The havelis of Shekhawati are a prime attraction of
the region. The region which was once on a caravan route lured many
affluent merchants to inhabit it. With the dwindling of the business
in this area, the merchants (Goenkas, Poddars, Singhania, Ruias and
Birlas) moved to the other prosperous part of the country, yet their
hearts remained in this region. Hence, they constructed their havelis
in the various small towns of this region.
The havelis of Shekhawati are not just huge, rather they are a beauty to adore. The havelis, popularly had a carved wooden gateway as the main entrance that opened into a courtyard. This courtyard again lead to another courtyard. Larger havelis are double storeyed and have upto four courtyards. The windows of these havelis are richly carved and glow with exquisite mirror work. These latticed windows were the means by which the Rajasthani women viewed the happenings of the outer world.
The highlight of the havelis are the frescoes that are seen almost everywhere - on the facades, gateways, courtyard walls, parapets and ceilings. The frescoes have varying themes that reflect the changing taste and lifestyle of the people from 1750 (earlier fresco paintings) and 1930 (later fresco paintings). Earlier themes like mythological, local legends, hunting scenes gradually gave way to more modern themes like motor cars, aeroplanes, ships, telephones, gramaphones, trains and balloons.
The frescoes seem to narrate an interesting tale in a colourful manner. The entire Shekhawati region radiates with such frescoes and it is precisely this reason that it has been bestowed with the sobriquet of an open air art gallery.
Today, a majority of havelis of the region are private property and as such not open for public viewing. Nonetheless, there are quiet a lot that are open for public visits as well.
Goenka Haveli - The Mahavir Prasad Goenka Haveli in Fatehpur is considered by many as having the best paintings of the region. Therefore a must see. Unfortunately, it is locked most of the time.
Nand Lal Devra Haveli - Also in Fatehpur, this haveli is worth visiting to appreciate the efforts of a French woman, Nadine Le Prince. She infused a new life into the decaying art form fresco painting in this place.
Poddar Haveli - This haveli in Nawalgarh is now a museum displaying the wedding costumes of different communities of Rajasthan.
Aath Haveli - This complex has six havelis which is contradictory to its name. This group of havelis reflect the thematic change in the fresco painting with one section depicting elephants, horses and camels while another one depicting a steam locomotive.
Khedwal Bhawan - This haveli in Nawalgarh is adorned with lovely mirror work above the entrance of the inner courtyard and blue tilework. The outside wall depict the story of Dhola Maru.
Gulab Rai Ladia Haveli - Situated in Mandawa, the haveli showcases exceptional mural work with varying themes including religious and erotic.
Murmuria Haveli - Also in Mandawa, this haveli uses a unique theme in its paintings which is a blend of east and west- Krishna with his cows in English courtyard.
Goenka Havelis - This one, also built by the famous business clan, Goenka, is in Dundlod. Beautiful frescoes adorn the interiors and exteriors of this havelis.
Sona ki Dukan Haveli - In Mahansar, a little distance from the Raghunath Temple, is this unique haveli which has gold in its paintings. Quiet unlikely the typical Shekhawati paintings. A paltry entry charge is levied.
Vishnunath Keria Haveli - This haveli is again in Fatehpur and has some interesting as well as hilarious paintings - King George and Queen Victoria in an Indian backdrop and Krishna playing a gramaphone for Radha's entertainment.