The stepwell at Lohargal

One place that everyone I spoke to in Shekhawati said I must visit was Lohargal. And all gave different reasons for visiting it.

It is our hill station, said one. You get the best pickles in the world there, said another. It is a holy place and a dip in the tank will remove your sins, said the third person. There is an ancient sun temple there, said the fourth. The mention of the sun temple got me intrigued. Then another person said, “There’s a stepwell at Lohargal. If you’re interested in history, you must go there.” The stepwell was the clincher to visit Lohargal.

That’s how on my return journey to Jaipur from Nawalgarh, at the end of my Shekhawati trip, I took a detour to visit the stepwell at Lohargal. It was an hour’s drive from Nawalgarh through steady rain, narrow roads skirting the Aravali ranges, and some beautiful scenery.

When we arrived at the stepwell, which is on the road, the rain had lessened to a light drizzle.

Lohagal stepwell, Chetan Das ki Bawri, Travel, Rajasthan, Shekhawati

The stepwell. At the far end is the well and the well shaft and beyond that are the Aravali mountains

Continue reading

Messages on the wall: The graffiti of Nawalgarh

When I arrived in Nawalgarh, the first work of ‘art’ I noticed was not its famed frescoes or even its grand havelis — it was a piece of graffiti.

I was looking out of the window of the car I was travelling in, hoping to catch a glimpse of a fresco, when the car suddenly braked to let a cow pass. That’s when I saw the graffiti — a yellow rectangular patch with blue lettering on a cracked and patched surface. It was the contrast of the freshness of the graffiti against a dull and old surface that attracted me and I took a picture of it for that reason. The words (for those who can’t read the Devanagari script or understand Hindi) can be roughly translated to:

Even if it means losing your life, don’t give in to anything improper or immoral.

Graffiti, Nawalgarh, New Art, Morals, Gayatri Shaktipeeth

As the car moved ahead, I dismissed the graffiti as a one-off and resumed my search for the frescoes. Little did I know at that time that along with the frescoes and the havelis, I would be seeing other graffiti all over Nawalgarh.

Continue reading

The Shekhawati trip planner

In case it wasn’t apparent in the last few posts, I had a blast conceptualising and writing the series on “The Painted Towns of Shekhawati“. The series is done for now (at least till I visit Shekhawati again in the future). I do have a couple of more posts on Shekhawati to be written, but those can wait. For now, at least. :)

The response to the series has been surprisingly good. I expected interest, yes, considering that this series is quite detailed, but not so much as generally people are not that interested in art. In fact, one of my friends had asked on seeing my initial photos, “Didn’t you get tired of seeing the painted havelis all the time?” No, I didn’t get tired of them; if anything, I wanted to see more of them.

And that’s what the response on the blog and shares across social media also seemed to indicate. In fact, for the first time since I started blogging, I have received so many emails and messages asking for details with regard to my trip plan, where I stayed, the itinerary, how I travelled, was it safe, etc., that it has been gratifying.

Slowly, very slowly, the idea of writing a trip planner as a blog post grew. But it was easier thought than actually written ! I struggled to put a draft together under the conventional heads of where I stayed, how I travelled, what I did, etc. One read later, the draft was trashed. It was that bad. That’s when I considered writing the Shekhawati trip planner in a Q&A format — a trip planner based on the questions I got asked in the mails and messages and my answers to them. Club Mahindra, Nawalgarh, Painted Towns of Shekhawati, Fresco, Art Gallery, Painting, Heritage, Travel, Rajasthan, trip PlannerThe more I thought about the Q&A format, the more I liked it. It took a while to get written though, and after some tweaking and editing, presenting and sharing my very first trip planner.

Continue reading

The painted towns of Shekhawati-6: Bissau

Ilay Cooper’s book on Shekhawati set me off on an extraordinary trip to that extraordinary place in January this year. I had to wait for nearly 6 months, though, before I felt ready to write about it — so overwhelming were my thoughts and emotions. This post on Bissau is the seventh of 8 posts in the series on “The Painted Towns of Shekhawati”. If you haven’t read the introduction to Shekhawati’s history (and the series), I recommend that you do so now, before proceeding further. If you have already done so, then dive straight into the post.


