Delights of the Junagarh Fort Bikaner in Rajasthan

posted in: Asia, Heritage, India, Rajasthan | 122

Sometimes when you like something, you want to savour it for a good amount of time before you share it with everyone. My journey through the Junagarh Fort Bikaner is something similar. The fort was so beautiful and classy that each time I began writing about it, I paused to savor it some more. Thus, the delay in sharing it with you. Junagarh Fort in Bikaner is one of the best maintained forts of Rajasthan – classy, gorgeous and just amazing. Personally, in my scale of rating, I am unable to decide which one would be the top most – Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur or the Junagarh Fort Bikaner. Though smaller than the Mehrangarh Fort, the way the structure of Junagarh Fort is laid out, makes the entire journey through the fort as beautiful.

Junagarh Fort Bikaner
Junagarh Fort Bikaner

The fort is so well maintained that it has been a popular location setting for many Bollywood films and TV serials like Siyaasat by Epic Channel. It is a true delight to spot it when watching these sitcoms and relive my experience here. While there is just tons to see in this fort, I am only going to touch upon only some of the attractions. So, let’s get going.

History of Junagarh Fort Bikaner

Junagarh Fort Bikaner - near the boundary wall
Junagarh Fort Bikaner – near the boundary wall

Quite unlike the other forts of Rajasthan, the town of Bikaner was not established by a Maharaja. It was in fact, called Jungladesh and was established by the 2nd son of the Maharaja Rao Jodha of Jodhpur. The prince Rao Bika set up his own territory in this region and thus, the new name for the town Bikaner. The Junagarh fort Bikaner was just a stone structure for many years until the 6th ruler – Raja Rai Singhji, laid a solid foundation in the 1580s.

Raja Rai Singhji was a loyal vassal in the Mughal court of Akbar and Jahangir. He was quite successful in leading the Mughal armies to win several Mewar kingdoms and this in turn, earned him several jagirs and lands in and around Rajasthan. With this wealth amassed, the fort of Junagarh in Bikaner was built.

A section of the Anup Mahal area in Junagarh Fort Bikaner
A section of the Anup Mahal area in Junagarh Fort Bikaner

Subsequently, the latter kings added more buildings to this fort. The nomenclature of the various palaces within the fort is quite simple – they have mostly been named after the king who constructed them. Of course, there are a few that are named around the concept that they have been built on.

The Junagarh fort withstood several attacks and was never really conquered. It served as a residence for the royal family of Bikaner for several generations till the newer Lalgarh palace in the 1900s was built. The royal family still resides in a part of the Lalgarh palace while the rest has been converted to a heritage hotel.

The Architecture of Junagarh Fort Bikaner

The red and white facade of Junagarh Fort in Bikaner
The red and white facade of Junagarh Fort in Bikaner

The Junagarh Fort in Bikaner is a mix of Gujarati, Rajasthani, Mughal and British architecture. What I loved about the fort was the red sandstone facade that was filled with precise delicate designs. Within the palace, there is quite a bit of marble used that makes a lovely contrast to the surrounding red walls.

The artistic staircases at the entrance of Junagarh Fort Bikaner
The artistic staircases at the entrance of Junagarh Fort Bikaner

The one thing that was striking was right at the entrance. The zigzag staircases – the structure and design of which add to the whole aura of the fort. I remember being so enamored by it that I could not stop capturing it. The beauty of this entire entrance has been used in various telefilms and Bollywood movies.

Close up of the zigzag staircases at the entrance of Junagarh Fort Bikaner
Close up of the zigzag staircases at the entrance of Junagarh Fort Bikaner

Junagarh Fort has a guide service that is included in your entrance fare. Every 15 minutes, a guide takes a set of waiting visitors into the palace for a tour. I particularly mention this here as the waiting place for the guide is in front of these gorgeous flight of stairs. And as I stood waiting for our turn, all I kept wondering is – “if the beginning is so beautiful, I wonder how gorgeous would it be from inside!”

