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Shekhawati

The Shekhawati region in Rajasthan is famous around the world for its magnificent Havelis (mansions) and outstanding murals painted on their walls, testifying the unique craftsmanship of Rajasthani artists. In a riot of colors and grandeur Shekhawati encapsulates the true spirit of this vibrant landscape its people and culture.

Shekhawati is spread across the Jhunjhunu, Churu and Sikar districts in Rajasthan and is regarded as an 'open air art gallery' due to the abundance of gorgeous Havelis with intricate frescoes.

The main towns in the Shekhawati region are Jhunjhunu, Fatehpur, Ramgarh, Nawalgarh, and Mandawa. Shekhawati is special for a traveller as it is one region that still retains its identity while not being overrun by commercial tourism paraphernalia and provides a glimpse of the 'real' Rajasthani culture.

The semi desert region of Shekhawati gets its name from Rao Shekha of the Kachhwaha clan. Shekhaji was born to Mokal Ji after the blessings of a Muslim saint, Sheikh Burhan, after whom he was named. His successors are known as Shekhawat. This clan is one of the 65 branches of the Kachhwaha clan of Jaipur. Shekhaji was a great warrior who ruled from 1433 AD to 1488 AD. He declared himself free from Amber in 1471 AD and his descendants ruled Shekhawati independently for the following 500 years. He made Amarsar his capital. Later Rao Lukaran founded Manoharpur now known as Shahpura. The Rao of Shahpura is the present head of Shekhawat clan.

Although independent, Shekhawats retained their loyality to the Amber rulers and were honoured with the title of Tazimi Sirdars. During their reign, the Shekhawats built around 50 forts and palaces in Shekhawati.

Havelis:

Their magnificent architecture, intricate carvings and grandeur of the Rajasthani Havelis is a visual treat. During the 15th century, many trading posts were built around this region and merchants became very wealthy and started building great mansions or 'Havelis' and step-wells as a symbol of growing wealth and pride; the Havelis were decorated with beautiful carvings and paintings based on mythology, legends, local rulers, British royals, and glimpses of life. The fresco art form involved a lot of effort and extensive material usage on the walls. Clay, lime, mortar, lime dust, sour buttermilk, jiggery (raw cane sugar) and binding agents like tempera, camel fat, gum were used as raw material. Colours were obtained from natural sources: blue (indigo), red (brick powder), orange (saffron), white (chalk), green, yellow (iron containing sediments).

Subjects of these frescoes were floral in the beginning. Artistically carved flowers, tendrils and leaves were painted on the walls, domes, gateways and arches. The main entrances were adorned with mythological figures like Krishna in 'raas lila', Lord Shiva, Indra and other Hindu Gods. The marriage processions of Gods and scenes from epics were also common.

At the turn of 19th century the focus shifted to British rule and culture. Subjects like painting the royals, scenes of locomotives, cars, trains, bicycles, telephones, gramophones and balloons started to find their way in between typical Rajasthani scenes.

Some of the paintings are an interesting fusion of the mythical and colonial influence juxtaposing British personality with mythical gods!!!

Step-wells of Shekhawati:

Shekhawati has many step-wells also known as Bawdi or Baoli. These step-wells are deep and steep wells with steps leading to the water storage well. Step-wells were introduced in Rajasthan to conserve water. They became an example of traditional architecture due to their typical Rajasthani style of construction.

