The city of Bikaner is the administrative headquarters of Bikaner district located on the northwest of the state of Rajasthan, India. This most historical place is situated at a distance of 330 km from the state capital, Jaipur. Bikaner was formerly the capital of the princely state of Bikaner which was founded by Rao Bika during 15th century from its small origins and now it is the fourth largest city in Rajasthan. Bikaner is situated on 28.010N latitude and 73.190E longitude and at an average altitude of 243 meters.
The city of Bikaner is settled in the center of Thar Desert with extreme temperatures and little rain fall. Average annual rainfall is approximately 260-440mm. During summers Bikaner desert land climate reaches the maximum temperature of about 50°C and during winter minimum temperatures dipping to 5°C.
The city of Bikaner was named after Rao Bika on his name. Rao Bika founded Bikaner during 1486 AD on the land of Nehra Jat. Nehra is an Indian Jat surname and they are said to be a branch of Sindhu clan. Nehra Jat clan surname is comparable to other Jat surnames starting with N such as Nain, Nanrhe, Nara, Nanhar, Naira etc. They put a condition to give their land for Bikaner as a capital of Rathores only if their surname appears in the name of the town. Finally, the name of city named as Bikaner (Bika + Nehra).
Bikaner experiences tremendous weather with chilly winters and hot summers. Camel safaris, night safaris and jeep safaris are popular in Bikaner. One can enjoy the desert life by visiting Bikaner. The city of Bikaner was considered as an oasis on the trade route between Gujarat coast and Central Asia as it had sufficient water sources. During 20th century government of India built two canals namely Ganga canal (1928 AD) and Indira Gandhi canal (1980’s) to allow the farming of yields such as cotton, vegetables, wheat, groundnuts and mustard. The city of Bikaner is the center of Usta art (floral and geometric blue prints with gold layers on objects). The artists of Usta commonly use vegetable and mineral water colors in paintings.
Bikaner is popularly called as ‘The Camel country’. Bikaner is famous for the best riding camels in the world. Camels are the major mode of transportation of grains and for pulling heavy carts. Bikaner wells are other attraction of this city which is a very important source of water in this desert region. The wells of Bikaner are built on high pedestal with slight minerated towers on four corners. With these characteristics one can easily notice the wells even from a distance.
For a foodie, Bikaner Bhujia is a popular snack in this region and it is the best choice for crispy lovers and Kachori, Samosa are also popular in Bikaner region and Rajasthani sweets like Sankhla kulfi, Kesar kulfi are some relief during summers of Bikaner.
Fairs and festivals:
Karni Mata fair:
This is a popular fair held in the honor of goddess Karni Mata. Karni Mata is worshipped by the royal family of Bikaner and generally this fair is held twice in a year for 10 days during Chaitra Masam (March-April in English calendar) and Ashviyuja Masam (September-October in English calendar) from Ekam (1st day of the lunar month) to Dashami (10th day of the lunar month).
Gangaur is the popular and colorful festival in Rajasthan, held during Chaitra Masam (March-April in English calendar) in the honor of goddess Gauri Mata. The goddess Gauri Mata is a manifestation of goddess Parvathi and is considered to be the spirit of conjugal happiness and martial bliss. Gangaur festival is mainly for ladies and maidens; they worship the goddess Gauri Mata for their husband’s long life and welfare. This festival is celebrated through out the Rajasthan for 18 days in the month of March (Chaitra in Hindu calendar) with a great enthusiasm. Newly married Rajasthani woman follows all the rituals and fasts specified for the 18 days of the first Gangaur after her marriage. Gangaur festival is also favorable time for young people to select their better half. During this festival time ladies decorate their feet and hands with intricate designs of Mehandi (paste of henna leaves). On the final day of the festival, women place images of Isar and Gauri on their heads and sing songs about handing over of goddess Gauri to Isar. At the end of the last day the images of goddess Gauri Mata and Isar are immersed in a well or water tank.
This festival is celebrated in the village of Kodamdesar which is located at a distance of 20km away from the city of Bikaner where the Lord Bhairon is nestled. Bhairon temple in Kodamdesar has no roof to cover up the statue of Bhairon Nath. A big fair is held in the honor of Lord Bhairon during the month of August. Numerous devotees come to attend this fair every year from all corners of the country.
This festival is organized by Rajasthan government with various cultural events especially with camel races. Fire dances are performed by Sindh people is a tremendous event during this festival.
Akshaya Thritiya is also popularly known as “Akha Teej” is the foundation day of Bikaner. Akha Teej was the day when Rao Bika founded the new kingdom. On this day all the people of Bikaner enjoy themselves by flying kites and also relish a special dish called as Kichra and Imlani.
This biggest festival is celebrated by Jain community with dedication and fervor in the city of Bikaner during the month of Bhadrapad (Aug-Sep). During this festival the Jain temples are beautifully decorated and holy ceremonies, fasting are performed everywhere in the city.