October 18, 2019

Top 10 places in Odisha you should visit once in a lifetime

Photo credit: Odisha Tourism

Odisha, formerly known as Orissa is a culturally enriching state in the eastern part of India. It is blessed with a long list of temples, beaches, museums, biosphere reserves, wildlife, national parks, sanctuaries, and many other tourist attractions that make the land a must visit place in the country. The state has a host of amazing architectural wonders such as temples and forts, apart from serene lakes, sun kissed beaches and much more. Some of the top notch places and attractions which are a must visit in Odisha are below.
  
1. Lord Jagannath Temple – As per Hindu mythology, the temple completes the Char Dhams circle and is among the highly celebrated and visited pilgrimage centres situated in Puri. This temple boasts of rich and unique medieval Indian history and heritage in the form of its architectural work, which indeed gives an insight into the artwork and the religiousness that has been associated with it. Located along the eastern coast of the country, the temple is reckoned to be a part of the Char Dham circle that needs to be always visited in the clockwise direction. A lot of tourists come to visit the temple every year and seek the blessings of the deity, Lord Vishnu, to have good times ahead.

2. Konark Sun Temple – Featured in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, it is indeed a must visit site, and definitely worth exploring. Constructed in the form of a chariot that resembles the God Surya and having 12 wheels, the entrance of the temple faces east so that the first rays of the sun enters the sanctum. The details of the temple’s architecture are so intricate and interesting that one might want to take up majors in Indian history and architecture after visiting this temple.

3. Chilika Lake – It is the country’s biggest brackish saltwater lagoon that gives nature lovers and enthusiasts an opportunity to check out a plethora of migratory birds flying in from far off destinations which includes remote parts of Russia, Caspian Sea, Kirghiz steppes of Mongolia, and even Middle East and Central Asia. The topographies and beautiful landscapes of the lake further accentuate the charm of the place. Another attraction here are the rare Irrawaddy dolphins that can be spotted in the lake.

4. Raghurajpur Artist Village – It doesn’t matter whether you are an art lover or not, but this village is indeed a must to visit for all. The passion of the locals here is exceptional and there are different varieties of artwork available here that includes the Tassar Silk, Pattachitra – a cloth based scroll painting, stonework, palm leaf paintings, and many more. These can be used to adorn and embellish your homes and work spaces, and they come with quality craftsmanship of the locals.

5. Ratnagiri, Udayagiri and Lalitgiri – The caves are situated in Jajpur district in Odisha, and are known for its richness related to Buddhism and Jainism. One can find Buddhist artefacts, stupas, shrines and even monasteries here which would leave you mesmerized and in awe. Also, the surroundings are filled with thick forests and ideal to enjoy some peaceful and harmonious moments.

6. Nandankanan Zoological Park – The Garden of Heavens as this place is referred, is an amazing zoological park and stays true to its name. The park is run with a lot of care and attention. The wide range of animals that you can see here comprises of mouse deer, crocodiles, reptiles like turtles, lizards and pythons, and many more rare species.


7. Chandrabagha Beach – The destination is sometimes referred as the place of rising sun in India. Situated at a distance of about 30 kms from Konark Sun Temple, it is indeed a must visit stop, and a great place to spend memorable time with your loved ones. It is one of the best places in the state from where one can return with lovely memories and frames.

8. Tribes – When in Odisha one should definitely include a visit to the tribal areas to understand the culture and heritage of the tribes who live with with full zeal, enthusiasm, simplicity and modesty. Some of the places where you can visit the tribes include Jeypore, Nandapur, Kunduli, Rayagada etc.

9. Lingaraj Temple – Dating back to the 11th century, it is one of the oldest and largest temples in Bhubhaneshwar, the capital city of Odisha. Dedicated to lord Shiva, the red sandstone temple is 54 m high and was constructed by King Jajati Keshari of Soma Vansha dynasty. The interesting history of the temple is the belief that the Shiv lingam was self originated and it is bathed daily with milk, water and bhang. The main sanctum here in the temple is surrounded by many other smaller shrines.

