Our tryst with Havelis started when, inadvertently, we reached Mandawa on our way to Bikaner. Mandawa is a part of Shekhawati region of Rajasthan which is recognized as the Open-Air Art Gallery of The World due to the largest concentration of the frescos in this region.
The grand Havelis of this region are adorned with murals, intricate artwork, paintings inspired by a mix of Rajput-Mughal-British Architectures, however; truly representing enterprising and entrepreneurial spirit of trader community of the India and specially Rajasthan. The Shekhawati region has produced large number of traders and merchants who are dominant factor in the economy of India since ages controlling major part of Indian Business.
On our road trip to Bikaner and Jaiselmer from Delhi, exploring Havelis was not at all in our plan. During the course of this self-drive road trip when we enter Rajasthan it was, however, just not possible to miss these lavish mansions and that’s what I like about the self drive road tripping as it gives freedom to explore places at will. The en-route presence of these grand and colorful havelis intrigued us to the core and we stopped involuntarily to appreciate these architectural marvels. The Havelis from Shekhawati regions are famous for their frescos depicting theological and historical themes. The colorful frescos on the wall of Havelis and temples depict images of gods, goddesses, animals, and the life of the Hindu gods profusely painted by the commissioned artists.
Our first stop was the fort town of Mandawa in Jhunjhunu District of Rajsthan located on National Highway 11. Once upon time, Mandawa was a trading outpost for the ancient caravan routes that stopped here from China and the Middle East to Delhi Sultanate and towards Ports of Gujarat. Due to this vantage position, merchants from Shekhawati known as Marwaris prospered and they built many grand Havelis as a show of their opulence making entire town of Mandawa looks like a big mural symphony.
Main Havelis of Mandawa:
- Hanuman Prasad Goenka Haveli
- Goenka Double Haveli
- Murmuria Haveli
- Jhunjhunwala Havel
- Mohan Lal Saraf Havel
- Gulab Rai Ladia Haveli
- Aakharam ka Haveli
After leaving Mandawa and moving towards Bikaner, we reached Fatehpur which otherwise is a quaint town but home to some of the best kept Havelis of Shekhawati region. Fatehpur is also home to Nadine Le Prince Haveli Cultural Centre which was originally a haveli and converted & restored into Cultural Centre. This cultural centre is involved in restoring the Havelis and thus preserving unique heritage of Rajasthan.
Main Havelis of Fatehpur:
- The Jagannath Singhania Haveli
- Saraf Haveli
- Sitaram Kedia Haveli
- Hanuman Prasad Nevtia Haveli
- Jwala Prasad Bhartia Haveli
Delicately painted, intricately carved, Havelis of Shekhawati are now the key tourist attractions of Rajasthan and stand tall as priceless pillars of Indian Heritage Treasure. Even after having withstood centuries, they still look gorgeous evoking emotions mixed with pride and awe and a bit of thrill.
Other than Mandawa and Fatehpur, Shekhawati region has other small towns known for Havelis Frescos specially Nawalgarh, Ramgarh, Dundlod, Mukundgarh which we will definitely cover in next road tripping to Rajasthan.
By the time we reached Bikaner in the evening, Havelis of Shekhawati Region had captured a unique positioning in our minds and certainly for every traveler, exploring Havelis in Rajasthan qualifies as a must to do.