I listed Shekhawati in my India: Top 10 places to visit because I believe it bares extraordinary historical and architectural value. The region is not along the most usual tourist route of Rajasthan but it definitely is worth the detour. If you are in Jaipur and planning to continue to Bikaner and Jaisalmer (like we did) then Shekhawati is perfectly on your route! Located on an old trade route, Shekhawati consists of many small towns. Your driver may not be familiar with the region, so have a good map in order to be able to enjoy your visits. Most of the guidebooks at least mention the region but my favorite is DK Eyewitness India, which has a very useful map of the region, including a 111 km-long tour with details. The region is an architectural pearl because each town is full of spectacular houses called havelis. These havelis were built by their previous owners (important merchants and industrialists) from the late 18th century to the early 20th century.
The fascinating part of the story is that a lot of the businessmen from Shekhawati had moved to Bombay and Calcutta, becoming influenced by the wave of industrialization and the British lifestyle. So, whenever these businessmen built a haveli in their home region, it became a reflection of these new trends, habits and technological inventions they had learnt about while away from home. This is why you can spot cars, airplanes, European clothes etc. on the walls and ceilings of havelis. Intriguing! Indeed, the havelis in Shekhawati are real storyboards and their frescoes often tell a story of the late 19th century industrialization. A lot of frescoes contain more traditional “Indian style” images, but in most cases, especially if you look closer, you will witness a blend of cultures and countries.
Maybe the globalization started in Shekhawati….? As you have seen, I put a high value on Shekhawati and think –once again– that it should be on one’s Must List when planning a tour in Rajasthan. After all, it is only three hours away from Jaipur (just over 150 km). Think about it!
FYI: We were coming from Jaipur and our first stop in Shekhawati was Sikar. From there we moved onto Lohargal, Nawalgarh and Dundlod before reaching Mandawa where we were planning to sleep (Enchanting Hotel Mandawa Haveli). When we left Mandawa, we only stopped at Fatehpur. However, there are many small, interesting towns to stop by, so if you are staying longer in the region, do your Internet research. For example, I would have liked to visit Lachhmangarh, Parsurampura and Ramgarh…
Note: This is the 12th post about our trip in Delhi, Agra, Rajasthan and Bombay in March-April 2008. Previous posts are:
Part 1. Arrival in Delhi: first impressions
Part 2. Eight cities of Delhi
Part 3. Road from Delhi to Agra
Part 4. Visiting Agra and Taj Mahal
Part 5. Fatehpur Sikri: what a pearl!
Part 6. Neemrana Fort-Palace: the magnificent 15th century palace
Part 7. Breathtaking Amber Fort
Part 8. Chaotic but charming Jaipur (part 1.)
Part 9. Chaotic but charming Jaipur (part 2.)
Part 10. Hotel Pearl Palace in Jaipur
Part 11. Samode Palace: live like a Maharaja
PS Have you already joined Pearlspotting?