Karan Mahal in Junagarh Fort Bikaner

The Coronation throne at Junagarh Fort, Bikaner
The Coronation throne at Junagarh Fort, Bikaner

A narrow steep climb takes you to the first courtyard where you see a white marble seating amid water filled channels. This was the hall of public audience, named Karan Mahal in the Junagarh Fort Bikaner. It was here that the King met his subjects and addressed their issues. The contrast of white marble throne against the red backdrop definitely gives the entire scene a royal touch. This area and throne was also used for the coronation ceremonies of the king.

Karan Mahal with the coronation throne in Junagarh Fort Bikaner
Karan Mahal with the coronation throne in Junagarh Fort Bikaner

I happen to visit at the time when there was some brief maintenance and restoration work happening. However, the scaffolding could not take away from the unmistakable beauty of the courtyard. As I panned around, I caught some really unusual sights. Check out this lovely painting in blue along the wall.

In Junagarh Fort Bikaner
In Junagarh Fort Bikaner

Don’t miss this lovely window with Dutch tiles. The Maharajas of Bikaner had these imported from Europe in those times.

The blue tiled window - Tiles from Europe at Junagarh Fort
The blue tiled window – Tiles from Europe at Junagarh Fort

Phool Mahal

The courtyard of Phool Mahal at Junagarh Fort
The courtyard of Phool Mahal at Junagarh Fort
Painted flowers along the walls of Phool Mahal in Junagarh Fort
Painted flowers along the walls of Phool Mahal in Junagarh Fort

Next from this courtyard, the guide led us to a white marble one with passages that were filled with delicate flower inlays, a few of them enhanced with stained glass work. The one thing that struck me were the painted doors and windows. Rightly called the “flower palace” or the Phool Mahal, this part of the fort as the guide mentioned was one of the oldest – straight from the times of Raja Rai Singhji.

Close up of one of the windows of Phool Mahal
Close up of one of the windows of Phool Mahal

Anup Mahal

From the understated, contemporary and delicate designs of the Phool Mahal, we were led into an ostentatious, golden Anup Mahal. Complete with gold filigree kind of designs, stone inlay and tiled ceiling, this was the hall of private audience. A magnificent throne adorned the center of the hall and I could well imagine the King sitting there with his council of ministers occupying the spaces on the rich carpet that covered the rest of the room.

Anup Mahal with the throne at Junagarh Fort
Anup Mahal with the throne at Junagarh Fort
Ceiling of Anup Mahal
Ceiling of Anup Mahal
Colors of Anup Mahal, Junagarh Fort
Colors of Anup Mahal, Junagarh Fort

This room was a perfect example of how some colors just blend with each other despite us wondering how they would. Red with green, gold, cream ….all lit by candle lights (of course, right now yellow lights) – this hall must have been spectacular in its times!

Badal Mahal

Section of the Badal Mahal in Junagarh Fort
Section of the Badal Mahal in Junagarh Fort

This was a smaller chamber with blue clouds painted all over the room. Sadly I could not capture the whole room as it was filled with people but here is a glimpse of what you can expect to see through the room. Badal means clouds and as you might guess, the room was painted to depict monsoons and rains. I do recall a beautiful mural painted on the wall of the room but well, my memory fails me on what the concept of that mural was.

Gaj Mandir

From the public to the private areas of the king – the guide took us along these gorgeous red stoned corridors that allowed you a view of what was outside as well as what was inside.

Gaj Niwas in Junagarh Fort Bikaner
Gaj Niwas in Junagarh Fort Bikaner

Gaj Mandir was the private residence of the King Gaj Singhji and his two queens – Chand Ktunwar and Phul Kunwar. The rooms were a little dimly lit and flash photography not permitted, I could only get you these shots. There were quite a few interesting things to note here – for one, some of the doors were so low that even a midget like me had to stoop to get in. The purpose of course, being to slow down enemies, if they decide to attack.

Along Gaj Niwas
Along Gaj Niwas

The other thing that you might have already noted are the ornate designs on the doors and windows. The next are the gorgeous passages along the palace – complete with stained glass.

Along the passages of Gaj Niwas
Along the passages of Gaj Niwas

And then, there was this lovely swing that was kept in this section.

Swing kept in Gaj Niwas
Swing kept in Gaj Niwas

A series of passages took us to another section of the palace, which I believe was occupied by the Maharaja Dungar Singhji, who had commissioned the earlier Badal Mahal or Cloud palace. This section too was similar to the Gaj Mandir but was better lit.

