Fading Frescoes of Mandawa, Rajasthan

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.

Mandawa fort

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.

You might also want to read:

Kuldhara: Story of an abandoned village in Rajasthan

Important Information

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.

author --
If it wasn't for some dear friends who backed out of a trip to Ladakh, Suman wouldn't have been sharing these travel stories today! It was an eye opener, her first solo trip. Beyond the shenanigans of youthful days, Suman experienced a world of many dimensions. With her words, Suman hopes to share and inspire.

20 thoughts on “Fading Frescoes of Mandawa, Rajasthan

  1. I love knowing about new places. An avid traveler myself, I would love to visit this place for sure adding to our bucket list now. We recently visited Rajasthan hope in next visit we will visit this place too.

  2. I had been to Rajasthan when I was young, but ever heard of Mandawa. This is such a gem. The havelis look so beautiful. The history is so rich. A place to visit for sure.

  3. This looks like a stunning place to visit! Being in Italy most of the year, I’m used to a different type of fresco. I’d love to visit this place one day and see these colours and details for myself.

  4. I’m a sucker for architectural photography! Love your captures of Sneh Ram Ladia Haveli and Murmuria Haveli! India truly has some beautiful hidden destinations – thank you for inspiring us to visit!

  5. All of these look like they would be so beautiful to see! I have never really had the chance to experience a lot of different cultures but I totally need to one day.

  6. I need to go back to Rajasthan soon! The place is indeed a treasure house. It was good to read about the history of Mandawa and see the majestic buildings now fading away.

  7. Beautiful! This place looks truly unique with the paintings and all the colors. Your pictures certainly make it very attractive. The story of the Chowkhani Double Haveli is so interesting, I’d love to know more about what was going on between those two brothers!

  8. I like the architecture and color of this place very much. It looks like a pretty place to visit. Unfortunately, I have not been to India yet, but I hope to visit it one day.

  9. The buildings are so colorful and detailed, except the fort of course. I love that! I find it interesting that Seth Harmukhrai Sanihiram would build a home and have mirror image wings to prevent conflict. I wonder if it worked well or not. I don’t think that is something I would do.

  10. I love the architec, colors and designs of all of these buildings. My son has been to India but I’ve not had the privaledge of traveling there yet.

Do share your thoughts or ask a question here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: