Before leaving for Mumbai I spend one day in Mandawa, a small town in Rajasthan, ca 260 km away from Delhi and completely different from the South of India.
The landscape is rigid, a lot of dust and sand. People look different here, other plants, other customs. There are a lot of children playing with kites. Colorful, unusual scenarios. In January here in Rajasthan they celebrate every year a huge kite festival, coinciding with the Makar Sankranti celebrations. It marks the end of winter, symbolising regeneration and the start of a new period: The sun enters the northern hemisphere…
Early in the morning I have booked a guided tour to see the havelis.
Mandawa has been a centre of merchants along the Silk Road from Afghanistan. Its best time was in the 18th and 19th century.
This town has been referred to as the “open art gallery” of Rajasthan because the entire Shekhawati region and not just Mandawa is dotted with fascinating mansions (havelis) that have lavishly painted walls. In Shekhawati, Havelis were built by merchant community (Marwaris) to symbolize their opulence and to provide shelter to their extended family when they were away doing business.
Some of the Havelis are closed, the owners live in the big cities today , some of These really nice Hauses are rented to local people who take care and maintain them. And some of them are used for touristic visits and souvenir sales, of course: in small corners in the inner courtyard, in small rooms where in earlier times the family members lived … All things they sell look so nice here. Colorful scarfs, miniature paintings and traditional small objects made from metal, iron, wood.
Short video – Haweli: come in and find out
When I look around I discover a curious tortoise, iron, small. Carrying a lotus flower. Turning the flower around it opens up and becomes a candlestick holder. A nice one. Old style. The selling old man smiles at me. Too nice. Even I told myself before to resist to any additional souvenir, I am lost …. and a happy tortoise owner now.