The Shekhawati region of Rajasthan consists of areas falling under Jhunjhunu, Sikar, Churu, Nagaur and Jaipur. The jewel of Shekhawati region is Mandawa – a sleepy town surrounded by the Thar Desert, maze-like lanes, fields of bright yellow mustard and beautifully painted havelis.
At first glance, Mandawa looks like any other village in India. But as you go deep inside the labyrinth of unnamed streets that you realise the cultural and historical relevance of the place.
Lifeline of Shekhawati region
The village of Mandawa was once the lifeline of the Shekhawati Silk Route and was beaming with trade opportunities. But with time as the importance of the Gujarat port decreased the merchants of Mandawa shifted base to cities like Bombay, Calcutta and Madras. In the 19th and 20th century, Britishers provided safe trading opportunities to anyone who were willing to relocate to these upcoming trade markets. The Marwaris of Mandawa with an acumen for business seized this opportunity and left for greener pastures. Over the next 200 years, as their wealth increased, the merchants of Mandawa started investing on their ancestral havelis with detailed frescoes. Most of them never returned, the opulent havelis were left at the hands of caretakers. Years of neglect has left the havelis in a dilapidated state.
Reminisce of a Bygone Era
The artistic representation of the frescoes shows communal harmony, technological progress, religious sentiments and the affects of acculturation. The paintings are not only of Hindu Gods and Goddesses but also of ordinary people. The painted Havelis of Mandawa also adorn the walls with delicate flower motifs, images of an English lifestyle and characters from Indian mythology.
Havelis of Mandawa
1. Chowkhani Double Haveli
Seth Harmukhrai Sanihiram was a wise and an intelligent man. He made the Chowkhani Double Haveli as two identical wings. To avoid conflict between his two sons, he made everything a mirror image of each other.
2. Sneh Ram Ladia Haveli
One of the well preserved Haveli in Mandawa, Sneh Lal Ladia Haveli is famous for beautiful wall paintings in natural colours depicting images of Gods and Goddesses. The interior of the Haveli has a courtyard with arched doors and windows with blue motifs decorating its edges. The entrance next to the ‘Baithak’ [sitting area] has a fresco of an elephant and a horse surrounded by smaller paintings of human figures. The painted Havelis of Mandawa is a reminder of rich artistic talent found in this region.
3. Mohan Lal Sarraf Haveli
Restoration work is in progress at Mohan Lal Sarraf Haveli as the new owners are preparing to turn this into a heritage hotel. This haveli has one of the most beautiful doors with intricate metal and woodwork.
4. Golden Painted Roof Haveli
A golden colour gate is hard to miss in by-lanes of a small town. The golden painted roof Haveli is much talked about as the frescos are made with real gold. Most of the gold has been scrapped off from the murals, what is left is just a reminder of the glorifying days of the ‘Seths of Mandawa’.
5. Murmuria Haveli
East meets west at Murmuria Haveli, here you will find scenes of European lifestyle and Indian culture amalgamated in one. Balu Ram, considered to the last surviving artist who painted Havelis is behind the art work at Murmuria Haveli.
Now a heritage hotel, Castle Mandawa bears testimony to the erstwhile Thakurs of a bygone era. This 240 years old fortress was built by Thakur Nawal Singh Bahadur. With huge archways, antique furniture, expensive paintings, detailed mirror work and a beautiful rectangular turquoise pool makes Castle Mandawa the perfect vacation spot.
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How to reach:
By Train – the nearest railway station is Churu which is around 42kms away from Mandawa. Local transport is available from the station for Mandawa. We took the Salasar Superfast train at 7:05 am and then upon reaching at 12. 10 pm hired an auto for Rs. 600 but cheaper option will be to take a bus.
By Road – There is no direct bus to Mandawa from any of the major cities. The best option is to reach Churu by bus then change for Mandawa. If you are driving from Delhi then take NH 334B via Rohtak – Bhiwani – Loharu – Chirawa – Jhunjunu – Mandawa.
By Air – Nearest airport is at Jaipur which around 169 kms away.
Best time to visit:
The best time to visit Mandawa is in winters – October to March. Summers are extremely hot and best be avoided as temperatures sours to 45°C.
Where to stay:
Luxury – Castle Mandawa and Desert Resort
Mid – Range – Hotel Shahi Palace
Budget – Hotel Mandawa Palace and Hotel Shekhawati
Should I hire a guide?
It depends on you, we hired a guide for Rs.300 [Half day] to show us around. Don’t expect them to tell you much about the history of the place as most people claiming to be guides are locals and self taught. But its easier to get around the town if you have a local along with you.
Rakesh Sharma – 91+9929263850
Amit – 91+9785488715
Where else I can go from Mandawa:
You should definitely visit Nawalgarh and Dundlod as they are within 40 kms of Mandawa. If you have time then visit Fatehpur, Mukundgarh, Parsurampura, Churu and Jhunjunu in the Shekhawati region.