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Shekhawati

Popularly known as the open art gallery of Rajasthan, Shekhawati is an invaluable contribution of the Marwari traders of Rajasthan. This semi-desert region is known for its colourfully painted havelis (mansions) that are commendable pieces of the great artistic tradition of Shekhawati. The name Shekhawati literally translates into ’the land of Shekha’s clan’—a name derived from Rao Shekha of the 15th century and a scion of Kachhwaha family of Jaipur. The region extends over two districts of Rajasthan, namely, Jhunjhunu and Sikar. Most of the havelis were constructed between AD 1750 and 1930 by the Marwaris, but successive droughts forced many of these families to leave the state. For a long period, these havelis remained in sheer neglect and started crumbling when one or two wealthy Marwaris took the initiative in restoring them. The money flowed in the next few decades and the entire region attained great touristic value.

The architectural style of the havelis or mansions here evolved mostly around the courtyard. This was done to ensure safety and privacy of the womenfolk from the extreme summers of the region. Most of the havelis are painted in many colours like indigo, yellow, green, maroon, and blue and beautiful wall paintings adorn the walls.

Sightseeing:

Mandawa:

Mandawa is a small town in the heart of Shekhawati region. The place is known not only for its havelis but also for its Fort Palace. The structure of the palace reminds of the cultural and social importance of this region in the past. Of the havelis, the most important are the Chokhani, Ladia, Binsidhar Newatia, and Gulab Rai Ladia Haveli. Another haveli, the Binsidhar Newatia Haveli, is known for its curious paintings. There is a painting of a boy holding a telephone and a European woman in a car driven by a chauffeur. The Gulab Rai Ladia Haveli is famous for its erotic images, now mostly defaced.

Nawalgarh:

Nawalgarh is famous for its fort that was built in AD 1737 by Thakur Nawal Singh. The Bala Qila has a kiosk with beautiful ceiling paintings while the Roop Nivas Palace has now been converted into a hotel. Like Mandawa, Nawalgarh too has a number of important havelis including Anandi Lal Poddar Haveli, Aath Haveli, Hem Raj Kulwal Haveli, Bhagton Ki Haveli, and Khedwal Bhavan.

Excursions From Shekhawati:

Dundlod:
Situated around 30 south-east of Mandawa, Dundlod has many havelis such as Jathia Haveli, and Tuganram Goenka Haveli. However, Dundlod is better known for its fort and palace. Another famous attraction here is the Satyanarayan Temple.

Fatehpur:
Established in 1451 as the capital of the Muslim Nawabs, Fatehpur was taken over by the Rajputs of the Shekhawati region in the 18th century. The main attractions here are the Mahavir Prasad Goenka Haveli, the Gauri Shankar Haveli, the Nand Lal Devra Haveli, the Harikrishnan Das Sarogi Haveli, and a 17th-century baoli or step-well.

Jhunjhunu:
The district headquarters of the same name is also the largest city in the Shekhawati region. Founded by the Kaimkhani Nawabs in the 15th century, the place was taken under control by Rajput ruler Sardul Singh in 1730. The main attractions of the city include the Khetri Mahal, the Bihariji Temple, the Modi Haveli, and the Kaniram Narsinghdas Tiberwala Haveli.

Lakshmangarh:
Lakshmangarh was founded in the early 19th century on the model of Jaipur. There are fine havelis including the grand Ganeriwala with its four courtyards.

Ramgarh:
Ramgarh was settled by the Poddars in the late 18th century. Apart from the havelis, there are beautiful chhatris (cenotaphs) with painted entrances and the temples of Shani and Ganga.

Sikar:
Founded in the late 17th century, Sikar was the largest ‘thikana’ (feudal state) under Jaipur. The fort and temples of Gopinath, Raghunath and Madan Mohan with commendable frescoes are worth visiting. The jubilee Hall, Madho Niwas Kothi, Biwani Haveli, Sodhani Haveli, the Jain temple and a large market are other places of interest.

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