Very little is written about the small ‘Shekhawati’ belt in the northern part of Rajasthan State. And yet, it is perhaps the most artistic part of this culturally rich desert region. Nawalgarh, Mandawa, and as many as 25 other villages around 5-hours’ drive from Jaipur, are walking art galleries. Frescoes adorn the ‘havelis’ (palaces of erstwhile noblemen and current business tycoons) that abound this area though sadly many of them are desolate since their occupant families have migrated to large cities in India and overseas.
It is a visual delight to see vegetable dyes of over 100 years still radiate beauty and meaning that speaks of those times. In 1902 a fresco painter saw the first locomotive in Mumbai and returned to this region to paint it on the walls. It was twenty years later that the first railway engine chugged into the region! Frescoes also depict folk scenes, mythological tales and glimpses of the Kamasutra on public display!
A particularly fascinating haveli is maintained by the Poddar Group of Mumbai as a museum which houses amazing pieces of Rajasthani culture. What’s more, it allows visitors to partake of the rich experience that the Poddars must have enjoyed while they lived there a few generations ago.
While on the streets, not only does one catch the riot of colors on every wall, one is also amused by the way ordinary public transport is dressed. And of course there are a host of camels, elephants and cattle on walls and on roads, adding to the Shekhawati flavor.
An interesting place to stay over, eat in or simply stop at for a coffee is the Castle Mandawa, which is a castle converted to a hotel. The walls, ceilings and pillars are intricately decorated and the cooks are fantastic. Enjoy the visit in every sense, with every sense… Shekhawati is as exotic as it ever gets!