Shekawati, the North Indian region of Rajasthan, was once an important trading route to China. The amazing wealth of the majarajas can still be experienced as their former palaces have now been transformed into luxury hotels.
The journey through this exotic land begins in Sikar, a place that still brings to mind the splendour of bygone times. The streets and lanes of this small town are always busy and it is as though half the population is making its way through the town. Lorries and camel wagons dominate the streets and the unpredictable nature of Indian traffic is a constant challenge.
Havelis, the exquisite homes of the city’s former traders, are architectural gems. The dwelling houses of Sikar’s wealthy traders have retained their former glory and are built of yellow sandstone. The word ‘havelis’ is derived from the Persian language and means ‘encircled square’. The walls protect the building from the searing heat and also uninvited guests.
In the 18th century Churu was one of the most important stops along the caravan route. The mighty Poddar Family dominated the supply of provisions to the travelling traders. Due to punitive taxes they moved their business to Ramgarh thus Churu gradually fell into decay but with the arrival of the British the town prospered once again.
Each city in the Shekawati region is like something from a movie set and it would not be at all surprising if a film crew suddenly appeared from behind one of the magnificent facades!
The splendour of the region’s havelis and royal palaces has turned this journey into an unforgettable adventure. Shekawati is truly a golden step into a lost age.