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Shekhawati



Shekhawati Overview

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Summarise the city :
Open air gallery of Rajasthan

Best time to visit (High & peak months) :
Mid October to mid March

Experiences :
Heritage & art in the form of paintings

City calling code :
Mandawa-01592, Fatehpur-01571, Jhunjhunu-01592, Nawalgarh-01594

Recommended no. of days for a tourist :
1-2 days depending on your interest in art

Best buys :
Rajasthani miniature paintings

Essentials to be carried along :
Light cottons for summers and woolens for winters (Nov-Feb), sun blocks and sun glasses

All about the city :
The semi arid triangular region of Shekhawati that lies between Bikaner, Jaipur and Delhi may seem uninteresting in the first look but it is definitely of considerable interest for those who have a taste for art and paintings. Named after a 15th century Rajput Chieftain Rao Shekha, the region was strategically significant as it fell on the caravan route between the Indian state of Gujrat and the countries of Middle East and China. Consequently the feudal principalities of Shekhawati region (Nawalgarh, Fatehpur, Madawa, Ramgarh & Jhunjhunu) served as trading posts and became home to various wealthy merchants. However after the emergence of the ports of Calcutta and Bombay the significance of Gujrat port and consequently Shekhawati area declined. But many of its merchants shifted to the new ports and fared extremely well making huge remittances to their families in Shekhawati. The legacy of these traders in the form of their ornate havelis or residences, they built for themselves, are now major tourist attractions of the place. Most of these havelis are now occupied by a single (chowkidar) caretaker or some local family. You can either wander through these dusty towns or take a camel ride.

The region does not have mighty forts as the other parts of Rajasthan. Come here to see minor forts, havelis & baolis, (mostly built between late 18th and early 20th century) that may not be grand enough to inspire you with awe but attractive enough to elicit praise. All of them are tastefully decorated with mirror work and fresco paintings in which blue and maroon colors dominate. Initially the subject of these paintings included the scenes from every day life of the natives, incarnations of Lord Vishnu, wars and battles but in the later years the interaction with the British and exposure to modern urban trends influenced the themes. Now the pictures of British ladies and gentlemen with hats, motor cars, aero planes, gramophones and telephones became the favorites with the painters.

The best thing here is that besides appreciating the baroque havelis you have an opportunity to make a stay in them as many of them have transformed themselves to cater to the modern day traveler.
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Shekhawati Tourist attractions

Name (suggested time required to see the place)DescriptionEntrance charges (if any) for Foreigner Close Day (if any) Open / Close time
MandawaThis small market town of Shekhawati has some fantastic havelis to exhibit. Amongst these are Hanuman Prasad Goenka haveli, Binsidhar Newatia Haveli which is now the premises of State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur. Its interior paintings have been white washed but the exterior still displays some interesting pictures like a European woman driving a car, Wright brothers and their invented air plane, a boy with a telephone. The Gulab Rai Ladia Haveli has some erotic images but they are mostly defaced. As the name suggests Lakshminarayan Ladia Haveli has scenes from Hindu mythology like Lord Krishna dancing on the head of giant multi headed snake and Lord Rama slaying the demon king Ravana.    
FatehpurAs is the specialty of this region, Fatehpur too has some excellent havelis with fantabulous paintings but unfortunately the best of them are usually locked. On payment of some donation you can get a glimpse of Geori Shankar Haveli that has some very good mirror work on its ceiling. The Jagannath Singhania Chhatri does not have very refined paintings but is still an imposing building with nicely kempt garden. The paintings of Vishnunath Keria Haveli are in quite contrast to each other. In one picture Krishna is playing gramophone to amuse Radha and in other both are flying on a swing. In the same havelis there are paintings of King George and Queen Victoria but with an Indian backdrop.   
NawalgarhFounded by Nawal Singh, one of the five sons of Rajput chief Sardul Singh, Nawalgarh has been home to some of the richest merchants from Rajasthan. The illustrated industrialists Goenkas belong to Nawalgarh. By virtue of being situated in a depression the town got huge amount of silt deposited by the rivers terminating here. This silt was used in bricks for the havelis. The resulting buildings were rock solid and are said to be the best preserved in the Shekhawati region. Near the bada Qila (fort), now largely disfigured, there is a group of 6 havelis known as Aath Haveli. The name seems to be a misnomer as aath means eight, but it is called so as originally eight havelis were planned. Hemraj Kulwal haveli has portraits of Indian stalwarts Gandhi and Nehru and a silver door, Khedwal Bhawan flaunts its blue tile and mirror work. Also find here the story of Dhola Maru (Indian Romeo & Juliet) depicted on its walls. Visit Parsuram Haveli to see tasteful work, Shankar Lal Haveli for different representation of cars.   
Ramgarh20 km from Fatehpur is Ramgarh another treasure house of colorful fresco paintings. The places to visit here are a shani temple and obviously the havelis and Chhatri of Podars, the people who founded Ramgarh.   
JhunjhunuThis is the largest town and also district headquarters of Shekhawati region. A small palace, Khetri Mahal that commands the views of the whole town, is considered to be the finest building here. It is devoid of doors and windows but has plenty of arches and columns. Other places to see are Modi Havelis, Bihariji's temple and a huge temple of Rani Sati that is dedicated to the patron goddess of the merchant class, a widow who became Sati by immolating herself on the funeral pyre of her husband. Rs. 10 for camera caretakers   
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Getting there

AirRailRoad
The two major airports near shekhawati region are Delhi (250 km) and Jaipur (200 km) airports.Jhunjhunu is the most convenient railhead, but Jaipur is the major railhead for the Shekhawati region. Sikar, Nawalgarh and Jhunjhunu have several passenger train links with Jaipur and Delhi.It can be easily approached from Jaipur and Bikaner. Sikar and Fatehpur lie on Jaipur Bikaner route. Jhunjhunu is 250 km south west of Delhi, 200 km north of Jaipur, 241 km east of Bikaner, 304 km north east of Ajmer, 417 km north west of Agra and 403 km north east of Jodhpur.
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Shekhawati Festivals

Name of festivalDates / MonthsFestival details with link for more information
Bissau festivalSeptember-October Ten days before the festival of Dussehra, in the market area, the localites play Ramlila,that is drama depicting the scenes from the great Indian Epic Ramayana.
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Suggested Holidays with shekhawati

Holiday NameNo. Of daysDestinations Covered
Best of Rajasthan13 days - 12 nightsJaipur - Mandawa - Bikaner - Jaisalmer - Jodhpur - Udaipur - Pushkar - Ranthambore - Jaipur
Rajasthan Desert Tour 07 days - 06 nightsDelhi - Mandawa - Bikaner - Jaisalmer - Jodhpur
Rajasthan Forts and Palace Tour 11 days - 10 nightsJaipur - Mandawa - Bikaner - Jaisalmer - Jodhpur - Udaipur - Chittorgarh
Rajasthan with Taj Mahal14 days - 13 nightsDelhi - AgraJaipur - Pushkar - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jaisalmer - Bikaner - Mandawa
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