Fort Museum Of Bikaner
Even though located in Bikaner, the Junagarh Fort is so named because of its significance as the old house or residence palace of the descendants of Rao Bika, who was the second son of the existing ruler of Rathore clan in Jodhpur. In 15th century AD, Bika established the kingdom of Bikaner away from the region of Jodhpur, which gradually flourished over the years. Further development was carried out by Raja Rai Singhji, who was the sixth ruler of Bikaner. By his exploits of war with the Mewar kings, he was awarded lots of jagirs by the Mughal Emperor Akbar and started construction work on Junagarh Fort, known at that time as Chintamani from 1589. Due to this vast experience in the architectural styles of various buildings in different countries, his style of construction of the Junagarh Fort reflects a composite style from Mughals, Persian, Rajasthani and Indian designs.
Spread of the Fort and its Constituent Buildings
Massive feature of Junagarh Fort is something that is worth noting because it spreads over a vast area of 5.28 hectares with a periphery measurement of 986 mts. An unusual feature of this particular fort is that it is built in the plains of the Thar Desert, unlike other forts which are usually constructed on hill tops. This fort comprises of about 37 bastions and 7 gates, with plenty of palaces, temples, pavilions, havelis and other structures. During the era of Sir Ganga Singhji in the early 20th century, the Lalgarh Palace was constructed and the royal family shifted to this palace in 1902 and the Old fort was named as Junagarh fort, which translates into Old fort in local language.
Presence of Museum inside the Fort Premises
One of the important places to visit in Junagarh Fort is the Fort Museum of Bikaner. It has been constructed inside the fort walls, giving an ovation to the rich history and culture of Bikaner and the ascendancy of Bikaner’s throne. It is made special by the huge collection of artefacts and royal belongings, including some rare pieces of arts, crafts and items used in the kingdom.
Fort museum of Bikaner was established in 1961, under the rule of Maharaja Dr Karni Singhji, under the trust formed as per the name of Maharaja Rai Singhji. Presently, Rajmata Sushila Kumari is the chairperson of the trust and looks after the day to day maintenance and preservation as well as tourist visits in the museum.
Contents of the Museum
Since a major part of the Junagarh Fort building was converted into the museum, it mostly comprises of the items associated with the royalty of Bikaner starting from the 16th century, when the fort was originally built during the rule of Rao Bika. Subsequent rulers also have left a number of their personal belongings which can be seen in the Fort Museum of Bikaner. As per the trust, the fort museum will be able to showcase the history of Bikaner and impart an informative experience to the present and future generations.
For the benefit of the visitors to the Fort Museum of Bikaner, this has been divided into many sections. Armoury section has a number of post medieval arms and ammunitions, which were used by the soldiers of the rulers of Bikaner. Also present in the collection is a large cannon belonging to the 15th century. Traditional notices called Farmans are found in plenty, which range from the period of Rao Bikaji till the modern days. Royal costumes, textiles, heirlooms of the kingdom of Jodhpur of which Rao Bika was the second son, plenty of headgears and dresses of gods and idols are preserved in a section in the museum. Miniature paintings, photographs from the rule, jewelleries used by the ladies and the kings, large portraits of various eminent personalities from the last 5 centuries and various other depictions telling stories about the kingdom are displayed in one of the sections. Enamelware, silverware, dining cutleries and such kitchen items are also showcased which gives a peek into the personal traditions of the kings. A separate section shows the belongings of Maharaja Ganga Singhji, who was the ruler of Bikaner for over 5 decades in 19th and 20th century. This was a feat of being the longest duration rule in Bikaner and hence, one of the sections showcases all the achievements of Ganga Singhji. Starting from collection of automobiles used for transportation in those days, to his personal artefacts, lots of things can be found which reveal the details of his life in full. Various pictures, memorabilias and items used by the Siddhis are also found in the Fort Museum of Bikaner. This was a sacred practice by the special group of people called Jasnathis, who had remarkable physical abilities like walking on pointed swords, nails and spikes.
A trip to the Fort Museum of Bikaner is supposedly a revelation for tourists as they can see and learn about the history of Bikaner in great detail. Much of the items preserved in the museum is related with the activities and rulers of the Junagarh Fort and still are valued by the people of this city along the brink of Thar Desert.
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