Rajasthan, the land of rajas, has something for every kind of explorer. And despite multiple visits, one can never tire of the Rajasthan rendezvous. The experiences in Rajasthan are as varied as they are contrasting. So if in one visit, you are reveling in the luxury of staying in an erstwhile palace hotel, in another you could be backpacking through the sand dunes.
Rajasthan is not just steeped in history, but is an ode to it! In the Jhunjhunu district of this arid state, you will find the jewel called ‘Mandawa’, about 170kms from the capital city of Jaipur. The stunning havelis, sarais, or baoris from days of yore, are the living testaments of the glorious part of this beautiful state.
Mandawa is considered as one of the oldest inhabited places of the region The first inhabitant of this place was a farmer, Mandu jat and initially it was known as ‘Mandu ki dhani’. Later on it changed from ‘Mandu ka bas’ or ‘Manduwas’ which changed to ‘Manduwa’, ‘Mandwa’ and finally ‘Mandawa’. It was founded in 18th century by the rich merchant families notably Harlalkas, Goenkas, and others. It was also a part of the famous ‘silk route’ from the history books. All the havelis are adorned with beautifully painted frescoes on the walls and ceilings depicting Rajput rulers, traditions, mythological events and general daily happenings. Most of the havelis are however not accessible from inside, as they are locked or entry is barred by the owners. However, one can view a considerable amount of frescoes from a streetside view on foot. It is because this rich heritage and history Mandawa is also referred to as an ‘open-air art gallery’. The town is dotted with numerous havelis and is said to be an open art gallery due to the plethora of fresco paintings on the facades of these heritage structures.
The town has been a set for several blockbusters (Bajrangi Bhaijaan, PK, Dhadak etc) on account of its picturesque setting.
At first, Mandawa is just any other rural hamlet. But as you explore the labyrinth of the various unnamed streets, you realise how soaked it is in culture and history. Mandawa is a very easy day trip from Jaipur.
The Historical Harlalka Haveli
Though there are several Havelis in Mandawa are in a sad state, and most desperately need restoration and conservation efforts, but there are some that have been brought back from a state of utter ruin to tourist hot spots. A well known family of the region, Harlalkas still carry their royal heritage with their royal hospitality. In the heart of Mandawa, this 300-years old structure is painstakingly restored. Harlalka Haveli, the palatial mansion of the Harlalka family is one of the biggest and oldest havelis of Mandawa. The Harlalka Well and the Harlalka Chattri, a major tourist attraction of Mandawa were also built by this family near their palatial mansion. Harlalka Haveli is the centre of this slow and dreamy town of historical wonders, where all the other sights are barely a 10 minutes’ walk. It will introduce you to a cosmopolitan way of life laced with an age-old grandeur and luxury of this town. A multi-cuisine restaurant, an iconic swimming pool with jacuzzi, and rooms with luxurious interiors.
Sights & Sounds
The best of Mandawa can be found at your doorstep. Stroll through the local main bazaar; head out on an architectural exploration, pay obeisance at the Harchandreshwar Mahadev Temple, visit other local Havelis; or simply feed the pigeons early in the morning at the Harlalka Haveli, Mandawa.
The Mandawa Fort is among the most frequented tourist spots in the region and well known for its splendid architecture and great collection of paintings around the life of Lord Krishna. What was once the Durbar Hall is now a miniature museum of numerous paintings and antiques. The Fort has now been converted into a hotel. There is a distinct theme to each part of the hotel. The open terrace offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the entire town.
The Goenkas had been a rich household in Mandawa with a number of stunning havelis to their name. Seth Dayaram Dedraj Goenka Haveli and the Goenka Double Haveli are some structures that you must see. Even in the dilapidation and chaos of the bric-a-brac of curios, artefacts etc, the art and ability of those that built these havelis shine through! The picture of Indra on an elephant smoking opium on the doorway wall of the Seth Dayaram Haveli is a well-known landmark. The Double Haveli, with its two wings — Vishwanath Goenka Haveli and the northern Tarkeshwar Goenka Haveli, has some of essentially the most beautiful photos of animals on the façade. These frescoes have been restored, though not a patch on the original artwork.
So if you have had enough of Jaipur, explore nearby Mandawa. And if you plan to do it by road, the best time is now. After May it will get unbearably hot. When travelling from Jaipur to Mandawa, there are so many stunning pit stops that make the drive (or ride) worth every moment.