10. Gopalpur beach – As compared to other beaches, it is less commercialized, but is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and stunning places to visit in the state. An ideal place for peace seekers and couples, the beach boasts of serene surroundings. It also offers water sports activities such as wind surfing, rowing, paddle boat, water scooter, scuba diving, etc. The other prime attraction at the beach is the Gopalpur beach festival that is held here annually.


Apart from these, there are many other attractions in Odisha which include wildlife, beaches, waterfalls, temples etc. Places to include in the itinerary depend totally on one’s interest, preference and convenience while planning an Odisha tour. One could get in touch with one of the top notch Odisha tour travel agent- Best Choice Holiday to help create an itinerary for Odisha tour. Let them know about the preferences and destinations you would like to cover in the itinerary along with the budget and time constraints, to help them curate a memorable holiday for you.



P.S.: This post is in collaboration with Best Choice Holiday

October 8, 2019

Top 5 Tips for Trekking in Nepal



Nepal is a paradise for trekking enthusiasts. Whether beginner or an avid trekker; the country has something in store for everyone. If you’re planning for an adventure in the Himalayas, here is a list of the top 5 tips for trekking in Nepal that will help you during the journey.

So let's dive straight in!

1. Decide the Trekking Season
Trekking in Nepal is popular throughout the year. A different season offers a different experience. So, it’s better to do a bit of research before you finalize a trek in a random season.

The classic high altitude treks like Everest Base Camp Trek or Annapurna Circuit trek are best during peak season. However, trekking to these places during the off-season can also be as entertaining as you expect. Likewise, many short and easy trekking destinations are doable throughout the year. Keep in mind that popular treks are quite crowded and busy during peak seasons (Autumn and Spring).

Some famous treks like Upper Mustang, Upper Dolpo, and Nar Phu Valley Trek lies in the “rain-shadow area” of Nepal. This area lies in the leeward-side of the Himalayas. So, there is little to no rainfall in these places throughout the year. That means you can try these treks throughout the year, even during monsoon!


2. Know What to Wear When Trekking in Nepal

Are you thinking about rocking that new pair of shorts as you trek? Think again. Many trekkers don’t pack appropriately for their trek and end up buying new clothes. Don’t let that happen to you. You need to pack useful items. You need to forget about fashion and trends while buying clothes for the trek.

It’s better to focus on buying the things that keep you warm and comfortable. Invest in high quality when purchasing trekking apparel like down jackets and trekking boots. During the trek, it’s a great idea to layer clothes for the cold weather rather than wearing a heavy jacket on top. It prevents your body heat from escaping. Layers also keep the cold from penetrating in. While packing for trekking in Nepal, pack the clothes you need and discard the rest.

3. Altitude Sickness and Prevention

“Go slow, acclimatize, and hydrate!”

Always keep these 3 things in your mind. Trekking to high altitudes is no walk in the park. You need to be aware of the dangers and risks of trekking to higher elevations. The oxygen level goes on decreasing as you trek to higher altitudes. Your body needs to acclimatize for these changes. If your body doesn’t get enough rest and hydration, you’re at a risk of altitude sickness.

Altitude sickness is a condition that occurs at higher elevations. It can cause nausea, headache, and other problems for trekkers. So, it’s wise to trek at a slow pace, stay hydrated throughout the day. Make sure your itinerary has a few acclimatization days. Taking these precautions minimizes the chances of altitude sickness and keeps problems at bay.



4. Prepare for the Unpredictable Power Cuts
Power cuts are still a thing in rural parts of Nepal. The locals call it load-shedding, and it becomes an issue for many unprepared trekkers. Most trekking destinations lie in remote areas of the country. Some places still don’t have electricity. 
Hotels and lodges use solar panels as alternatives to electricity. As energy is scarce in these areas, trekkers need to pay additional money while charging their phones and cameras. So, it’s a great idea to carry a portable solar charger to charge your devices when trekking in Nepal. You can also bring some high capacity batteries and power banks. You also need to take a torch or flashlight to move around in the dark.
5. Be respectful
Nepal is a country full of wonders and surprises. Trekking in the Himalayas takes you into the rural and untouched parts of the nation. You’ll encounter locals who follow unique cultures and have a simple lifestyle. Around the world Nepalese are famous for their generosity and hospitality. To have the best experience with these people, you need to respect their way of life and their beliefs.

