Have you ever gone to Bikaner? Have you visited there’s Narendra Bhawan? Bikaner is a city in the north Indian state of Rajasthan, east of the border with Pakistan. It’s surrounded by the Thar Desert. The city is known for the 16th-century Junagarh Fort, a huge complex of ornate buildings and halls. Within the fort, the Prachina Museum displays traditional textiles and royal portraits. Nearby, the Karni Mata Temple is home to many rats considered sacred by Hindu devotees.
Narendra Bhawan, in its new avatar, retells the story of the last reigning Maharaja of Bikaner, His Highness Narendra Singhji. Unconventionally curated, it is composed of Narendra Singhji’s memories from his travels to destinations near and far.
Architectural marvels like the Lallgarh palace, Karni Mata temple, Laxmi Niwas, Kolayat temple, Junagarh Fort and museum, Bhandasar Jain temple, among others, have kept the spirit of the city alive across time. As you step into Bikaner, you are transported to an age that is far removed from contemporary madness. The urban hubbub doesn’t distract from the majestic red sandstone structures that stand as a testament to a time when the world was different.
The history, evident in every nook and corner of the city, dates back to 1488 when a young prince, Rao Bika from the Jodhpur dynasty, gave up his legacy and went on to establish his own kingdom. He chose a barren patch of land and called it Jungladesh.
Legend has it that Bika had a difficult relationship with his father and brothers and was allowed to take the family heirlooms with him when he left, in exchange for giving up his claim to the throne of Jodhpur forever. He didn’t, however, stay true to his word and a clash between the two Rajput principalities continued till the early 16th century.
Bikaner, an energetic and self-motivated kingdom, still bears proof of this rough evolution. With every passing decade, the city grew under the welfare of rulers like Maharaja Ganga Singh, Maharaja Karni Singh and especially the last Maha-raja Narendra Singh, who presided over the state efficiently from 1988 till 2003, despite being a mere titular head.
Bikaner is the hidden jewel of Rajasthan. It offers unsurpassable antiquity, old world charm and regalia, intricate havelis, grand palaces and great food befitting for any fairy tale nuptial.” By 2008, Shekhawat also realised that hotels in the state were no longer as aspirational as they used to be. Millennials were not impressed by crystal chandeliers, thread counts and intrusive hospitality. They sought unique and bespoke experiences.
So they thought, if they just provide guests comfortable accommodation, great local food and attempt at being genial hosts, tell people unheard stories, give them a sense of space and a slice of time, and help them discover unexplored facets of the region, it would help them create a a new market and put them in a monopolistic situation in the area.”
The six floors and 82 rooms of this palatial residence have elaborate themes. The Portuguese tiles, traditional crafts, elaborate ceiling details, and Bikaner terrazzo floors offer a calm sanctuary, away from the noise of the city.
You have the Residence Rooms, which are a tribute to the maharaja’s eclectic tastes and were designed for his guests. Featuring luxe velvets, English prints, ornate mirrors and mosaic, the Prince Rooms are stately.
The palace of stories and royal snippets is all set to write a new chapter in the history of Bikaner for travellers, tourists and art lovers alike. The city rises from the desert to offer a glamorous escape, bringing romance back in the lives of those who head here in search of that magic moment where the worlds of history and real life collide. It’s a world where khidmat goes beyond service; where ladies and gentlemen, as Cesar Ritz said, serve ladies and gentlemen.