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Shekhawati Travel Guide


The area of Shekhawati covers several villages and towns in north eastern Rajasthan, which can be approached from Bikaner, Jaipur, and Delhi and comprises the Sikar and Jhunijhunu districts. Small towns dot these two districts and contain within themselves some of the most elaborate havelis, stepwells, and temples. When you travel around this region, you stumble across some truly marvelous treasures.

Even today, the entire region of Shekhawati is known for its exquisite frescoes and popularly called the "Open art gallery". No other region, anywhere in the world, has such a large concentrationof frescoes. This is even more interesting as the landscape here is totally bare- flat and colourless.

Rao Shekha, the founder of Shekhawati, came topower at the young age of 12 and established a reign that lasted 43 years. His power grew steadily and he became a force to reckon with in a very short period. The Rajput nobles who ruled over the small thikanas, or fiefdoms, became great patrons of art and financed the frescoes ontheir havelies. Up to the early 19th century the themes were largely religious. Other historical events, personages, battle scenes, and folk heroes were also painted in great detail. These paintings were a record of those times. By the end of the 19th century, there was a slight change inth patroage. The business community, Marwaris, found itself in a position of strength. When the East India Company began to make its presence felt in this part of Rajasthan, it opened several avenues for the hardworking and enterprising Marwari. The volume of trade increased and the Marwaris began to spread their branches all over the country. Even after spending several years away from their homeland, these now successful and wealthy businessmen remained true sons of the soil. While they lived austerely in their adopted cities,they sent back huge sums of money to their families. They spent large sums on the welfare of their community -wells, reservoirs, schools, colleges, dharamshalas and gaushalas were financed. Most of them had left their families behind and they returned to build some huge mansions for them. They were in a position to show off their new status and there was no better way of doing this than commissioning the most intricate frescoes on their havelies. Very soon it became customary to have a painted haveli and the artists were kept busy moving from one village to the next. The demand for these painters kept growing and very soon unskilled painters and masons too began to get involved in the paintings.The themes of these paintings, as mantioned earlier,reflected those times and very soon the purely mythological themes gave way to western influences. Cars,trains,aeroplanes,ships,telephones,foreigners in hats, suits and gowns began to appear on the walls with scenes from Lord Krishna's life.

Most of the villages of Shekhawati have kept their rustic charm intact and a drive around these painted towns can be a wonderful experience. While the painted mansions are certainly the focal point here, don't miss the unique architectural style of the havelis. They are marvels of goods design.Several countryards and inner chambers were designed to keep the women folk safe and comfortable but segregated. From the outside these havelies looked like huge blocks but were so ingeniously planned that they provided adequate protection from the harsh summers. Other monuments to look out for are the step wells, the four-pillared wells, temples and the dharamshalas.

Some of the important towns that should not be missed are Sikar- where the temples of Gopinath,Raghunath and Madan Mohan are intersting as are the Biyani havelies with their unusual blue and white colours. Two other important temples in the vicinity are the Harsh Nath temple and the Jeen Mata temple. The fort for Lachmangarh is one of the most impressive and imposing in Shekhawati. Try to get a bird's eye view of the town below- it has been designed to resemble the planned city of Jaipur. Ramgarh is famous not only for the havelis of the Poddars but also for its rustic wood furniture. Fatehpur has some beautiful frescoes in the Indian as well as western styles. Particularly noteworthy are the Chamariya and Singhania havelies. Khatu Shyamji is more famous for its temple of Shri Shyamji and draws devotees throughout the year. People walk several miles to offer homage at the temple from all over India.

Nawalgarh is home to some of the leading merchant families of the country. This is also the place to find some of the finest frescoes in the entire region. Look for Roop Niwas, Poddar haveli, Saat Haveli, a few old temples,and forts and a heritage hotel. Dundlod is known for its fort and a palace that has been turned into a heritage hotel. The Goenka havelis are also famous. The fort of Mandawa dominates the town and it was one of the earliest heritage hotels in this area. The Chokhani, Ladia and Saraf havelies should be will find something to fascinate you and hold your interest. If carrying excess baggage does not daunt you, then buy the rustic, carved wooden furniture and other items for your home. Quaint little wooden things that belong to the late 19th century, or may be the early 20th century,can be found all over this region. If pots and pans interest you then do look out for some traditional cooking vessels in the markets.

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