Shekhawati Havelis Mandawa – Rajasthan’s Open-air Art Gallery

Shekhawati Havelis Mandawa – also known as Rajasthan’s open-air art gallery because of flawlessly frescoes painted on the walls of elaborate havelis in the area, Shekhawati—around 160 km (100 miles) from Jaipur or 200 km (124 miles) from Delhi—makes a charming day trip. On my recent Wander Across India tour, I got the chance to explore some of these splendid Havelis at Mandawa, Rajasthan. We also stayed at Hotel Vivaana Haveli, which is also an old Haveli turned into a luxury hotel.

Influenced by the Persian, Jaipur, and Mughal schools of painting, Shekhawati Havelis Mandawa frescoes, huge numbers of which go back to the mid-nineteenth century, represent subjects running from fanciful stories and nearby legends to chasing safaris and scenes of ordinary life. You’ll even discover represented encounters with the British and autos or planes. The presentation of photography in 1840 gave Shekhawati’s painters still more to work with.

Once part of the trading route to Arabian Sea from northern plains of India, Land of Shekhawati is home to the biggest centralization of frescos on the planets. Arranged in the north-east of Rajasthan, Region saw a brilliant period of high income through outposts for caravans which resulted to mass construction of ornately decorated mansions (Havelis), showing Shekhawati’s craft. In Shekhawati, Havelis were manufactured by trader group (Marwaris) to symbolize their richness and to give sanctuary to their more distant family when they were away working together.

These rich groups called artists (generally potters) to paint their residences. Havelis were the image of status of trader families. Later as vendor families (Marwaris) moved to coastal areas of India, Havelis suffered years of carelessness and numerous weathered and succumbed. Beautifully painted and carved, Havelis of Shekhawati are currently the prime vacation spots of Rajasthan and without a doubt a standout amongst the most lavish stay alternatives of India.

At first, they shaded their work with vegetable colors; in the wake of blending these with lime water and treating the walls with three layers of a fine mud, the chiteras carefully drew their plans on a last layer of separated lime dust. Time was short, as the design must be finished before the mortar dried, yet the method guaranteed that the pictures wouldn’t blur.

The havelis themselves are truly fantastic, with courtyards, arched windows, minute mirror work, vaulted roofs, huge balconies, and fancy gates.

They date from the British Raj, amid which conventional overland trading routes to Central Asia, Europe, and China were gradually superseded by rail and sea routes. Just a modest bunch of the havelis have survived time—some have been restored by their holders, and a couple have been changed over into the finest luxury hotels.


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