With an area of 30,000 sq km, Shekhawati is a semi – desert area located in the northeastern part of Rajasthan. Its USP is its array of early 20th century havelis (mansions), each profusely decorated with frescoes. On your vacation tour to Shekhawati you can visit the wonderful buildings adorned with beautiful wall paintings constructed by the Rajputs and Marwari traders. Mansions, temples, wells and cenotaphs all are entirely covered with frescoes. The area has been rightly called an `Open Air Art Gallery’, and with good reason.
Shekhawati derives its name from a local medieval chieftain called Rao Shekha, and forms part of the Marwar subdivision of Rajasthan. The place is known for its excellent vegetarian cuisine and its businessmen. Gifted with business acumen, a large number of Marwaris made their way to the metropolises of Bombay and Calcutta during the 18th and 19th centuries. There they amassed huge wealth and showed it off back home. Nearly all of them built stunning havelis. The word haveli meaning ‘an enclosed place’ is of Persian origin. All these features of the Shekhawati region make it a must visit on your Rajasthan travel.
Shekhawati lay on an important caravan route, which connected Delhi and Sind (now in Pakistan) with the Gujarati coast. The merchant Marwari and Rajputs landowners of its small market towns prospered as a result of flourishing trade and taxes from the through traffic. These Marwaris competed with each other to construct grand, profusely decorated havelis.
Shekhawati today is famous for its havelis, richly frescoed structures. On your Shekhawati travel you can explore the towns and villages that form a part of the region. The main towns are Nawalgarh, Mandawa, Jhunjhunu, Fatehpur, Dundlod and Mukandgarh. And in each of these are dozens of havelis, most of them pretty similar. There are some, however, that are a cut above the rest, and if you want to see good, well-maintained (and sometimes delightful) frescoes, these are places you should include in your itinerary.
In both Mandawa and Nawalgarh, check out the Chokhani havelis; the inner apartments of the havelis are closed to the public, but the façades are extensively painted. Within Mandawa, by at the Jhunjhunwala haveli, which boasts of a room profusely painted in gold. There is literally one haveli down every street, and exploring these delightful mansions is an experience we enjoy thoroughly as we sweat our way through the dusty towns and villages dotting this area. Mukandgarh, Fatehpur, Nawalgarh, Mandawa, Jhunjhunu — each has its share of havelis, which you can visit on your vacation tour to Shekhawati.
All the main towns of Shekhawati lie within 15 or 20 kilometers of each other, a manageable enough area as far as distances are concerned; you needn’t travel much to reach the next major attraction. Shekhawati is crossed by a mainline railway, linking the major towns with Delhi, Jaipur and Bikaner. This is really a blessing for those planning for a vacation tour to Shekhawati.
It is better traveling into the region by bus. From Jaipur, the first town in Shekhawati you come to is Sikar, an unprepossessing market town two hours away by road (110km) that’s only worth stopping in to pick up transport northwest to Nawalgarh, where you’ll find better hotels and a more relaxed, rural atmosphere. Buses also run from Jaipur to Fatehpur (48km north of Sikar) – approaching from Bikaner, this will almost certainly be your point of arrival. Travelling from Delhi, the first town in Shekhawati worth stopping at is Jhunjhunu (245km southwest of Delhi and 180km north of Jaipur).
Vacation Tour to Shekhawati and Places to Visit
25km north of Sikar, Nawalgarh was founded in 1737 by Nawal Singh. It is home to some of the best-preserved havelis and finest frescoes in the Shekhawati region.
Nawalgarh is the hometown of the wealthy and influential Poddar family, merchants who migrated to Bombay and became famous industrialists. One of gates of Nawalgarh, formerly the Nansa Gate, has been renamed after Ramilas Poddar.
The famous havelis of the town include Aath Haveli, Surajmal Chhauchharia Haveli, Goenka Haveli, Anandi Lal Poddar Haveli. Built in 1920 and now a school, Lal Poddar Haveli is one of the few havelis in Shekhawati to have been restored by its owner to its original glory. Nawalgarh is a must to visit place while on your vacation tour to Shekhawati.
Dundlod and Parasrampura
The most obvious destination for a day-trip from Nawalgarh is nearby Dundlod, 8km north and the site of a fort dating back to 1750 and some beautiful havelis. The fort, like most others in the region, has been converted into a luxury hotel. The beautiful Chhatri of Ram Dutt Goenka is worth a visit.
20 km southeast of Nawalgarh lies the serene hamlet of Parasrampura which is dotted with some beautiful painted buildings. Visit the Gopinath temple. The temple was built in 1742 with murals depicting scenes of hell torments. Visit also the chhatri of Rajul Singh.
Established in 1451, Fatehpur once served as the capital of Fateh Khan, a Muslim Khaimkani Nawab. But the Shekhawat Rajputs, who took control in the 18th century, were responsible for the ostentatiously decorated havelis lining nearly every street.
The most famous of Fatehpur’s havelis is the 19th century Goenka Haveli. Other havelis include Nand lal Devra haveli and Singhania haveli.
Located midway between Jhunjhunu and Fatehpur, Mandawa was founded by the Shekhawats in 1755. The famous havelis of this busy town are Goenka Double Haveli, Nand lal Murmuria haveli, Chokhani Double Haveli, Gulab Rai Wadia Haveli, and Bansidhar Newatia Haveli. Both the outer and inner walls of these havelis have brilliantly carved murals.
This small town is home to one of the most formidable forts in the Shekhawati region, built in the early 19th century. The city is laid out on a grid pattern which makes its easy to find the way. Though one of the least visited towns, it has some attractive buildings. Chief among them are Rathi haveli, Char chowk haveli, Chokhani haveli and Sanwat Ram.
The town was established in 1768. The most celebrated of the havelis here is the Sone-Chandi ki Dukan dating back to 1846. Its intricate paintings contain gold leaf. It also depicts scenes from the Ramayana incarnations of Vishnu on the center one, and scenes from the life of Krishna.
It takes its origin in 1791. Among the places of interest of this small town are Shanicharji temple, Ramgopal Poddar chhatri and group of Poddar chhatris.