A town so exquisite to popularly emerge as no less charming a premise than what the lovely aura of an open art gallery encompasses, the elegant existence of Rajasthan’s Mandawa is testament indeed to the alluring riches that the vibrant land of India boasts of in all its inclusivity. And when it is an experience entailed directly out of the royal land of Rajasthan, the ensuing amalgamation in grandeur and majesty makes for a vision spectacular enough, displaying along the lengths and breadths of its fantastical presence a curious case in authenticity. For indeed when it comes to the definite sight of this Rajasthani town unfurling as a destination maverick unlike any other, Mandawa conjures up an expanse immensely true to the distinctive heritage of a state characterised by resplendent royalty running along its every gilded thread in glorious existence. World famous for the grandest of its havelis and the most luxurious of mansions and resident by that extent therefore in a charm evocative of a regal dignity as well as of an old world opulence rarely encountered in such profusion across any other similar realm decked with the riches is this town painted in myriad shades of not the popping vibrancy but rather in such tones of artistic affluence that elevates even further the exotic beauty of this town bustling also in a manner of its own.
This lure of the artistic prevails in Mandawa even beyond the heritage musings embedded in its centuries old hawelis, each one essentially residing in a history of its own splendid beckoning. Outside the artfully painted walls making up the fascinating facade of these expansive residings in esteemed traditionality, Mandawa also comes alive in its plethora of wall paintings and frescoes as it does as well through its many a sites of historical importance, continuing in that regard a legacy brimming with a wider cultural relevance. And this tradition in the richness of both wealth as well as in the sensibilities of the artistic, whether it be in charting the realm of pictorial or architectural glory entails out of a particular period in the history of this town dotted by beauties galore. A key stop for wealthy merchants during the 18th century on their travel sojourns along the Silk Road, the beautiful town of Mandawa came to be by virtue of this very essence of its characterising identity. It had been these merchants traversing through this route in convenience who took to Mandawa as their place of residence constructing those tastefully decorated havens across massive measure in as mighty mannerism that today present a picture in immensely alluring aesthetics. Be it the intricately carved doors and the artfully painted walls or the embellished entrances glistening through the Belgian style mirror work embossed upon them, every haveli still defining the landscape and identity of Malwana is a true measure of the royal Rajasthani magnificence. And reasserting its allusion to true nativity is also the prominence of the Jaipur style of architecture employed to conjure up this striking spectacle in utter fancy, replete with such pleasing elements of the courtyards and the gardens and of course open terraces galore that dawn upon the town its global prominence as being the largest open air art gallery. For indeed, every specimen of existence here is first a piece of extraordinary art and then only a physical structure however extravagant, that though stands out still across both these elements in their being imbibing thereby a unique quality that overshadows all with its mere manifestation across an ensconced reality.
Mandawa no doubt is an assertive art in its own mighty right, continuing its legacy along a trail rooted in ancientry and fortified by happenings in later history. Once a trading outpost for ancient caravan routes for goods from China and the Middle East and later more definitely settled by the wealthy merchants making the most out of this stopover in necessity, Mandawa owes at least a portion of its distinguished dwelling to its essence in being a part of the Shekhawati region. As an expanse immersed in the annals of a definitive history, Shekhawati itself resides in an awe of its own exclusive leanings. The entire region is a treasure trove in cultural richness and historical significance, with such elements of the many a humongous havelis and fascinating frescoes essentially accounting for the aesthetic expression of its every composing cities and towns. But in its exclusive eking out of identity as the fort town, Mandawa’s working up for itself this recognition speaks of a tale drawn upon destiny. And it is this very destiny perhaps that still has Mandawa standing true to its charm very evidently steeped in the dynamic allure of an era gone by. The little market town might be a hub of activity during its days under the vivid blue sky but come night and the quaint essence of it descends upon its entirety in a manner rather differently. Devoid of the tiring chaos of the modern day existence, with even large vehicles being spare spottings in ordinariness, Mandawa is as silent an artistic expression at night as enticing it is the telling of a tale by day. Diverting therefore from its characterisation as a picture pretty in its many elements of singular leaning, this rendezvous with richness that Mandawa typically presents to its many a curious explorers along a track offbeat transcends the appeal of its touristry to emerge also as a detour in rather soulful scouting.
