This most impressive fort was constructed between 1589 and 1593 by Raja Rai Singh, ruler of Bikaner and a general in the army of the Mughal emperor Akbar. You enter through the Karan Prole gate on the east side and pass through three more gates before the ticket office for the palace museum. An audio guide (requiring an identity document as a deposit), is available in English, French, German and Hindi, and is very informative.
The beautifully decorated Karan Mahal was the palace’s Diwan-i-Am (Hall of Public Audience), built in the 17th and 18th centuries. Anup Mahal Chowk has lovely carved jarokhas (balcony windows) and jali (carved lattice screens), and was commissioned in the late 17th century by Maharaja Anup Mahal. Rooms off here include the sumptuous Anup Mahal, a hall of private audience with walls lacquered in red and gold, and the Badal Mahal (Cloud Palace), the walls of which are beautifully painted with blue cloud motifs and red and gold lightning.
The Gaj Mandir, the suite of Maharaja Gaj Singh (r 1745–87) and his two top wives, is a fantastic symphony of gold paint, colourful murals, sandalwood, ivory, mirrors, niches and stained glass. From here you head up to the palace roof to enjoy the views and then down eventually to the superb Ganga Durbar Hall of 1896, with its pink stone walls covered in fascinating relief carvings. You then move into Maharaja Ganga Singh’s office and finally into the Vikram Vilas Durbar Hall, where pride of place goes to a WWI De Havilland DH-9 biplane bomber: General Maharaja Sir Ganga Singh commanded the Bikaner Camel Corps during WWI and was the only non-white member of Britain’s Imperial War Cabinet during the conflict.