Sunday, August 8, 2010

Bikaner: A Bountiful city of Desart

Bikaner is a District in the northwest of the state of Rajasthan in northern India. The city is the administrative headquarters of Bikaner District and Bikaner division. It was formerly the capital of the princely state of Bikaner. The city was founded by Rao Bika and Jats as the spot which Rao Bika selected for his capital, was the birthright of a Nehra Jat, who would only concede it for this purpose on the condition that his name should be linked in perpetuity with its surrender. Naira, or Nera, was the name of the proprietor, which Bika added to his own, thus composing that of the future capital, Bikaner. in 1486 and from its small origins it has developed into the fourth largest city in Rajasthan. The Ganga Canal completed in 1928 and the Indira Gandhi Canal completed in 1987 have allowed the farming of crops such as mustard, cotton, Groundnut, wheat and vegetables. Other industries include wool production and the mining of Gypsum, plaster of Paris and bentonite.

Bikaner is famous for sweets and snacks.

Before middle 15th century rule, the region that is Bikaner was a barren wilderness called "Jangladesh". The territory forming the boundaries of Bikaner was ruled by Jat dynasty of Jats : The north-eastern and north-western Rajasthan, known by the name Jangala Desh since Mahabharata times, was inhabited by Jat clans ruled by their own chiefs and largely governed by their own customary law. The chiefs enjoyed a large amount of autonomy, from their nominal overlord, the sultanate of Delhi.

Whole of the region was possessed by six or seven Jat cantons namely Sihag, Punia, Godara, Saran, Beniwal, Johiya and Kaswan. Besides these cantons there were several sub-castes of Jats, simultaneously wrested from Rajput proprietors for instance Bagor, Kharipatta, Mohila or Mehila, Bhukar, Bhadu, Chahar. According to History of Bikaner State and by the scholars, the region was occupied by Jats with their seven territories. It is said about Jat territories thatSaat Patti Sattavan Majh (means seven long and fifty-seven small territories).

It was in 1472, that Rao Bika established the city of Bikaner. Rao Bika was the second son of Maharaja Rao Jodha of the Rathor clan, the founder of Jodhpur city. He conquered the large arid lands to the northern region of Rajasthan to set up his domain. As the second son of Joda he had no chance of inheriting his father’s territory of Jodhpur or to the title of Maharaja. He, therefore, reconciled and decided to build his own kingdom at Bikaner at the place then called "Jungladesh". Bikaner, though a desert land of the Thar Desert, was considered an oasis on the trade route between Central Asia and the Gujarat coast since it had adequate spring water sources. Bika’s name was thus tagged to the Bikaner city as well as to the then state of Bikaner (“the settlement of Bika”) that he established. He built a fort in 1478, which is now ruins and 100 years later a new fort was built about 1.5 km from the city centre known as the Junagarh Fort. History of Bikaner and the fort within it thus start with Bika.

It was only about 100 years after Bika that Bikaner’s fortunes flourished under Raja Rai Singhji, the sixth ruler of Bikaner, who ruled from 1571 to 1611. During the Mughal Empire’s rule in the country, he accepted the suzerainty of the Mughals and held a high position of an army general in the court of Emperor Akbar and his son Emperor Jahangir. His successful war exploits by way of winning half of Mewar kingdom won him accolades and rewards from the Mughal emperors. He was gifted the jagirs (lands) of Gujarat and Burhanpur. With the large revenue earned from these jagirs, he built the Junagarh fort on a plain land, which has an average elevation of 760 feet (230 m). He was an expert in arts and architecture and the knowledge that he acquired during his several sojourns to several countries are amply reflected in the numerous monuments he built in the Junagarh fort.

Karan Singh who ruled from 1631 to 1639, under the suzerainty of the Mughals, built the Karan Mahal palace. Later rulers added more floors and decorations to this Mahal. Anup Singh, who ruled from 1669–98, made substantial additions to the fort complex, with new palaces and the Zenana quarter (royal dwelling for females). He refurbished the Karan Mahal with a Diwan-i-Am (public audience hall) and called it the Anup Mahal. Gaj Singh who ruled from 1746 to 1787 refurbished the Chandra Mahal (the Moon palace). Following him, Surat Singh ruled from 1787 to 1828 and he lavishly decorated the audience hall (see picture in info box) with glass and lively paintwork. Dungar Singh who reigned from 1872 to 1887 built the Badal Mahal (the weather palace) named so in view of a painting of falling rain and clouds (a rare event in arid Bikaner). Ganga Singh who ruled from 1887 to 1943 built the Ganga Niwas Palace, which has towers at the entrance patio. This palace was designed by Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob. Ganga Singh’s son Sadul Singh succeeded his father in 1943 but acceded to the Union of India in 1949. He died in 1950.

