The Most Beautiful Desert Town: Ramgarh, Rajasthan
Located around 34 km west of the town of Mandawa is Ramgarh which was once of the wealthiest towns in 19th century India. Ramgarh is situated in the Sikar district of Northern Rajasthan. Ramgarh is the second town which can be visited on a day trip from Mandawa after exploring Fatehpur.
The best way to reach Ramgarh is by hopping onto one of the many local buses which ply all day from either Mandawa or Fatehpur. The bus journey from Fatehpur takes around 20 to 25 minutes to cover the 13 km distance between the two towns. Hiring a private auto rickshaw from Fatehpur is also an option but will cost a lot more than the bus.
Ramgarh was founded in 1791 by the Poddar family who used to earlier reside in the Churu which is a small township in Bikaner. The Poddar family was one of the main merchant family trading in woolen products during that time. But a dispute with the state related to the taxes and drying up of funds for their business resulted in the Poddar clan leaving Churu and settling in a rather unknown town named Ramgarh. Then with the help of the Raja of Sikar, the Poddars founded Ramgarh. The displaced Poddars then vowed to make Ramgarh so beautiful so as to outdo their earlier home of Churu.
The Poddar family keeping their promise to make Ramgarh prettier than their earlier home resulted in these wealthy merchants making Ramgarh one of the most beautiful desert towns in the entire Shekhawati region. A testimony of that is that Ramgarh has the most beautiful structures like opulent havelies, Cenotaph (Chatri), temples etc which is a great example of the ancient art and architect of India.
The main attractions in Ramgarh other than the havelis is the opulent Ram Gopal Poddar Chhatri. As its name suggests, it was built by the Poddars. It came up in 1872 and has some great murals, especially in the dome. There are over 500 murals and the Ramayana Chhatri has the most beautiful collection of murals in maroon and blue showing scenes from the epic ‘Ramayana’.
Ramgarh has over a dozen beautiful havelis. The Bashashwarlal Poddar Haveli is one of them, and a fine double one at that. It was built in the glorious 1830s, with good ochre paintings of floral designs. Across the road, are the ruins of the first haveli built in the region.
Near this is the haveli of the particularly prosperous family of Tarachand Ghanshyamdas Poddar, which has a beautifully painted room. But the building is generally kept locked. The Anant Ram Poddar Double Haveli and the Jagannath Poddar Double Haveli are some of the others in the region. The two Ruia Havelis are also worth seeing.Their havelis were built around 1890 and were painted with murals of red and blue of Indians and Britishers.
The Ganga Temple is the finest one here, built by the Poddars in 1845, there are some good murals on the outer walls of the temple. The complex is interesting, with lots of arches that you could weave your way through. The little Shani Temple, devoted to the Saturn, was built by a Khemka family in 1840.
The outside wears a somewhat weathered look, but the inside is a glorious concord of murals and mirror work. The murals are rich in ultramarine and are on varied subjects, though the colour has worn off in some places. The Hanuman Temple was built by the Ruias in 1885. It is an interesting building with a passage running under it.
The town of Ramgarh has a unique built structure, it has three exit gates in three different directions – Fatehpur Gate, Churu Gate and Bissau Gate. All these three different gates are named as per the neighbouring towns.
The market area of Ramgarh is also worth visiting. All the shops have three to four parts and are huge from inside with two storeys and are covered with beautiful frescos. There are plenty of sweet shops all around the market and shops where men make hand made glass bangles. Watching these bangle artists at work is surely a must do thing while in the town. The process takes very long and is surely an art worth much more than what the bangles are sold for.
Accommodation in Ramgarh is limited to a couple of havelis which have been turned into hotels and a Daramshala which is located in close proximity to the Ganga Temple. It is best to make Mandawa as base and travel around the region. Ramgarh has no restaurants and the only eating options that travellers have is the local dhabas which serve vegetarian all you can eat thalis (meals) at very economical price. Around the bus station at Ramgarh there are plenty of hand carts selling fruits, chips and peanuts.
The best way of getting around Ramgarh is on foot since everything is within walking distance and on an average it will not take more than a couple of hours to explore the town.
Ramgarh is a town worth visiting to see some of the most beautiful paintings in the region and interact with some of the nicest and most welcoming people you will come across while travelling around this region.
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