Shekhawati, meaning the garden of Shekha, is a semi desert region in north state situated in the Delhi-Bikaner-Jaipur triangle. Known as the "Open art gallery of Rajasthan", this region is mainly famous for its amazing havelis richly painted and decorated. There are numerous havelis in Shekhawati, some of them dating back to the 18th century. It derives its name from one of its prominent ruler, Rao Shekha.
The region of Shekhawati is also known as Scotland of India because of its brave, sacrificing and painstaking Rajput people.
The history of Shekhawati can be traced back to the 14th Century, a number of Muslims clans moved into the area and the towns which developed became important trading posts on the caravan routes emanating from the ports of Gujrat. The name of the region can be traced to a 15th century Rajaput Kachhwaha chieftain by the name of Rao Shekha.
As the Mughal Empire fell into decline after the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, the descendants of Rao Shekha , who had already installed themselves in areas to the east of the Aravalli Range, began to encroach on the regions to the north and west. Covering an area of some 30,000 sq km, today this region encompasses the administrative districts of Churn, Jhunjhunu and Sikar, and is known as Shekhawati.The chieftains of the region retained a nominal loyalty to the Rajput states of Jaipur and Amber, who in turn honored them with hereditary titles known as tazimi sardars. It was probably exposure to the courts of jaipur and Amber which encouraged the chieftains, who were known as thakurs, or barons, to commission the first of the thousands of murals which decorated their havelis, or mansions.By 1732, two of these chieftains, Sardul Singh and Shiv Singh, had overthrown the nawabs of Fatehpur and Jhunjhunu and British Ports at Bombay and Calcutta were able to handle a much greater volume of trade than those at Gujarat. Pressure by the British East India Company compelled Jaipur state to drastically reduce its levies, and it became no longer necessary to travel via Shekhawati. However hawat merchants had received grounding in the Practices and principles of trade, and were reluctant to relinquish was obviously a lucrative source of Income. Towards the end of the 19th century menfolk began to emigrate their desert homes to the thriving, centres emerging on the ports of the Ganges. India's richest industrialists of the century, such as the Birlas, were Marwaris (as the people from Shekawati came to be known).
Air: Sanganer Airport located at Jaipur is nearly 150 km away from Shekhawati city. Taxi charges about Rs 2600 from Airport to the city. Jaipur airport is connected to metro cities Mumbai and Delhi. Foreign travelers can take connection flights from Delhi international airport, which is nearly 250 km away from Shekhawati. Taxi charges about Rs 5000 from Delhi to Shekhawati.
Rail: Jhunjhunu is the nearest railway station to Shekhawati. This railhead is on the Broad Gauge line between Mumbai and Delhi and is connected to all cities in India by trains. Tourist taxis are available from railway station to Shekhawati.
Road: Shekhawati is connected by regular bus services to other cities in and around. Many Rajasthan state public transport buses connecting Shekhawati with Jaipur (150 km). Private bus services are available from Shekhawati to Delhi (250 km), charging about Rs 800.
Painting as a handicraft is a rich tradition in Shekhawati. Skilled artisans in the region paint and recreate fantastic murals on paper and cloth. These serve as excellent items for interior decoration and as souvenirs. You may also gift it to near and dear ones. Do pick up a piece or two while shopping in Shekhawati.
Another popular item for shopping in Shekhawati is furniture. You may embellish your home with the carved and decorated chests, chairs, cradles and low tables & stools are hot favourite with those ho go for shopping in Shekhawati. You may also look for other wood crafted utilities and objets d'art while shopping in Shekhawati.
You may also go for metal utensils, made-as-old furniture, and tie-dye fabrics. Mukundgarh is known for beautiful textiles, brass and iron scissors whereas Mandawa for bangles and fabrics.
Shekhawati encompasses a large area and as such there are a number of places where one can put up. A good number of hotels provide their services in the region. One can find a variety of these hotels from low budget to luxurious ones. Some of the known service providers include Hotel Castle Mandwa (Mandwa), The Desert Resort, Mukandgarh Fort (Mukandgarh), The Piramal Haveli, Roop Niwas Palace (Nawalgarh), Hotel Apani Dhani (Nawalgarh), Dunlod Castle (Dunlod). All these make up star category, the budgeted ones include Hotel Chirmi at Churu, Tourist Bungalow at Jhunjunu.
Most of the hotels in Shekhawati enjoy the status of heritage hotels. Many palaces, forts and havelis of the royal families in Mandawa, Nawalgarh, Dundlod, Mukundgarh, Jhunjhunu have now been opened for the accommodation of the tourists.
Hotels in Nawalgarh
Roop Niwas Palace
Hotels in Jhunjhunu
Hotels in Mukundgarh
Hotels in Dundlod
Dera Dundlod Kila
Hotels in Mandawa
The beautiful and fascinating havelis of Shekhawati have proved to be a major tourist appeal. Striking architecture, graceful interiors and massive parapets of the havelis stand witness to the wealth and prosperity of the Marwari merchants. Adorned with exquisite murals and delicately latticed and carved windows, these havelis present an awe-inspiring sight. Almost every havelis is decorated with magnificent mirror work and paintings festooned with gold or silver leaf. During the old days, these wooden carvings and gold and silver paintings were assumed to be symbolical of the owner's status and wealth.
Wall Paintings: The palaces, Forts, Havelis and even minor buildings of the Shekhavati region are invariably adorned with some of the most amusing art form that is paintings and frescoes.
The paintings mostly used colors made up from naturally available ingredients and its is amusing to notice that even after centuries there is no deterioration in the quality and layers of the paint. The picture galleries beautifying the walls depict historical, hunting, personal and religious scenes painted in various styles.
The best part is the impartial view of the artist where one might find references to the arrival of the British in India. Pictures depicting Bicycle, Locomotives and Cars can be seen.