Durbar Hall of Junagarh Fort Bikaner

Durbar Hall in Junagarh Fort, Bikaner
Durbar Hall in Junagarh Fort, Bikaner

The Durbar Hall though dim, was a magnificent ball room kind of hall. The huge dome-shaped pillars with high ceilings give the entire setting a grand feel. The guide told us that the hall was used as “Hall of Private Audience” or to receive important royal dignitaries.

Close up of the walls of the durbar hall in Junagarh Fort Bikaner
Close up of the walls of the durbar hall in Junagarh Fort Bikaner
The heritage throne of Rathore Clan at Junagarh Fort Bikaner
The heritage throne of Rathore Clan at Junagarh Fort Bikaner

The highlight of this hall was an exhibit kept in it – a sandalwood throne that was used by the Rathore clan. Apparently, this was handed over to the founder of Bikaner – Rao Bikaji and was used by the family ever since.  More than a throne, I thought it look like a lavish bed but then who am I to say anything about the ways of royalty back then 🙂

Ganga Niwas

Howdah kept in Ganga Niwas, Junagarh Fort Bikaner
Howdah kept in Ganga Niwas, Junagarh Fort Bikaner

The last room in this fort was constructed by the 20th century Maharaja Ganga Singhji. This hall had some fantastic exhibits for one to see. From exquisite palanquins to howdahs, unusual weapons and carriages, tons to see and appreciate. However, what stole the limelight was this biplane – from World War I.

Biplane used in World War I kept in the Junagarh Fort Bikaner
Biplane used in World War I kept in the Junagarh Fort Bikaner

The plane was used by Maharaja Ganga Singh in the war that he fought for the British. He was apparently, an accomplished army personnel in the British Raj. He was also, awarded the title of Knight Commander of Star of India by the British.

Special Spoon used to keep moustache in its place while sipping soup.
Special Spoon used to keep moustache in its place while sipping soup.

Besides the armaments , there are some crockery, dining chairs and tables on display here. Among the main quaint things was this spoon. If you observe the picture carefully, you will see a small pointed attachment just above the spoon. The story behind this is quite interesting. It seems the Maharaja sported a moustache that would interfere with his consumption of food. The needle like thing would help him hold the moustache in place while he sipped on his soup with that spoon 😉

Pracheena – Fort Museum

With the Ganga Hall, the main tour of the fort comes to an end. However, once you exit the main building, you can head to another one next to it. This houses the collection of exhibits from the Royal family. There are plenty of interesting things to see here – from the royal clothes to crockery, to show pieces and some really ornate mirrors.

Picture frame or Mirror - u decide
Picture frame or Mirror – u decide

Check out the manicure and pedicure sets here.

Pedicure and Manicure sets used by royalty at Junagarh Fort Bikaner
Pedicure and Manicure sets used by royalty at Junagarh Fort Bikaner

And the gorgeous interiors and doorways.

Hallway at the Museum of Junagarh fort, Bikaner
Hallway at the Museum of Junagarh fort, Bikaner

With that, the main highlights of this palace come to an end. However, I urge you to not miss the gorgeous gardens opposite the main fort with its little sit-out kind of dome. And the well-preserved cannons that are kept along the boundary wall of the fort.

Junagarh Fort at Bikaner
Junagarh Fort at Bikaner

Junagarh Fort Bikaner definitely leaves you wanting for me. A fort that is not visited that often but has enough for you to take in if you decide to. In my opinion, a detour here is definitely worth it.

Junagarh Fort Bikaner

Getting here:

  • Bikaner is well-connected by road and railway to the major cities of Rajasthan. It is around 5 hours drive from Jaipur or Jodhpur or Jaisalmer.
  • It is a good idea to keep Bikaner as an overnight stop if you are on a road trip to Jaisalmer.
  • Jaipur and Jodhpur are the two closest airports to Bikaner
  • Junagarh Fort Bikaner is right in the middle of the town and the best way to get to it is by hiring an auto rickshaw or a taxi. There is plenty of parking within the fort.