When I set out for Bissau on my third day of exploring the painted towns of Shekhawati, I had no idea of the surprises awaiting me.

The first was the drive to Bissau from Nawalgarh. Gone was the flat landscape (with an occasional hillock breaking the monotony) that I had seen on my previous days in the region. Instead, there were stretches of gentle, undulating sand dunes.

The second was Bissau itself or rather the state the town was in — it was clean with recently swept roads, no rubbish heaps or plastic bags lying around. After having seen filthy towns like Nawalgarh, Bissau came a pleasant and welcome surprise.

The next surprise was the first painted monument I visited in Bissau — the Sarkari Chhatri. It turned out to be a school, an open air school in fact, with the chhatris serving as classrooms for different grades. A PT class was in progress when I arrived and though I wanted to explore the monument, I baulked at disturbing the students. But the school teachers assured me that it was fine and I went ahead to the accompaniment of curious stares and many giggles from the students.

Bissau, Painted Towns of Shekhawati, Fresco, Art Gallery, Painting, Heritage, Travel, RajasthanAnd the last surprise were the frescoes themselves, at least some of them. But more about that later on in this post.

Continue reading

The painted towns of Shekhawati-5: Fatehpur

Ilay Cooper’s book on Shekhawati set me off on an extraordinary trip to that extraordinary place in January this year. I had to wait for nearly 6 months, though, before I felt ready to write about it — so overwhelming were my thoughts and emotions. This post on Fatehpur is the sixth of 8 posts in the series on “The Painted Towns of Shekhawati”. If you haven’t read the introduction to Shekhawati’s history (and the series), I recommend that you do so now, before proceeding further. If you have already done so, then dive straight into the post.


Fatehpur, Painted Towns of Shekhawati, Fresco, Art Gallery, Painting, Heritage, Travel, RajasthanThe door to the haveli was shut. A signboard (in Hindi, English and French) requesting visitors to ring the bell if they wished to tour the haveli greeted me instead. I rang the bell and waited. And I waited and waited some more… Just as I was getting ready to ring the doorbell again, I heard footsteps approaching the door.

The door opened and I found myself face to face with a young man, a Westerner, who said in a distinctly French accent, “Hello ! Sorry I took so long to open the door. I was in another part of the haveli. Are you here to see it?

“Yes, please, ” I said.

“Great ! My name is Jonathan and I’m an art history student. I’ll take you around the haveli. Would you like the tour to be in Hindi, English or French?”

I gaped at Jonathan and said, “Umm… English please.”

“Wonderful,” beamed Jonathan. “Welcome to the Nadine Le Prince Haveli.”

And that’s how an art history student from France took on a guided tour of a haveli in Fatehpur in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan, India.

But more about that later, as I have to introduce you to Fatehpur and take you around some of the other havelis there first. :) Continue reading

The painted towns of Shekhawati-2: Dundlod

Ilay Cooper’s book on Shekhawati set me off on an extraordinary trip to an extraordinary place, and I had to wait for nearly six months before I felt ready to write about it — so overwhelming were my thoughts and emotions. This post on Dundlod is the third of eight posts in the series on “The Painted Towns of Shekhawati”. If you haven’t read this introduction to Shekhawati’s history (and the series), I recommend that you do so now, before proceeding further.


The gates to the Dundlod Fort are locked when I arrive at 2.30 in the afternoon from Nawalgarh.

“How can a Fort be locked at this time of the day?” I grumble, looking around for some information on the Fort timings. I don’t find any and instead start looking around for someone who can help me, but there is no one around and all the shops are shut — Dundlod appears to be practically deserted.

Dundlod, Painted Towns of Shekhawati, Fresco, Art Gallery, Painting, Heritage, Travel, Rajasthan, Goenka

I see a tea stall that is open and walk towards it. The tea stall owner guesses what I’m going to ask him and says: “The Fort is shut. They have gone horse riding.”

“Who are ‘they’?” I ask.

“The owners of the Fort and their foreign guests. You come after some time,” is the reply.

I decide to explore the town instead and as I’m wondering which direction to head towards, the tea stall owner points me towards a haveli (mansion) and says that the caretaker-cum-watchman will open it for me to see.

That’s how I end up at the Shubhnarayan Anandram Goenka Haveli. Continue reading