Old havelis (mansions) adorned in the colourful murals and paintings, enriching history settled intrinsically within the walls of some alluring forts, and authentic Rajasthani cuisines to relish in – this is the town of Mandawa for you!
Tucked away from the popular Rajasthani destinations, this ancient town is located in the Shekhawati region of the royal state. The town might not have found its place in the bucket list of most travellers, but the region is quite known amongst the art, history and architecture lovers since decades.
Even so, there are many travellers who like to go beyond what’s popular and discover something as extraordinary as this town really is. Thus, this guide has been drafted to attract those people, who like to deviate from the usual and explore places that don’t really meet the eye at first, but once you pay attention, they truly leave you mesmerized.
So, let’s get up, close and personal with this beautiful town in terms of the best sights to visit in Mandawa, hotels to stay and of course, delicious food to gorge on.
Mandawa is located in the north of Rajasthan, 190 kms off Jaipur and about 236 kms from Delhi. It lies in the heart of the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan, which is said to have been established in the 18th century and was ruled by Shekhawati Rajputs for a long time. With more than 100 villages and 50 forts and palaces, the region was quite flourishing in nature.
In a span of a decade or two, the merchant families of the Marwar community settled in this area and that is when the havelis started coming up. The affluent, commissioned artists to paint all kinds of murals and frescoes on their homes. In this region, it was considered a sign of prosperity.
With time, people left the area and settled in bigger cities. Thus, when you set out to explore Mandawa, you will find that there are many houses locked away and forgotten by their former residents.
However, the charm and grace of art and architecture is so tremendous here that it invites travellers, historians, art lovers, and architects from all around the world to bask in the glory of Mandawa.
One of the many reasons why travellers visit Mandawa is for its breath-taking havelis and mesmerizing architecture of forts. This, however, does not imply that there is nothing else to do in the region. Check out some of the must-visit places in Mandawa.
You will find some dazzling paintings of famous leaders of ancient India, the most popular being that of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru riding horse with a tri-colour flag. The haveli is glazed with the original Rajasthani architecture and was established back in 1930s. One of the paintings is of Lord Krishna, the revered Hindu deity and it invites people from all over the country to witness its beauty. Some of the other artistic paintings include those of trains, autos, Venice, cows. Every corner of this haveli tells the story of Rajasthani art and architecture of the bygone area.
Located in the vicinity of Murmuria Haveli, The Harlalka Well, as the name suggests, is a reservoir of crystal-clear water. The water of this well is considered deeper than the Indian Ocean. It is also believed that if you make a wish while standing near the well, it comes true. However, it is recommended to not lean into the well too much since there are no railings and the Well is quite deep.
Perhaps the most popular amongst all havelis of Mandawa is the Gulab Rai Ladia Haveli, which exhibits the lifestyle of Rajputs back in their time. The walls are adorned with a variety of murals and paintings, which boast about the glory and wealth of the Rajputs that belong to the bygone era. Known as one of the most magnificent mansions of all time, Gulab Rai Haveli is completely vintage in its appearance and boasts of the rich history of Rajasthan. One must pay a visit to this luxurious edifice if he or she is in Mandawa.
In the ancient times, Mandawa served as the most popular stoppage for merchants as they crossed over through this route. Thus, many of the rich merchant families decided to live in Mandawa to avoid the travelling and built glorious havelis. The havelis were thus, not only designed intricately but also painted with extraordinary artwork. Thus, it is said that the whole town of Mandawa is an open art gallery.
This haveli was built back in the 90s for two brothers, and is most popular for its illustrious archways. No prizes for guessing that this haveli is also an embodiment of how the Rajputana leaders and merchants lived their lives – the same is exhibited via grand paintings and frescoes. The uniqueness of each painting is such that one can’t help but gaze at them for a long time. When in Mandawa, make sure to visit this Haveli as well.
A vibrant town located at a distance of about 37 km from Mandawa, Nawalgarh is known for some of the most stunning havelis of Rajasthan, such as Chokhani Haveli and Jodhraj Patodia Haveli. You will also find beautiful frescoes in most of the havelis. Don’t miss visiting the colourful bazar as well.
