One of the principal monuments of Bikaner is the Junagarh Fort. Constructed in 1593 AD by Raja Rai Singh, it is surrounded by a deep moat, where is believed crocodiles were bred. There are 37 bastions that defend the fort and two entrance gates, the main being known as the Suraj Pol or the Sun Gate. Within the premises of this majestic and impenetrable fortress, one will come across numerous palaces, temples and pavilions. Made of red sandstone and marble, these palaces strikingly feature intricately carved towers, alongside their picturesque amalgamation of courtyards, kiosks, windows and balconies. These palaces include Karan Mahal, Phool Mahal, Ganga Niwas, Anup Mahal, Dungar Mahal, Chandra Mahal and Rang Mahal. These display spellbinding paintings, mirrors and glass artefacts. The Har Mandir is the majestic chapel where the royal family worships their gods and goddesses. Museums in the fort spectacularly provide a peep into the grandeur of past Maharanas lifestyle.
The Lalgarh Palace is one of the most popular and most visited monuments in Bikaner. It was built by Maharaja Ganga Singh as his residential palace Laxmi Niwas originally, the first and most impressive wing of this exquisite masterwork in red sandstone. Designed in Indo-Saracenic style in 1896, by Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob, one of the most accomplished British architects ever to work in India; he later enlarged it in the beginning of the 20th century.
With the finest of materials and carved stonework employed in its construction, this gigantic palace houses the Shri Sadul Museum containing the fourth largest private library in the world, the Lallgarh Palace Hotel, a heritage hotel and the Laxmi Niwas Palace, a luxury hotel. The entire three-storey complex is established in a deluxe fashion, featuring drawing rooms, smoking rooms, cards rooms, billiards rooms, guest suites, grand halls, lounges, pavilions, cupolas, Italian colonnades, magnificent pillars and fireplaces. It also has an indoor swimming pool and a dining room with the capacity of accommodating 400 diners to boast of. Notwithstanding his scholarly approach, Jacob's masterwork is clearly influenced by European ideas of form and composition, particularly the interiors. The entire architecture is a conglomeration of Rajput, Mughal and European styles, with fine latticework and filigree work involved. It stands amidst lush sprawling lawns with dancing peacocks and blooming bougainvilleas filling its visual delight. The Lalgarh Palace is an eloquent testimony of the relationship between the princely states and the British Raj.
The Gajner Palace constructed on the banks of Gajner Lake by Maharaja Ganga Singh, was the hunting lodge for the royal family. The palace is a heritage hotel today, in the thick of forests of the Gajner Wildlife Sanctuary. The jharokhas and carved pillars of the palace boast of the brilliant craftsmanship of traditional artisans. Migratory birds in huge numbers can be seen flocking around. It is the perfect place to spend a quiet evening beside the silent and stunning lake underneath the skies.
The well-known temples of Bikaner include the world famous shrine of Karni Mata in Deshnoke town and the Bhandeswari Jain Temple intricately decorated with rich mirror work, sculpted pillars, gold leaf works and frescoes. The Ganga Golden Jubilee Museum has a fine collection of pottery, paintings and weapons used by Rajputs.
Devi Kund, about 8 kilometres from the Bikaner city, is the royal crematorium place of the royal family of Bikaner, with a range of eye-catchy cenotaphs. These are finely domed and intricately carved pavilions in red sandstone and white marble. The chhatri of Maharaja Suraj Singh is the most attractive of all, with striking Rajput paintings beautifying the ceiling.
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