Cities aren’t like people; they live on and on, even though their reason for being where they are has gone down river and out to sea. ~ John Updike
Walking through the dusty, littered narrow streets of Nawalgarh, with more tourists than locals in sight, I felt that this town was a like an elegant but slightly worn off old lady. A lady who had been a stunning beauty in her days and had been loved by her family, but now she was alone, with her faded regal clothes and ornaments which were brilliant in parts but frayed in totality. Nawalgarh was one of the richest towns in terms of the fresco artwork that we visited in shekhawati region, during our winter family road trip to Rajasthan. However, Nawalgarh also left us feeling sad for the town and its stunning havelis & art work.
Sharing a walking tour of Nawalgarh town in Shekhawati, Rajasthan.
Nawalgarh is a town of billionaires! Yes, it’s true, as some of the biggest Marwari business families (such as Morarka/s and Poddar/s) ancestral roots lie in Nawalgarh. Around 150 to 100 years ago, a number of big & small business families built some of the most exquisite havelis (or palatial houses) in Nawalgarh (as in other towns of Shekhawati region) as a statement of their flourishing businesses. As opposed to the grandeur of forts and palaces of kings, these havelis had more of a delicate beauty about them with stunning fresco artworks. Though today, whole of shekhawati region is dotted with the crumbling havelis, it is Nawalgarh and Mandawa towns, which have somewhat preserved the havelis.
Nawalgarh has two of the best preserved havelis in form of museums, courtesy their owners – Morarkas and Poddars. The Morarka Haveli Museum and Poddar Haveli Museum present two different but equally stunning representation of fresco artwork of shekhawati region; the Poddar haveli museum has even employed a National award winning fresco artist to continuously renovate and re-touch the art works as and when necessary. However, these two havelis stand as two jewels in a crumbling necklace as the rest of the town has many equally beautiful havelis in various states of disrepair, with ageing caretakers. Walking along the dusty paths of the town, I spotted many beautiful sections of fresco artworks, carved doors and other crafted décor details of a seemingly run down haveli. I wished the owners (who no doubt most of the instances) may have the resources to renovate the house.
Moreover, for tourists, there are multiple logistical issues while visiting Nawalgarh (or any other town in Shekhawati). The streets are narrow and dusty, with littering all around, something that could be fixed easily by the collective might of the billionaire owners. Then there are no toilet facilities and we had to get back to our hotel for attending natures call.
However, overall Nawalgarh left a deep impression on me, of a town which had a glorious past and has all the potential for a wonderful future – if only its billionaire kids would just spend some time & effort on it.