The Openair Art Gallery of Rajasthan
Nested on the semi-arid deserts of the north-eastern part of Rajasthan between the districts Jhunjhunu, Churu and Sikar stand the majestic Havelis of Shekhawati. Though lesser known than the cities of the desert state, Shekhawati has attracted tourists from all around the world for its grandiose art and architecture. The region not only adorns rich murals on its walls, but carries with it a rich history. Important trade posts set up in the 17th century led to the hardworking businessmen of Shekhawati to amass considerable wealth which the Shekhawat Rajputs invested in local artists to compose intricate landscapes on the inside and outsides of their Palaces, Forts, Temples and Wells that depict religious figures and simple men alike. The region is aptly and famously christened as the ‘Open Air Art Gallery’ of Rajasthan.
History and Culture
Shekhawati is rumoured to be the place where the four Vedas, ancient religious texts of the Hindus was written. It derives its name from its founder, Rao Shekha. He was the first independent ruler in Rajasthan and took control of his kingdom at a young age. Rao ShekhaJi, divided the Shekhawati region into five ‘thikhanas’- Sikar, Khetri Nawalgarh, Mandawa, Dundlod and Parasrampur. The Shekhawat rajputs ruled until India gained independence from the British.
The region hasn’t been shy of visitors, as it was an established Caravan route in the 18th century, an important trading point to get to the ports of Gujarat. Shekhawati’s rich history and art is owed to its rich inhabitants from Marwar. It was these wealthy marwari businessmen that had local artisans paint frescoes on the walls of their Havelis. These include scenes from famous mythological stories including the Mahabharat and Ramayan. Some paintings also showcase European women wearing stylish hats, cars and trains which signifies the influence of colonialism on the art style.
Shekhawati stands out for having a dialect of its own, spoken by three million people. An annual Shekhawati festival is celebrated in the month of February to promote tourism. The events surrounding it include games, competitions, folk dances and carnivals.
Visit Shekhawati to appreciate it’s frescoes on high walls, gape at its the immaculate architecture, stay in lavish hotels and visit the markets for some of the best artisanship in Rajasthan.
Top things do in Shekhawati
How to reach
Shekhawati is most accessible by road but there are direct trains as well.
How to Reach by Flight
Jaipur airport, 120 km from Shekhawati is the closest airport with access to most airports, even internationally.
How to Reach by Train
Trains are availible to Sikar, Churu, Jhunjhunu and Nawalgarh from Delhi and Jaipur.
How to Reach by Bus
Direct buses are availible from Delhi, Jaipur and Bikaner. The cities of Shekhawati region are also well-connected by buses
How to Reach by Road
Any city in this region is a minimum of 120 km from Jaipur. It is a 6 hour drive (350 km) from Delhi by road.
How to travel within
Within the cities of Shekhawati, you can visit the various points of interest on foot, as they are close to each other. To travel between cities, it is advised to hire a taxi cab for the day or rent a car yourself.
Places to Eat and Stay
The restaurants of Shekhawati are known to serve scrumptious Rajasthani food. The locals enjoy their food in a large Thali (plate) with several side dishes along with their Rotis. The food available is mostly vegetarian, like the inhabitants of Shekhawati itself. Rajasthani cuisine includes Bajre ki roti (millet bread) with Lasun chutney (garlic paste), Dal Bhaati Churma (lentils and bread rolls), Pyaaj Kachori and Raabdi (sweet, milk based dish). The best town to try the local cuisine would be Mandawa:
- Gwala Rooftop Restaurant
- Paawana Restaurant
- Mandawa Kothi Restaurant
- Castle Mandawa
- Monica Rooftop Restaurant
Shekhawati is known for its manifold of heritage havelis turned into hotels.
- Dundlod Fort
- Castle Mandawa
- Roop Niwas Kothi (Nawalgarh)
- Malji Ka Kamra (Churu)
- Nawalgarh is 140km (around 2.5 hours) from Jaipur. Spend the morning visiting its famous havelis which include Aath (eight) haveli, Chokhani Haveli, Jodhraj Patodia haveli and the Nawalgarh Fort. The Morarka museum and Podar Haveli museums also feature beautiful murals.
- Head to Mandawa for lunch.
- A walk through the marketplaces in town for handicrafts made by local artisans.
- Go to Mandawa Golden Haveli for the elephant murals on the exterior of the Haveli.
- Visit Laxmangarh in the evening. Right at the centre of the town is the Murli Manohar Temple with beautiful architecture.
- If time permits, head to the larger town of Sikar to see its clock tower and the Biyani Havelis.
- Head back to Jaipur for the night.