To understand and appreciate the beauty and treasures of Shekhawati, a traveller needs to be patient and ready  to walk through the streets and take time to look closely at the Havelis, befriend the caretakers to learn about the history and get a chance to step inside some of them. With the passage of time some of the Havelis have been turned into heritage hotels, some of the gems have been restored with the loving care and attention of its owner. Then again there are also some which are sadly decaying after the owners have migrated in search of greener pastures.
Havelis
The mansions built by the rich merchants of Shekhawati are truly unique and impressive. Adorned with beautiful frescoes which can be seen in countless Havelis, temples and forts around this region in Fatehpur, Jhunjhunu, Mandawa, Nawalgarh, Churu. The frescoes depict various themes like war, portraits of the local rulers, means of transport, floral motifs with bright colours.
Dundlod Town
Situated in Jhunjhnu district, it has a fort which is an amalgamation of Mughal and Rajput style of architecture. Constructed by Kesari Singh in1750 AD, its interiors are a curious blend of artefacts from Europe and Rajasthan. Stained glass windows and Louis XIV furniture adorns the fort and the walls are covered with traditional Rajasthani motifs and scenes from Indian mythological stories. There is beautiful cenotaph of Ram Dutt Goenka next to the fort. A fresco encircles the dome which shows Krishna indulging in dance with Gopis. Musicians and peacocks also form a part of this painting. The War of Mahabharata is painted on the inner lower side. Another interesting Haveli is the Bhagirath Mal Goenka Haveli with mirror work windows and paintings typically in round frames. Satyanarayan Temple constructed by the Goenka family has towering fresco of British personnel riding on cars and cycles.
Mandwa
Located 190 km from Jaipur this town lies in the centre of the Shekhavati region. Its main fort was built in the 18th century. The fort has a large gateway with a painting of Lord Krishna and the cow herds. The entire town is dotted with colourful frescoes covering a vast range of topics like religion, eroticism and legends. British influence is also visible in many frescoes. Castle Mandawa, now a heritage hotel, has beautiful family portraits, brightly painted frescoes and palanquin roofed balconies. Goenka Haveli: Built in 1870 in Mandawa, the Goenka Haveli has beautifully painted walls. Many paintings depict the life of Shri Krishna. There are paintings of royals reminding the grandeur of the bygone era. There is a painting of Lord Shiva on Nandi the bull and Lord Indra on his elephant, Airavat. Murmuria Haveli: This Haveli was built in the Mandawa region in 1850 AD in a blend of east and west. This Haveli has pictures of George V and Pandit Nehru on horseback with Indian flag in hand. There is a picture of city of Venice, a train and Lord Krishna with his cows in an English backdrop!! Another attraction is the Gulab Rai Ladia Haveli which has defaced erotic frescoes. There is a Shiva temple of Bhag Chand Ka with natural rock crystal shiva lingam. Other Havelis worth visiting are Akherma ki Haveli, Bansidhar Haveli, Saraf haveli, Ladia Haveli and cenotaphs.
Sikar
This was the largest Thikana under the Jaipur royals. It is famous for its forts and temples. Harshnath temple was made in the 10th century atop the Harsh Nath hill. The temples of Harshnath, Gopinath and Jeen Mata are famous for their beautiful frescoes. Khatu Shyam Ji temple: This temple is famous amongst Krishna devotees and is dedicated to Pandava Bhim's grandson Barbareek. Lachhmangarh Fort: This fort was built on scattered pieces of many huge rocks. Located in Sikar, this is a small fort offering a rustic view of Sikar city. Rao Raja Laxman Singh of Sikar Thikana built the fort in early 19th century. Beside the Laxmangarh fort, there are many Havelis like Char Chowk Haveli, Chetram Sanganeeria Haveli, Rathi Haveli and Shyonarayan Kyal Haveli. Fatehpur: Now a part of the Sikar district, Nawab Fateh Khan established Fatehpur in 1451 AD. It was taken over by the Shekhavats during 18th century. It is famous for the Sri Laxmi Nath temple. It has some beautifully painted Havelis. Vishnu Nath Kedia Haveli: Famous for some interesting paintings like Krishna playing a gramophone to entertain his lover Radha and Queen Victoria and King George of England in Indian backdrop!! Nand Lal Devra Haveli: This Haveli is a fine example of fresco art form. Now known as Haveli Nadine after its owner French artist Nadine Le Prince, this place has been restored by extensive efforts. One can see beautiful and intricate Rajasthani motifs recreating the magic of the old Rajput era. Other Havelis with Frescoes are Ganeriwal Haveli, Poddar Haveli and Saraogi Haveli.
Churu
Ratangarh fort: This huge fort was built by Bikaner ruler Raja Ratan Singhji. Today its ruins are seen in the town. The town has many attractive Havelis around the clock tower like the Poddar Haveli, Vaidnath Haveli, Bhuwalka Haveli. Churu has the beautiful Surana, Kothari and Bagla Havelis also. Tal Chappar-Sanctuary Tal Chappar is a refuge of the most elegant Antelope encountered in India, "the Black buck". It is situated in North-Western Rajasthan, in the path of the migratory passage of many birds; the most impressive being especially the harriers, including Montagur's Harriers, Marsh Harriers, Pale Harriers and Hen Harriers. Other commonly seen birds in the sanctuary include Imperial Eagles, Tawny Eagles, Short-toed Eagle, Sparrow Hawks, Skylarks, Crested Larks, Brown Doves, Green Bee-eaters, Black Ibis and Demoiselle Cranes, which stay here till March. The sanctuary, dotted by shallow, low-lying areas, has a swathe of open grassland with scattered acacia and the spiny prosopis shrubs. Salasar Balaji temple: This temple is located in Churu district. Famous amongst the Hanuman devotees it has large fairs on Chaitra Purnima and Ashvin Purnima.
Nawalgarh
Founded in 18th century, this town has two old forts and few aesthetically painted Havelis. The main fort is the Bala Kila Fort and the fort that served as the outpost is the Fatehgarh fort. Anandilal Poddar Haveli: Situated in Nawalgarh, this Haveli was built in 1902. It has beautiful paintings, frescoes and murals. The paintings are inspired by the Krishna 'raas-lila'. There are paintings of royal men, cars, arches and pillars. Aath Haveli: Located in Nawalgarh, this haveli has some of the most beautiful frescoes. Huge paintings of elephants, horses, camels and a steam engine are main attractions. Other Havelis worth visiting are Kulwal Haveli, Murarka, Jhunjhunwala and Chaucharia havelis.
Jhunjhunu
Named after Jujhar Singh, this town was once ruled by the Kaimkhani nawabs. Later Shekhawats conquered it and built many forts here. Mukundgarh Fort: Now a heritage hotel, it was constructed by Raja Mukund Singh in 18th century. Badalgarh Fort: Constructed by Nawab Fazal Khan, this was earlier called the Fazalgarh Fort. It was originally built as a horse stable. Its massive size attracts many to this fort. Khetri Mahal: In 1770, this fort was built by Bhopal Singh. It has marble pillars and openings to allow free flow of air. It is said to be inspired by Hawa Mahal of Jaipur. Mertaniji Ki Baoli: It is an ancient structure with steps descending through the arches. It is a step-well made by the widow of Shekhavat Sardul Singh. These wells amidst the desert region served as centre to collect water for daily needs. Forster Ganj: Established by British army Major Henry Forster, this was a British settlement which had a temple and a mosque constructed by him. Other important forts are Surajgarh Fort, Zorawargarh and Shekhavat Chhatris site which is a group of cenotaphs. It now has a school. Temples include Rani Sati Ji temple and Bihariji temple. Modi Havelis: There are two Havelis near the Khetri Mahal. The Eastern Haveli has paintings of a blue saree clad lady sitting with a gramophone. Legends of Krishna and paintings of rabbits are interesting to watch. There is a painting of a train being escorted by soldiers. The Western Haveli has paintings showing different moustaches and turbans worn by people. Tibrewal Haveli: This Haveli is extremely famous for its frescoes, some of which are done in gold with gold leaf. Two trains crossing each other, a man tying his turban as the other holds a mirror for him are some of the pieces showing the changing times.
Mahansar
Sona Ki Dukan Haveli is situated in Mahansar and has exquisite Meenakari and gold leaf work. Raghunath temple which has paintings from Bikaner School of Art is another attraction.