Travel Tips:

  • Here is the official site of the Junagarh Fort Bikaner. You can refer to the same for all the ticket prices and opening- closing hours.
  • There are restrooms and cafes within the fort.
  • Most of the rooms in the fort are dim in an effort to preserve them well. Flash photography is prohibited here.
  • As mentioned earlier, there is a regular guide service included with a ticket where every 15 minutes a guide takes around 20 – 30 people for a tour of the palace. In case you wish to spend more time here, you can opt for either a private tour or an audio guide. With the regular guide, you will have to follow your batch and will be given only limited time.
  • For an overnight stay in Bikaner, there are plenty of hotel options. I personally, recommend Hotel Jaswant Bhavan as it is not just affordable but gives you a feel of an actual haveli. It used to belong to a minister of the court and the old world charm still remains within the rooms.
  • When in Bikaner, remember to try out the local Rasgullas and Bikaner Bhujjia. These are specialties of this place.

 

 

 

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122 Responses

  1. Great Post Ami, You have (I think) visited all the major tourist cities of Rajasthan. Fort looks real interesting, especially Anup Mahal, reminded me of a small palace room in Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur. Will definitely make plans to visit this fort.

    • Rajasthan is sooooo huge….don’t think I have completed them all. But yes, am glad to have done what I could in this one trip.

  2. Your beautiful pics leave little to imagination.This fort is really marvellous-such intricate creaftsmanship,I at least,have never seen it anywhere.

    • Thank you Indu. Not many stop at Bikaner and hence the fort is not so well known. However, you will see a lot of it in movies. 🙂

  3. Delighted to read your Junagarh article.

  4. What a gorgeous fort 🙂 I wish I could visit this place one day 🙂

  5. Wow.. such a royal place to visit.. thanks for sharing the info..

  6. India is a whole other world of fascinating sights and history I haven’t learned much about yet. I am starting to realize that I’m missing out by not having been — your photos and detailed descriptions are a perfect enticement! I am amazed at the attention to detail in all of the fort’s decor and carvings!

    • Indeed Tami. India has so many wonders and we being here itself, are not done seeing them all. Hope you plan a visit to India soon!

  7. Thanks for taking some time to teach us about the history of the fort. What I can’t get over is how ornately designed all the different surfaces are! It’s a good thing they’re doing some restoration work to keep this amazing place preserved for years to come!

  8. Rajasthan is one of those states which are most frequently visited by me. I have seen so much in Rajasthan and yet there is a lot which I have not seen such as Kumbhalgarh. I was lucky to see Junagarh Fort in my last trip there. Bikaner is sure an under rated gem of Rajasthan. Did you check out the ancient havelis in old city.

  9. I have been to Rajasthan twice, but unfortunately wasn’t able to visit Bikaner. The photos are amazing and driving me crazy. I would definitely visit this fabulous destination, the next time I go to Rajastha,

  10. travellingslacker

    Just loved these views. Not that I have not seen a majestic Rajasthani fort before but they always leave me agape with ther sheer grandeur. Especially the details on the walls of Anoop Mahal is mindblowing. Have not been to Bikaner so far, probably its time now.

  11. Such a wonderful post about the Bikaner Rajasthan… I been at Bikaner 2/3 times & I really like their culture….

  12. Yet another beautiful fort..I wanted to cover whole of Rajasthan on my trip but couldn’t because that would require a whole month. Not going to miss bikaner on the next visit

  13. Indeed a beautiful place.. Loved the mirror capture of you two <3

  14. Am speechless….dont have enough words to explain how did i feel and how lovely the place is.
    Thanks a lot for sharing the history,when you know the history u can enjoy the place more deeply.

    • I agree Jyotirmoy. You enjoy the place better when you know a little more about it. Thanks for stopping by

  15. That delicately ornate ceiling at Anup Mahal is magnificent. I could get lost in its intricacies for hours. What an architecturally thrilling place! Thanks for these amazing images.

  16. Ah, Rajasthan is beckoning me to travel this winter.

  17. Such a beautiful place. Rajasthan has always charmed me with its structures, colours and cuisine too.

  18. Massive and extremely beautiful, from its architecture to its different colours outside/inside! I read something more about its history on google and everything is charming. Historical records reveal that despite the repeated attacks by enemies to capture the fort, it was not taken, except for a lone one-day occupation by Kamran Mirza, all of this is incredible! thanks for sharing

  19. What a delight all the photographs are! I do feel Rajasthan is one place which is fun to photograph since the results will be incredible! Beautiful architecture…

    • Truly a delight to photograph Rajasthan…it is so colorful and lovely. Thanks for stopping by Samarpita

  20. Glad that you wrote about it Ami. Have been to Rajasthan but in bits & pieces. It demands a full month to see just the known places. Till that happens, I’ll continue to explore it that way.

