Mandawa town in shekhawati region, Rajasthan, is among the cluster of ‘The Painted towns of Shekhawati’ and I have been meaning to visit it for a long time, having missed it out on my road trip to shekhawati region of Rajasthan two years back. This winter I visited Mandawa for a day on my last leg of 9 day winter family road trip through Rajasthan. Mandawa dazzled me with its exquisite paintings and diversity of the havelis. It definitely has one of the richer repertoires of the painted havelis and the paintings themselves.
We reached mandawa from Bikaner, as part of 9 day road trip through Marwar region of Rajasthan. We stayed in Mandawa for one night and felt that one full day here is sufficient to go around the town & experience the shekhawati paintings.
Mandawa town has narrow streets and like most of the other shekhawati towns, is dirty and has over drainage on the road and littering (though lesser dirty than nawalgarh). However, for the most part, it’s easy to walk around the town and there are quite a few cafes, restaurants and hotels for tourists.
Mandawa – a popular shooting locale for Hindi Movies!
Mandawa is apparently quite popular as a shooting location for Hindi movies, with big budget movies like Bajrangi Bhaijaan, PK, Half Girlfriend having shot major portions here. During the heritage walk of painted havelis through the town, my guide also showed me exact places where particular scenes of the movie we were shot. In fact, my guide had precise knowledge of each scene of each movie as per the particular spot in the town and it was quite enjoyable for me to listen to the heritage cum movie scene information from him. I was so impressed by his knowledge and all the information that I now plan to watch these particular movies again with focus on the locations!
At the hotel also, the caretaker told me that in non-tourist season of summer, the hotels in mandawa are filled up with film crews for their shooting schedule.
Heritage Walk through painted havelis of Mandawa.
Our guide in Mandawa was quite knowledgable and suggested that we skip the fort which is anyways a private property & visitors are not allowed inside, as well as the amount of paintings there was not much. Instead, he took us couple of havelis (I forget the exact number here but it must be atleast 5-6 havelis) which were open for visitors to see from inside. Some of these havelis also charged us entry fees.
A short description of some of the Havelis and their paintings.
Saneram Haveli – It was the first Haveli that we visited and has mythological themes as well as Mughal inspired floral motifs.
Seth Harmukhrai Saneram Chokhani Haveli (double Haveli) – This distinguishing feature of this Haveli is that it’s a double Haveli complex. The original owner of the Haveli made twin havelis with exact same style and connected it a walled pathway in between, for his two sons. The idea was that in case family harmony remains in future, the two havelis will continue to function as one. However if the sons or their descendants decide to separate, the can close the middle connecting doorway, put a wall in between and go their separate lives. The Haveli even has two main entry doors so that in event of separation, the two entry doors can be used separately. Such s far sighted thinking I would say by the owner! The Haveli has more space in the courtyard in front due to its bigger size and looks more regal than other havelis. The paintings are a mix of divine deities, Mughal style floral motifs as well as everyday life. Colours used are predominantly red and blue.
Recommended Read : Poddar Haveli Museum in Nawalgarh – the painted havelis of shekhwati
Ladia Haveli – This Haveli is inhabited by the descendants of the originals owners and the youngest in the family (teenagers) are the 4th generation. Most part of the Haveli is used by the owners themselves, but the unique part of this Haveli is the exquisitely painted conference/meeting room. The paintings have been made using real gold as well as a host of other colours. The rendition of real gold in the painting has imparted a surreal & regal touch and the golden painted portions glimmer in the light. The themes painted here are mostly divine (Krishna – Radha, Raas Leela, etc) and Mughal style floral motifs. The colours are darker bright tones. Charge for seeing the painted room is INR 300 per person (for Indians) and it’s worth the price.
Murmuria Haveli – This was the last haveli we visited and it’s actually a set of two havelis located opposite each other. The caretaker of the Haveli took us around both the havelis and told us that it’s by the same owner (Mr. Murmuria) whose descendants went and settled in Kolkata, West Bengal due to their business interests shifting there during British era (as Kolkata was made the first capital of British India). The difference in the artwork of i two murmuria havelis is very distinct, the reason being that one Haveli was constructed in the 1800s while the second Haveli was constructed sometime in the 1930s. The Haveli constructed in the 1930s has more contemporary artworks created in the Lithography style of Raja Ravi Verma, with freedom fighters portraits on the doorway ceiling as well as landscapes from Italy on the walls (as Murmurias had trade with Italy as per caretaker). The doorway had a unique carving of Tower of Pisa on the headway.
After our haveli walk, we leisurely walked through the main market and parts of the town to our hotel and came across many smaller crumbling havelis, interesting facades and a gate. It seemed that the town is stuck between a rich past and a stagnating present. Though tourism has changed the town for a bit better, a lot needs to be done by the locals themselves to preserve their unique heritage, I hope more tourists come here and the locals themselves understand their heritage better.
Travel Tips for Heritage walk in Mandawa
It is advisable to book a local guide from the hotel for the heritage walk. The local guides are known to the caretakers of the havelis and entry to these havelis (free ones as well as charged) becomes more easier. Plus the guides know the way through the town, making navigation easier. Our guide Rajat charged us INR 300 for almost 2 hour walk. Please ask for Rajat guide if you are staying at Hotel Shekhawati, he’s really nice chap.
Best time to go around the town is around 3 pm. It’s not too hot but the sunlight is just right and paintings can be seen really well. Also very less crowds are there (usually lots of French n Spanish tourists come to see the frescos).
Stay options in mandawa
There are many budget and luxury hotels now in Mandawa. We stayed at Hotel Shekhawati which is a budget Hotel with good clean rooms and excellent hospitality.
Mandawa was one of the best experiences of my 9 day winter road trip through Marwar region of Rajasthan and I’m glad I made the decision of taking a halt here instead of heading straight to Delhi from Bikaner.
You may find my following travel posts in other parts of Rajasthan interesting :
Before I travelled, I read up on my travel blogger friends experience of Mandawa – Sudha G’s absolutely delightful and in-depth series on painted towns of shekhawati (and a series highly recommended by me for any serious art lover), and Svetlana’s write up on Mandawa.