Bikaner, an enchanting city situated in the heart of the Thar Desert in the state of Rajasthan, India, boasts a rich historical legacy that dates back several centuries.
Bikaner, located at an elevation of 242 meters (794 feet), lies in the northwest region of Rajasthan. It is surrounded by the vast Thar Desert, with its extreme climate and sparse vegetation. The city's geographic position offered strategic advantages, as it served as a crucial trade center along the ancient Silk Road. The arid terrain and the scarcity of water resources necessitated the development of ingenious water management systems, such as step wells, to sustain the local population.
Bikaner has witnessed a diverse mix of inhabitants throughout its history. According to the 2011 census, the city had a population of approximately 644,406 individuals. The demographic composition includes people from various religious and ethnic backgrounds, including Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and Jains. The city's population has grown steadily over the years, driven by factors such as migration, urbanization, and improved healthcare facilities.
Bikaner was founded in 1488 CE by Rao Bika, a Rathore prince and a scion of the royal house of Jodhpur. He established the city as the capital of the newly formed Bikaner State. This marked the beginning of a glorious era, as Bikaner soon emerged as a prominent political and cultural center in Rajasthan.
During the reign of Emperor Akbar in the 16th century, Bikaner came under Mughal suzerainty. The strategic location of the city enabled it to maintain favorable relations with the Mughals, ensuring political stability and economic prosperity. The Mughal influence can be observed in the architectural marvels of Bikaner, such as the Junagarh Fort, constructed during this period.
In the 18th century, the Marathas, led by Raja Suraj Mal of Bharatpur, briefly captured Bikaner. However, the city eventually came under the British East India Company's control in the early 19th century, following the defeat of the Marathas. Bikaner State became one of the princely states under the British Raj, retaining a degree of autonomy while accepting British suzerainty.
The rulers of Bikaner played a crucial role in shaping the city's destiny. Maharaja Ganga Singh, who reigned from 1887 to 1943, made significant contributions to Bikaner's infrastructure, including the establishment of schools, hospitals, and a network of canals for irrigation purposes. His progressive policies and commitment to modernization laid the foundation for Bikaner's development.
After India gained independence in 1947, Bikaner, along with other princely states, merged into the newly formed Union of India. The city became a part of the state of Rajasthan in 1950. Since then, Bikaner has continued to flourish, witnessing rapid urbanization, infrastructure development, and economic growth.