Don’t expect everyone to speak in English. Understand that some things that you think as usual might be a local taboo. So, take your time and collect as much information as possible about the country and the people.

Final Words
Nepal is a country blessed with natural beauty and cultural diversity. Travel enthusiasts from all around the world visit the nation every year and fall in love with the place.

In the end, it’s all about making some of the best memories wherever you go. And with these 5 tips for trekking in Nepal, anyone can make the most out of their journey.

October 3, 2019

Ten Must Visit Temples in Tamil Nadu



Ruled by Pallavas, Cholas, Pandyas, Marathas and various other dynasties and kings over the years, Tamil Nadu in Southern India is home to some of the most beautifully sculpted temples in the country. As much as they are frequently visited by pilgrims and followers of Hinduism, these temples also display spectacular carvings and sculptures which were chiseled centuries ago. These give the visitors a peek into the world of temple architecture and extensive stone work which have withstood time, war and natural calamities over the years. Below are the 10 must visit temples in Tamil Nadu which are popular among both pilgrims and travellers alike.

Ranganathaswamy, Srirangam

Sprawling over 156 acres, Sri Ranganathaswamy temple is the largest functional Hindu temple in the world. Located on the river island of Srirangam, which is carved out of the rivers Cauvery and Kollidam, the temple is one of the prominent Vishnu temples in India. As per Srirangam temple history, it was first built in the 3rd century CE and was rebuilt over the next many centuries until 17th century CE. Apart from 21 spectacular entrance gates (gopurams), 9 temple ponds, 39 pavilions, 49 shrines of Vishnu and many halls, the expansive temple premise also houses museums, roads, houses and commercial establishments. There are 7 decorated colourful gopurams to pass through to reach the sanctum sanctorum, which has a gold plated gopuram. Rajagpuram which faces south is the main entrance gate and stands tall at 73 meters. Ranganathar, which is a form of Vishnu in a reclining pose on a coiled serpent, is the main shrine here. The temple is built in typical Dravidian temple architecture, and its halls such as Kili Mandapam, Garuda Mandapam, Ranga Vilasa Mandapam and Shesharaya Mandapam are testimony to this. A narrow stairs near Ranga Vilasa mandapam goes up to the roof and offers lovely aerial views of all the gopurams. Margazhi (December- January) month is when the temple hosts its major festival.




Brihadeeshwarar, Thanjavur

Brihadeeshwarar temple which is often called as the big temple, was built in the 11th century during Chola reign by Rajaraja Chola I, and is presently a UNESCO World Heritage site. The temple dedicated to Shiva is built in Dravidian style, and emblazons the Chola art, design and architecture. Built inside fort Shivganga, the temple has two extensively carved entrance gates with sculptures of mythological characters. The sprawling courtyard house numerous shrines, but what stands out is the intimidating main shrine which is a thirteen storeyed structure with spectacular sculptures and an eighty tonne carved granite block atop it. The chisel work is extensive and there are numerous inscriptions too across the outer façade of the main shrine. The other shrines in the complex are dedicated to Ganesha, Nataraja, Varaha, Chandikeshvara etc. The shrines of Subrahmanya and Nandi have gorgeous sculptures and frescoes on them. A pillared pathway runs across the courtyard which is an ideal place to relax and see the sun set behind the main shrine in the evenings.



Adi Kumbeshwarar, Kumbakonam

Kumbakonam is known for its numerous temples and Adi Kumbeshwarar is considered to be one of the most prominent ones in this temple town. Built before the 7th century CE during the rule of Chola dynasty, this temple is believed to have been rebuilt and renovated over the years. Dedicated to Kumbeshwarar, a form of Shiva, this popular temple has wonderful mythological sculptures on its walls, ceiling and pillars. These can be spotted on the hall that leads to the inner sanctum, which has numerous colourful carvings and sculptures. The temple premise also houses Kandha Kumba Theertham, the sacred temple pond.


