Exploring Old Bikaner on Foot || A soulful city in Rajasthan that is comfortable in its own skin

Even though we had been warned against booking a hotel in old Bikaner, because the roads are congested, we managed to find the perfect hotel - Hotel Jaswant Bhawan - which is perfectly located at the edge of old Bikaner with approach via wide roads and a spacious parking. And it was just walking distance from most of the places in old Bikaner.

Even though we had been warned against booking a hotel in old Bikaner, because the roads are congested, we managed to find the perfect hotel - Hotel Jaswant Bhawan - which is perfectly located at the edge of old Bikaner with approach via wide roads and a spacious parking. And it was just walking distance from most of the places in old Bikaner.   

So after driving through the new Bikaner, we parked our car in the comfortable parking of our hotel, dropped our luggage in our room, and immediately headed out into old Bikaner, on foot. This is what we love doing. Walking around, and observing new places and life as it flows through them.


So after driving through the new Bikaner, we parked our car in the comfortable parking of our hotel, dropped our luggage in our room, and immediately headed out into old Bikaner, on foot. This is what we love doing. Walking around, and observing new places and life as it flows through them.  


On the surface, old Bikaner looks like many other old cities - old Delhi, old Lucknow, and even old Jaisalmer. However, once you have spent a few minutes navigating your way around the lanes, you start to see the soul of Bikaner emerge.


On the surface, old Bikaner looks like many other old cities - old Delhi, old Lucknow, and even old Jaisalmer. However, once you have spent a few minutes navigating your way around the lanes, you start to see the soul of Bikaner emerge. 


Nothing can jolt you awake to the flavourful pulse of Bikaner than the countless outlets that make and sell the legendary Bikaneri Bhujia. Some of these outlets are no bigger than just a hole in the wall. But most of them have a crowd of people outside, trying to buy Bhujia.


Nothing can jolt you awake to the flavourful pulse of Bikaner than the countless outlets that make and sell the legendary Bikaneri Bhujia. Some of these outlets are no bigger than just a hole in the wall. But most of them have a crowd of people outside, trying to buy Bhujia.


And most of these people are locals. One would assume that most of the locals would always have enough Bikaneri Bhujia stocked in their homes. But it seems that they are always, always shopping for more. We bought our stock from Bishanlal Babulal Bhujiawala, but the options were endless.


And most of these people are locals. One would assume that most of the locals would always have enough Bikaneri Bhujia stocked in their homes. But it seems that they are always, always shopping for more. We bought our stock from Bishanlal Babulal Bhujiawala, but the options were endless.
 


And you absolutely know that you are in a town that is inhabited mostly by business community. We were there on Dussehra and we could see some gatherings in the streets. They were mostly a group of men seated around a man wearing a turban and also a priest doing some calculations. We did not exactly figure out what was going on, but it seemed like some decisions were being taken based on some auspicious dates.


And you absolutely know that you are in a town that is inhabited mostly by business community. We were there on Dussehra and we could see some gatherings in the streets. They were mostly a group of men seated around a man wearing a turban and also a priest doing some calculations. We did not exactly figure out what was going on, but it seemed like some decisions were being taken based on some auspicious dates. 


And you also know immediately that this is the city of religious people. There were small temples, random praises of various Hindu Gods, and signs of a sizeable Jain population in this area. It was raw and rustic. And charming as hell.



And you also know immediately that this is the city of religious people. There were small temples, random praises of various Hindu Gods, and signs of a sizeable Jain population in this area. It was raw and rustic. And charming as hell. 

We were as curious about the local people as they were about us. Children in particular were very forthcoming. They would run up to us and request photographs with us. They asked us where we were from. I guess the way we were dressed, some of them assumed that we were not from India.

We were as curious about the local people as they were about us. Children in particular were very forthcoming. They would run up to us and request photographs with us. They asked us where we were from. I guess the way we were dressed, some of them assumed that we were not from India. 

We saw kids playing carrom, some men lounging about on their front steps, people driving their scooters at breakneck speed through the narrow lanes, cows and bulls pacing about searching for food or just a place to sit and masticate their food.

We saw kids playing carrom, some men lounging about on their front steps, people driving their scooters at breakneck speed through the narrow lanes, cows and bulls pacing about searching for food or just a place to sit and masticate their food. 

And while on one end of the spectrum, you could see people living content lives free of the frills, wearing wide smiles in most cases, you could also see signs of opulence. There were havelis (Rampuria havelis for example) where it was clear that no expense had been spared during their construction or embellishment. We did not get an opportunity to meet the people who dwell inside these havelis, so we cannot comment on whether they too embody the Bikaneri spirit.

And while on one end of the spectrum, you could see people living content lives free of the frills, wearing wide smiles in most cases, you could also see signs of opulence. There were havelis (Rampuria havelis for example) where it was clear that no expense had been spared during their construction or embellishment. We did not get an opportunity to meet the people who dwell inside these havelis, so we cannot comment on whether they too embody the Bikaneri spirit. 

And then there are the other snacks - you will come across the kachori shops, the ice-cream shops and the occasional one-shop-sells-all types. If I confused you with the last expression, imagine a Haldiram in Delhi. So you get Chole Bhature, Idli Sambhar here along with the regular thalis. And then there is one place where you will come across a train casually passing through a full, crowded market. And no one considers it a big deal.

And then there are the other snacks - you will come across the kachori shops, the ice-cream shops and the occasional one-shop-sells-all types. If I confused you with the last expression, imagine a Haldiram in Delhi. So you get Chole Bhature, Idli Sambhar here along with the regular thalis. And then there is one place where you will come across a train casually passing through a full, crowded market. And no one considers it a big deal. 

All of this, together, is old Bikaner and through the little time that we got to spend here, we came to acknowledge the sights, sounds, and smells of the place, and appreciate most of them. True there were open drains and some bit of garbage and cowdung at places, but once you learn to look past all that, you see a city that is happy with the way it is. That is confident, without being arrogant and open without being smothering. We did come to like the city and its genuineness.

All of this, together, is old Bikaner and through the little time that we got to spend here, we came to acknowledge the sights, sounds, and smells of the place, and appreciate most of them. True there were open drains and some bit of garbage and cowdung at places, but once you learn to look past all that, you see a city that is happy with the way it is. That is confident, without being arrogant and open without being smothering. We did come to like the city and its genuineness. 

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