And yet, Mandwana wouldn’t be half the enigma that it is if one should seek only succour in its somewhat different spiritualism. This continuing lineage in richness is unique also in its existence first, essence later manifestation, summing up the exclusive privilege reserved for its exploration in all physicality. With historical sites and heritage structures making up indeed for this assertion in tremendousness, Mandawa is a destination that lives through its journey in the sightseeing aspect of tourism. And thus there ensues this trail of discovering, encompassing everything from the namesake Mandawa Fort and the Mandawa Haveli to the eponymous Harlalka Haveli and Harlalka Well even as the Murmuria Haveli, the Lakshminarayan Ladia Haveli, the Mohan Lal Saraf Haveli, the Binsidhar Newatia Haveli, the couple of Goenka Havelis open up as their own worlds of many a wonders, essentially playing out through frescoes and paintings and elements of architecture that are all similar yet so unique in their way of bringing upon each of these royal assertions an attraction so effectively stimulating.
Even with all its reputation hinging on the medium of its havelis and baoris, it still is the Mandawa Fort that carries the utmost essence of this town nestled in the royal reaches of the Rajasthani revelation. Built to protect the trading outpost out of which this town emerged to be the entity that it is today, the Mandawa Fort is what helped put Mandawa on the world map and in a manner more than prominently recognised in its magnificence. Built by Thakur Newal Singh in 1775, the fort continues to dominate the Mandawa identity even today though as a heritage hotel but carrying still the true essence of the time of its medieval origins. A painted arched gateway famously adorned with paintings of Lord Krishna and his cows leads into a world coming alive across an identity of its own with beautiful frescoes, exquisite carvings and tasteful mirror work marking its premises in immense luxury. Granting also views in spectacularity of the entire expanse of the town is this piece of heritage now identified as Castle Mandawa even as an intriguing abode of peacocks paying regular visits to the verdant garden at one corner of the structure lends in fact a different dimension to the entire experience in exploration of this especial existence.
No less legendary is the Harlalka Well or the baoli that does not in any way account for any lesser assertion in majesty despite being almost in ruins today. Marked by its four pillars and holding within some of the most immaculate, crystal clear water that reflects back your image, this sight of a time rooted in the past invokes also such realisations that seems to incline more with the innate spirituality running along the Mandawa mode of existence. And if this evocation of the inner self is not enough to leave you contented in this travel sojourn to a land lesser explored, then there is the definite realm of the religious as well to seek certain comfort in. Celebrating the immense devotion that the town harbours for Lord Krishna is the Thakurji Temple dedicated to him that makes for a significant religious shrine in Mandawa. But even along this fore of the spiritual, it is art that meanders still in a manner most relevant to the Mandawa identity with images and paintings both of the Lord and of more worldly musings as well finding depiction across this haven of peace, whether that be one entailed out of a connect with the divine or in exploring instead as gratifying a course of the arts that has forever been eking out for this diverse land a place in surprising significance.
The repertoire of richness that characterise the entire Mandawa narrative right from its beginnings in history along its continuation through the times to its present day state of existence manifesting as no lesser an exposition of art, architecture and aesthetics alike is indeed what sums up the substance of this destination as one engrossing image occurring across a detailed delving into the most nuanced nitty gritty of what forever captivates the human imagination. And it is in alluding to this universal human desire for the different even when scouting out the universal ideals of a beauty availed out of such realisations in immense integrity that Mandawa makes for itself a mark that stands out as truly, exclusively and exquisitely an assertion of its emergence from a land reverberating with every reiteration of its royalty.