Ramanathaswamy, Rameshwaram

Dedicated to Shiva, the main shrine at Ramanathaswamy temple is believed to have been consecrated by Rama (the protagonist in the epic Ramayana) upon his arrival from Sri Lanka after defeating Ravana. The temple was renovated and expanded during the rule of Pandya kings in the 12th century CE. This temple is believed to be one of the 12 Jyotirlinga temples in India and has four large entrance gates or gopurams. A major attraction at this temple is the thousand pillared corridor which is the longest temple corridor in the country. The colourful ceilings are another highlight here. There are 22 theerthams (holy ponds) within the temple, where pilgrims get watered by priests before entering the inner sanctum as it is considered auspicious.

Meenakshi Amman, Madurai

The biggest attraction in Madurai is undoubtedly Meenakshi Amman or Meenakshi Sundareshwarar temple. The 7th century temple built by the Pandya dynasty is located in the heartland of Tamil Nadu. The temple has had many additions to it in the later years by various other rulers. The four tall colourful entrance gates with extensive carvings are a major attraction as one strolls around the tall walls of this popular temple. While the temple is dedicated to Meenakshi, a form of Parvati, it also houses a shrine dedicated to Shiva, in the form of Sundareshwarar. The temple architecture stands out with its beautiful carvings and sculptures of various gods, figurines and scenes from mythology on walls, ceilings, pillars and gopurams. The temple is also known for its numerous halls with sculpted pillars. Aayiram Kal mandapam (Thousand pillar hall), Kalyana sannidhi, Oonjal mandapam and Kambathadi mandapam are some of the wonderfully sculpted halls within the premises. The large temple pond is another highlight here. Meenakshi Amman is one of the most colourful and vibrant temples in Tamil Nadu.


Jambukeshwarar, Tiruchirappalli

One of the oldest and popular temples near Tiruchirappally in central Tamil Nadu, Jambukeshwarar temple was built in the 2nd century CE by the Chola kings. Located in the town of Thiruvanaikaval, the temple is dedicated to both Shiva and his consort, Parvati. The temple is adorned with colourful gopurams (entrance gates), tall walls and carved pillars. The sculpted pillars are the highlight of this temple and they are present across the premises with broad corridors running alongside. Apart from the main shrine which has a shivlinga, the other major shrine here is Akhilandeshwari amman. There are also a few other shrines within this temple.


Arunachaleshwar, Tiruvannamalai

The second largest temple complex in India, Arunchaleshwar temple is dedicated to Shiva, and has a beautiful setting spread over 10 hectares. The gopurams (entrance gates)  and walls of the temple stand tall in the middle of the small town of Tiruvannamalai with Arunachaleshwar hill in the backdrop. The temple was first built by the Chola dynasty and later rebuilt and expanded during the rule of Vijayanagara empire. Though the gopurams are devoid of colours, they have numerous carvings of various mythological characters. The main entrance which faces east direction is the tallest at 217 feet. Here Shiva is worshipped in the form of Agni (fire). The temple also houses numerous other shrines, and a beautiful hall called Ayiram Kal Mandapam which has thousand carved pillars. The major festival at this temple is Karthigai Deepam (November- December) during which pilgrims circumnavigate the Arunachaleshwar hill.


Kailasanathar, Kanchipuram

Built by Narasimhavarman II during the rule of Pallavas in the 8th century CE, Kailasanthar temple has Dravidian temple architecture, and is dedicated to Shiva. Though the sculptures have weathered over the years, the temple still displays extensive carvings of various gods and mythological figures all across its walls. While the main shrine has a shivlinga, there are numerous other small shrines in the temple which are dedicated to Shiva. While the base of the temple is made of granite, the interesting aspect is that every other part of the temple is made from sandstone. Kanchipuram has numerous temples, and this one lies tucked away in one of its alleys and doesn’t look one bit ostentatious despite being the most prominent one.


Ekambareshwarar, Kanchipuram

Worshipped in the form of earth, Shiva is the presiding deity at Ekambareshwarar temple. Sometimes referred as Ekambaranath temple, it was built during the Chola reign in the 9th century. Though the main shrine houses a shivlinga, there are numerous other shrines too, including a shrine dedicated to Vishnu. The temple architecture is impressive with a magnificent eleven storeyed main entrance gate called Rajagopuram, apart from beautiful carvings, long pillared corridors, a thousand pillared hall and a large pond. Most of the pillars and halls were built later when Kanchipuram was under the Vijayanagara dynasty. Believed to be 3000 years old, an old mango tree inside the temple is the location where Shiva and Kamakshi had supposedly got married, and is a revered place for pilgrims visiting this temple.


