Food and Frescoes: Heritage Shekhawati

Rajasthan’s Shekhawati region, legend as India’s open art gallery, is a delight for culture buffs as they travel across the districts of Sikar, Jhunjhunu and Churu where a string of havelis (mansions) lie richly illustrated by murals both in the interiors and the exteriors. It’s also a wonderful area to explore rural life in all its rich variety.

Often, the bridge that brings people together is when they cook together. You will love this adventure in the rural expanses of the Shekhawati region. Get to discover the local people and their food traditions. Abandon yourself to the pleasures of discovering this rich world of a whole new genre of painterly traditions. You will love this beautifully curated tour, specially put together by Mallyka, which showcases the contrasting worlds and pursuits of the region-the humble rural landscape and the more sophisticated world of the merchant princes of the region such as the Goenkas, Poddars, Birlas, Singhanias, Ruias, etc. So even as enjoy your village home experience you also get to discover why it’s important that even the abandoned havelis of the wealthy are all an intrinsic part of the rich heritage of Shekhawati which needs to be preserved. Mallyka Singh Dundlod of A Baisa’s Adventures hails from one of the old Rajput families; Dundlod Fort is the old bastion of the Goenka business clan. This tour she has put together is, in small measure, an important step in helping to look after this precious heritage.

  • Meeting a local farmer’s family and engaging in an authentic regional cooking experience
  • Enjoying the experience of cooking on a clay stove and using a traditional silpatta to make a chutney
  • Mallyka will personally lead you on this fun-filled village tour where you discover an old merchant haveli with its beautiful murals

Your visit to the family home of a local farmer turns out to be a fun experience as you discover the joys of cooking an authentic regional meal. You will make your own bajra ki roti (millet flat bread) cooked on a traditional chulha (earthen stove) that is a common feature in the kitchens of village homes here. You will learn to create delicious Lasan ki chutney (Chilly garlic paste) following the traditional method of grinding it on a Silpatta (stone grinder). The red chillies flavour cooked authentic style can be such a delight. Seasonal vegetables from the farm can be cooked by our culinary artists in case anyone is interested. This is an excellent opportunity to bond with your host family to enjoy that immersive local experience. Let food be the love ingredient which binds hearts and creates a channel for everyone to get to know each other. The affection one receives from the local people can be truly heart-warming and help shore up those behind wonderful holiday memories. 

Later, the walk through the village leads you to explorations of the fort, the cenotaphs, and the legendary frescoes of Shekhawati. The tour leads you through the 150-year Arjundas Goenka Haveli which has been converted into a museum for the travellers to sample viewings of the beauty of the frescoes of Shekhawati. By tradition, the walls of the homes of the merchants were illustrated by frescoes that reflected the narratives of their times and their lifestyles. Apart from the murals on the walls and ceilings, you will adore the beautiful doors that seem to be works of art in themselves. These frescoes are wall paintings which take you back to the golden era through the artisan’s imagination where each painting has a story to tell, from depictions of Hindu gods, communities, the influence of the British and vignettes from folklore.

There is a slice of yesteryears that is painted on those walls; take time to feast your eyes on this painterly grandeur and learn the secrets of the famed merchant communities of the Marwaris and the changes that came into their trade and commerce activities, because of the British. In the late 19th century, with the British moving commerce to the port hubs of Calcutta, Mumbai and Gujarat, the merchants of this region were forced to move their business centres to these port cities. Families were left behind until they were able to make good there. As businesses grew apace in the cities to where they had located, their families back home also prospered, resulting in the building of havelis, baolis, temples and dharamshalas. The wealthier ones even went on to commission cenotaphs, colleges and grander homes. Another form of this showcase of wealth was the art on the walls. The more elaborate the mural works on these havelis, the stronger the message of the family’s wealth and social status. Listen to the firsthand stories of Shekhawati region and become a part of sustainable tourism initiative with A Baisa’s Adventures.

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