Shekhavati- An Open Air Art Gallery

Best Tourist Season (September – March)
Airport: Nearest Airport at Jaipur 165 km (103 mi)
Railway: Well connected with Jaipur, Delhi and Bikaner.
Road: Sikar – Delhi (299 km), Sikar – Jaipur (114 km), Sikar – Jhunjhunu (70 km), Jhunjhunu – Delhi (231 km), Jhunjhunu – Jaipur (182 km), Jhunjhunu – Bikaner (236 km), Jhunjhunu – Churu (52 km), Sikar – Churu (90 km)


Shekhawati – a township with havelis, have worked of art painted on them. A colourful fantasy, popularly called ‘Open air art gallery’. Shekhawati means – the land of Shekha’s Clan, derived this name from Rao Shekha (1433-1488 A.D.) a scion of the Kachchhwaha family of Amber. Earlier a part of Jaipur state and now comprises the district of Jhunjhunu and Sikar. Initially Shekhawati was a blank monochromatic region, but it blossomed into a colourful profusion of art and life over two centuries from 1750 to 1930 A.D.
Shekhawati region constitute Sikar and Jhunjhunu districts. The major towns, of tourist interest, in this reagion are:

  • Fatehpur – 21 km southwest of Mandawa, the mid 15 century capital town founded by Nawab Fateh Khan.
  • Mandawa – founded in 18 century, a medieval fort, dominates the town with a painted arched gateway.
  • Nawalgarh – 31 km northeast of Sikar, founded by Nawal Singh, the sun of Thakur Sardul Singh. This has some of the biggest and well preserved havelis in the Shekhawati region. Poddar Haveli – one of the finest one.
  • Ramgarh – 13 km north of Fatehpur is the town of Ramgarh settled by the Poddar in 1791.
  • Dundlod – 7 km north of Nawalgarh is Dundlod, a small town dating back to 1750 was built by Thakur Kesri Singh.

Although every town has at least a few serviving havelis. Some forts, mansions and small castles are converted to heritage hotels.

Shekhawati region of Rajasthan
This Shekhawati region – a desert area of Rajasthan and has special importance in the history of India.
The natural climatic conditions in the region are very harsh and extreme. The temperature ranges from below 0 °C (32 °F) in winter to more than 50 °C (122 °F) in summer. Summer in Shekhawati brings hot waves of air called loo. Annual rainfall is at around 450 to 600 mm. The groundwater is as deep as 200 feet (60 m), and in some places, the groundwater is hard and salty. The people in the region depend on rainwater harvesting. The harvested rainwater from the monsoon season (during July and August) is stored in pucca tanks and used throughout the year for drinking purposes. Bawdis and johads are traditionally constructed for storing rainfall in this arid region of Rajasthan.

Culture, heritage and tourism
The Shekhawats built forts in their thikanas (state of Thakur). There was a fort, at every thikana in Shekhawati. More than 50 forts and palaces were built by Shekhawat Rajas (kings). Now, most of converted to Heritage hotels. Some of the forts & palaces are:
Mandawa Fort – built by Thakur Nawal Singh Bahadur in 1755. In the zenana (women’s quarters), various rooms offer different themes. One room has antique murals, another has a marble fountain, while the turret room boasts of walls that are 7 feet (2.1 m) thick. Diwankhana, the formal drawing room, is decorated with family portraits and an array of antique armour.
Dundlod Fort – dates back to 1750 AD. Steps lead up to the Diwan Khana, which is furnished with portraits, hangings, and period furniture. It also houses a library and portraits done in the European style.
The Roop Niwas Kothi Palace – established as a large country house by Rawal Madan Singh, former ruler of Nawalgarh. It is popularly known as Rawal Sab Ki Kothi in Nawalgarh. It sits on over 100 acres (0.40 km2) of land. The facade is painted in ochre that lends it dignity. The hotel organises horse safaris and has stables at the back side.
Mukundgarh Fort – built by Thakur Mukund Singh Ji. He established Mukundgarh in 1859 and the fort was built in a traditional style and spreads over 2 acres (8,100 m2) of land. It has several courtyards, overhanging balconies, arched windows and corridors.
Narain Niwas Castle, or Mahansar Fort – built in 1768 by Thakur Nahar Singh. It has an imposing entrance reached by flight of stairs. It also has many wall paintings.
Alsisar Mahal (Alsisar Fort) – a battle-hardened fort, was the residence of the Thakur of Alsisar.
Dera Danta Kila (Danta Fort), – two fortresses straddle the hills, their foundations laid in 1702 to house the army, the stables, and the royal residence of Thakur Amar Singh.

Havelis, temples and frescos
Shekhawati painted houses.
In Shekhawati – Shekhawat Rajputs initially introduced frescoes, in their forts and Palaces.
The small towns of Shekhawati are known for their painted havelis and recognized as “open art gallery of Rajasthan state” and having the largest concentration of frescos in the world.
The Marwaris from Marwar – an influential business community in Shekhawati. During 1830 and 1930, Marwaris, erected buildings in Shekhawati as evidence of their success. As an ultimate symbol of their opulence, they commissioned artists to paint their buildings. Today, the main trading and industrial houses of India have their roots in Shekhawati.
Some of the famous Marwari industrial houses are:
Agrawal/Agarwal, Bagari, Bajaj, Bajoria, Banka, Birla, Chandgothia, Choudhary, Dalmia, Didwania, Dujodwala, Gadia, Ganeriwal, Goyanka, Jaipuria, Jaju, Jalan, Jhujhunuwala, Kanoria, Khetan, Kothari, Lohia, Mor, Mittal, Modi, Murarka, Parasrampuria, Poddar, Piramal, Ruia, Rungta, Seksaria, Singhania, Sarda/ Sharda, Sanghi, Somani, Sudrania, Surana, Todi

Tourist attractions
Forts & Castles
Horse Safaris
Shekhawati Horse Brigade, Nawalgarh
Dundlod cavalry, Dundlod
The Heritage on Wheels, a luxury tourist train on meter gauge, takes you to the lesser known and colourful area of Shekhawati Region. Heritage on Wheels is a luxury train in Rajasthan by RTDC (Rajasthan Tourist Development Corporation) and Indian Railways.

Fairs and Fastivals
Holi, Shekhawati’s holi is famous in Rajasthan.

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