Thillai Nataraja, Chidambaram

Dedicated to Shiva, Nartaraja temple was built during the Chola period in the 11th century CE. With extensive Chola sculptures and exquisite architecture, the colourful temple has Shiva in a dancing pose as its main deity. The temple complex also has numerous other sanctums, including that of a Vishnu shrine apart from pillared halls and huge water tanks. The entrance door or gopuram stands tall and intimidating with its colourful exterior and sculpted interiors. Intricate sculptures of gods and mythological figures embellish the colourful gopuram. The sprawling courtyard is known as Kanakasabhai, and the temple is known for its yearly music and dance festival. Maha Kumbabhishekam is the annual festival that brings the temple alive every year.




P.S.: This post is in collaboration with Srirangam Temple

September 30, 2019

7 Days guide to Germany


What makes you happy in life? A drive with friends or family in your car with the all time classic songs in the background would be a great way to relax and be happy. Did you know that Germany is a country which is known for its cars, music, rail transportation and beauty in abundance? If this interests you then there could be nothing better than planning a trip to Germany. Other than visiting the birth land of Beethoven, you can enjoy the embedded beautiful landscapes. A trip of 7 days would be ideal to explore this beautiful country. One of the exciting parts of the trip would be rail transportation, and is convenient to access it any time.


List of things to carry while travelling to Germany

Here are the things you should carry for your holiday to Germany:

 Documents: Do not forget to carry your passport, air tickets, identity proof, and visa.
 Cash/Cards: Don’t forget to carry cash or international cards with you.
 Medicines: Make a pouch of medicines you would need.
● Clothes: Winters are pretty cold in Germany. Make sure to carry enough woolens if travelling during that period.
 Gadgets and power banks: Carry your camera, glares, mobiles and of course the power bank for the time when the mobile runs out of battery.
 Baby Essentials: If travelling with a baby, pack some light ready to eat baby foods and medicines.
● Travel Insurance Policy: Germany is an expensive country where the expense of the medical treatment would be high. Hence, buying an International Travel Insurance  policy would be wise as it protects you in the following cases:

1. Emergency medical evacuation and illness.
2. Loss of belongings like money, passport, luggage, etc.
3. Delay in flights.
4. Cancellation costs for flight and hotel bookings.


Here is a 7 day guide to Germany:


Day 1 Munich: Start early after breakfast and head out to see both the contemporary and traditional architecture of the city. Visit St. Peter’s Church to get a sight of the beautiful Alps. The Viktualienmarkt (Victuals Market) would be a great place to shop and eat where you can discover Munich’s beer culture. Be here until lunch and then move to the Jewish Museum, an antique museum that remained even after the Second World War. Munich has vibrant street art scene, so make sure to capture them with your cameras.

Day 2 Black Forest: Buy a ticket and reach the Black Forest as early as you can in the day. It is a dense forest which borders France. The Black Forest is home to many small villages with remarkable architecture. Go boating on Lake Titisee in the afternoon, grab lunch, and make a quick stop at Germany’s highest waterfall in the town of Triberg. For the next day, buy your rail tickets for Lake Constance.

Day 3 Lake Constance and the Alps: As soon as you arrive, freshen up yourself at the lodge. Then visit Lake Constance which is 53kms long and it borders Switzerland and Austria too. Make sure you eat something at the lodge before leaving for Neuschwanstein, your next destination. It is 2hours and 35 minutes away from the lake.

Day 4 A day at Neuschwanstein: You can get a glimpse of Neuschwanstein from Marienbrucke- the Queen Mary’s bridge. You can have your breakfast or brunch at Schlossrestaurant and relax for some time. Soak in the splendid beauty of the surroundings and take a stroll at the Fussen’s City Centre. Visit the Hohenschwangau Castle and feast upon some delectable cakes at Konditorei Kurcafe.

