Yesterday, after a 506 km journey from Delhi we reached Mundawa in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan. The Shekhawati is known for its grand havalies meaning “house” but more to the tune of “mansion”. The region was on the Silk Route, or more accurately, on one of the many routes taken by traders primarily between Arabia, India and China where silk, silver, opium,spices and many other goods were traded. In the 18th and 19th centuries Marwari merchants from the area lived abroad in India’s new commercial centres and sent the bulk of their vast fortunes back to their families to construct grand havalies to show their neighbours how well they were doing. Competition ensued and the result was grand homes and temples which are richly decorated and still to some extent preserved to this day. The havelies in Mundawa are over 200 years old and most are in a state of decay while some have been restored and a few restored and made into magnificent hotels. We stayed at Hotel Mandawa Haveli, a beautifully restored 1890’s haveli with rooms surrounding a painted courtyard.
The morning after our arrival we did a short 1 1/2 tour of the many havalies in town. If we won 50 million on the lottery we would most definitely come back to restore one of the many mansions in dire need of some TLC. The artistry generally belonged to the kumhars, or masons, and they were both the builders and painters of incredibly ornate and wonderfully decorated homes.