A Royal Holiday
Our inhouse travel aficionado and head ninja @Radhika Bhuptani’s latest sojourn was to the royal, splendid city of Bikaner, rich in its colours, culture and culinary experiences. The phrase ‘Padharo Mhare Des’ came to life with unparalleled hospitality at the grand Narendra Bhawan, former home to the last king of Bikaner- His Highness Narendra Singh ji, and Radhika’s regal residence for the duration of her stay.
The private palace was the highlight of her visit, a wonderfully curated blend of ancient and modern, Indian and foreign- a snapshot from the late Maharaja’s private life, tastes and travels, with influences ranging from motifs of Mumbai’s Art Deco movement to glamour from Broadway to illustrious military achievements to tiles from Portugal!
A visitor is stumped and intrigued at every turn, every element and experience, and how tastefully it has all been put together to reflect the life of its original regal resident in the larger picture of Bikaner’s most remarkable heritage residence. The ultimate Bikaner experiences include the much vied for Durbari dining, a Museum Dinner at the Night Room, a resplendent White Night of the Rajputs, and the Merchant Exploration- a guided walk that will stay etched in your memories and cameras.
While the Durbari experience takes you back to the times of outdoor meals against a picturesque backdrop, gorgeous lamps and classical music- a customized experience right down to the finer details, the Museum Dinner is an opulent indoor dining experience for those who wish to sample recipes straight off the Maharaja’s own menu, with a history deeper and vaster than can be imagined.
Among the must visit destinations we would recommend the never conquered Junagarh Fort of course, because of the many courtyards and Mahals that lie within it. The courtyards are each distinctive- constructed with red sandstone, sandstone and marble, marble with coloured tiling and even painted frescoes and inlay work.
The Mahals or halls include the Mughal architecture inspired Karan Mahal. the golden Anoop Mahal, the dainty and intricate Phool Mahal, the Durbar Hall with an 1,100 year old sandalwood throne, and the most breathtaking of all, the Badal Mahal, capturing Bikaner’s desire for rain in brilliant motifs of clouds, rain and lightning across its walls and ceilings.
Visitors must also not miss the Laxmi Vilas Palace, the Lalgarh Palace, the Gajner Palace and Wildlife Sanctuary and the most eccentric places of all- the National Research Centre for Camel Welfare and the Bikaji Bhujia factory. Talking about food, Radhika treated herself to the delectable authentic Rajasthani Thali, while also sampling the White Rose Sherbat, the famous Bikaneri Bhujia, and interestingly, some lip-smacking Spaghetti Aglio Olio
Overall, we would definitely recommend Bikaner for a luxury getaway as well as a historical exploration, perfect for travellers who seek stories, richness of culture and an excellent meal palette, for Bikaner offers plenty of all of these and more.