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India >> Rajasthan >> Sikar >> Shekhawati
Shekhawati Sikar, Rajasthan
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The people of Shekhawati are brave, sacrificing and very hard working. The region sends the highest number of persons to the Indian Army. The region has also come to be known as Scotland of India because of its brave, sacrificing and painstaking inhabitants.

 

Shekhawati derives its name from the Rajput Kachhwaha chieftain Rao Shekha Ji. The descendants of Rao Shekha Ji are called Shekhawat rajputs. The fable of Rao Shekha's birth unfolds the interesting account behind the origin of Shekhawati. Mokal Ji and his wife were wishing to have a son, as they had no son for several years. They visited a revered Muslim saint Sheikh Burhan for the blessings and subsequently a son was born to the couple. In honour of the mendicant, the couple named their son Shekha.

 

There is another account about the origin of word Shekhawati, according to Hakim Yusuf Jhunjhunui, Shekhawati derives its name from Persian language word 'Sheekh' which means 'Sand deposited on the coastal area of sea'. This indicates that this area was covered with seawater long back and got converted to sand dunes over thousands of years. It is not clear when these seas dried up and receded but the desert was created due to the receding of the sea is clearly evident by the presence of fossils, shells, conch etc found in stone form in this area.

 Orientation

Architecture

Shekhawati rulars, mostly Shekhawats, built many magnificent forts in their Thikanas (fiefdom) during their reign. Every Thikana in Shekhawati was bejeweled with a fort or a fortress and that made Shekhawati the richest and the most eventful place, thus the region has more than 50 forts and palaces built by Shekhawat Rajas. Many of them are hotels today.

 

Castle Mandawa (Mandawa Fort), Dundlod Fort, Roop Niwas Kothi (Palace) popularly known as "Rawal Sab Ki Kothi" in Nawalgarh, Mukundgarh Fort, Narain Niwas Castle (Mahansar Fort), Alsisar Mahal (Alsisar Fort), Alsisar, Dera Danta Kila (Danta Fort), Castle Pachar, Surajgarh Fort and Arooka Castle are the few, one must pay visit to get a feel of the glory, that it was.

 

Havelis and frescos

The towns of Shekhawati region are world famous for their painted havelis (mansion). The region has come to be known as the "Open art gallery of Rajasthan" having the largest ensemble of frescos in the world. The havelis, adorning these frescoes have endured it for over 100 to 200 hundred years.

 

The techniques employed by the Shekhawati fresco painters were similar to the one developed in Italy around the 14th century. In the fresco buono (true fresco) method, which refers to painting on wet plaster, the material for the walls (of brick or stone) was prepared from very fine clay, often collected from anthills. After three such layers, three more layers of plaster were applied, using such diverse raw materials as marble dust, lime, sour buttermilk and jaggery. In between, each layer of plaster was burnished with agate or white stone. This process is known as ala gila or arayish in Rajasthan. Crucially, the painting was done before the wall lost its wetness. As the wall dried, a chemical reaction between the plaster and pigments fused the painting with the plaster. Finally, the painting was smeared with coconut oil, which provided and protected the fresco with a see through glaze.

 

Most of the havelis of the Shekhawati region were constructed from 18th century to the early 20th century. The havelis are noted for their frescos depicting mythological and historical themes. The frescos include images of gods, goddesses, animals, life history of Lords Rama and Krishna, profusely painted on the havelis in this region.

 

Havelies of Shekhawati were built by the Marwari seths (businessmen), the Marwaris comprised a very influential business community in the Shekhawati region, and they prospered there until the beginning of the 19th century, because of the trade routes that crossed the area to reach the ports of Gujarat. But from 1820 onwards, many left their families behind and migrated to Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras, which were gaining importance as main trade centers, to write new success stories. Between 1830 and 1930, they erected buildings in their homeland, Shekhawati, as a testimony to their success and commissioned artists to paint those buildings beautifully to lend it the ultimate touch of class and speak of their opulence.

 

The Marwaris of the Shekhawati region are still a force to reckon with, in Indian economy and are literally controlling the economy of India. About 80 percent of the big industrial houses in India are managed by Marwaris. Today, the main trading and industrial houses of India have their roots in Shekhawati.

 Getting there

Location

The desert villages of Shekhawati, a semi-arid historical region, are located in the north-eastern Rajasthan, India. It encompasses the administrative districts of Jhunjhunu and Sikar. However, some parts of Churu and Nagaur districts are also considered in the Shekawati region. Mandawa, is the most convenient base to explore the region, and is just 26 km south-west of Jhunjhunu, the most important town in Shekhawati.

 

Distance

Mandawa is 169 km north-west of Jaipur and 275 km south-west of Delhi.

 Fast Facts
Name Shekhawati Best Time To Visit September to February
Location Sikar   Rajasthan   West   India  
Open From 2010-08-15  To 2011-08-15 Type Desert and Heritage
Temperature Summar   40-46      Winter   0-8      Rainy   30-35
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