    Bikaner is sure a underrated gem. Loved that moustache spoon. 🙂 Also, you two look fab in that mirror. 🙂

    • Thank you Nisha. The Moustache spoon was such a quirky thing. I found it really amusing and yes, that Mirror was like a natural framed pic 🙂

  21. Woah I like this, I don’t think I’ve properly looked into Rajasthan before! Beautiful architecture, thank you for taking so many pictures. Fascinating place!

  22. We are always fascinated by the history and culture of Rajasthan. And the forts and palaces are testimony of its rich heritage. We recently had been to Rajasthan but missed Bikaner, Junagarh Fort definitely looks worth a visit.

    • Most people miss out on it as it is not as popular as its neighbours. But it sure has some interesting things. Hope you manage it in your next trip.

  23. What a beautiful fort! The intricate details of the architecture is out-of-this-world!

  24. Those art works look absolutely magnificent. Glad to know more about this fort.

  25. Wow, it is so nicely maintained! Loved the pictures. They ooze so much of elegance.

  26. I would have loved that red sandstone work with lovely work too!

    The best memory should be the shot with the mirror…tricky one ☺️

  27. I understand why you wanted to savour Junagarh Fort Bikaner before writing this post. It is such a gem of history brought to life. The level of intricate detail over the scope of the fort is an overwhelming treat, even in photos. In person, it must be mesmerising. Thanks for sharing this great location.

    • Thanks 🙂 You should definitely mark this and get here to understand it more. It is just amazing.

  28. I’ve never heard about this fort. The architecture is beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing.

  29. These are some of the most beautiful pictures i have ever seen of the Indian forts. Rajasthan is a place I want to take a tour of. I have heard it takes a month or so to get a good trip done. Any suggestions?

    • LOL….Rajasthan is just too huge. I would recommend that you do it in bits and pieces. I still have so much to go. 🙂 Of course, if you can stay here for a month, you should be able to get the major places done. Thanks Laveena for stopping by

  30. Translating Traveler

    This fort is stunning. I’ve never seen anything like it, the detail, the colors, the artwork… Simply great. And that spoon is hilarious 😀

  31. I would be SO tempted to try out that swing! It looks like such a cool furniture piece – I want one too! The architecture is gorgeous but I think the swing is my favourite 🙂

    • Thanks Carmyy, though I think that swing will be out of bounds. No harm in some wishful thinking though. I might just join you for this.

  32. Such an awesome place, off the beaten path of traditionally visited forts. I was just speaking with a friend a few days back about how awesome it is to visit a location you’ve seen several times in film/drama. I can almost close my eyes and picture a queen swaying peacefully on that swing in Gaj Niwas.

  33. That fort is amazing. Would love to visit it some day.

  34. When I visit your blog after a long time I scroll down and my heart searches for new articles on Rajasthan 🙂 hehe
    Love love love the post! Fabulous and comprehensive. Bikaner is perhaps the only major city I haven’t visited. This is extremely useful:)

    • Thanks Divyakshi. Rajasthan is just so huge ….even these many posts cannot cover my experience. 🙂

  35. I didn’t visit the Junagarh Fort when I was in Bikaner because I was too tired (and frozen) after a night spent in the dessert. I did however stay in a haveli just outside the walls and seen how beautiful it was. Our guide told us that there will be a lot of forts to see and they will be similar but from what I see, this is quite unique. All the other forts I have visited didn’t have any furniture or personal objects. The mustache spoon is so funny. 🙂

    • When someone tells me that there is nothing new there, it renews my curiosity to visit that place 🙂 He he…I hope you manage to get another chance to visit this fort. The mustache spoon is quite hilarious. 🙂

  36. Quite the ornate and unique architectural style! I especially love the blue tile designs. Would love a replica in my kitchen!

