Shekhawati : India's Open Art Gallery

Old Jan 28th, 2016, 05:11 PM
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Shekhawati : India's Open Art Gallery

Here's a short account of my short trip to the Shekhawati area last year in August. I highly recommend a visit to Shekhawati, the painted havelis or mansions are absolutely beautiful, the towns are interesting and very old world, plus it's not too far from delhi or jaipur. A detour of a couple of days from the touristy path would be well rewarded.

Here's a blog account with pictures :

Shekhawati was always on the bucket list, but never imagined I would go there during the summer. I was in Delhi during the month on July for work, and had a free weekend, so I just booked a train ticket to go to Shekhawati! Turned out to be a great idea, I barely spent 2 days, but was totally worth it.

Places I went to: Mahansar, Ramgarh, Fatehpur, all splendid!

Accommodation: Stayed at the Narayan Niwas Castle in Mahansar, can’t recommend it enough. The castle was amazing(it was a real castle), the food was great(home-made, straight from the owner’s kitchen, ask them to make their local specialities), the host were really nice and friendly, the location was good, prices too were good.

I took a train to Churu, got a taxi to take me to Narayan Niwas Castle. My room was pretty awesome, and the views over the terrace of the countryside were great too. The owner set me up with a very knowledgeable local guide who showed me around the havelis in the area. The Poddar Golden haveli is one of it’s kind, and was my favorite one in the entire trip. He also showed me the Tola Ram Ka Kamra and the Raghunath Temple, all very interesting. Afternoons were hot, only to be spent inside.

In the evening we went to Ramgarh, an important town in Shekhawati. A typical dusty old Rajasthani town, very old-world with camels riding and people in turbans and havelis all over, everywhere! We checked out the Singhania/Goenka Havelis, absolutely stuning from the outside. The guide took me one of his secret finds, deep inside a long abandoned dusty haveli, but with wonderful pieces of art. The outside of the havelis were well done as well, with trains and bridges and elephants painted well. We also checked some of the cenotaphs of one of the haveli-families, probably the Poddars. The ladoos at a local haveli were great. Overall, the town left a great impression, but I would just prefer the castle at Mahansar to stay, it’s so calm! Enjoyed a great sunset from the castle walls, had a great local dinner, enjoyed the breeze at night on terrace(which feels great after a hot day) and had a good night’s sleep.

Started the day with a good local crumbled bajra rotla-yoghurt breakfast, took the train to Fatehpur (but I wouldn’t really depend on the train a lot, it gets late). Today was supposed to be another haveli marathon, havelis different and special in their own ways( the rule, you see one,you see all doesn’t apply here). Started with the Devda Haveli, which was good and had good views of the town, next was the Prince Nadine haveli, which was a beautifully restored haveli, you get a good guided tour of the haveli, although touristy, this haveli is certainly worth checking out, the interiors, exteriors all are really well done. There’s another haveli very close to the Prince Nadine, which too is worth checking. The Kedia Haveli close to the bus station was also an interesting one, painted with different colors.

Came back to Mahansar by bus and auto-rickshaw, had another great lunch, got some rest and left for Churu to take my train back to Delhi. There are some interesting havelis in Churu as well, but was too heat sapped to check anything out. While returning to Delhi, the train passed through some interesting Shekhawati countryside, we were caught in a brief sandstorm as well, turning out to be an interesting experience.

So yes, Shekhawati is a brilliant place, I toured only the Churu region, the Nawalgarh region too is on the bucketlist. Was a very satisfying trip, especially the stay at the Narayan Niwas Castle and the guided tour they offered(Rs.1000 for 4-5 hours).
ashwinb is offline  
Old Jan 29th, 2016, 03:44 AM
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Lovely photos and great report! Thanks for sharing this -- added to the "someday" list!
progol is online now  
Old Jan 30th, 2016, 02:22 PM
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I really enjoyed your photos and blog.

