Growing up in a rural area, I also appreciate the diverse nature of India, from the lush backwaters of Kerala and mangrove forests of the Sunderbans, to the barren lands of the Thar Desert. Once people at school began seeing what types of photographs I took, I received many recommendations of more places to visit. Sometimes, it was my visitors who prompted visiting certain locations.
Some top architectural places I have seen in India: Ranakpur —marble carving masterpiece, Thanjavur and Mahabalipuram—marvels in ancient rock carving, the step wells outside Ahmedabad and Patan, the Charminar area of Hyderabad, and the palace in Mysore. Such attention to detail.They reveal the dedication of the craftsmen building the structures, the incredible wealth those societies had to fund them, how advanced many of these societies were, and the strong devotion towards religion.
I visited the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan with two good friends (and former colleagues) from Serbia during the late December 2010-early January 2011 break. We travelled up from Jaipur, to Nawalgarh, Dundlod, Mandawa, Parsurampura, Samode and Fatehpur. It was a privilege to see the beautiful frescoes and havelis of the Shekhawati region—before the frescoes fade away and building crumbles, making way for more modern buildings.
What a history those murals paint! From the depiction of Hindu gods, daily life scenes, to the depiction of modern western introductions creeping in society, such as the trains, gramophones, and airplanes. The doors and windows on some of those places were equally note-worthy. It’s unfortunate that some of these wooden masterworks are being dismantled and sold as table tops, while the buildings are locked up, falling into disrepair.
Leaving the town of Nawalgarh, we made a little side detour to Parsurampura, a little village 20 km southeast of there to see some of the region’s best preserved and oldest frescoes.
The Shamji Sharaf Haveli, dating back to the end of the 18th century, had particularly interesting motifs. Here we saw Hindu gods intermixed with images of Europeans. In one corner, a European-looking lady dressed in black clothes holding a parasol was depicted right above a local woman with a spinning wheel.
The Chhatri of Thakur Sardul Singh. From a distance, the white domed structure looked like nothing special. Looking up at its interior, we were treated to a visual feast. Dating back to the mid-18th century, the well-preserved images were painted with natural pigments – whereas most of the frescoes we had seen on buildings were done with artificial pigments.
The deep reds, rich blacks, and tans provided a harmonious color palette. Following the curved contour of the dome were incredibly detailed battle scenes of the Hindu epic Ramayana, local noblemen, and the love story of Dhola Maru.
Our objective was to visit the 19th century palace, now converted into a rather luxurious hotel. Through an archway, the reflective mirrors of the Diwan-i-Khas room sparkled, begging us to enter. Inside, we admired the mirrorwork covering most of the walls and ceiling, as well as naturalistic and figurative murals near the bottom.
The Bala Quila with its mid-19th century room filled with mirrorwork, large portraits, and painted domed ceiling. Had there not been a sign out in front of the rather plain-looking building, we would have walked past it. The Ganga Mai Temple, dating back to 1868, also has some fine floral motifs on the fluted archways of the courtyard.
Read the full feature in the Discover India segment of Prismma Magazine CLICK HERE
Melissa Enderle has spent the past four years working in India.
She has travelled to various parts of the country—exploring its various nuances and delving into the culture with great enthusiasm.
She chronicles her journeys on her popular travel blog. Here, she shares her travels through the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan with its spectacular havelis.