The Haveli highland: Mandawa, Rajasthan
A four hour bus ride from the pink city of Jaipur, the capital of the royal state of Rajasthan will take one to the town of Mandawa in Jhunjhunu district of Northern Rajasthan. Mandawa is famous for its ancient havelis and the towering Mandawa fort which has now been converted into a heritage luxury hotel.
Mandawa is situated around 160 km from the city of Jaipur and around 260 km from the national capital New Delhi. There are multiple ways of getting to Mandawa from both Jaipur and New Delhi but the most economical way is to hop onto a local government or private bus.
Regular buses leave from ISBT New Delhi and the government bus stand in Jaipur. If you are travelling from New Delhi then get a bus to the town of Jhunjhunu and then a connecting bus to Mandawa.
From Jaipur there are regular direct buses to Mandawa. The other option travellers have is to either hire a car or drive to Mandawa. There is no railway station or airport that connects to this town.
The road leading to Mandawa will take travellers through the raw out backs of the Indian desert with sand cover on either side of the road and plenty of camels wandering around in the desert. Along the bus ride, one will also notice villagers getting off in the middle of nowhere and walking into the open desert heading to their far away remote villages.
Mandawa has a very vintage feel to the whole place and a major reason for that is that there is modern construction in the town and all the construction is over 200 years old even the shops. One will see donkey run carts to carry goods and huge cows roaming around the streets in search of food.
The main attractions in the town are the Mandawa fort which was built by Thakur Nawal Singh in 1755 AD to protect the town and his rule. The fort dominates the town with a painted arched gateway adorned with Lord Krishna and his cows.
Built as per a medieval theme, the castle of Mandawa is adorned with beautiful frescoes. Rooms in the palace are decorated with paintings of Lord Krishna, exquisite carvings and amazing mirror work. The palace’s Durbar Hall houses a number of antiques and paintings.
The fort has now been converted into a heritage hotel and is not freely accessible to visitors. Travellers have to pay a sum of Rs 250/- to visit the fort. The fort which is now a hotel has a coffee shop where one finds some really over priced food.
There are many grand havelis in Mandawa, noteworthy among which are the Hanuman Prasad Goenka Haveli, the Goenka Double Haveli, the Murmuria Haveli and the Gulab Rai Ladia Haveli. All the havelis are adorned with beautifully painted frescoes on the walls and ceilings depicting Rajput rulers, traditions, mythological events and general daily happenings.
Many 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 (ancient wall paintings) from a street side view on foot.
Mandawa’s main attraction is the beautiful paintings on the many havelis in the town. A walking tour with a local guide is the best way to get indepth information about the town. While you can see a lot on your own, a local guide will be able to point out many things you might miss and will also know which of the havelis you are permitted to enter. This will make the whole experience more personalised.
For souvenirs, Mandawa has a handful of shops which sell traditional handicrafts and hand sewn items such as mirrored and embroidered patchwork, from table runners to bedspreads and everything in between. T-shirts with a camel or elephant print are also found in plenty in these shops.
Accommodation in Mandawa is in plenty to suit the needs of every traveller that comes to the town, for basic backpacker style Haveli guest houses to luxury stays in haveli or fort, the town has it all. Even tough Mandawa is a far lesser known traveller destination in Rajasthan it has very good cellular network coverage and has a handful of ATMs .
Mandawa has a few good eating options also a couple of roof top cafes and a fine dining restaurant inside the fort. Most of the eateries serve vegetarian food. A must try thing while in this town is the local bhajjya and Kachori with Dhai (yogurt). Most of the guest houses will serve you good home cooked food at a very reasonable cost.
The best time to visit Mandawa is during the winter months from November to mid March, when the dry desert heat can’t be felt and the nights are cold. The best way of getting around the town is on foot as everything is within walking distance.
Mandawa is a town which is not only rich in heritage and culture but more a town which has been unaffected by tourism and is still very much the type of Rajasthan that every backpacker is looking for. With budget accommodation, good bus connectivity and most of all, Mandawa is the ideal town to make your base if you wish to visit the neighbouring towns and villages.
The town of Mandawa as is the rest of the Jhunjunu district is very much still an undiscovered part of Rajasthan and is the perfect off beat destination travellers are looking to explore in Rajasthan. A three to four day trip is enough to explore the entire region making Mandawa the base.
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