We were in Shekawati on one of our trips to india and I agree it's a fascinating place to visit and not much discussed here on Fodors, the havelis are truly fascinating. i particularly liked one with images of the British colonialist including one of Queen Victoria!
welltraveledbrit is offline  
Old Jan 30th, 2016, 05:04 PM
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Thanks a lot!
Shekhawati certainly should be a top destinations, considering the sites it's got to offer. And now the infrastructure too is much better.
ashwinb is offline  
Old Feb 1st, 2016, 10:48 PM
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Thank you for this, Ashwin! The area, and places you stayed, sound great! How was the weather in July?
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Old Feb 3rd, 2016, 05:58 AM
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It was quite hot, about 39 degree celsius during the day, but the evenings and nights were pleasant. I think august is better than july, it would have rained a little by then and cooled down a little as well. The weather's just a little warmer than delhi.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2016, 07:42 AM
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Glad to hear that the havelis haven't deteriorated. I was there in 2001, and it didn't look like they were getting much TLC.
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Old Mar 1st, 2016, 07:46 AM
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I would say still very few havelis are restored, but Fatehpur had 4-5, Ramgarh too had a few, other cities probably have more. And havelis are from different times as well, the older ones having more bright colors with traditional themes, newer ones having subtle colors with modern themes. All worthy of a visit.
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Old Mar 1st, 2016, 07:47 AM
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I would say still very few havelis are restored, but Fatehpur had 4-5, Ramgarh too had a few, other cities probably have more. And havelis are from different times as well, the older ones having more bright colors with traditional themes, newer ones having subtle colors with modern themes. All worthy of a visit.
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Old Mar 1st, 2016, 08:48 PM
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Shekhawati does have some splendid painted Havalis or town houses. On my last trip to this area the note worthy Havelis we visited were Poddar Haveli, Bhagat Haveli & Sona Chandi ki dukaan. There is another wonderful haveli in Fatehpur, being presently restored by a French lady. It is called the Nadine Haveli, presumably after the name of the current owner.
The themes of portrayal is interesting. According to a contemporary art historian, 'one of the special features of the palaces of Rajasthan that further distinguish them from Mughal courts are mural paintings inspired by the Hindu religious tradition which also celebrates court life'.
The accommodation, however, is a big letdown.
Narayan Niwas Castle (Mehansar) is a homely place to stay, charming & comfortable. It is run by the owners and steeped in old world charm & manners, refined language. The food is delicious and you can see your dinner being cooked! It has that delicate flavour associated with the royalty of Rajasthan. The restaurant is beautifully painted.
For those who may wish for a bit of luxury, it could be Alsisar Mahal.
Happy Travels!
vp_singh is offline  
Old Sep 13th, 2016, 04:40 AM
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Hello all!
My sister and I are taking our second trip to Rajasthan. This time, we would like to spend a few days in the Shekhawati region as we love architecture in general. Does four night sound good? Is this too much? Thanks!
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Old Sep 13th, 2016, 05:25 AM
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Thank you for your report and lovely pictures. Another interesting place to put on my bucket list. It is amazing how much India had to offer...such riches in a country with so many poor people.
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Old Jan 26th, 2017, 11:33 AM
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Sorry for the late reply, Thanks a lot!
Thea64, 4 nights may not be too much, you can relax your pace, visit a couple of havelis everyday, and stay and relax in good havelis in the area.
But 3 days is more optimal I think.
ashwinb is offline  
Old Sep 8th, 2017, 11:13 PM
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Great report and wonderful photographs. It is a shame they were not identified. I could recognise some of them, but not all. You are adventurous travelling by local transport. I could not have worked out the connections, so were happy to travel to Jaipur by train, get a local driver and car to drive us around the Shekawati district and Bikaner before returning to Jaipur and catching the train back to Delhi. I note some of your other reports and will enjoy reading them.
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Old Sep 13th, 2017, 08:07 AM
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Thanks a lot Rasputin1 ! Private transport is definitely more efficient though.
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