Far less visited than other parts of Rajasthan, the Shekhawati region is renowned for its extraordinary painted havelis (ornately decorated residences), highlighted with dazzling, often whimsical, murals. Part of the region’s appeal is that these works of art are found in tiny towns connected by single-track roads that run through desolate countryside north of Jaipur. Today it seems curious that such attention and money were lavished on these out-of-the-way houses, but these were once the homelands of wealthy traders and merchants.
From the 14th century onwards, Shekhawati’s towns were important trading posts on caravan routes from Gujarati ports to the fertile and booming cities of the Ganges plain. The expansion of the British port cities of Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Bombay (Mumbai) in the 19th century could have been the death knell for Shekhawati, but the merchants moved to these cities, prospered, and sent funds home to construct and decorate their extraordinary abodes.