Highlights of India

Bikaner

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The fortified city of Bikaner is encircled by imposing battlements and stands on a slight eminence. Its roads undulate through colourful bazaars and the predominant hue of the buildings is the strong reddish pink of local sandstone. Junagarh Fort was built by Raja Rai Singh, an outstanding general of Mughal Emperor Akbar. It is encircled by a moat and contains palaces made of red sandstone and marble with kiosks and balconies embellishing the structure at intervals. Karni Mata Temple at Deshnoke is dedicated to an eponymous mystic. Legend goes that she foretold the victory of Rao Bika and the prophecy came true. Today thousands of rats are revered here owing to the belief that the souls of her devotees are housed in the rats, and consequently they must be protected and fed. The camel breeding farm in Bikaner is perhaps the only one of its kind in Asia and is managed by the Central Government. Bikaner’s Camel Corps was a famous fighting force and still maintains its importance. This is one of the world’s main centres for scientific camel research and breeding.

Gajner Wildlife Sanctuary – In the past, Gajner, 32 kms from Bikaner, used to be the royal hunting grounds of the Maharaja of Bikaner. This small sanctuary includes a lake that teems with wintering waterbirds and wildfowl, while the surrounding forest and scrub desert afford protection for chinkara, nilgai, wild boar and blackbuck. Large numbers of chestnut-bellied sandgrouse visit the sanctuary to take advantage of the valuable water source in this arid region. Visitors travel in open-topped jeeps to provide an interesting introduction to the fauna of the Rajasthan desert.

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