Mandawa – The Fresco Trails

Road Trip
Stop 3 – Mandawa

Mandawa is another beautiful Shekhawati town famous not just for frescoes but also for being a favourite shooting destination of the Indian film industry. The town has gained a lot of popularity since many films have been shot here.

As soon as people notice you are a tourist you will find a lot of them clamouring to be your guide. However, we decided to explore the town by ourselves. The google map isn’t of much help. But it’s a small town and one can explore the town on foot. That way you will be able to explore more and at your comfortable pace. This is way better than being rushed from one haveli to another.

Sneh Ram Ladia Haveli

We started our tour with Sneh Ram Ladia Haveli. It is one of the popular havelis in town. The owners will enthusiastically show you around. They will also tell you about the number of movies shot here and with a tinge of pride that they have even played small roles in those movies. Outside the haveli, there are a lot of handicrafts on sale. The entry to this haveli is free of cost.

Snehram Ladia Haveli

Jhunjhunwala Haveli with the Golden room

This one is the highlights of your heritage walk. The owners of the haveli are still residing here unlike other havelis where you will find only caretakers. Wondering how you will spot this one? It happens to be the only haveli that has a golden painted door. Only one room of the haveli is open for tourist which apparently has paintings of gold. The room is really beautiful and most of the paintings are quite intact. The owners told us that around three kilograms of gold has been used in this room and it is the only haveli which has paintings of gold. The room is also adorned with Belgium glass, like many of the palaces and havelis, for reflecting light from the diyas (oil lamps).  The price of viewing the room is Rs. 100 per person.

The Golden Room

Chokhani Double Haveli

It is named the double haveli because it has two identical wings or two havelis in one compound. The frescoes in the haveli are quite intact in comparison to others. It is said to have the best frescoes in Mandawa. Though I wouldn’t agree as all havelis are different. Entry fee is Rs. 50 per person.

Chokhani Double Haveli

Other havelis

When I say there are a lot of havelis in Mandawa I mean A LOT. The Mandawa Haveli is a 200-year-old haveli that has been converted into a hotel. The Murmuria haveli is famous for frescoes with a European influence which were apparently inspired by the Europe travels of the haveli owner. The other famous havelis are the Goenka haveli, the Saraf Haveli, the Nevtia haveli (now a bank runs there) and Akhramka haveli. The one haveli that I really liked had not just beautiful frescoes but the woodwork on the windows and the balconies was amazingly intricate. The haveli was being restored and converted into a hotel. Its owner Mr Joshi told us that it was the only way in which they can help preserve the art and maintain these havelis.

Haveli metamorphosing into a hotel

Castle Mandawa

It is a fortress that has been converted into a heritage hotel. Even if you are not staying in this hotel you can opt for a tour of the castle. It costs Rs. 250 per person and includes a mineral water bottle. The locals might tell you that you will get tea and some refreshments as part of the tour but that’s not the case. If you wish to have dinner or lunch you will need to contact them and make reservations. The castle has some beautiful frescoes that have been restored. The person who takes you on the tour will probably tell you more about the movies that have been shot here than real history. But you can ignore that and focus on the view.

Sneak peek of the castle

Other Attractions

The water wells in the Shekhawati region are different from what you would usually witness in other parts of Rajasthan. The well is surrounded by four minarets which are too sometimes adorned with frescoes.  It may also have a ramp for the animals (ox or camel) to pull water out of the well. You will spot many such wells as you traverse through the Shekhawati region.

The famous  Kanchaneey Shiv Mandir is in Mandawa which is said to be one of the few temples that has shivling made of sphatik (clear quartz/ crystal). The Raghunath Mandir built by the Goenka family is adorned with beautiful frescoes and is known for grand Janmashtami celebrations.

There are a few chhatris (cenotaphs) built by the merchant families of which mostly aren’t being maintained.

Sonthalia gate

How to Reach

The best way to reach Mandawa is by road. Mandawa is almost mid-route Delhi to Bikaner. It is 170 km away from Jaipur (Airport and Train Station) and 200 km from Bikaner (Train Station). Churu, Jhunjhunu and Sikar are some of the other train/bus stations near Mandawa.

We were travelling from Nawalgarh to Mandawa which was an hours drive. It was a pretty interesting drive considering it took us 15 minutes to get out of Nawalgarh and then as we finally ended up on a decent road we were literally scared off the road by a herd of camels.

The famous filmy street of Mandawa

Stay

In comparison to Nawalgarh, there are a lot of stay options in Mandawa. Since many havelis have been converted into hotels you can experience staying in a Haveli on a budget. In case you are planning a trip to the Shekhawati region, I would suggest you book your stay in Mandawa and explore the nearby towns of Shekhawati which may not have that many options to stay.

We stayed at V resorts Paawana Haveli which was a very good choice and that too on a budget.

Food

This was a struggle. Like really! We arrived in town around 2:30 pm and were famished. So we thought to ourselves that it is a tourist place we will find good food. But we were so wrong. There wasn’t one functioning restaurant in sight. The Shahi Palace is a popular restaurant suggested by the locals and online community but they do not serve anything at any time of the day other than lunch and dinner. And they had closed their service.

When we didn’t find anything we decided to check into our hotel. And guess what your haveli turned hotel may not have a functioning kitchen or they might be running short of staff. However, our hotel staff directed us to the Monica rooftop restaurant which is located on the roof of a beautifully painted house with haveli feels. It was our saviour. Good food and friendly family!

Tips

  1. The town can be explored on foot. You don’t need a guide to show you around as all the havelis have a similar structure which I had explained in my previous post. Do not rely on Google maps. I am trying to update the location of the havelis on maps but until then refer to this image. This will definitely help you out.
  2. In case you hire a guide, make sure to finalise the price beforehand and do not forget to bargain.
  3. The havelis usually have a caretaker so always ask them the price of visiting the haveli before entering and do not forget to take a receipt. Do not tip the caretaker’s family or other people inside the haveli pretending to show you around. They are in a habit of pestering people for money and your tip will encourage this behaviour which is nothing short of tourist harassment.
  4. Some of the havelis may be deserted with only one or two people lurking around. Avoid such places especially if you are a solo traveller.
  5. A few havelis have set up so-called souvenir shops in their courtyards which have “antique” items and overpriced handicrafts. So avoid purchasing from there, unless its something you absolutely want, as most of them, are old, not “antique.”
  6. Tourist Helpline – 1800-11-1363
    It is a toll-free number and supports 12 languages. If you are travelling to India this should be saved in your phone.In awe of art!

Pack your bags now!

You must make the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan your priority because sadly more and more havelis are being converted into hotels. Though it seems like that its the best way to keep them but in the process, the murals after being repainted seem to lose their charm. The entire region is like an open-air art gallery and should be on your travel list if you are an art enthusiast. It will definitely make you pick up those painting brushes again. So pack your bags and go visit the beautiful towns of Shekhawati.

 

 

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