Located in the south of Mandawa, this little town also has a small number of havelis with finely detailed murals. Formerly known as Shivgarh, this ancient town certainly holds some historic glory in the form of monuments, such as, Jagathia Haveli, Satyanarayan Temple, and Tuganram Goenka Haveli.
This ancient town is also known for stunning havelis but most of them have been locked and abandoned by the original owners. The Nadine le Prince Haveli is one of the major attractions of the place, which has recently been converted into a boutique hotel. The place also provides for a guided tour. The artsy mirror work at the entrance of Devra and Singhania Havelis is mesmerizing with images of Mount Fuji on Japanese tiles.
This edifice is embellished with paintings of camel and horses largely, along with other frescoes, murals, carvings and motifs that boast of Rajasthani lifestyle. Founded in the 18th century by Rajput merchants, this speaks of grandness and luxury, and thus, should be on your to-be visited list, when in Mandawa.
Even if this pretty little town is given a miss by Indians, there are many foreigners who are in awe of the beauty of Mandawa. Thus, this ancient region is known for its lip-smacking food as well. If you leave the town without gorging on the delicious Rabdi, you will regret it. Ghevar, moong ka halwa, daal baati choorma, kachori, along with other delicacies should be tried on your visit to Mandawa. Some of the best places to try the above dishes include Shekhawati Restaurant, Castle Mandawa, Rasila, Garden Restaurant and Bungli Restaurant. Also, do not miss having cold beer and Chinese meals at the delightful Monica Rooftop Restaurant.
Being the ‘haveli’ town of the royal state, there is no way that the stay options in Mandawa would be anything lesser than opulent. Below is the list of some of the best stay options in the town.
If you ask a pedestrian while on your way to Mandawa about the best place to stay in the town, they would abruptly say Castle Mandawa- that’s how famous this 140-year old fortress-turned hotel is in the region. It has an impressive courtyard, huge and spacious rooms and lofty domes, amongst many other things. The rooms are categorised in Standard, Deluxe, Suite and Royal Suite. However, even if you pick the Standard room, the royalty of this luxury hotel will remain intact. Your stay shall also include facilities like 24-hour room service, spa, swimming pools and jacuzzi, Wi-fi, satellite TV, taxi services, travel guides, etc. You can also indulge in activities like exploring the fresco trails in town, visiting local market and schools, going for came rides and safaris, etc.
This charming hotel, however, promises more than just a royal stay. Its multi-cuisine restaurant, Jai Niwas and coffee shop, Silehkhana, serve delectable cuisines and beverage, respectively.
This is another popular haveli-turned-hotel that has its own charm and aura. The walls of the courtyard are decorated with the stunning frescoes based on the theme of Shri Krishna. There are rooms as well suites, for you to stay in and they are all styled in true Rajasthani style.
This hotel speaks of royalty in every sense of the word. The rooms are stunning with colourful paintings and murals. The staff is known for their pleasant behaviour and warm service.
If you are looking for palatial settings, then pick this hotel for all your opulent wishes will be fulfilled here. The place is lush with luxurious rooms, courtyards, and lounges. The property was established in the 19th century and with time, it was restored into a hotel.
Located in the heart of town, this unique hotel comes with its own reasons to invite you in. To begin with, it has a gorgeous rooftop restaurant that overlooks Castle Mandawa and Raghunath Temple. There are 11 beautifully decorated rooms that are adorned with intricate settings and breath-taking murals as well as paintings.
Apart from staying in an alluring hotel, devouring delectable Rajasthani cuisines and exploring the havelis, forts and towns near Mandawa, you can also invest in local paintings, handicrafts, stools, and related items in the vibrant bazaar of the town.
If you want to attend the Shekhawati Festival of Nawalgarh, then it is recommended to go there in February. The cultural performances, organic food court, handicrafts sale, etc are some of the highlights of this festival.
From the eye of a traveller who loves to explore off-beat Indian towns, Mandawa is the top of my list. It is a rare place to travel and yet holds tremendous secrets in its labyrinth. Every haveli tells a story and any history or architecture lover would love to explore and learn about the same. If you are an old soul, you will fall in love with the streets, the walls, the havelis, frescoes and paintings. So, on your next visit, choose a stay in one of the havelis of Mandawa and hear all the beautiful stories that this forgotten town reeks of.
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