Tourist Destinations of Rajasthan
About This Place
Rising from a flat, featureless landscape roughly midway between Jhunjhunu and Fatehpur, MANDAWA was founded by the Shekawats in 1755, though most of its paintwork dates from the early nineteenth century. The town's imposing fort , right in the centre, now houses the most famous hotel in the region, whose prominence on the upmarket tour-group trail has made this a more tourist-oriented place than anywhere else in Shekhawati. However, the handicraft shops, touts and guides clustered around its cannonball-chipped walls detract very little from the dilapidated beauty of the nearby mansions, and you could well find yourself tempted to stay a day or two. In addition to some fine monuments, Mandawa harbours a better-than-average batch of hotels, among them one of the few genuine havelis run as a budget guesthouse.
The outer walls, jutting balconies, alcoves and overhanging upper storeys of the Goenka Double Haveli in the west of town are replete with patterns and paintings, ranging from traditional Rajasthani women and religious motifs to Europeans in stylish hats and Victorian finery. In the Nand Lal Murmuria Haveli next door, the paintings of trains, cars, George V, and Venice were executed during the 1930s by Balu Ram, one of the last working artists of the region. Murals in the Thakurji temple opposite these two mansions include soldiers being shot from the mouths of cannons, a reflection of the horrors of the Mutiny. Further west are a couple of chhatris , and a step-well, still used today and bearing paintings inside its decorative corner domes.
Another haveli worth asking for by name is Gulab Rai Wadia Haveli , in the south of town, where the decoration of the outer and inner walls is perhaps the finest in Shekhawati. Blue washes here and there betray twentieth-century censorship of the erotic scenes that had been commonly acceptable one hundred years earlier. Just south of here, the Chowkhadi Haveli is unique in the region for having twin wings. Its murals are particularly beautiful and well preserved; look for the miserable British soldiers and chillum -smoking sadhu on the walls in the recess of the facade.
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