Tehelka.comtehelkahindi.com criticalfutures.org

Search for archived stories here...

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 21, Dated May 29, 2010

The Motorcars Of the Gopis

Arundhati Ghosh
Arts management professional based in Bengaluru

Painted veils The anachronistic charms of a Jhunjhunu haveli

imageEVERY MOONLIT night, in a small town in the middle of the desert in rajasthan, on the wide terraces of a beautiful stone palace, a thousand queens emerge. eyes sparkle, anklets jingle, skirts rustle amid peals of laughter as they swish and glide across the corridors of the palace playing hide and seek. As the night slowly fades, they fade away too, taking their music and magic with them. that’s what i saw and heard, sitting with my eyes closed on the lonely parapet of Khetri mahal at Jhunjhunu, the heart of the Shekhawati region.

In the triangle formed by Delhi- Jaipur-Bikaner, spreading across many districts of barren flat land lies a region dotted with abandoned havelis, ruins of forts, chhattris (constructions with an umbrella type dome) and baoris (step wells); the erstwhile garden of rao Shekha — Shekhawati. After the fall of the mughal empire, the descendants of Rao Shekha aligned themselves to the rajput rulers of Amer. Almost every haveli in this region has beautiful frescos, murals and paintings — both inside and outside — thus gaining the name “the open art gallery of rajasthan”. the art tells stories from various ages: Krishna combing radha’s tresses, British officers dining with indian merchants from the region, kings on horseback, love stories of Shiva and Parvati and so much more. the most unique feature of these paintings is that ever so often they mix up the times — european ladies attending the raasleela, becoming the gopis of Krishna, and women arriving in motor cars to Shiva and Parvati’s wedding.

Shekhawati has a rich history of valour in the battlefield. The Indian Army has a large number of recruits from the region
Nearest airport: Jaipur
Nearest station: Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan

I figured the best way to see this region was to draw a map and do a road trip. i was staying at the Piramal Haveli which is in Baggar, near the town of Jhunjhunu. every morning i would drive out and follow the dusty roads to one small town, nawalgarh or Parasurampura or mandawa, leisurely taking in the magic of Shekhawati. i would spend the entire day in that town — meeting caretakers of old houses who’d serve me thick milky tea and reverently open locked doors to show me a room where every inch of the wall is covered with rich art work; chatting with young boys who live in hostels set up in a deserted haveli with open courtyards and narrow ledges; following women who walk miles to draw water, to see a 1,000-year-old baori. A sense of nostalgia, heavy with memories, hangs over the entire region. you can hear whispers in every corner.

Hidden architectural gems emerge from amidst muddy bylanes and ugly concrete facades that have sprouted in front of these havelis that once were the houses of some of the richest merchants of the country.

You leave with a sense of enchantment and a faint shadow of sorrow. most of the paintings are fading, the havelis are crumbling. the owners of these havelis and their families no longer stay here. running huge businesses in mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata, they have probably forgotten Shekhawati. And Shekhawati, a mausoleum of its past grandeur with its magic and its mystery, lies quite alone.

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 21, Dated May 29, 2010

The Morning After

The Fleshy Tones Of Real India
Amitava Kumar The author, most recently, of Evidence of Suspicion. Lives in upstate New York

Stone Chickens And Beach Resorts
Suresh Menon Bengaluru-based columnist, who often writes on cricket

Rafting Up The Valley Of God
Amrita Nandy-Joshi South Asian women’s rights activist. Moonlights as a freelance journalist and travel writer

How To Catch A Cloud
Deepanjana Pal Mumbai-based writer and author of The Painter: A Life of Ravi Varma

The One-Fourth Holy Land
Aruni Kashyap Assamese writer currently based in Delhi

The Torrential Luxury
Patrick Bryson Australian writer currently residing in Shillong, Meghalaya

An Aimless Gawker’s Paradise
Arul Mani Columnist and teacher at a Bengaluru college

Turban-Watching In Filmi Punjab
Annie Zaidi Journalist and author of Known Turf: Bantering with Bandits and Other True Tales

The Motorcars Of the Gopis
Arundhati Ghosh Arts management professional based in Bengaluru

Land Of Thread And Mirrors
Benson Issac Teacher at St Joseph’s College, Bengaluru. Also Freelance researcher and trainer

Goa, Be Kind. Rewind
Frederick Noronha Goa-based journalist and author

The Sands Of Time
Ramu Ramanathan Mumbai-based playwrightdirector and editor of PT Notes, a monthly theatre newsletter produced by Prithvi Theatre

The Refuge Of Small Mercies
Neel Chaudhuri Delhi-based playwright and theatre director and artistic director of The Tadpole Repertory

Harem Pants And Psychedelic Trance
Deepika Arwind Writer and journalist based in Bengaluru

Holiday At The High Wavys
Bijoy Venugopal Bengaluru-based journalist and biographer for the rock band Thermal and a Quarter

Tuning In With The Folks
Mrinalini Harchandrai Writer based in Mumbai

The Treehouse Fellowship
Mridula Koshy Delhi-based writer and author of a collection of short stories called If It Is Sweet

Romeo And Juliet In Freeze Mode
Amitabha Bagchi Professor at IIT Delhi and author of the novel Above Average

  Relax, It’s Just A Vacation
SANTOSH DESAI CEO, Future Brands, and author of Mother Pious Lady —Making Sense of Everyday India

  Candid Photographs

Print this story Feedback Add to favorites Email this story



  About Us | Advertise With Us | Print Subscriptions | Syndication | Terms of Service | Privacy Policy | Feedback | Contact Us | Bouquets & Brickbats