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Bikaner
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The royal fortified city with a timeless appeal. Lying in the north of the desert state, the city is dotted with many sand dunes. Bikaner retains the medieval splendour that pervades the city's lifestyle. More popularly called the camel country, the city is renowned for the best riding camels in the world. Bikaner's history dates back to 1488 AD, when a Rathore Prince Rao Bikaji - a descendent of the founder of Jodhpur (1459 AD), Rao Jodhaji, established his kingdom here. Rao Jodhaji had five sons but Rao Bikaji was the most enterprising of them. Bikaji chose a barren wilderness called 'Jangladesh' and transformed it to an impressive city, called Bikaner after the founder's name. The strategic location of Bikaner on the ancient caravan routes that came from West/Central Asia, made it a prime trade centre in the time of the yore. Bikaner stands on a slightly raised ground and is circumscribed by a seven km long embattled wall with five gates. The magnificent forts and palaces, created with delicacy in reddish pink sandstone, bear testimony to its rich historical and architectural legacy. Undulating lanes, colourful bazaars and bright and cheerful folks make Bikaner an interesting experience. PLACES OF INTEREST ARE: Junagarh: Just over five centuries old, Bikaner was founded by a scion of the house of Marwar (Jodhpur). The fort of Bikaner, Junagarh, however, was built in 1593 by Raja Rai Singh who also served as a general in the army of Emperor Akbar. Made from red sandstone and encircled by a moat around which the modern city of Bikaner has spread in a somewhat erratic fashion, Junagarh consists of several palaces and apartments in a remarkable state of preservation. The art of mason and sculptor is most obvious in the recreation of delicate stone screens, kiosks, pavilions and series of arched entrances to buildings reached from corridors that have windows overlooking the city beyond. Some of the palaces are among the most richly decorated in Rajasthan and include Anup Mahal, Chandra Mahal and Phool Mahal. They give the impression of rich inlay of pietra dura, though in fact the apartments are merely richly painted. The paintings have been preserved as good as new because of extremely dry heat conditions of the desert town. Another palace, Badal Mahal recreated painting of clouds on its walls, a reminder of the monsoon that often failed the settlement. The Anup Mahal courtyard has a throne set in a pool of water. Bringing alive the sensitivity the rulers showed in their building environment. Lallgarh Palace: the architectural masterpiece in red sandstone, the palace was built by Maharaja Ganga Singh in the memory of his father Maharaja Lal Singh. The palace has beautiful latticework and filigree work. Sprawling lawns with blooming bougainvillea and dancing peacocks make it a not-to-be missed visual treat. Part of the palace has been converted into a luxury hotel and a museum known as Shri Sadul Museum. Gardens and Parks: Gaga Public Park with a Zoo, Ratan Bihari Temple Park and Tessitory Park are some of the lovely parks in the city, surely worth a visit.