Shekhawati paintings are the best buys. These are made on paper and cloth and are unique to this region.

Furniture like low chairs, tables, stools, cupboards can also be bought. These are decorated with traditional carvings and paintings.

Shekhvati Festival:

Shekhavati has its own festival to promote the region. Held on 10-11 February each year, this festival is a joint effort by the State tourism department and local administration. It is held in various towns like Sikar, Jhunjhunu, Churu, though Nawalgarh is the centre of this festival. A tour of the Shekhavati region is organised on jeep safaris or horse back rides for visitors to give them a glimpse of local life. Many competitions and cultural shows are held along with rural games to entertain visitors. Evening fireworks are held And there is always a farmers exihibition of the agricultural revolution in this region.

Khatu Shyam Ji Fair:

This is organised for three days in either February or March as per Hindu lunar calendar. Devotees throng this temple for the Jadula Ceremony (head shave) of their children and seek the blessings of Lord Krishna.

Nearby places Train stations Airports
SANGANER AIRPORT 167 Km 02H 57m
Jhunjhunun 32 Km 00H 46m
Nearby major cities
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153 Km 02H 39m
186 Km 03H 18m
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Holding the grand legacy of a royal past, Jaipur is an integral part of the world famous Golden Triangle alongside Delhi and Agra. The famous Pink City of Rajasthan is a vibrant collage of grand palaces, desert culture and a rich history of Rajputana.
186 Km 03H 18m
242 Km 04H 13m
India's capital Delhi is the hub of the country, a modern international metropolis. However the twin cities of Old and New Delhi represent two contrasting culture and aesthetics of Mughal and British sensibilities. Delhi is embedded with an astonishing array of forts, tombs, mosques and government buildings constructed over the past 1,000 years, three of those declared as UNESCO World Heritage Mounments, i.e. Qutub Minar, Humanyun's Tomb and Red Fort(Lal Quila).. For enthusiasts of architecture
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Very hot in Summer with the mercury shooting up to 44°C at times. Starting from pre Winter months till the Summer arrives (October - March ) is the best time to visit.
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