Ilay Cooper’s book on Shekhawati set me off on an extraordinary trip to an extraordinary place in January this year. I had to wait for nearly 6 months, though, before I felt ready to write about it — so overwhelming were my thoughts and emotions. This post on Laxmangarh is the fifth of 8 posts in the series on “The Painted Towns of Shekhawati”. If you haven’t read the introduction to Shekhawati’s history (and the series), I recommend that you do so now, before proceeding further. If you have already done so, then dive straight into the post. 🙂
When I arrived at Laxmangarh on that bitterly cold January morning, it had just stopped raining and the sun was playing hide-and-seek with the clouds. Thankful that the rains would not play spoilsport, I headed straight for the Fort, which is built on a hillock overlooking the town.
Laxmangarh Fort dates back to the early 1800s when the town was founded by Laxman Singh, the Raja of Sikar, to take advantage of the rise in caravan trade at that time. He built the Fort and a walled fortification with nine gates to protect the town. Today, only the Fort remains.
To my surprise, I found that the Fort was now private property having been bought by a trader in Delhi, who had, in turn, leased it to a telecommunications company to construct cell towers. There is a temple inside the Fort and visitors are allowed only till that point in the Fort. I tried to look inside the door leading up to the top of the Fort and almost got told off by the priest of the temple for daring to do so !
Disappointed with not being able to see a Fort the second time around in Shekhawati, I set off to explore the town instead.
Ilay Cooper’s book on Shekhawatiset me off on an extraordinary trip to an extraordinary place, and I had to wait for nearly six months before I felt ready to write about it — so overwhelming were my thoughts and emotions.This post on Dundlod is the third of eight posts in the series on “The Painted Towns of Shekhawati”. If you haven’t readthis introductionto Shekhawati’s history (and the series), I recommend that you do so now, before proceeding further.
The gates to the Dundlod Fort are locked when I arrive at 2.30 in the afternoon from Nawalgarh.
“How can a Fort be locked at this time of the day?” I grumble, looking around for some information on the Fort timings. I don’t find any and instead start looking around for someone who can help me, but there is no one around and all the shops are shut — Dundlod appears to be practically deserted.
I see a tea stall that is open and walk towards it. The tea stall owner guesses what I’m going to ask him and says: “The Fort is shut. They have gone horse riding.”
“Who are ‘they’?” I ask.
“The owners of the Fort and their foreign guests. You come after some time,” is the reply.
I decide to explore the town instead and as I’m wondering which direction to head towards, the tea stall owner points me towards a haveli (mansion) and says that the caretaker-cum-watchman will open it for me to see.
Ilay Cooper’s book on Shekhawati set me off on an extraordinary trip to an extraordinary place, and I had to wait for nearly six months before I felt ready to write about it — so overwhelming were my thoughts and emotions.
Presenting the first of eight posts on the painted towns of Shekhawati. It is a brief account of the region’s history (an introduction to the series really), in order to understand the region’s past and present, in the context of the Shekhawati Series.
Shekhawati is one of the four regions of Rajasthan, the others being Mewar, Marwar and Hadoti). Spread over Sikar, Jhunjhunu and Churu districts of Rajasthan, it is best known for its grand and palatial havelis (mansions). It is also known for being home to many of India’s well-known business families — Birla, Poddar, Bajaj, Jhunjhunwala, Khaitan, Oswal, Piramal, Ruia, Singhania, and Goenka, among others are from this region.
One would think that this would automatically mean a lot of visibility and tourist footfall in the region, but this is not the case — compared to the other regions of Rajasthan, Shekhawati is less visible. Which, in my opinion, is really surprising as the history of the region is quite unique and distinct from the rest of the State (at least in the context of the series that I’m writing).