As we arrrived in Bikaner it reminded me of Rayagada in that it was noisy, dirty, bussling with traffic. It was clearly the poorest of the cities we visited in Rajasthan, with numerous beggars on the streets. But at its heart is an old city, market and fort.
Thank goodness we took a guide for the old city, it is a maze,a warren of tiny streets. Our guide knew his stuff and we found ourselves being shown all the old houses/ havelis with their marvellous architectural mix.
Many of the havelis are now private residences only occupied for part of the year if at all, and one has been transformed into a top class hotel, its plush interior looking very out of place compared to the outside streets. The city still has open water/waste disposal ducts running along the side of the buildings.
The havelis are not necessarily that old,many are 20th century constructions but they reflect the traditional lattice work and stoner carvings we have seen elsewhere whilst looking a bit redbrick! In addition, here in Bikaner many of the walls were painted with frescos.
Every street has what can only be described as a large outdoor table. This is where people come to meet and talk. People sit on the table “holding court” as others stand around it. It is where matters get sorted out. It made me recall the constructions I saw in Dogon villages of Mali which were very similar, but there people sat below, in the shade. Those were purposefully only made 3 feet or so tall so no physical arguments would break out as people gathered together underneath to resolve village disputes .
The Jain temple was covered in paintings in the inside and paintwork on the outside.