Rajasthan is known for its Royal Havelis and Forts and exploring Rajasthan is like time traveling to a era of romance and valor. If one region of Rajasthan was to define the Rajputana’s lavish lifestyle then it should always be the Shekhawati Region.
In short, Shekhawati is Rajasthan’s art gallery. For those who haven’t heard of this place the region comprises of Jhunjhunu, Sikar, Churu and Nagaur that has given us some of the well-known business families he Dalmias, the Goenkas among the few. I reach Sikar in a rusty deluxe bus where I stayed for the night. After exploring this not-so-small town I left for Jhunjhunu or to be precise Nawalgarh. After learning about Mandwa and the glorious havelis, I left Pushkar to reach Ajmer and take a bus to Nawalgarh.
Nawalgarh was founded by Nawal Singh in the year 1737. Nawalgarh is a small town, that can be best enjoyed on foot. One must remember that most of these Havelis have individual tickets. Morarka Haveli is the center point of Nawalgarh and the place is cluttered with Guides. If you are a solo traveler and mostly interested in exploring the place and enjoying the beauty of this place then you can avoid this place for starters and explore on your own.
One can guess that the owners made these Havelis with immense love and must have taken a lot of time. The paintings and artwork is absolutely stunning and intricate.
Understanding a Haveli
Haveli stands for ‘an enclosed space’ in Persian but it seems that residents of Shekhawati took it in absolutely opposite way.
Every Haveli has a huge entrance made of solid door enclosed by an arched gateway. While the wooden door is mostly locked, a smaller carved wooden door serves as the entrance. The outer courtyard is known as Mardana and there is a baithak (sitting area) on either side of Mardana. Here the owner of the house used to receive visitors. Baithak area is designed intricately with stained glass and lovely artwork.
Mardana is separated by a space and the room that follows is called Zanana where women of the house would sit. A lot of havelis would have a balcony (duchatta) adjoining Zanana from where the women would look on the proceedings in Mardana without being seen by the men.
Art in Nawalgarh and Shekhawati is not limited only with Havelis. Small shops and houses have followed this trend and have decorated their walls with finest paintings. This is what makes this region an open art gallery.
Ath Haveli stands for series of 6 havelis made in 1900 and are rented for marriages and private parties. The art here has lost its charm. To me it seems that lack of maintenance have ruined the art and the beauty.
Many of these paintings have diminished in quality with dirt and fallen paints from the wall. A lot are just reminders of a glorious past and a present where no one cares about the condition they exist in today. A stench of tourist vandalism pollutes the air.
Poddar Haveli is one of the most beautiful havelis in the region. This Haveli is also a museum with rare and priceless artifacts on display. The caretaker, if not busy, will happily show you individual rooms displaying musical instruments, models of forts, headgear, swords, etc. The art work theme of this haveli is quite different than its counter parts. The pillars are designed in most precise manner and the details are simply a feast to the eyes.
Nawalgarh served as a starting point for Shekhawati. For solo travelers this place is quiet unaffordable so it’s ideal to take a daily bus to and from Sikar, if managable.
If time allows you can also visit Nawalgarh Fort, Bhagat Haveli and a few more places but it is okay to skip them too as they simply becomes repetitive.