SHEKHAWATI : THE OPEN ART GALLERY
The semi desert region of Shekhawati is a colorful fantasy having a fascination uniquely of its own. `The open-air art gallery', as it is popularly called, is famous for its plethora of painted havelis, all commendable pieces of the rick artistic tradition of this region. `Shekhawati', meaning "the land of Shekha's clan" derives its name from Rao Shekha (1433A.D.-1488 A.D.) a scion of the Kachhawaha family of Jaipur. Earlier a part of the former Jaipur state, it now comprises of the districts of Jhunjhunu and Sikar.
Initially the region had a blank monochromatic look but with subsequent historical and social developments it has blossomed into a colorful profusion of art and life for almost 2 centuries from 1750 A.D. to 1930 A.D
Havelis: Shekhawati's magnificent havelis mansions, built by rich merchants of the region, display a unique architectural style that evolved around the courtyards to ensure safety and privacy of the women folk and protection from the heat of the long and harsh summer.
The havelis, painted predominantly in blue, maroon, yellow, green and indigo have beautiful wall paintings that adorn their walls.
The earlier wall paintings (1830 A.D.-1900 A.D.) were largely based on the mythological themes, depicting local legends, animals, portraits, hunting and wrestling scenes and a glimpse of everyday life.
The turn of the 19
century saw the appearance of new motifs, an outcome of the Raj's influence upon the Indian culture. Now, cards replaced elephants and traditional Indian miniatures mingled with naturalism of western paintings to produce interesting hybrid results. The mythological themes depicting gods, heroes, epics and legends were substituted by European oleographs, lithographs and photographs.
Trains, cars, balloons, telephones, gramophones, English men in hunting attires and portraits of the haveli owners primely dressed, were painted all over the walls – thus making the havelis interesting for both Indian and foreign travelers.
Founded in the late 17
century, Sikar was the largest `thikana' (feudal state) under Jaipur. The fort and temples of Gopinath, Raghunath and Madan Mohan with commendable frescoes are worth visiting. The Jubilee Hall, Madho Niwas Kothi, Biwani Haveli, Sodhani Haveli, the