The hand painted havelis and forts of Mandawa make this the 'open art gallery' of Rajasthan.
It was my second trip to Mandawa. My first visit to this small town in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan had led me to a beautiful heritage part of India. Around 5-6 hours away from Delhi by road, it lies in the Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan.
What attracted me to Mandawa and the neighbouring towns of Nawalgarh and Fatehpur are their havelis and forts. Adorned with the most amazing hand painted frescoes, they are famously known as the "open art gallery" of Rajasthan. The photographer in me was captivated by the splendour and architectural finesse of these buildings.
Since it’s a very small town, half a day enabled me to walk the length and breadth of it. Talking to the locals I figured most of the havelis are 300 years old and belong to rich merchants who traded across borders. The art and carvings depict the royal and rich nature of the traders and the finesse of the artists of that time. Every haveli has its own painting depiction. The owners still live in some of them, and the rest are taken care of by local caretakers. These are open for visitors, some of them free and some at a cost of about Rs. 100 rupees.
The best part of my trip was the early morning walks catching the sunrise in the lanes of the town which made me admire its real beauty. I could smell the fresh preparations of pakodas and samosas in the small food outlets across the streets. With a cup of tea in my hand and these snacks, I would sit across the busy street watching local people do their daily chores. No one seemed to mind my presence or my non-stop questions. To add to the beauty of the place, our national bird, the peacock can be found on the streets flying from one point to another.
The untouched beauty of the place may be the reason many famous movies have been filmed in Mandawa. Like Salman Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan (Mandawa looked like Pakistan). Also some parts of PK (where Sanjay Dutt meets Aamir Khan and the “tharki chokro” song). How do I know this? The proud locals ensured they told me.
No matter how many times I visit the place, I fall in love over and over again. Built centuries ago, these structures bring to life the traditions and ideals of a long-lost era. Other than exploring the hidden treasures of India, my agenda is to celebrate our heritage – the repository of our collective memories and aspirations. These pictures are my way of doing it.
1. Mandawa is around 230 km from Delhi and is well connected by roads.
2. Nearest airport is Jaipur.
3. The entire region has several luxury hotels and castles/havelis that have been converted into hotels.
4. There are plenty of restaurants serving Rajasthani, North Indian and Chinese food.
5. Suitable time to visit – winter season is the best (November to March).
Caretaker of the heritage
Colourful entrance of a Haveli in Fatehpur
Colourful stories in the haveli of Fatehpur
Streets of Mandawa
Caretaker of the haveli in Mandawa
Backyards for keeping horses
Stories on the wall
Outer part of havelis in Mandawa
Embedded stories in the haveli of Fatehpur
Old journals, haveli of Nawalgarh
Early morning walk in Mandawa
Haveli of Nawalgarh
Entrance of Podar Haveli Museum, Nawalgarh
Century old haveli where people still live and preserve it
Story on the wall
Streets of Nawalgarh
Way to terrace in one of the haveli in Mandawa
Main market area of Mandawa
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By Garima Agarwal
Photographs by Garima Agarwal