While most of Shekhawati’s havelis have crumbled and remain abandoned, a small window into the world of these painted mansions is being preserved.
A previous home of plushness
Overlooked in the fruitless scenes of Rajasthan’s Thar Desert, the Shekhawati area was once home to the shameless plushness of India’s very rich people. Today, a large portion of the extremely rich people’s great havelis (manors) are disintegrating – the blurring frescoes denoting the main remnants of the territory’s vanished transcendence.
Dousing the dusty towns in shading
With canvases covering almost every last bit of the fabulous havelis, the towns and towns of Shekhawati incorporate the world’s biggest convergence of heavenly frescoes in a solitary locale. To shield these once excellent domains from disintegrating further, two regions inside Shekhawati have banned the offer of the havelis to any individual who could hurt their legacy look. Their point is to ration and advance Shekhawati as a traveler goal.
The ascent of trader achievement
Established by the eponymous Rajput chieftain Rao Shekha in the late fifteenth Century, Shekhawati thrived hugely at the turn of the nineteenth Century. The locale diminished assessments to draw shippers and occupied all parade exchange from the adjacent business focuses of Jaipur and Bikaner. Dealers having a place with the Marwari and Bania people group, an eminent ethnic exchanging bunch in India, moved into Shekhawati from the encompassing towns, and amassed incredible riches through a prospering exchange opium, cotton and flavors. Humble trader homes began offering approach to stupendous chateaus before the end of the nineteenth Century.
Where riches merges with imaginative expression
At the point when exchange moved from procession courses to ocean courses and railroads in the 1820s, Rajasthan’s exchange focuses were on an enduring decay. In any case, the venturesome traders of Shekhawati took after the cash trail and moved to the juvenile port towns of Bombay and Calcutta on the Indian coast, sending back huge measures of cash to their homes in Shekhawati and consequently proclaiming a period of particularly painted havelis that went about as rich showcases of riches.
Numerous patios and elaborate outlines
Most Havelis were implicit a comparative design style – typically two storied structures with two to four open yards masterminded inside a rectangular piece. Every patio and the relating rooms were assigned for particular purposes. The primary patio in the wake of going into the house was for men and their business dealings, the second was for ladies and the other two were for cooking and creature stables. In any case, the traders investigated every possibility in giving their chateaus a particular look, with lavishly cut wooden doorways, pretentious mirror work and the characterizing differentiator: flashy artistic creations delineating day by day life and mythology.
Frescoes adorn every surface
Inspired by the 17th-century ochre frescoes introduced by the Rajput kings of Jaipur in Amer Fort, the merchants commissioned intricate paintings on every inch of the mansion walls – including exteriors, interiors, ceilings and even the spaces under the arches and eaves. Scenes from the ancient Hindu epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana – along with plenty of decorative floral designs and patterns – were the most common motifs featured in the frescoes for a large part of the 19th Century.
An extensive variety of hues
Painters were initially authorized from the city of Jaipur, however subsequent to seeing a rising enthusiasm for frescoes, individuals from the potter group in Shekhawati began taking in the specialty and made an expansion of unmistakable styles crosswise over various towns. It is not by any stretch of the imagination clear if the craftsmen had full rule over the plans or in the event that they were given particular directions in picking designs and legendary scenes.
Before the mid-nineteenth Century, conventional colors produced using minerals and vegetables overwhelmed the shading palette, with serious shades of reds, maroons, indigo, lapis lazuli and copper blue alongside splendid yellow as far as anyone knows made out dairy animals’ pee. Beginning 1860s, engineered shades came into utilization, which were less expensive and offered an extensive variety of new hues.
Mixing myth and the modern
By the early 20th Century, the frescoes began depicting European influences and modern advancements – recollections from what the well-travelled merchants had seen in the big cities. In some rare cases, the painters were sent to observe and recreate the scenes. Among the traditional motifs, there are frescoes of Queen Elizabeth, Jesus, cherubs, steam engines and gramophones, as well as whacky creations mixing mythology with modern inventions, such as Hindu gods in chauffeur-driven cars (pictured).
Surrendered for good
The havelis and frescoes of Shekhawati bloomed until the mid twentieth Century; after which, the rich business head honchos left the desert no man’s land for better open doors in clamoring cities like Bombay and Calcutta and even abroad. After the exchange moved somewhere else, there was little advancement in the parched grounds of Shekhawati, and the havelis were surrendered for good.
A portion of the greatest names in the Indian and worldwide business scene today – including any semblance of the steel aristocrat Laxmi Mittal, Kumar Birla of Aditya Birla Group, pharmaceutical tycoon Ajay Piramal and Nepal’s exclusive very rich person, Binod K Chaudhary, had their beginnings in the towns of Shekhawati. Actually, as per Forbes, very nearly 25% of India’s 100 wealthiest were from Shekhawati.
The high cost of upkeep
By the 1950s, the flourishing towns that had raised these very rich people were falling into unfaltering gloom. Offering or redesigning these country family cabins – some of which could house up to 50 families on the double – is a troublesome employment. The expense of upkeep is high and a large number of the properties, typically shared between various beneficiaries, are entangled in lawful debate. Be that as it may, since havelis are private properties, the legislature can’t do much to save them.
A new life for the Shekhawati mansions
Luckily, the beauty and cultural significance of these painted havelis is not lost on everyone. In 1999, French artist Nadine Le Prince bought the 1802-built Nand Lal Devra Haveli (now called Nadine Le Prince Cultural Centre) and painstakingly restored it to its former glory in the town of Fatehpur. In the neighbouring towns of Dunlod and Nawalgarh, Seth Arjun Das Goenka Haveli and Shri Jairam Dasji Morarka’s family mansions have also been restored and turned into museums for public viewings. A few other havelis-turned-museums are scattered in the hinterlands of Shekhawati, and some like Malji ka Kamra, Koolwal Kothi and Castle Mandawa have been turned into heritage hotels.
While some of the havelis may crumble and fall apart – their glory lives on in others.