Bikaner, a small town in Rajasthan has conserved its ethnicity against the influx of foreign tourists. Much different from the rest of the Tourist Hot spots, the city has a quiet life, and people way too laid back. However, the city has its own flavour. The food, forts and ‘fotos’ can really keep you visiting the place again and again! If one really wants to explore the true elements of Rajasthan, Bikaner is the place:)
'Rangeelo Rajasthaaan' and 'Padhaaro Mhaare Des' -the taglines used for the State, well depict the colours of life in arid lands. Bikaner, thus projects the grandeur and colours of Rajasthan. However, it is not as much a popular tourist hotspot. Either it has solely got overshadowed by Jaipur, Jaisalmer and Udaipur, or the city, has chosen to keep it to its own conserved ethnicity by choice! Vice versa, it doesn’t fall onto the main railway lines!
The city as such misses the elements of modern times! Though, the tourist guides can speak fluent accentuated English and French, on the whole, the city is well conserved and portrays a typical Rajasthani town! Tourists haven’t been able to change the mindsets of the city! The gazes that tourist women in bloomers and hot pants with skimpy tops receive, from the other gender, reveal it all;)
There are sporadic malls and multiplexes. The whole city market is built in the external walls of the fort- known at Kot gate- which literally means, the walls and the gate of the fort! The shoplets are so inconspicuous that any shopaholic would be put off at once:( But, Bikaner market can pleasantly surprise you when you enter a shoplet of 10 X 10, and start climbing up the narrow stairs. You are then elevated to a floor which suddenly turns into a huge show room opening up into yet another floor- only for women, where they pay in an awestruck fashion, seeing those bright coloured Bandhejs and Laheriyas;) When you get down and out of the market, you are always lighter…. On your pocket!
And one cannot miss the Kachoris, Samosas, Bikaneri Bhujias, Ras gullas, Ker Sangri, Gattey ki Bhaaji with an extra dash of spices and oil;) The road side chaat and Camel milk Kulfi can help you define ‘Heaven’:) Though the green leafy vegetables are considered to be delicacies in the arid land, the culinary style is so unique that you hardly miss them on the platter!
If you have ever explored City Palace, Udaipur and Amer Fort, Jaipur and believe that they are some of the finest architectural marvels, you are still to experience the Junagarh Fort of Bikaner. It is a sprawling architectural marvel, which has temples, fountains, Gardens, parks- all in its precincts! Each Mahal, built by a generation of the emperors. As you walk through the alleys, very conservative, intrigued carved walls slowly transform into modern ones, indicating the change in architectural trends as each generation built the signature mahal! Junagarh fort is the structure which is highly comparable to the Moghul architecture in its grandeur. Walled
with red stones, the palaces have China glass used in the window panes before 350 years! It is not only today that our rulers lead luxurious lives, it was even then! The only difference is, barring one or two aberrations, most of the emperors then lived to uphold the public good. And so, the ruler loving public ensured comforts of all types for them to help them lead a pleasant, stress free life- so that Justice prevailed in the Courts! Look how the ideology of luxury and comforts has changed with the changing times! ‘Responsibility’ is the key to have a balanced society! ‘Responsible’ Governments for ‘Responsible’ people:)
There are other structures now converted into great hotels where entries are restricted! You get to see from a distance, a flock of fair skins entering the palace, which rather makes you feel like being in a Zoo. The gazes of the ‘Security guards' that you get in return would confuse you to decide, which side of the cage ;) We believe relying on two gunmen, we risk it with SEBI, but we cannot believe in the Divine Protection! The whole concept of security, at times seems so futile and debatable!
On travelling across the city, you realize that it’s a heap of sand through which the roads have been carved and palaces erected! Experiencing sandy winds is a real great fun. And when it decides to throw winter at you, it doesn’t let you breathe easy at all! On the outskirts, the seemingly ruthless nature shows the succulents dried up in no time- as if the chills suddenly froze the upright plants to death- not even allowing wilting! I guess the seemingly ruthless nature actually comforts their death- wilting to death is more painful than the death itself, is what I believe!
I was there for a day to feel the city, but standing amidst the 300 yrs old stones, travelling through rickshaw amidst the hustle-bustle and then visiting camels in the city of sand, I have returned with some food for thought- is it the conservation or evolution that nails the death? Should we evolve to conserve or conserve to evolve?
My intellect lingers over the city, finding answers for the same, while I have returned looong back with my camera:)