“A wall may fall, but a Rajput stands firm.” ~ Rajput war proverb
Our road trip through Rajasthan included Mandawa, a dry arid town, located in the Shekhawati region. Known for its many havelis (mansions), decorated with beautiful painted frescoes, the entire area can be called an “open air art gallery.” I’ll explore this in my next post.
Situated in the middle of town is the Mandawa Fort, now converted into a heritage hotel. With its unique medieval charm, this was to be our home for one night.
Mandawa, a remote feudal principality in the center of the Shekhawati region, was a trading outpost for the ancient caravan routes that stopped here from China and the Middle East. The Rajput ruler of Mandawa, Thakur Nawal Singh, built a fort in 1755 to protect this outpost. The township that grew around the fort soon attracted a large community of traders, who settled here. When the caravan traffic ceased in the late 18th century, the traders created business empires in other parts of the country, but returned to Mandawa to build palatial mansions in their hometown.
As Ron and I explored the castle/fort with its winding stairways and narrow halls, I marveled at this preserved historical outpost.
The Diwankhana, the formal drawing room, is decorated with family portraits and has a cosy feel. The frescoes adorn the walls and ceiling, adding a beauty of its own in contrast to the harsh exterior with its turrets and bare ground.
I couldn’t help but imagine the camel caravans that arrived here and the experiences these merchants exchanged. It was these stories that inspired the artists all over the region to create their version of daily life that adorn the walls of the fort, as well as the surrounding mansions (havelis).