Renowned for the best riding camels in the world, Bikaner lies in medieval splendour, a royal fortified city with a timeless appeal. Lyin in the north of the desert state the city is surrounded by sand dunes, some mighty and others of mild gradients. The strategic location of Bikaner on the ancient Caravan routes of West and Central Asia made it the prime trade Centre in gone by years. Then, as in now, the camel became unique, be it as a beast of burden for transporting grains, working on wells, or simple as a mode of transport. Bikaner’s history dates back to 1448A.D. when prince, Rao Beeka -son of the founder of Jodhpur, Rao Jodhaji, established his kingdom hereof all his five siblings, Rao Bikaji, the most enterprising chose the barren wilderness called’Jangladesh’and transformed it into a most impressive city. The old city of Bikaner stands on a slightly raised ground encircled by a embattled wall by five gates.Till today, its magnificent forts and palaces built with reddish pink sandstones, bear testimony to its rich and architectural legacy. Walk through the city’s lanes and colourful bazaars. Meet its cheerful folk and transport yourself another palace. Prime Sites Junagarh: Built in 1558 A.D. by Raja Rai Singh, a general in the army of Emperor Akbar, the fort is a formidable structure encircled by a moat and has some beautiful palaces within. These palaces, made in red sandstone and marble, make a picturesque ensemble of courtyards, balconies, kiosks and windows dotted all over the structure. The Suraj Pol or Sun Gate: It is the main entrance of the fort. Among the notable of these palaces are the exquisitely beautiful Chandra Mahal with marvellous paintings, mirrors and carved panels, and the Phool Mahal-Ki-Saal ornate with stucco motifs and mirror work. Other palaces worth visiting are the Anup Mahal, Karan Mahalm, Dunger Niwas, Ganga Niwas, Gaj Mandir and Rang Mahal. Gigantic columns, arches and graceful screens adorn the palaces from within. The Har Mandir is the majestic chapel for the royal family for worshipping their gods and goddesses. Sadul Museum and Lalgrah Palace: Situated on the first floor of Lalgarh Palace, this museum depicts the lives and times of the three successive Maharajas of Bikaner i.e. Maharaja Ganga Singhji, Maharaja Sadul Singhji and Maharaja Karni Singhji through the various artefacts and photographs displayed in 22 rooms. Lalgarh, an imposing red sand stone palace, was built by Maharaja Ganga Sinhji in memory of his father Maharaja Lal Singhji in 1902A.D.This oriental fantasy designed by Col. Sir Swinton Jacob,is entirely a hybrid architecture-a-mixture of different elements of Rajput, Muslim and European styles and can be categorized as Indo-Sarcenic style. Excursions: Bhandasar Jain Temple: Beautiful 15th century A.D. Jain temple dedicated to the 5th Tirthankara, Sumatinath ji. Devi Kund: A royal crematorium with several ornamented cenotaphs or ‘Chhatris’ built in the memory of Bika dynasty. Deshnok Karni Mata Temple: The famous 600 year old temple on the Jodhpur road dedicated to Karni Mata, an incarnation of goddess Durga. The temple has huge intricately carved silver gates which were donated by Maharaja Ganga Singh. The most interesting thing about the temple are the rates who scamper freely within precints. They are regarded as sacred and are fed by priests and devotees owing to the belief that they will be reincarnated in the family of the goddess. Kolayatji: A famous pilgrimage spot with a temple dedicated to Kapil Muni (saint).The temple is the venue for an annual fair held in the month of Kartik. When devotees gather in large number to take a sacred dip in the holy waters of Kolayat lake on the full moon day. The small town oasis in now an idyllic picnic spot. Festive fun: The camel Festival(January): A spectacular event of camel performances, camel races, camel acrobatics, camel dances and camel milking competition are a part of the celebration held every year in the month of January. Kolayat festival (November): Coincides with Pushkar fair when pilgrims take a holy dip in the Kolayat lake on the full moon day in the month of Kartik. Gangaur Festival (April): Dedicated to goddess Parvati-the consort of lord Shiva. Grand processions of the deity accompanied by dancing women are a part of the eighteen daylong celebrations. Holy (March): Exuberant festivities beginning several days before the actual day of Holi, make it a special and spectacular occasion.