RAO BIKA, the founder of the Rathore principality of Bikaner in Rajasthan, built the fort in 1485 and the city three years later in 1488. According to Tod, a Jit who had the hereditary right on the spot selected by Bika for his capital, said that he would concede it only if his name was associated in perpetuity with the fort. Naira or Nera was the name of the proprietor, which Bika added to his own : thus the name became Bikaner (Bika + Ner).

By: Poonam Sharma

Posted on: 9/11/2020 View : 210


RAO BIKA, the founder of the Rathore principality of Bikaner in Rajasthan, built the fort in 1485 and the city three years later in 1488. According to Tod, a Jit who had the hereditary right on the spot selected by Bika for his capital, said that he would concede it only if his name was associated in perpetuity with the fort. Naira or Nera was the name of the proprietor, which Bika added to his own : thus the name became Bikaner (Bika + Ner).

The fort, cn an elevation of about 730 feet above sea level, is surrounded by a stone wall four and a half miles in circuit, and is six feet high and two feet thick. It has five gates, namely Kot, Jassusar, Nathusar, Silla and Goga, and eight sally ports. A ditch 15 feet deep and 20 in breadth surrounds it on three sides only. When Bika was away, he left Napo, the Lankha chief, in charge of the fort of Bikaner. In 1537 during Rao Jaitsi's period the Mughuls under Kamran, marched on Bikaner and demanded not only overlordship but also payment of a large sum as tribute. Upon this Rao Jaitsi became indignant and sent back the messenger. Next morning the Mughul army surrounded the fort but the Rao attacked them in the night and completely routed them. At day break, the remnants of the Mughul hordes were seen fleeing for their lives. In fact Kamran retreated in such a hurry that he did not stop even to pick up his umbrella which he had dropped at Chrotriya.

Bikaner subsequently developed good relations with the Mughuls as it needed protection from the invasion of Jodhpur. In 1541 when Maldeo, chief of Jodhpur, invaded Bikaner and captured the fort Jai Singh fled. But three years later Rawat Kishan Singh, a noble of Bikaner, not only took possession of the thanas set up by Maldeo but also captured the fort He proclaimed Kalyanmal as the governor.

This led the rulers of Bikaner to be¬ come mansabdar (noble holding a military rank) of the Mughul court and the Raja gave the emperor Akbar his daughter in marriage. The great influ¬ ence that Rai Singh exercised at the Mughul court can be inferred from an incident that took place at the time of Akbar's death. There were intrigues to place Khusro on the throne. It was then that Jahangir looked upon Rai Singh and sought his assistance.

After almost 100 years the foundation of the present fort of Bikaner was laid on 30 January 1586 in accordance with Raja Rai Singh's instructions from Burhanpur where he had gone, ac¬ cording to Khyats, to his minister Karam Chand.

The Bikaner Fort proper is situated about 300 yards from the Kot gate. It is 1,078 yards in circuit, and has two entrances, each with three or four successive gates. Its ramparts are strengthened by numerous bastions about forty feet high, and a moat run¬ ning all round in a direction parallel to the curtains without following the curve of the bastions. The moat is 30 feet wide at the top but narrows at the bottom and is from 20 to 25 feet deep.

The fort was besieged many times but was never taken, though the old fort once was

In 1739 Jodhpur invaded Bikaner twice. The first attack came to nothing but the second was successful. The capital was taken and plundered. But the fort, though Invested, could not be taken even after three months and five days and the siege had to be raised by Abhai Singh as he had to leave to look after his own territory which had been attacked by the Jaipur troops on an urgent request by the besieged.

When the Mughul empire started declining, the political links between the two powers became loose. And then the rulers of Bikaner looked towards the English for alliance as they felt uneasy at the lawlessness, and in 1808 Maharaja Surat Singh even offered the keys of the fort to Elphinston as a token of his allegiance, though the latter declined to accept these. But then Bikaner entered into a subsidiary alliance with the British government. During the uprise of 1857, the Bikaner garrison repulsed the attack on the city and defeated the rebels.

The Bikaner Fort can boast of many architectural specialities which remind one of Fatehpur Sikri and the Red Fort of Delhi. It is built according to military standards of that time The carved wooden door leading to Hari Mandir closely resembles what was called Akbari door. Sur mandir, Sur tank are representations of the Mughul architec¬ ture of Akbar's time. Anup. Singh's Mahal with its golden penwork is an exquisite piece of work. Karan Mahal is on the pattern of and served the purpose that Darbar Hall in the Red Fort of Agra or Delhi did.

The palace buildings are works of successive Rajas. Important ones amongst these are : the Chaubara erected by Raja Rai Singh, the Phul Mahal, the Chandra Mahal, the Gaj Mandir, Anup Mahal which is perhaps the best of all dating from the time of Maharaja Surat Singh, the Chhatar Mahal, the Chini Burj and the Ganga Niwas.

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