If you thought all the grandeur and ostentation was reserved for the palaces and forts, then let us tell you that you’re mistaken. There are private mansions aka havelis that can give these palaces a run for their money. Owned by merchants or ministers at the royal courts, these mansions were built to showcase the affluence of their owners as much as they were constructed for their luxurious style of living. With their intricate carvings, baroque artwork and larger than life architecture, these havelis are sure to leave you in awe and wonderment of the life led by their owners.
Our country is so rich in its history that it’s replete with such rich abodes. Rajasthan is home to most of these architectural wonders. Needless to say, it is expected that the stronghold of the royals would have a vast collection of such richly built private mansions.
So, we picked out a few from a very diverse list; a trip to these is enough to give you the entire gist.
NATHMAL JI KI HAVELI, JAISALMER
A 19th-century haveli in Jaisalmer, this façade is as grand as it can get. Right from the two very large yellow sandstone elephants at the gate to the heavily carved exteriors, the mansion is the creation of two architect brothers. The interiors are decorated with elaborate miniature paintings and carvings. The paintings on the first floor are allegedly complete with 1.5 kg of gold leaf. The two parts individually built by each architect are distinct yet compliment each other in the most creative way.
SALIM SINGH KI HAVELI, JAISALMER
More than 300 years old, every bit of this haveli spells exuberance. The architecture of the mansion is ornate with stone carvings, dazzling murals and extraordinary paintings. The pavilion is delicately exquisite and its arched roof stands out with its exquisite peacock carvings. The balconies and window screens too in no way lack in ostentation as compared to the lush interiors.
RAMPURIA HAVELIS, BIKANER
A group of four havelis that date back to the 15th century is quite a visual treat when it comes to baroque architecture. Built in red sandstone, the mansion is a harmonious blend of Victorian, Rajputana and Mughal architecture; making it every bit an architectural rhapsody. The inner halls and rooms are lavishly decorated with wooden artefacts, exquisite portraits and paintings and antiquated relics of great value. One of the havelis, the Bhawar Niwas also serves as a hotel for tourists.
MORARKA HAVELI, NAWALGARH
The finest example of the famous Shekhawati frescoes, the Morarka haveli is the most well-conserved havelis of Nawalgarh. Built in 1900, this haveli from the North-East region of Rajasthan has the most fascinating paintings, murals and beautifully laid out Belgian tainted glass windows. The Ramayana scenes painted in the inner courtyard are well maintained and the top storey has a painting of Jesus Christ as well. Gods, goddess, birds, flowers are very intricately carved all over the Haveli. The doorway is a masterpiece on its own.
HANUMAN PRASAD GOENKA HAVELI, MANDAWA
Mandawa, the city founded by Rajput merchants, has havelis that reflect the lifestyle and beliefs of the residing merchants. The Hanuman Prasad Goenka Haveli, being the most popular of them all is the perfect example of Rajasthani art and heritage. A grandiose palatial structure, every nook and corner of the haveli is an art exhibit in its own right. The carvings and paintings on the walls have drawn inspiration from the Indian mythology with Indra, elephants, Shiva and Nandi having the most conspicuous presence. The haveli stands true to the essence of the epithet ‘the open art gallery’ that the Mandawa Havelis are popularly known as.
Amazed much? These hidden marvels that we often tend to overlook are as dreamy and magnificent, as if straight out of a history book. Which one’s are on your list to visit next time you’re in Rajasthan?