Nawalgarh is the first Shekhawati city that I visited. Nawalgarh was my first stop while going from Pushkar to Bagad located near Jhunjhunu.
You can say that this was my first interview with the wonderful Shekhawati Havelis. Although the Shekhawati Havelis of Mandwa are more popular, I can confidently say that the Poddar Haveli of Nawalgarh is the best preserved and exhibited haveli.
Come, let me show you this wonderful city where many Indian business families reside.
History of Nawalgarh
There was a small village called Rohili on the bank of a lake. In 1737, Naval Singh, the junior son of Shardul Singh, the founder of Jhunjhunu, came here and got a fort built.
He established a fortified city with four gates in four directions. The names of these gates were Anguna, Bawdi, Mandi and Nansa.
Surrounded by reefs and protected by these four iron gates, the name of this fort was Bala Quila.
There is also another fort named Fatehgarh which is in the outer part of these reefs. The city market is still active within these four reefs. This state was known for its fine breed of elegant horses and elephants.
Naval Singh had invited many merchant communities to come here and set up their businesses.
Thus many merchants and businessmen came here and built these wonderful Havelis with the money accumulated from their business.
I was traveling to Nawalgarh especially to visit Shekhawati Havelis. So, as soon as I entered Nawalgarh, I got anxious to visit these Havelis.
Our car moved forward through the narrow streets of the market. On the way, admire the walls of the fort and the huge entrance gates.
Saw many beautiful buildings. Some buildings in them seemed to be temples and seeing others, one could see Havelis.
Passing through the city, we reached a place which was full of Havelis. I felt as if I had reached an open gallery.
I had first seen this haveli in Nawalgarh city. We entered the haveli from under a highly ornate wooden gate, richly colored walls, and hanging niches and vents.
I guess the owner of the mansion recently renovated it. There is a small bookshop inside where there is a beautiful book adorned with lavish pictures and information about the haveli.
There is also a collection of many photographs and movies to make the tourists aware of the haveli. I immediately bought the entry ticket and requested the mansion supervisor to have a darshan of the haveli.
My visitor showed me the various components of the haveli which in a way was my first introduction to the traditional Shekhawati Havelis.
He showed me the courtyard in the center of the mansion called Chowk. The size of the haveli depends on the number of squares in the haveli. Although smaller Havelis have one chowk, the presence of two chowks is common in most Havelis.
Some large Havelis may have more number of chowks but such Havelis are rare. They took me to the mansion meeting where business meetings were held. He also showed me the kitchen of the mansion and several spacious bedrooms located on the upper floor.
The stories of Hindu scriptures, especially the stories of Krishna were visible all around. Each wall around me was so tinged with colors that it was difficult to focus my eyes on a single picture.
The Tulsi plant in the center of the mansion was indicating that there is still life in this mansion. I could see the signs of Ahoi Mata on the walls of the living room. Many Vaishya families worship Ahoi Mata on the day of Navratri and Ahoi Ashtami.
From the top of the mansion, I could see the place where the horses were stabled. The figures of horses are painted on its walls.
Just in front of the haveli is a huge temple complex built in the typical Rajputana style of architecture. The temple is painted pure white which is in stark contrast to the bright colors of the Havelis around it.
If you are asked whether there is an opportunity to visit only one place in Nawalgarh, even in the entire Shekhawati, then you must choose Dr. Ramnath Poddar Haveli Museum. This is a huge haveli built in the year 1902.
You can imagine the rich period of this haveli by looking at its successfully preserved paintings. Apart from this, the haveli has a proper guided tour which helps you to know and appreciate this haveli and the well-preserved museum.
Sunil Ji gives you information about each and every element by charging a small entry fee. Sunil Ji is always passionate and enthusiastic about displaying Rajasthani culture.
The maintenance of this mansion is excellent. It has more than 750 paintings that are well preserved and recorded. The occupants of the haveli are well aware of the stories related to the mansion and they also take great pleasure in narrating those stories.