Most forts in Rajasthan are perched on a rocky outcrop looming over the city. Bikaner’s Junagarh is on no such pedestal but it was never conquered throughout its history. A 986m wall surrounds the fort with 37 bastions and a dry moat making it virtually impenetrable, and you enter via the Suraj Pol (Sun Gate). Inside is a vast complex of palaces, suites, towers, balconies and courtyards with their carvings still intact.
Head towards the Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience) where you can check out the glimmering gold ceiling and the silver cushioned throne of the maharaja. The Phool Mahal (Flower Palace) is also a grand piece of architecture.
The Badal Mahal (Palace of the Clouds) has walls that are thoroughly painted with fluffy blue clouds. Karan Mahal and Anup Mahal have some of the finest artwork in Rajasthan and can be divided into three major types. The manovat style employs a clay pillar moulded on plaster and gilded with gold leaf; the jangali sunthari style involves painting intricate floral motifs on greenish plaster; and the sonakin style features a simple white plaster canvas outlined with elegant patterns and filled in with gold leaf.
The Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds) employs ancient Islamic art patters on its ceiling alongside various scenes of Krishna dancing. The blue tiles found here were imported from China and Europe. All across Junagarh Fort, one finds examples of the opulence that once made Bikaner a very wealthy princely state.
Opposite Suraj Pol is the Prachina Cultural Centre & Museum that houses a fascinating collection of royal objects of Rajasthani and British influence. You will find dainty crockery residing next to Rajasthani costumes, textiles and jewellery. Definitely worth a visit if you want to see how the maharajas were influenced by British culture.
Of all the places to visit in Bikaner, the Junagarh Fort complex should not be skipped.