Rao Bikaji, son of Rao Jodha Singh, ruler of Jodhpur, created Bikaner in 1488 AD by his energetic efforts and active encouragement of his father. His successors further consolidated and expanded upon his achievements. Bikaji Ki Tekari is a tribute to the founding fathers of the 500-year-old settlement of Bikaner. The Tekari, which houses the royal chhattris was made to commemorate the rulers of Bikaner. It is located just out side the city walls in the vicinity of the old palace (near the present Lakshmi Nathji Temple). It is replete with evidence, which provide insights into the customs and beliefs of the time particularly about the philosophy of life and understanding of the phenomenon of death.
Among the founding fathers of Bikaner who have been commemorated at the Tekari are Rao Bikaji, Rao Nara, Rao Lunakaran and Rao Jetsi, all rulers of Bikaner during the 15th and 16th century AD. The site also reminds one of the early beginnings of the city of Bikaner in its vicinity. The sense of history is further heightened by the presence of structures and spaces that are unique in the present.
Edicts and Engravings are important sources of information about the times in which they were written. The memorial stones of the chhattris in the complex together with those in Devi Kund Sagar constitute an important record in time for the life and times of the rulers of Bikaner. Other than the inscriptions on the memorial stones the complex also has a rich repository of foot impressions, Paduca, of queens of Bikaner. These inscriptions in addition to describing the ruler in whose honour the chhattri was made also give information about his contributions. Social practices like polygamy and sati also find mention in these inscriptions. The old name of the city, Vikramkhandpur /Vikramnagar and Vikrampur, are found mentioned in these inscriptions.
The inscription on Rao Bikaji’s Chhattri mentions the history of the setting up of Rathod Empire at Bikaner with the description of Rao Bikaji, son of Rao Jodha, responding to his fathers call. The inscription also mentions the satis of two wives of Rao Bikaji and 5 secondary wives (bhogya patni) with Rao Bikaji. It also mentions the name of the mother of Rao Bikaji as Naurangade. The other memorial stones also mention these details with respect to the rulers who were commemorated by them.
The complex is a tribute to the rulers of a thriving state. It would have occupied a special place in the cityscape of Bikaner. High plinth, evidence of a gateway, variety of spaces, carved chhattris, niches and jharokas point towards the pre-eminence of the place.
The chattris are located on a hillock that has been expanded using sun dried mud bricks and an outer lining of fired brick wall with lime plaster. Within the complex, various chattris have been made at different levels on raised platforms. The one belonging to Rao Bikaji is made up of marble. The others Chattris are made of red sandstone locally called Dulmera stone. Other buildings in the complex are made of stone masonry, some plastered and others simply white washed. The jharokhas in the rooms are ornate so are some niches.
The complex is entered through iron gates apparently fixed recently during the 5th centenary celebrations of the setting up of Bikaner. The complex is approached by steps leading from the open ground. The steps usher in to the main enclosure of the chhattris. From the relationship of spaces it appears that there would have been a prominent gateway framing this entrance. Some recently repaired rooms on the right appear to have been connected to a larger feature such as a gateway.
As one enters this level a water storage tank lies to the left and a small domed structure plastered in lime fronts the approach. Further to the right is a flight of steps leading to the next higher level. At this level there is a series of three rooms with an ambulatory around the central chamber. Below this level lies a basement with a central room with passage around it accessed through a low height entrance next to the flight of steps leading to the temple level. An intriguing feature is the existence of another set of steps leading from the basement to the temple level, which have now been closed.
Further down as one passes to the left of the small domed structure, a series of rooms with a number of niches appear. These appear to have been used for rites during the elaborate cremation of the ruler. Just behind the small domed structure is a twin chhattri with only one commemorative stone containing inscriptions on dulmera stone. Next to the twin chhattris below the temple level is an entrance to another basement. Another twin chhattris appear further down with two marble commemorative stones. One of the marble stones is broken at the base with the top missing. All the Chhattris face east. On the west of these twin chhattris lies a room with Charan paduca of the queens who committed sati on the pyre of late rulers. Five niches bear the foot engravings of the queens. Unlike the chhattris this room is enclosed by walls and is entered through three door openings. The next level is lower and is accessed by a set of steps. A low height chamber with a low height opening on the outer wall is intriguing. Toward the southern end are three rooms one decorated with Araish. This appears to have been the waiting quarters for the members of the royal family attending the funeral. Rao Bikaji’s Chhattri of marble stands at this level.
Bikaji Ki Tekari, a collection of cenotaphs of the early rulers of Bikaner including its founder Rao Bikaji, is protected by the Department of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Rajasthan. However the complex had been neglected, misused by the locals as well as subjected to various weathering agents. Over the years many additions, alterations and also repair works have been carried out at the complex. All this has modified the over all character of the place. In spite of the fact that the place has great significance, it does not figure prominently in the itinerary of visitors to the city largely due to absence of proper interpretation and promotion of the site as well as lack of proper access roads to the complex.
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