In the first days of our Rajasthan tour we have been visiting several havelis. These are impressive mansions mainly from the 19th century, which are among the most important non-religious architectural landmarks of Rajasthan. Adorned by murals, beautiful artwork and paintings, the havelis were designed to reflect the prosperity of the owner.
They were built by wealthy merchants, aristocrats or maharajas along the old Silk Road where the caravans passed by. These palaces served several purposes. First of all, this was the place where the merchants received the caravans and negotiated their deals. At the same time havelis were also the homes where several generations lived together.
Structure and decoration of the havelis of Rajasthan
The wall decoration shows the way of life and the importance of the religion in those days. Scenes from everyday life are mixed with drawings from Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma and other idols.
The architecture of the havelis also reflect values and customs. Just to mention 2 interesting examples:
- The courts were the centers of life in these buildings. The front ones were open to the public and mainly used by men. The ones in the back served only private purposes. This is where women and children spent their time, hidden from the eyes of foreigners.
- The wooden entrance doors of the havelis were huge, but were only opened on special occasions. Otherwise there were tiny openings on the large gate wings. First of all to protect from invaders, and also to force the incoming to bow, and thereby show respect.
Havelis of Rajasthan today
Due to the declining importance of caravans, the merchants moved on to other trading areas, like harbors or new big cities. So the buildings were left behind.
This is why many of these impressive houses are in a very bad shape today. As they were built of sandstone and decorated by natural colors they would need permanent restauration. Many of them have remained in private ownership, but the owners do not invest in maintaining them.
Fortunately, some havelis found new investors and have been turned into museums, art galleries, small hotels or restaurants. As such they have been wonderfully restored and still show their old splendor.
The most beautiful ones we have seen are to be found in Mandawa – the Jhunjhunu Wala, in Fatehpur – the Nadine Le Prince and in Jaisalmer – the Patwa Haveli.
We were also lucky enough to spend a couple of nights in some of these converted palaces and it felt like being put back into the past… :)
It is so heartening to see a foreigner writing about the havelis of Rajasthan with so much passion. I know, some gems are falling prey to neglect and apathy. It is great that some of them are restored now and turned into heritage properties. I have never stayed in a haveli but looking forward to.
thank you for your feedback.
Hope you’ll find the time to enjoy some time in a restored haveli soon. It’s stunning!!
The Havelis look stunning. I think i’d be there for hours exploring and taking photographs. I particularly like the doors!
you won’t feel the time passing, when you enter such a beautiful building and feel the vibe.
Have fun when you are there !
Wow, that is spectacular. It’s the first time I have heard or read about them. It reminds me of the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion I visited in Penang, Malaysia, though on a smaller and less grand scale.
The Havelis are really-really beautiful. Absolutely worth a visit. We have not been to Malaysia yet, unfortunately, but would also love to visit. :)
Havelis are the essence of the Rajasthan culture. Many of them how now been turned into hotels and several in home stays. It’s always a charm to stay in one. You captured the essence just right :)
Thank you for your feedback. We liked the special atmosphere of the converted Havelis, too.
What a gorgeous place! I love the decorations, and those tiny little details on buildings (the Nadine Le Prince haveli especially) – I’ve never been to India, but it must have been a wonderful experience!
Hi Vicky, yes, it is sooooo beautiful. If you get a chance to visit India don’t hesitate. It is extremely intense – but really worth it. :)
That bed looks deliciously comfortable. It’s pleasing to hear that some of the havelis have had new life breathed into them by new owners. I hate watching beautiful old buildings decay in their foundations!
Yes, some of them are really nicely restored, and offer nice stay-overs. As we understood you constantly have to keep working on them in order to keep them in shape, as the natural colors are really sensitive and not too long-lasting…
I’ve never been to this part of the world but these mansions look so gorgeous and full of culture. I particularly like the decorations on the walls. It’s genius to combine both religious figures and everyday life into such beautiful artworks :)
If you have the chance to visit India, don’t miss it! It’s full of beautiful artwork, architecture, temples and religious places.
I suppose this is in India? You should write a phrase in clear. We don’t know what havelis is, and where rajasthan is…
Dear Plushy, sorry, you are right, this is beautiful India. Worth to see. :)
Rajasthan is one of my favorite places in India. You’re so lucky to have stayed at some of the converted ones. My favorite place is Neemranah Fort Palace for it’s Saturday night cultural show. Great pics :)
Thank you so much! The converted havelis were really so amazing. We can also understand why you love Rajasthan, we love it too.
What a beautiful place. Your pictures are gorgeous. They make me want to go discover India. thanks for sharing.
Thank you, Christine! We are happy if our pictures inspire you. :)