Bikaner came under the suzerainty of the British Raj under a treaty of paramountcy signed in 1818, where after the Maharajas of Bikaner invested heavily on refurbishing their Junagarh fort. However, during the 18th century, before this treaty was signed, there was internecine war between rulers of Bikaner and Jodhpur and also amongst other thakurs, which was put down by the British troops. Ganga Singh was the best-known king among the Rajasthan princes and he was a favourite of the British Raj and he earned the title of Knight Commander of the Star of India. He served as a member of the Imperial War Cabinet, represented the country at the Imperial (First World War Conferences) and the British Empire at the Versailles Peace Conference and was aware of the shift of fortunes in the World War II but died in 1943, before the war was won by the allies. His contribution to the building activity in Junagarh involved separate halls for public and private audience in the Ganga Mahal and a durbar hall for formal functions. The hall where he held his Golden Jubilee as a ruler of Bikaner is now a museum. He also got a new palace -north of Junagarh fort - designed and built by Swinton, the third of the new palaces built in Bikaner and named it Lalgarh Palace in the name of his father and shifted his residence from Junagarh fort to this palace in 1902. The royal family still lives in a special suite in the Lalbagh palace, which they have converted into a heritage hotels. The internal transport system in Bikaner consists of autorickshaws and city buses. Bikaner is connected to some of major Indian cities via broad gauge railway. The city has direct rail connections to Delhi, Mumbai, Kanpur, Agra, Jalandhar, Baroda, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Guwahati, Jaipur, Surat, Jalandhar, Thiruvananthapuram, Chandigarh, Jammu, and Ahmedabad. However, there is no rail connectivity for other major Indian cities like Indore, Bhopal, Gwalior, Jabalpur, Gorakhpur and Puri. Bikaner is well served with roads and is linked directly to Delhi, Jaipur, Agra, Ludhiana, Bhatinda, Ambala, Ahmedabad, Haridwar, Jodhpur, Indore and many other cities. National highways 11, 15, and 89 meet at Bikaner. Bikaner has a well equipped military airport at Nal and hopes to have a passenger airport in the near future.

Bikaner is situated in the middle of the Thar desert with very little rainfall and extreme temperatures. In summer, temperatures exceed 50 °C and during the winter it dips to freezing point.

The climate in Bikaner is characterised by extreme variations in temperature. In the summer season it is very hot when the temperatures lie in the range of 28–41.8 °C (82–107 °F). In the winter, it is fairly cold with temperatures lying in the range of 5–23.2 °C (41–74 °F). Annual Rainfall is in the range of 260–440 millimetres (10–17 in)

Bikaner is famous for -:

1) Its camel research farm (NRCC). 2) Its "Bikaneri Bhujia. 3) Its wool production. 4) Its sweets.

Bikaneri Bhujia is a spicy snack made from moth dal, spices and edible oil. Bikaner is also known for its handicrafts and leather articles, for its palaces and for having Asia's biggest camel farm.

The city is also known for its intricately carved Jharokas. These red sandstone stone jalis (screens) are found on the windows of the Junagarh fort, temples and havelis (mansions of Northern India). Jalis would be used for ventilation and for women to watch the world while remaining hidden.

The red sandstone for these stone window screens was supplied by the nearby village of Dulmera.

The junagarh fort was built by Raja Rai Singh, the sixth ruler of Bikaner who reigned from 1571 to 1612. Rai Singh had conquered part of Marwar and had been granted territory in Gujurat and Burhanpur by the Mughal emperor Akbar as a reward for his services as military commander. This, as well as funding from Jodhpur, enabled him to build the fort. Rai Singh held high rank in the imperial courts of both Akbar and his successor, Jehangir. During his imperial service he travelled extensively, giving him an appreciation of art and architecture. These ideas have been incorporated meticulously into the architectural style of Junagarh Fort.

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1 comment:

rajiv said...

It is highly commendable job to let the people know about this bountiful and beautiful city which is very near to nature. I want to add something about the people of Bikaner that each habitant of Bikaner is having his own and different characterstic qualities, and is master of at least one subject. You are also one such person who is having altogether different qualities. Since I am not in frequent interactions with you, I am not sure whether you are still continuing you literary and artistic qualities. With best wishes.

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