As you enter the boundaries of one of the quintessential towns located in the northern Rajasthan, you are welcomed by a sculpted tall gate with English green and pink colours painted on it. The colours though have faded, the opulence of yesteryears still prevails in the air of this town and neighborhood. This is the first opinion about the havelis of Mandawa in Shekhawati area that was once an opulent side of Rajasthan.
Today, when textured painting and stencil art are restricted to a maximum of one wall in most homes due to affordability and artistic caliber, the havelis in the Shekhawati region are ornately designed. These world-renowned havelis are intricately painted from innermost walls to the jharokas. The frescos and the mural artwork done here is worth the awe from both Indian & foreign tourists. No doubt the lanes of this town appears to be like an open-air art gallery!
The Shekhawati region as the cluster is often referred comprises of Jhunjhun district with towns like Mandawa, Nawalgarh and more in addition with the district of Churu & Sikar. Originally ruled by Shekh Rao, Shekhawati of the 18th &19th century had one of the most well-read people living here. These locals were quite rich and so they constructed haveli-style of houses for residing. However, soon they indulged in an unsaid money showoff in the form of the most artistically decorated houses.
Mandawa is one of the bigger towns in Jhunjhunu district of Shekawati region. It was established by Mandu Jat and came to be known as Mandu-ki-dhani which later on became its name as Mandawa. Later it flourished under the rule of Nawal Singh in 18th & 19th century. Mandawa was one of the towns that housed affluent traders families some of the prominent names are Ladias, Chokhanis, Sonthalias, Sarafs, and the Goenkas. There are a number of well-decorated havelis in Mandawa and neighboring towns like Dundhlod, Fatehpur, Nawalgarh and more.
PLACES to SEE in MANDAWA:
It was built by Nawal Singh in 1745 and passed on to his successors thereon. Today almost half area of this fort has been revived and converted into a heritage hotel while the remaining area is left in its original untouched form. A tour of the Mandawa fort hotel which also has a museum inside is possible but with a premium fee per person unlike other havelis of this area charge.
Houses & Market in the lanes of Mandawa:
A walk through the lanes of Mandawa and one will realize that it is not just one or two havelis that are decorated with murals and artwork. As a matter of fact, all houses big and small have artistic reminiscence. However, some of the havelis and houses have got the original artwork re-touched by new generation artists to keep the artwork in good colour and condition.
While in some other households and empty havelis, the original artwork can be seen. One can simply imagine the beauty of this town in its glorious days by looking at the restored artworks in havelis that have been converted into hotels. Some of the prominent names that one cannot overlook while passing by these lanes are Singhasan Haveli, Mandawa Haveli.
Must Visit Havelis of Mandawa:
Mohanlal Saraf Haveli:
This is one of the most popular havelis of Mandawa which was established by the Saraf family. The haveli is double storeyed and flaunts Rajasthani culture and stories of Hindu deities like Lord Krishna & Radha.
Snehram Ladia Haveli:
This haveli has some artwork dated prior to 1907 while the recent most addition in artwork here is dated somewhere in the 1940s.
In contrast to most havelis of Mandawa, which do not have any artistic depiction of the freedom struggle that was prevalent in India at that time, Murmuria Haveli is famous for a painting of Jawaharlal Nehru, who was the first prime minister of independent India, riding a horse and carrying the tricolor flag in hand.
Art Expression Prevalent in Mandawa:
A fine mix of frescos & murals paintings can be seen in these big and small havelis of Mandawa. In some havelis of Mandawa and in the fort, use of colored glass in embellishing windows etc. is also seen. But generally the depiction of Rajasthani culture, Hindu deities can be seen. Quite interestingly, a major foreign influence can also be seen which is not restricted to British artistic style only.
Also since in those days trains had just started in Bombay (now Mumbai) so these merchants got the art of train and Britishers traveling in them painted on the walls. The use of English style shade of green, blue, pink is predominant in the original artwork. However, now the retouch has been given in brighter colours that are more common in Rajasthan.
2 Nights & 3 Days exclusively for Mandawa if you really want to see havelis and appreciate their art. If you just want to give a fly visit to each haveli and cover havelis in nearby one or two towns then also this duration works approximately.
Radhika Haveli is the hotel to be if one is looking for a reasonable stay in a grand haveli like set up. It is located on the inner roads of Mandawa, just a little away from the main road. The landmark to find it is Monica Restaurant. Everything about the ambiance of this haveli turned heritage hotel is truly lovable. It takes you back in time and gives you the feel of living in a flamboyantly decorated haveli from yesteryears. The rooms are big and well maintained for the same royal feeling to resonate. The staff especially the owner is warm, courteous & ready to assist. As a send-off gift, they give Rajasthani puppets.
Avoid Mandawa Haveli as it is an average hotel with a medium budget price tag. The rooms are small and not up to the mark. Their restaurant too has average regular kind of lunch and dinner buffets in the name of pure Rajasthan food but at a premium pricing. The complimentary breakfast & cleanliness is a major disappointing factor.
In Mandawa, most restaurants serve pure vegetarian food and those which serve non-vegetarian dishes aren’t really up to the mark. Having tried three to four restaurants here’s our experience report card for them:
- Gwala Restaurant in Radhika Haveli premise is highly recommended for home-style, nothing fancy pure vegetarian food at reasonable rates.
- Monica Restaurant is good but mostly has fewer customers.
- Shekhawati Restaurant: Never mind some other time.
Bollywood in Mandawa:
Mandawa due to its beautiful Rajasthani town like feel is a popular shooting location for Bollywood films. There are several famous movies that have been shot here like P.K. (shown as Mandawa only where the alien first lands), Bajrangi Bhaijaan (shown as Pakistan), Shuddh Desi Romance, Love Aaj Kal, Jab We Met, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, & Half Girlfriend.
- Most havelis of Mandawa are now empty. Some have caretakers who double up as a guide to show inside of the haveli at a nominal fee.
- There are more foreign tourists that flock to see the havelis of Mandawa than Indian tourists.