Day 5 Off to Rothenburg: Enjoy the beauty of Rothenburg, and keep your cameras ready to capture the beautiful frames. Take a walk of 2.5 miles that stretches to the city wall. Don’t miss a visit to the iconic Plonlein corner. For the next day’s travel, buy tickets to visit Wurzburg.

Day 6 Wurzburg: Get started early and head straight to Wurzburg Residence. Go to Old Main Bridge to get a view of the statues of saints. Do not miss eating falafel at Veggies Bros. If adventure is in your blood, then hike up the Kappele Church on the hill to get a panoramic view of the city.

Day 7 Nuremberg: You can catch a Eurorail early in the morning. Freshen up at the lodge/hotel and then head to Kaiserburg Castle for pretty city views. The city has one of the largest churches in the country - St. Lorenz. You can then stroll around the Hauptmarkt. Stay here until evening, and later enjoy some drinks at Cafe Bar Katz.


Where do I buy a Travel Insurance policy?

There are many Travel insurers but here are the reasons for you to choose Digit Insurance:

  • Beneficial and economical travel insurance. With a travel plan worth INR 500,000 for 2 people for 7 days in Germany, the insurance costs would be around INR 1338. This would be less than 1% of the total cost of the trip.
  • They cover injuries happening during adventure sports which are not covered by most of the other insurance companies.
  • They have an easy claim process enabled online. You can just give a missed call and their team will get back to you.
  • They will issue a policy with Zero Deductible. It implies that you don’t have to pay for anything. Your insurer will manage the expenses.



P.S.: This post is in collaboration with Digit Insurance.

September 25, 2019

Ravanahatha



Predominantly seen across Rajasthan and Gujarat, Ravanahatha is a stringed instrument which functions similar to a violin. However, the origin of this instrument is not believed to be India, but Sri Lanka, where it was played by the Sinhalese people during the times of the king, Ravana. The instrumrnt also gets its name from the king. While the sound box is usually made of a coconut or gourd shell, the cover is made of goat hide and the neck is a wooden piece. The string which was earlier made from horse hair, is now replaced by steel.

Though it was quite popular during the rule of the royals in western part of India, presently Ravanahatha is commonly played only by the street musicians. Music aficionados can buy this instrument from any of the numerous shops in Jaisalmer, Jodhpur etc. 






The first four pictures were captured from Jodhpur and the last one from Jaisalmer.

September 19, 2019

Places to visit and things to do in Bikaner


If one makes a list of must visit places in the state of Rajasthan, Bikaner might struggle to make it to that list. Bikaner might lack the exuberance of Jaisalmer, the hues of Jodhpur, the vibrancy of Udaipur, the festivities of Pushkar or the popularity of Jaipur. However, the city which was once the capital of the princely state of Bikaner was founded in late 15th century by Rao Bika, who was until then a member of the Jodhpur royal family. Structures such as the fort, palaces and others that were built then still stand tall. However, it wasn’t until the last few years that Bikaner started garnering attention through tourism.

The attractions in the city and nearby can be covered over a period of two days. The city is well equipped with numerous hotels and restaurants. Autorickshaws are the easiest and fastest mode to commute across places within this city.

Here is a list of must visit places and things to do in and around Bikaner.

Junagarh fort

Junagarh fort is a landmark structure that sprawls across the centre of Bikaner. While the original fort was built in late 15th century by Rao Bika, the present structure was built a 100 years later by Raja Rai Singh. Built in red sand stone, the outer façade might not be a very impressive one, but once you enter through seven large elephant gates such as Karan Prole, Daulat Prole and Fateh Prole, the pathway opens to courtyards with numerous intricately carved windows and pillars. Some portions of these courtyards are of marble and have splendidly perforated windows. Further ahead of the courtyards lie numerous palaces that are adorned with beautiful art works all across. From walls to doors to floors to ceilings, spectacular colours and designs splash all across these palaces. All these palaces are connected by courtyards. Anup Mahal is the grandest palace inside the fort, and is emblazoned with magnificent art and lacquer work. Raj Tilak Mahal which was the coronation hall is inside Anup Mahal, and is known for its lavish works. Karan Mahal which has carved balconies and stained glass works was the public audience hall built to celebrate the victory over Aurangazeb, the Mughal eperor in late 17th century. Badal Mahal has beautiful art work on its walls in the form of blue clouds, apart from many paintings. Chandra Mahal was the royal bedroom of the king, and has a beautiful decor. Phool Mahal has subtle art work with a shrine dedicated to Krishna. Dungar Niwas has lovely inlay works all over, and is an absolute stunner. Ganga hall which was earlier a durbar hall (audience hall) is now a museum and has a huge display of royal memorabilia, artefacts, artillery and a World War I fighter plane. Outside the fort is Prachin, another museum which has a display of royal costumes, souvenirs and various other items.
















