/Neighborhood

Shekhawati, The Open-Air Art Gallery in India
, / 8 November 2016

Believe me – after reading this, you might want to consider adding Shekhawati under your “Places to Go Before I Die” list.

Located in north Rajasthan, India, this semi barren landscape covers the triangle formed by Delhi-Bikaner-Jaipur. The warm region is a former horse caravan route for merchants to trade opium, cotton, and spices. History has it that in the 18th or 19th century, successful Marwari merchants built grand havelis (mansions) as a display of wealth. Every nook of their havelis are lacquered with the now-fading images of kings, Gods, elephants, as well as scenes from daily life. All of the above were painted in Italian-style fresco technique.

Not only mansions, Shekhawati also consists of small fortresses, mosques, and a deer sanctuary.

Now, this home of opulence is no longer lived in because the owner’s descendants have moved to either Calcutta or Mumbai. Some of the havelis have been turned into luxury heritage hotels with royal facilities and services while many have crumbled and abandoned, but the state government tries to preserve these places. Prohibiting  any construction of repairs which may harm its pristine look and the sale of heritage mansions are some of the things the government does. Well, they cannot do much as the havelis are private properties.

But for the past 15 years, this place has been hosting one of the most important cultural festivals: the annual Shekhawati Heritage Festival. Art lovers can join workshops and seminars while visiting havelis, forts, and temples.

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AM

Photography by NeelimaVallangi

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