Mandawa, a remote feudal principality in the centre of the Shekhawati region, was a trading outpost for the ancient caravan routes that stopped here from China and the Middle East. The Rajput ruler of Mandawa, Thakur Nawal Singh, built a fort in 1755 to protect this outpost. The township that grew around the fort soon attracted a large community of traders, who settled here.
The City of Mandawa was made a thikana in the mid of 18th century by the Bhojraj Ji Kasubsub clan of Shekhawat Rajputs.
Every home in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthanis adorned with gaily painted murals that illuminate the arid landscape.
Traditionally, this was the stronghold of Rao Shekhaji, who founded a dynasty here and gave it his name.
Thakur Nawal Singh, son of Shardul Singh founded the fort of Mandawa in 1755 AD. The fort dominates the town with a painted arched gateway adorned with Lord Krishna and his cows. Built as per a medieval theme, the castle of Mandawa is adorned with beautiful frescoes. Rooms in the palace are decorated with paintings of Lord Krishna, exquisite carvings and amazing mirror work. The palace's Durbar Hall houses a number of antiques and paintings. Mandawa Fort has now been converted into a heritage hotel.
When the caravan traffic ceased in the late 18th century, traders created business empires in other parts of the country, but returned to Mandawa to build palatial mansions in their hometown. It is the singular and unique designs and architecture of these havelis that coin the term "open art gallery" of Rajasthan.
Some of the important and more beautiful havelis are:
Prasad Goenka Haveli
The Binsidhar Newatia Haveli, Mohan Lal Saraf Haveli, Lakshminarayan Ladia Haveli and Chokhani Double Haveli are some of the other painted havelis in the area.
Murals in the Thakurji temple, located opposite the Goenka Double Haveli and the Murmuria Haveli, include soldiers being shot from the mouths of cannons, a reflection of the horrors of the Mutiny of 1857. Further west are a couple of chhatris, and a step-well, still used today and bearing paintings inside its decorative corner domes.