Lallgarh palace and museum

In typical Indo Sarcenic style architecture, Lallgarh palace was the former royal residence built by Maharaja Ganga Singh. Also referred as Laxmi Niwas palace and built entirely of red sand stone, it is presently a luxury hotel. Access to this palace is restricted to guests and outsiders aren’t allowed inside. However, one can view the beautiful structure and its sprawling lawns upon entering through the magnificent entrance gate. Inside the premises is Maharaja Sadul Singh museum, which has a display of artefacts and photographs from the Lallgarh palace.




Sursagar lake

Located opposite the fort, Sursagar lake was built when there was a shortage of water in the city during the reign of Maharaja Sur Singh. The artificial lake with steps is a nice place to spend the evenings in Bikaner.  


Rampuria havelis

Apart from the fort, Bikaner is also well known for its Havelis, which are large, impressive and well decorated homes of the mercantile community. Tucked away in the narrow alleys of the city, they stand tall, intimidating, colourful and with gorgeous designs on their outer facade. Located near the Kote gate, Rampuria havelis are the most impressive ones in Bikaner. The lattice and stone works apart from the beautiful windows are the major attractions of these havelis. There are usually large numbers of pigeons fluttering around, and they create beautiful frames. Access inside these havelis is denied to tourists as they are private homes.




Deshnoke temple

There are quite a few temples in the city, but the most popular one that gets hordes of visitors is the Karni mata temple at Deshnoke, which is a short ride away from Bikaner. The temple was built in early 20th century, and its entrance door has beautiful intricate carvings. Believed to be an incarnation of Durga, the temple is dedicated to Karni mata, and is also referred as Rat temple of Rajasthan. The temple is filled with rats and don’t be surprised to find a few of them running between your feet as you pay obeisance to the goddess. It is believed that there are about 25000 rats in the temple which are revered and considered as devotees of Karni mata. 



Royal Cenotaphs

The royal cenotaphs at Devi Kund Sagar are memorials of the members of the Bikaner royal family. Located just outside Bikaner in Gajner, these cenotaphs which are known as Chatris are built in a blend of Rajasthani and Mughal style architecture. While most of them are made of marble and lime, a few of the older ones are made of red sand stone. The cenotaphs of princes or kings have a vertical slab, while that of princess or queens have footprints engraved on a horizontal slab. Some of these have exquisite art works and frescoes on the ceiling, and display beautiful artistic creations.





Bikaneri bhujias

Bikaner has in the last few years become well known for its Bikaneri bhujias (snacks). Made of moth beans, gram flour and groundnut oil, these are popular across India. There are numerous shops selling these crispy bhujias across Bikaner, but the recommended ones are Bikaner Bhujia Bhandar, Chotu Motu Joshi and Haldiram’s. Apart from the bhujias they have a wide range of local Rajasthani short eats. One can also try the traditional Rajasthani thali at any of the restaurants near station road.



How to reach Bikaner:

The nearest aiport is at Jodhpur, which is 252 Kms away. The railway station at Bikaner is well connected to other cities such as New Delhi, Mumbai and Jaipur by frequent trains. There are also public buses plying from cities such as New Delhi, Jaipur and Agra to Bikaner.

Food and Accommodation:

There are numerous restaurants in the city, and most of them serve vegetarian fare. Bikaner offers budget and mid range options near the fort and station road. For the luxury travellers, Lallgarh palace, Basant Vihar palace and Bhanwar Niwas are a few options. I stayed at Metro Palace, a mid range hotel which is a decent option in Bikaner.

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