weather Palace) is part of the Anup Mahal extensions. It has paintings of Shekhawati Dundlod chiefs paying respects to the Maharaja of Bikaner in different types of turbans. Photos of people standing on nails, wood, swords, and saws are also depicted here – a display of faith and endurance. The walls in this palace depict fresco paintings of the Hindu god Krishna and his consort Radha amidst the rain clouds.
Bikaneri Havelies located both within and outside the fort in the Bikaner city’s by lanes are also of unique architectural style in home architecture. Aldous Huxley who visited these havelis reportedly said: “They are the pride of Bikaner.”
The museum within the fort called the Junagarh Fort Museum was established in 1961 by Maharaja Dr.Karni Singhji under the control of “Maharaja Rai Singhji Trust”. The Museum exhibits Sanskrit and Persian manuscripts, miniature paintings, jewels, royal costumes, farmans (royal orders), portrait galleries, costumes, headgear and dresses of gods’ idols, enamelware, silver, palanquins, howdahs and war drums. The museum also displays armory that consists of one of the assorted collection of post medieval arms.
Maharaja Rai Singhji Trust
Maharaja Rai Singhji Trust has been set up by the ‘Royal family of Bikaner’ with the basic objective to showcase the fort with professional inputs in various areas and to improve the experience for visitors. Another objective is to promote education and research scholarships, cultural activities, setting up of libraries and integration with other such trusts.
2. Lalgarh Palace
The palace was built between 1902 and 1926 according to Rajput, Mughal and European architectural styles, being largely in the Indo-Saracenic style. The building was commissioned by the British-controlled regency for Maharaja Ganga Singh (1881–1942) while he was still in his minority as they considered the existing Junagarh Palace unsuitable for a modern monarch. Ganga Singh decided that the palace should be named in memory of his father Maharaja Lall Singh.
In 1972, Karni Singh, M.P., the Maharaja of Bikaner, established the Ganga Singhji Charitable Trust. The Maharaja endowed a part of Lalgarh Palace to be used in service of the trust. Two wings were converted into independent hotels with the income from The Lallgarh Palace Hotel, a heritage hotel used to support the trust. Currently, Lallgarh Palace is owned, and the hotel is run, by his daughter Princess Rajyashree Kumari.
Indoor Pool at the Lalgarh Palace, Bikaner.
At present the palace houses the following:
The Shri Sadul Museum which is located in the west wing which also contains the fourth largest private library in the world. The museum is open from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM on all weekdays except on Sunday.
In one wing the private home of the Bikaner Royal Family.
The Lallgarh Palace Hotel. This is a Heritage hotel is owned and operated by the Maharaja Ganga Singh Ji Trust and marketed by Maharaja Heritage Resorts Limited under a Franchise and Marketing Services Agreement.
The Laxmi Niwas Palace. This is a luxury hotel, owned by Golden Triangle Fort & Palace P. Ltd.
3. ShivBari Temple
Built by Maharaja Doongar Singh back in the 9th Century, Shiv Bari Temple is wrapped in a calm and serene aura, which straight away touches the strings of one’s hearts. Dedicated by the Maharaja to his father, the temple houses a remarkable painting of Nandi Bull, preserved till date. The place is worth a quick stopover when you are on your way to the Desert Camel Research Institute. It is one of the most visited destinations of the city.
4.Devi Kund Sagar
You may want to visit this place if you are interested in the study of Cenotaphs dedicated to various rulers. These cenotaphs are a perfect collaboration of Islamic and Hindu temple architecture, among which, the cenotaph of Maharaj Surat Singh is considered the most impressive one as it is made of white marble with intricate carvings on it. It is interesting to note that the carvings on each chhatri is a reflection of the taste of respective Maharajas and each of the ceilings of these cenotaphs display intricate Rajput paintings.