Skip to navigation

Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

India: Bikaner

Rats in the Karni Mata Temple
A small contingent of the Karni Mata Temple's rat population

With my camel safari completed, I headed east from Jaisalmer to the town of Bikaner. I'd decided to stop here on the unavoidably convoluted way to Amritsar, and reading about it, it had sounded like a fun place to visit. In the event, Bikaner itself was overshadowed by the Karni Mata Temple in nearby Deshnok, which is one of the most astounding sights I've ever seen. A 30km bus ride out of town, the Karni Mata Temple is, on the face of it, just another Hindu temple, but go inside and it's a scream. Literally.

Karni Mata Temple
Karni Mata Temple
The white rat at the Karni Mata Temple
Spotting the white rat is supposed to bring you good luck
Holy rats resting after a good feed
Holy rats resting after a good feed

Exploring Bikaner

The view over Junagarh Fort
Inside Junagarh Fort

As the afternoon sun sweltered its way across the sky, I found time to visit the maharaja's fortress, and the old city bazaars with their windy streets. Unfortunately the Junagarh Fort cost a small fortune to enter, and then I could only go round in the company of a guide (who wanted baksheesh to show me all the rooms, which I paid in the vain hope that the 'hidden' rooms would be worth the effort, which they weren't). The upshot was that yet again I poured money into the coffers of some fat landlord who had quite justifiably been axed from his feudal position and who was now bleeding tourists instead of serfs. Every maharaja's palace I visit makes me love old George more and more; at least he had style.

1 Though judging by the figures, Bikaner is on the up. In 1980, 1759 foreigners and 54,724 Indians visited the fort. In 1997 this had shot up to 21,809 foreigners and 158,180 Indians. It looks like Bikaner will soon change...