Read in continuation with https://ghumakkarindian.com/2022/12/11/shekhawati-day-1-delhi-to-mandawa/
A Maulvi’s ‘Azaan’ from a nearby mosque pulled me out of deep slumber the next morning. Without wasting any time I forced myself out of bed, threw a jacket over the shoulders as protection against Rajasthan December early morning nip & headed to the roof to get an orientation of the town.
Mandawa seemed to be a very old settlement, as would be obvious from the presence of centuries old havelis in the region, the difference being that it seemed to have been caught in the wheels of time without seeing much progress.
The buildings were so intricately juxtaposed into each other that it was difficult to clearly demarcate one from the other!
After having my fill I returned to the interiors of our haveli. It was time to wake up the accompanying Senior Citizens as there was a lot of ground to be covered that day.
Rajasthan is as famous for its art & architecture as for its food, of which ‘kachoris’ form an unmissable part. Having taken directions from the hotel reception I headed out to find the ‘famous’ Choturam ka thela (cart) only to be informed by neighbouring shopkeepers of his absence due to a wedding in his family! Having taken guidance again I headed in the opposite direction to find the second best kachoriwala who, I found much to my dismay, was still frying samosas keeping kachoris for laters. It was probably not our day!
Returning back, with the absence of any street level distractions or dangers at that early hours, a casual glance upwards divulged a hithertofore unnoticed haveli with colourful exteriors.
Meanwhile, the exteriors of our very own Hotel Mandawa Haveli revealed some interesting details.
Inside, the sun’s rays cast a beautiful light on the painted walls. Even with the passage of two centuries of time, the pictures stood out with their glorious colours leaving one to only imagine what they would’ve looked like when they were commissioned!
With the guide repeatedly calling us on the phone, we finally managed to depart from the hotel at 10.30 am. Our first stop was the Goenka ‘Double’ Haveli, so called as it was constructed by two Goenka brothers on opposite sides of the same narrow lane.
The havelis all boasted of a common design pattern – a main gate leading to the first courtyard where business was conducted & casual visitors entertained & then an even more grand & spectacular gate opening into the second courtyard – the sanctum sanctorum – surrounded by rooms along its perimeter on all floors which was basically the residence.
The rooms in turn were huge with more internal rooms attached to accommodate the large & extended families of those days.
As we would continue to notice during the course of discovering more havelis during the day, the paintings & frescoes in Mandawa were mostly themed around the life & times of Krishna & Radha.
We now proceeded to the second Goenka haveli . The owners in those times had not left any inch of space on the walls left devoid of beautiful paintings, even nooks & corners which would otherwise not be visible to a casual glance, & every haveli seemed to be having a healthy competition with the neighbouring one.
The facade was always the place with the grandest paintings & frescoes.
The next stop, in the same lane, was at the Tarkeshwar Goenka haveli. The ceiling at the entrance lobby, which was pointed out by the accompanying guide before we hurried past it like regular, impatient visitors, revelaed a colourful frescoe of Radha-Krishan in dancing poses.
But behind that lay a movie scene straight out of a supernatural thriller!
Its keepers didn’t obviously seemed very involved in the haveli’s maintenance & had left it to wither away. We were informed that with its interiors the haveli had earned the dubious distinction of being the setting for many a spooky movies! Well, I certainly didn’t fancy a night in alone (or even with any sort of company!!) in those surrroundings & we hurried out into the comfort of warm sunlight again!
Our next stop was at the Murmuriya Haveli, again in the same lane.
Though the entrance to the inner courtyard was locked, the exteriors revealed a rich tapestry of paintings of myriad themes.
We were now escorted to the much touted Jhunjhunwala Haveli, though the board at the entrance, in fading letters, read the name as Kedar Mal Ladia haveli.
The owners obviously had a business sense & had included a French translation to cater to the international visitors. It is worth mentioning here that none of the havelis are free for viewing & we paid amounts ranging from Rs 50 to Rs 200 per head to gain entry at the different havelis. A small price, I’d say, for seeing some magnificent works of open air art! I just wished the government/owners could do more to protect this invaluable heritage before its lost completely to the vagaries of time.
This haveli boasted of some paintings which had been done or at least touched with gold.
With that we were done with this haveli-rich lane & moved to another part of Mandawa.
We were now brought to the Chokhani Double haveli, so called, again, as it was a set of two identical havelis with both being in different states of maintenance.
The exterior walls of the haveli depicted images of Indian & English soldiers in their uniforms.
The interiors of the haveli were rather staid with the walls having been done in recent past with paintings that lacked the colour or quality of the original, older ones.
The icing on the cake was to bump into a Punjabi video song shooting in progress at this haveli & a picture with the cast was definitely in order 🙂
My search for antiques took us to the Snehram Ladia haveli but besides a mish-mash of old & broken furniture & some sundry artefacts collected from different places there wasn’t much of interest there.
Our final pitstop at the havelis of Mandawa was at the Gulab Haveli with the owners clearly showing a flair for advertising & publicity even though the interiors didn’t quite match up to the loud proclamations on the board.
We were already feeling ‘haveli-id’ by now but a gem still lay undiscovered in the Binsidhar Tewatia Haveli. A walk around the walls revealed some of the best examples of prevailing thoughts & ineterests of those times.
That about it rounded off the tour of Mandawa havelis. It was already 2 pm & we hurried back to our hotel for a quick lunch. There was still more ground to cover that day in Nawalgarh & Dundlod & we already seemed to be running behind schedule.