History of Bikaner

           Ajmer | Alwar | Bikaner | Bundi | Chittorgrah | Jaipur | Jaisalmer | Jodhpur
Kishangrah | Kota | Udaipur | Sekhawati | Rajputs | Marwaries


  Bikaner was founded in the 15th century by Rao Bikaji ,the son of the Rathor raja of Marwar(or Jodhpur). Taking offence at a stray comment that his father made , he left with a small band of horsemen to set up his own kingdom in the desert of the north. Spurred by the blessing of a great femalemystic,Karni Mata,whom he had met along the way and who had predicted that his fame and glory would someday exceed that of his father, Rao Bika fought the local desert clans for thirty years,and ultimately carved out a kingdom approximately the size of England.This desert city was a major trade center on the old caravan route linking central Asia and North India with the Gujarat sea ports long before a Rathor Prince, Bika, conquered it in 1486 A.D. and called it Bikaner. When Muhammad Ghori destroyed their Kanauj Kingdom in 1193, the Rathores re-established in the wilds of Marwar,. Bikaji was the second son of Rao Jodhaji, the real founder of Jodhpur state, its magnificent fort and city, Bika left Jodhpur in a huff with a few kinsmen and followers because his father taunted him in open durbar about expansionist schemes with his uncle, Rao Kandhal.

Fortunately for his descendants, no enemy could withstand the harsh desert that surrounds this rich city and disrupt its leisurely lifestyle, which still prevails. Here, medieval settings, customs, and attitudes are natural, and modern ways rather alien. Bikaner has a special quality, an authentic medieval flavor that immediately draws the outsider's attention.

In the 16th century the maharajas of Bikaner came into conflict with the Mughal emprors in Delhi, who were in the process of setting up their new empire in Hindustan. Being located closer to Delhi, Bikaner spent much more time fighting the Mughals than other desert kingdoms, such as Jaisalmer or Jodhpur. With the harsh desert terrain on their side,the Bikaner armies soundly defeated the Mughals in their early encounters.By the late 16th century,however,they had won over by the diplomacy of Empror Akbar. As a result ,several of Bikaner's rulers commanded the Mughal armies,fighting with distinction from Gujarat in the west to the Deccan in the south. One great ruler ,Raja Prithviraj Singh, a poet and a warrior, in fact became one of the "Nine Gems " of Akbar's court. Bikaner, meanwhile, had had become a flourishing town and an important trading post along the centuries-old caravan trails that connected India with the Middle East and China. As the town prospered it became known , it became known for the handwork of its gold and silversmiths, weavers and perfumaries and leather craftsmen. It also became known as an important center for the arts and music . It was especially well known for its of miniature paintings, which were a delicate fusion of the Rajput and the Mughal style.<

However, with the eclipse of the Mughalsin the 18th century, Bikaner, along with the rest of Rajasthan, fell into the slow decline, although its desert barriers at least spared it the depredations that the Marrathas were wreaking on its other Rajput neighbours. This situation continued until the treaty with the British in 1818, in which "perpetual friendship, alliance and a unity of interests" were pledged.

Turn Of Fortune

By the mid 19th century the years of internal strife and the financial and military pressures being put on Bikaner by its new allies, the British had put the kingdom into debt. It had become a shabby and a backward province. But, curiously it was Bikaner's famous camels that triggered off a process of economic and political recovery . The British were involved in fighting the Afghan War at the time and it was realised that the only vechiles that could deliver their supplies in that terrain were camels. The maharaja of Bikaner cannily cashed in on this opportunity by supplying the British army with a steady stream of Bikaners camels. This resulted in a turnaround of Bikaner's fortunes. A modern administrative system was soon installed, the first hospitals established , and a police force set up to handle the lawlessness and banditry that were becoming rampant. In 1886 , this remote desert kingdom became the first Indian princely State to introduce electricity.

Maharaja Ganga Singh: It was Maharaja Ganga Singh(reigned 1898 -1944), one of the most remarkable rulers India produced in the early 20th century, who was responsible for putting Bikaner in a position of prominence on the map of India. Maharaja Ganga who was educated at the celebrated mayo College in Ajmer, gave Bikaner a prominance far beyond its size. First he created the famous Bikaner Camel Corps, or Ganga Risala, a flamboyant fighting force that he personally led, on behalf of the British, first to China to put down the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, then to Somaliland to quell the quell the Somali Uprising in 1903, and finally to Egypt during World War 1. Maharaja Ganga Singh also built up the Bikaner's economy, promoting among other things, the Ganga Canal, an ambitious irrigation project that was years ahead of his time, and which turned the deserts of Bikaner into rich farmland. But perhaps most of all ,perhaps Maharaja Ganga Singh came to be known for his spectacular grouse shoots, to which everybody from the Viceroy downward, including fellow maharajas,vied to be invited. Maharaja Ganga Singh very shrewdly treated these hunts as a diplomatic tool, using the opportunity to charm selected guests and win their support. His guests at the great shoots included the Prince of Wales , later King George V , and French President Clemenceau, Maharaja Ganga Singh later became something of an International political figure, going on to lead the Indian delegation to the League of Nations. In 1949 the kingdom became part of the new state of Rajasthan in Independent India.



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