  37. The architecture of this place is amazing! I’ve never really thought about going to Rajasthan before and don’t even know why! I’ll reconsider the question for sure!

  38. Another fort of Rajasthan to be proud of! I find the displays so similar to the Udaipur palace displays. The style was the same those days I think. I am yet to do Bikaner, adding this to my list of must visit there.

  39. Okay, I can definitely see why you kept this fort to yourself 😉 what a beauty! The blue painting is such a gem, but really everything looks like it took incredible time and detail to create! Great find and I’d love to see this someday soon 😀

  40. When I read “The fort was beautiful and classy” I thought to myself, “How can a fort be classy?” But after seeing your photos, wow! You were totally right. Junagarh Fort is stunningly classy and beautiful. Such amazing architecture. Will be adding this to my must see list.

  41. Great post! Pictures are beautiful indeed. The fort looks so royal and fascinating. Rajasthan is always colorful.

  42. Adam, Bite of Iceland

    My heart melted 🙂 This place is just stunning! It’s definitely on my bucket list. India is such an amazing country! Thank you for sharing and inspiration.

  43. So much incredible history and architecture in this post. There’s so much intricate detail in the furniture and structure. I’d love to visit here someday.

  44. While reading your post and enjoying your beautiful images, one part of my brain couldn’t help but visualizing a possible fashion or luxury campaign (like Cartier or Burberry) and making Junagarh as its background. Ahh so much LOVE.

  45. India tickled the artist in me to no end. So artistic and intricate that a trip back to your lovely country is needed. In 2017 I hope!

  46. Love that mustache spoon! Love the architecture and splendor of this place, you captured so many details in your pictures!

    • Thank you Anju. Mind you…these are just highlights. Am sure you will find a lot more things there.

  47. Never realized how big Rajasthan was. This place has beautiful architecture – I really love all the patterns and tile work.

    • Rajasthan is a huge state…one trip is never enough. There is so much to see and experience here. Hope you get here soon.

  48. What an incredible place, both the buildings and its grounds.

    Aside from a few workmen, I don’t recall seeing anyone else.

    Did you almost have the place to yourself?!

    • That is the best part of this fort…most of the crowd moves around in batches as the conducted tour takes place after every fifteen minutes. That way, you get to see the place better. Thus, you don’t see people in my pics. 🙂

  49. The architecture looks amazing. Everything looks like it’s so intricately carved with amazing attention to detail. I love all the different colourful mosaics! Beautiful!

  50. This fort looks so inviting. But I don’t think rasgullas are native to this place. Bikaner has a long tradition of Desert food though. Did you try it out??

  51. I especially like the courtyard and coronation area in Junagarh Fort Bikaner. The level of detail in the artwork in Anup Mahal was incredible as well. You had an excellent guided tour. I like how you put tips at the end for us readers an idea on how to have a similar trip.

  52. The fort looks magnificent and its architecture looks fascinating. I went to only Jaipur few years back for work but never got the chance to explore the other parts of the Rajasthan!

  53. I have to confess that I didn’t know so much about Rajahstan and that I learnt I lot in this blog exchange these days since there were a lot of posts of this country. I have discovered too that I would love to go there and enjoy the landscapes, the architecture and the culture! This fort reminds me a lot of La Alhambra spaces! Thanks for all the info!! E.

    • Thanks a ton. Rajasthan is one of our gems – one that we always recommend people coming to India for the first time, to visit.

  54. I’m in awe at the beauty of the architecture of this place, how absolutely gorgeous. Just how intricate the work is alone is amazing. Really enjoyed reading this and pouring over all the photos!

  55. Imposing and enchanting! I really love how they designed it. it overwhelms you with monumental splendor indeed!

  56. I love to read your post, every time you put so much efforts by putting elaborative details. Beside sharing history about the fort you captured brilliant pictures of every corner, all of them are so mesmerizing and jaw dropping as if I’m personally wandering there.

  57. This is such a wonderful post with great pictures and a whole lot of effort in deconstructing the story behind the architecture! Helped me understand the place better 🙂

    Parampara-Parichay

  58. A fantastic fort and a fantastic post! Love the multiple colours and influences seen in the design. 🙂 Will mark it for my next Rajasthan visit 🙂

Would love to know what you think