The itinerary of the Heritage on Wheels is so planned that tourists can have experience of Shekhawati Region - Bikaner - Nawalgarh - Ramgarh (Mahansar) - Mandawa including Gajner and Tal Chhapar sanctuaries.
This is a semi desert region in north Rajasthan and it is situated entirely in the triangle between Delhi-Bikaner-Jaipur. Shekhawati is a region and not just a town or fort; it takes its name after its ruler Rao Shekha. Shekhawati means the garden of Shekha.
The towns of Shekhawati are eminent for their amazing painted havelis. Such is the appeal of the havelis that this region is dubbed as "open art gallery of Rajasthan". The plethora of painted Havelis in rich artistic tradition makes it commendable and fascinating. Most of the buildings are dated from 18th century to early 20th century.
The Shekhawati landscape is dotted with so many havelis that tracking them is something like a treasure hunt. Various forms of fine art adorn the walls and the ceilings of these structures, complimenting the otherwise flat and barren land. The havelis are noted for their frescos depicting mythological themes and that of huge animals. Some later day frescos shows the arrival of the British and highlighting steam locomotives and train doubtlessly for the benefit of those members of the household who did not travel to distance places by train or see this newly introduced mode of transport.
Jaipur is 260 km from Delhi and 240 km from Agra and forms the most chosen tourism golden triangle of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. It a bustling capital city and a business centre with all the trapping of modern metropolis but yet flavoured strongly with an age-old charm that never fails to surprise a traveller. The old Jaipur painted in Pink can grip any visitor with admiration. Stunning backdrop of ancient forts Nahargarh, Amer, Jagarh and Moti Dungri are dramatic testimonials of the bygone era and a reminder of their lingering romance.
Lying in the north of the desert state, the city is dotted with scores of sand dunes. Bikaner retains the medieval grandeur that permeates the city's lifestyle. More readily called the camel country, the city is distinguished for the best riding camels in the world and hence boasts of having one of the largest Camel research and breeading farm in the world. The ship of the desert is an inseparable part of life here. A camel besides doing transportation duties, also works on wells. These are built on high plinths with slender minarets on each of the four corners and can be noticed even from a distance.
The history of Bikaner dates back to 1488 when a Rathore prince, Rao Bikaji founded his kingdom. Bikaji was one the five sons of Rao Jodhaji the illustrious founder of Jodhpur. But Rao Bikaji was the most adventurous of them. It is said that an insensitive remark from his father about his whispering in the Durbar provoked Bikaji to set up his own kingdom towards the north of Jodhpur. The barren wilderness called Jangladesh became his focus point and he transformed it to an impressive city. He accomplished his task with 100 cavalry horses and 500 soldiers, and established his kingdom on 84 villages abandoned by the 'Shankhlas'. When Bikaji died in 1504 his rule had extended to over 3000 villages.
Gajner is an incomparable Jewel in the Thar. Built by the great Maharaja Ganga Singhji of Bikaner on the embankment of a lake with a generous dose of flora and fauna. Basically a hunting and relaxing lodge, the maharaja and the family shared their passion with their exclusive guests and hosted exotic holidays for them.
Around the palace is a thick forestation that attracts the guests to take up a simple walk around admiring the migratory birds in winters like imperial sand goose,antelopes, black bucks and the animal species that wander around in the form of Nilgais, chinkaras, deers etc. The hotel is spread in a large area, and the ambiance around is as raw and authentic as it was before.
The Tal Chhapar wildlife sanctuary in Rajasthan, India is known for the black-buck that is a flat saline depression with its own ecosystem. A number of migratory birds visit this region especially the harries. These birds visit this region during the month of September.
This town was founded by the Poddars in the late 18th century. The Poddars left the town in discontent against the then ruler of Churu. Unlike the frescoes on the havelis in the other towns and villages of Shekhawati, the finest frescoes depicting scenes from the Ramayana in Ramgarh can be seen on the ceiling of a chhatri or cenotaph built to commemorate a Poddar scion.
The Shani Temple, dedicated to the deity Saturn (or Saturday God) is devotedly painted with fine frescoes. The Ruia, Poddar and Bagaria Havelis are worth a visit. Ramgarh is also internationally-famous for wooden Shekhawati furniture and artistic tables, chairs, cupboards and items of everyday use are in great demand in India and abroad.
The area is surrounded by sand dunes and life is quite difficult around this town in the summer months.
Your tour of Shekhawati will not be complete without a visit to Mahansar's Sone-chandi ki Sal or the chamber of gold and silver built by the Poddars in the 18th century. Fruit and floral designs in the Sone-chandi-ki Sal are some of the most intricate in Shekhawati and boast of the finest fresco workmanship.
It is believed that painters must have possibly come from Bikaner, since similar work is found in the Junagarh Fort at Bikaner.
The Narain Niwas Castle, a heritage hotel at Mahansar, is a great place to experience the life and tastes of the region.
If you want to explore havelis, temples and cenotaphs excursions to Bissau, Alsisar, Malsisar and Churu are highly recommended.
Jhunjhunu was a kayamkhani stronghold till 1730, when Shardul Singh established his capital at Jhunjhunu and founded "Panchpana" establishing his five sons at strategically important locations in Shekhawati. The Tibrewal and Modi Haveli, the Khetri Mahal and Bihari Temple are full or ornate frescoes.
The Mertani stepwell, the Kamruddin Shah Dargah, the Ajit Sagar and Jain temples are worth a visit.
Excursion to Baggar, Chirawa, Pilani, Surajgarh Kajra and Khetri are recommended for discovering the lesser-known destinations around Jhunjhunu.
Founded in the mid 18th century Manawa skyline today is dominated by an imposing mirage like fort now a heritage hotel that is maintained in the classic medieval theme with the modern luxuries. The painted archway is painted with interesting forms of paintings of Lord Krishna and his cowherds. The sprawling architecture houses a different theme in different wings. The spacious rooms are adorned by intricate interior wall paintings and mirror work with open terrace that offers a panoramic view of the whole town. The women folks of the Mandawa family who lived in a royal style once used this floor. The ambiences of those years still linger around the rooms. The Mandawa family has a unique collection of their preserved paintings and antiques that adorn the main huge hall in the centre of the castle, originally the durbar hall and now an exotic lounge. The ceremonial costumes of the family collection and the precious arms with handle of jade and beautiful curios brought by the British as a gift for the nobles are well placed like a showcase of a museum. The hotel is well equipped with modern facilities in an ethnic set-up. A night stay is an experience in itself with thematic evenings and oriented and medieval cuisine. The warm hospitality is touching.
Founded in the 18th Century by Nawal Singh, it has some of the finest frescos in the Shekhawati region. A huge fort with colourful bazaar and numerous havelis with elaborate architecture makes it an interesting destination for a 1day / 1 night stay. There are a few prominent havelis like Anandilal Poddar Haveli, Aath Haveli, Hodh Raj Patodia Haveli etc., which are to be visited, and so are the two forts and the palace hotel Roop Niwas that is a beautiful heritage property and is renovated with modern facilities. The Palace offers spacious painted rooms, Luxurious interiors, graceful hospitality and great thematic evenings with sumptuous cuisine. The registered painting in their Art Gallery is a treat to the o visuals.